Day 23: Re-Start Christchurch

In 2010 and 2011 Christchurch was struck by two earthquakes that brought down most of its CBD district and killed 183 people. Today, two years later, the city centre is still one big construction zone. Squares that were once major attraction stood empty and haunted. Beloved by residents cathedral stood in ruin, half of it ripped apart. Other buildings that were still standing were closed. They were to fragile to be used and waited for restoration or demolition. Our hearts sunk when we stood there among cranes and construction fences. It was also a grey rainy day and it all looked like a black and white war movie.

Yet we were full of appreciation for people of Christchurch. They went on with their lives, busy with rebuilding what they’ve lost. They seemed more concentrated on the future than the past. We especially liked Re:Start Mall in the city centre – a labyrinth of colourful shipping containers transformed into shops, cafes, banks and info points. It brimmed with life in otherwise quite abandoned city centre. We had lunch there and then went to look for an internet cafe. Google came up with a few addresses in the centre and we went to the closest one. Yet when we got to the address all we could see was a big empty hole. It obviously didn’t exist any more. We tried library too, but it had moved. In the end we went to a bus station and asked there. It turned out that almost all commercial activity moved out of the centre and the best place to look were the outer suburbs of the city.

One of the attractions not affected by the earthquake was Botanic Garden. Pity it was raining, because we rushed through it admiring only a few of its natural wonders. We wish we could explore it better, but we avoided getting wet by all means, because we could only dry our stuff in the van, which would then become humid and unpleasant. Otherwise we’d probably spend a whole day in Botanic Gardens, as they were beautiful.

Considering it was wet and cold we spent the rest of the day getting in touch with the world in an internet cafe. We also had ferry tickets to buy. And here… nasty surprise! No tickets were left for the day we needed or the day after or two days later. We ended up booking the ferry two days before our flight back to Sydney, which meant we wouldn’t be able to spend any more time on North Island. Bugger!!! We’ll have to drive like crazy to get to Auckland on time. We were especially upset about Tongariro Track. There was no time left for that. Ufffff… we didn’t expect the ferries to be so full. We didn’t have that kind of problems on the way to South Island. Still, we were glad we got the tickets at all. Late, but doable. Whew…

With tickets booked and families informed of our well-being and location, we hit the road and went south towards Banks Peninsula.

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