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Seeing Christchurch – the city that survived 10000 earthquakes

With our roadtrip rapidly coming to an end, we had one more stop on our list – the now infamous New Zealand city of Christchurch.

In 2010, the city suffered a devastating earthquake and just one year later was hit by a second, even more destructive series of quakes, which practically wiped out the city – destroying buildings, ripping up pavements and killing more than a hundred people.

Although it has been years since the last serious seismic event, we had heard that the city was still undergoing regeneration and we were interested to see how the city had moved on.

A road sign we saw in the city

A road sign we saw in the city

The first thing that struck us is that, even though there was a lot of traffic around the outskirts of Christchurch, the city centre itself was practically deserted with many roads and streets still blocked off.

The second thing was how little had been repaired in the years that had passed. Like how we’d seen evidence of the destruction of the hurricane in New Orleans, there were still buildings that were cordoned off, barely standing and crumbling away all through the central business district.

Some of the sights around the centre of the city

Some of the sights around the centre of the city

To get a better sense of what happened here, we decided to go to Quake City – an information centre with details about the events of 2010 and 2011, including testimony from some of the many who experienced it.

There was a gallery showing some harrowing images of the damage

There was a gallery showing some harrowing images of the damage

It was a shocking and emotional visit. It is little wonder that the city still lies in ruins when you consider that, in the months after the quake of 2011, the city experienced more than 11,000 aftershocks.

Images of the destruction; the crumpled tip of the cathedral spire, a wall full of broken items, an image showing the effect of liquifaction - when fine silt is shaken to the surface of the ground and buries everything (including this car!)

Images of the destruction; the crumpled tip of the cathedral spire, a wall full of broken items, an image showing the effect of liquifaction – when fine silt is shaken to the surface of the ground and buries everything (including this car!)

Along with some of the testimony of survivors, the most moving things I found were the pictures showing before and after scenes – before, with its perfect vision of normalcy, and after, showing the utter devastation that took place just seconds later.

Before the earthquake, and after. The entire front wall of the building on the right (behind the red car) has collapsed into the road and check out the huge crack in the pavement on the left hand side!

Before the earthquake, and after. The entire front wall of the building on the right (behind the red car) has collapsed into the road. Check out the huge crack in the pavement on the left hand side!

Another clear marker of the destruction that visitors to the city can clearly see is Christchurch Cathedral. The building, still undergoing insurance claims, remains crumbling and exposed.

The Cathedral is still in ruins

The Cathedral is still in ruins

Armed with a better understanding of what happened here, we went to take a look at some of the better known examples of how Christchurch has moved on in unique and innovative ways.

There was public artwork - like these road block sheep - everywhere!

There was public artwork – like these road block sheep – everywhere!

The Cardboard Cathedral is the city’s temporary replacement to its previous cathedral, made entirely of industrial cardboard and corrugated plastic – its design and construction donations from the Japanese community, who lost many citizens when the quake hit a Christchurch language school.

We were lucky enough to see the choir practising during our visited

We were lucky enough to see the choir practising during our visited

The city’s Re:START Container Mall – a maze of colourful metal shipping containers housing pop-up boutiques, some excellent coffee houses and quirky eateries – is an impressive example of the city’s ability to use what little resources it has to rebuild and thrive.

The Re:Start mall

The Re:Start mall

Not wanting our visit to be all about the earthquake, we decided to lighten the mood with a rematch of crazy golf… (which Dale won)…

It was close!

It was close!

… Followed by a pleasant walk around the beautiful botanic gardens…

The botanic gardens

The botanic gardens

And feeding the local ducks!

And feeding the local ducks!

We spent the rest of our afternoon in the Canterbury Museum, where we learned all about the now-extinct giant New Zealand bird – the Moa.

The Moa was once the largest bird on earth. Here's what's left of a full-grown adult and a baby one.

At up to 3.5 metres tall, the Moa was once the largest bird on earth. Here’s what’s left of a full-grown adult and a baby one.

The moa only had one natural predator - the huge Haast eagle - but when the Maoris arrived on New Zealand the Moa (and the eagles) were quickly wiped out

The flightless moa only had one natural predator – the huge Haast eagle – but when the Maoris arrived on New Zealand the moa (and the eagles) were quickly wiped out

I even finally got a good picture of some Kiwis... even though they were stuffed ones

I even finally got a good picture of some Kiwis… even though they were stuffed ones

With our cross-country road trip complete, we said goodbye to Christchurch, reluctantly handed the keys of our trusty camper van back to the van hire company and packed our bags ready for our next adventures in Australia.

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