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