New Zealand: Christchurch

After we said good-bye to our trusty campervan, Gertie, we spent the last 2.5 days of our trip in Christchurch. 

I hugged Gertie good-bye and even cried a little
Quite honestly we were both shocked when we first arrived in the city. We knew there had been a bad earthquake in 2011, but neither of us had realized quite how devastated the city was, or the extent to which the city is still rebuilding. The city center is really still just a giant hole, with only a few damaged buildings that have not been torn down yet still standing. 

There are some new buildings being built, but it still feels like walking through a war zone. At the very center is the crumbling Cathedral. 

The Anglican church decided that they couldn't afford the estimated $100+ million to repair it and so it was set to be demolished. However, citizens got an injunction to stop the demolition and now the damaged Cathedral stands waiting for it's fate to be determined.

 I really hope they can restore it. In the meantime, a controversial temporary Cathedral has been built, primarily out of cardboard. It certainly doesn't have the same majesty as the original in my opinion.

 On a walking tour, our guide took us by several other sites related to the earthquake. The first was the site of the CTV building, which collapsed killing more than 100 people. He read us a harrowing account written by a Japanese student about being trapped in the collapsed building before she was eventually rescued. We also saw a haunting memorial: 185 empty chairs in a field, one for each victim of the quake.

Despite the destruction and the massive task of rebuilding, the people of Christchurch are not giving up. They have been quite creative in creating temporary structures, using  shipping containers in every method possible. They've created an entire shopping area, the reSTART mall, out of them. They have also created funky parks and art installations. My favorite was the dance-o-mat, where you put in a 2 dollar coin and the lights and music come on for you to get your groove on.

the reSTART mall, made of shipping containers

An area where you would never guess there has been an earthquake is in the parks. Christchurch is known as the city of gardens and I can see why. We spent a long time wandering through the botanical gardens, marveling at the giant redwoods and roses among many other things. They also have a massive public park right in the middle of the city, where I ran every morning. I passed tons of other runners as cyclists as I enjoyed the dirt tracks that looped around ponds and through stands of trees.

Christchurch was a little more of a sober ending to our trip than we expected, but we are still glad to have experienced it. We can't wait to come back in 20 years and see the transformed city.