The big earthquake hit on 22nd February 2011 killing 185 people. We arrived on a beautiful sunny day and from the outskirts you couldn’t see any damage, just life going on as normal. Three nights in Christchurch, the first in the YMCA, I would not recommend this hostel, the room was nice, bright and spacious and I had a really good night’s sleep however the kitchen was the size of my Edinburgh flat kitchen and we were in room 125, you can understand my problem, there were 2 bowls and 3 table knives, no joke. Signs up saying there are thieves leave items at your own risk, not very inviting or welcoming. The staff did seem friendly, but when Jane and I asked how to get somewhere, would we need a taxi, they laughed and said it’s only two streets away, how were we meant to know? Not good customer service to make the customers feel stupid. The kitchen left a bad taste in my mouth, maybe that was why I was so offend by the comments, but it’s not really a good service.
Anyway I rambled on about that and what I wanted to tell you was about the city.
My lovely shiny new camera, broke after 3 days, totally not my fault, so I decided to walk to another branch of the shop for a new one. Easy enough follow the straight road on the map, Bob’s your uncle. Well the straight road led me to the CBD (Central Business Distict) there I met big fences and chains saying ‘Danger’ ‘Road Closed’ this was my first taste, sheer destruction and devastation but it just looked like a building site, I could cope with that, taking a detour, I walked through the ‘Re-start Mall’ a super creation with a really lively, welcoming atmosphere, music playing, people milling around, a real buzz. I thought, this should stay no matter how the city changes.
Following my detour a friendly local directed me to streets that I could walk all the way down and I wasn’t far away. Then the harrowing sights hit me, a theatre seats still in tact but the facing wall missing, rubble crumbling from the walls, dust, broken glass everywhere and next to that a row of 5 terraced houses, I could see between the floors, I could see into rooms that were once intact and housing a family, the tears welled up in my eyes, it’s all so real. I think the memory that will stay with me is the silence. I remember noticing it at ‘Ground Zero’ in New York.
I carried on, walking along the road looking around me, really interesting sculptures, I wasn’t looking where I was walking and I felt my feet walk a little up hill then down, I looked down a ripple in the pavement, a white wall and a car park were next to me and I could see 6 ripples all along the wall, the movement of the quake.
But this isn’t an unhappy blog, this is just what I physically saw, and I didn’t take pictures because who wants to remember such an awful natural disaster, where peoples lives were lost and families ruined, but what rose out of rubble and left me liking Christchurch was the positiveness of the ‘Re- start Mall’ the inventiveness and imagination that created that, there is real hope for the future of Christchurch.
The second two nights, we stayed in The Old Country House, which was just amazing, super luxury, upgrade to a twin room with ensuite, a bathroom you could leave your tooth brush in! The hostel even had a hot tub and a sauna, but the best thing for me were the people, really friendly and close knit but welcoming. The hostel is 3 houses with a garden in the middle, sitting in the sun, drinking a glass of wine with new friends, brilliant.
On the Saturday Jane and I went to a rugby match, North Island, Taranaki v local Canterbury, sadly our team Taranaki lost, but I was delighted to meet one of the players who plays for the All Blacks also Beauden Barrett, really friendly, down to earth and shrugs as the fact he plays for the ALL BLACKS!
Christchurch was fun, showed hope and promise for the future and I look forward to visiting again to see all the changes.