10th and 11th September
No sleep. Absolutely zero sleep. Why did Tori and I decide that no sleep was a good idea?
On the bus at six dragging our backpacks. This is life on the road. We had to leave so early to be able to get to Christchurch in time for those catching a flight. Which was nobody so I’m still not sure why we left so early.
The journey passed pretty uneventfully until we all suddenly became aware that the bus was being overtaken on a duel carriageway by too many cars and that we were definitely not travelling at speed.
Everyone started awkwardly looking around, no one wanting to question Pringles on his driving abilities. Someone eventually found the courage to ask what exactly was going on and, yes, Pringles had completely lost power and had no choice but to drive at 10mph (or the kmph version). So, we were so close to Christchurch but had to turn around and find some way of solving the problem.
Pringles had only been on the job for a few months, having been a cameraman previously. I’m not sure if it was due to this background or lack of ‘manliness’ that meant when we pulled over Pringles decided to open the radiator valve inside the bus, thus filling the whole bus with steam. We quickly evacuated the vehicle and headed to Burger King to wait out the disaster.
Shortly we were back on a new bus and hurtling towards Christchurch. At the airport we briefly said hi to Harry and Alex again, who were bored of Christchurch and heading off to Blenheim for ‘wine’. Kepa had extended his stay to include Christchurch so today it was only Kathy leaving us. We tried to convince her to stay too but sadly it could not be done. We still miss you Kathy. And so we became four.
On the 22nd February 2011 Christchurch was hit by a devastating earthquake that reached 7.1 on the Richter scale. It ruined most of the central city and a killed 185 people. Today, the city is still in shock and the centre is still in ruins. We had been warned that there wasn’t much to do, but we still really wanted to see how the city was faring after the devastation.
So some sleep and a curry was in order to wash off the night before and then we would explore tomorrow.
First port of call was the museum, where we learnt more about New Zealand, about it’s wildlife and about the history of Christchurch. A walk in the park where Spring was definitely in full force. Then a look around the city itself.
The city can only really be described as resembling a war zone. The great cathedral has been reduced to rubble, held up only by scaffolding. The replacement ‘cardboard’ Cathedral displays none of the grandeur of the original and seems to act as a reminder of the disaster and how much there is still to be done. Ship containers serve as cafés and bars, which in any other situation would be ‘cool’ but when they are situated next to a derelict building are only sad.
The suburbs around the city tell another story. There is more progress here. The buildings are modern and well kept. There are big malls and more housing. It is more alive. The suburbs are covering up the problems that lie at the heart of the city.
As so many had warned us before, we would only really need one day in Christchrch. So we decided that the following day we would do another road trip. This time to Akorea and Mt Sunday (better known as Edoras from the LOTR movie).
It was good to see Christchurch and to try to appreciate the state the city is in. It made us all realise that the level of a disaster, such as an earthquake, cannot be measured on a scale or even on the number of deaths, but in the time it takes a city to rebuild itself.