Christchurch – repairing the earthquake ravages!
This morning we woke to a spectacular sunrise and to find ourselves moored in one of the most beautiful bays you can imagine. We had come overnight to Akaroa (Maori for ‘the long harbour’) where lush green hills keep watch over the bay that seems to go on and on into the countryside way beyond. There is no deep water jetty in this tiny town so we were anchored right out in the deep water and taken in by tender (aka the ship’s lifeboats). From here we had selected an excursion “Christchurch on your own”. This involved a coach trip which took over 90 minutes to reach the city before disgorging its passengers and letting them loose with just four hours to see the city. There were a number of ways to do this but the most sensible and fun way seemed to be by hop-on-hop-off tram.
We knew all about the earthquake of 2011 which had destroyed parts of the city, we knew there had been a further earthquake five years later, but I don’t think we imagined the extent of the devastation and the heroic efforts being made to recreate a beautiful and quake proof replacement city. Money is being poured into the projects, work is happening everywhere (in places you can’t move for construction workers) but they cannot go fast enough to take down condemned buildings, repair some of the beautiful and historic landmarks and fill in the multitude of gaping holes where buildings once stood. Of course, in addition, there is the monumental task of building new homes to replace those left as uninhabitable.
It is only seeing it that brings to life the TV coverage and news reports. The newsmen have long ago left for their next big story but, meanwhile, Christchurch is struggling to emerge, Phoenix like, from the debris and ashes into a bright new city. We saw the Anglican cathedral (now deconsecrated and still the abandoned ruin left just as it was). There are hopes to rebuild but still no plans, costs or designs). Meanwhile the ‘cardboard Cathedral’ has been constructed further out of the centre as a temporary replacement. There are, indeed, giant rolls of cardboard used amidst the concrete and glass structure. Even here a massive building site is constructing more outside the back door.
“Please come back in a few years”, begged our coach driver. Local people feel the pride in the work done but huge amounts of frustration that the pace almost defeats them. We will watch from afar and will now retain an active interest in the regeneration of this lovely city.
Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities
You can take out the tourists but you leave the trams! We’ve travelled on trams in San Francisco and Melbourne as well as Blackpool. Now we’ve added Christchurch to the list. They proudly have a vintage tram loop for tourists which, with a live commentary from our driver, Pete, shows and recounts the earthquake and its aftermath. Stressing the positives of how the community of Christchurch came together, after the enormous destruction, and the pride in the rebuilding of people as well as infrastructure, their sincerity of thanks for us visiting was palpable. When our coach driver recounted how his neighbour was rescued after 26 hours trapped behind 30 feet of collapsed concrete, I shuddered to consider how I would have felt. The search and rescue operation had officially ended when a passing reporter heard a tapping on pipes. They started digging until the rescue was completed. One can only imagine.
‘Foot’ rulers are now 30cm but still the same length of course. This was a rather creative approach to using them in the Art Gallery.
Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?! I like irony… as we rattled round Christchurch on the tram instead of on our ship, this sign appealed to that part of me.
What separates people by distance, language, race or culture shouldn’t be allowed to mask that we share 99.99% identical DNA. What should join us together and realise we are one human race is shared humanity. Protesting against injustice is common to us all – or should be! Differences should be celebrated not crushed.
Taking of differences… local place names are Anglicised but often have a Maori original or a translation also written. It reminds me of Wales. There are other similarities, of course, especially the rugby but, also, a passionate pride in their ‘little’ country. Some names are just… English
I had to post this final photo of our morning coffee stop. Fiddlesticks has a particular significance which is difficult to explain briefly. On a past holiday at Oban, we undertook the Mull Walking 10k. The leader was a stick carrying, rather pompous guy who we christened ‘Captain Fiddlesticks’ and he has become quite a legend with ourselves and the Youngs.
(We’re sitting in a café in a beautiful little port town, Picton on Sea which, no doubt will be the subject of our next blog but, suffice it say, we are here for the Wi-fi as well as the coffee. Information Centres and coffee shops attract tourists like an electro-magnet pulls iron towards it. Dozens of people eagerly scrutinising their ‘phones and the only verbal conversation is around, “Are you in?” and “What network are you on?” Somehow, sad and yet another shared experience.)
Finally, it still feels strange being so far from ‘home’ and people having English as their first language but ‘Kia-Ora’ is no longer just an orange drink! Welcome.
Yes, of course, I’ll write something about the geography of South Island New Zealand said I, blithely. It won’t take long. I had, however, reckoned without the wealth of geography contained in one comparatively small area.
The movement of tectonic plates has created the Southern Alps, the backbone of the island. They form a mighty barrier with only four routes through from east to west. It is, of course, the sudden movement of those plates which causes earthquakes. And, of course, the devastation we’ve seen in Christchurch is proof, if any were needed, of the power of nature. The two earthquakes in Christchurch moved the land first vertically and then horizontally and were followed by the process of liquefaction. This process turns solid rock to liquid and has meant that a large part of suburban Christchurch can no longer be built on.
The port of Akaroa is built in a huge extinct volcanic crater. MS Noordam moored in said crater and the tender ride to the town of Akaroa took fifteen minutes. Volcanic activity is massive!
Fiordland was magnificent – the fiords themselves, hanging valleys with their waterfalls and the islands, or skerries, as we approached.
And what of human geography? Much as in any country – the most effective use of the natural landscape. Having been taught many years ago, however, that the Canterbury Plains were a sheep farming area, it was interesting to see yesterday the diversity of farming, both animal husbandry and crop production. Clearly, irrigation is a major factor.
… and so to North Island and the geographical wonders that will bring.