Christchurch – A Year (and ten months) On

What’s a better way to spend Christmas than updating your long forgotten blog while house-sitting and looking after your sister’s cats? I can’t promise I’ll spam you with posts, but I’d want to move on with reporting some events before this year is over and a new year brings new things. That’s one of my New Year’s resolutions, to update my blog more often and regularly… as long as there is something to write about.

Looking far back to February, on 22nd I went to see a charity screening of “When A City Falls”, a documentary about the earthquakes in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011.

As you can imagine, it squeezed some tears from my eyes. But I didn’t go there just as a viewer. Because it was a charity event, they needed volunteers to sell raffle tickets. They didn’t have to ask me twice. The prizes were amazing, like 8 day trip to Gallipoli for Anzac day or two sides of a New Zealand lamb. We sold many tickets, even Jarred Christmas bought some from me (a Kiwi comedian, he was in Pot Noodle ads, which some of them directed Taika Waititi), but he didn’t win anything. We raised approximately £13,000 for the people of Christchurch. The event was covered by TVNZ and it was on their news channel the next day. You can even see my back in the video at about 1:34. I was on NZ tv!

It was my first contact with a Kiwi community in London, which was exactly what I needed since leaving New Zealand in December 2011. The person who recruited volunteers for this event was also responsible for the volunteers at Kiwi House during the Olympics, but I’ll write about it another time.
Ngati Ranana

Christchurch

WEDNESDAY, 16th November

Luckily, there was a free bed in a dorm room the next morning, so I moved, made some bookings for the next couple days of my trip, because I was guessing the summer season has started and I might have troubles with accommodation again in places like Kaikoura or Wellington. And I was right to do that!

When all was sorted, I went to see the city or what has left after the earthquake and after shakes.
I was going from Bealey Ave towards the city centre along Colombo Street. The closer the heart of the city, the quieter it was. Spooky. Then I finally saw the fence surrounding the CBD. I could only hear the noise of the machines dismantling the wounded buildings. It was like Berlin used to be in the 90s. The city centre was a huge work site.

The containers on the left hold up the wall

The dome from the top corner of Regent Theatre saved

Christchurch is said to be the most English city in New Zealand. And there used to be the oldest buildings. Who knows, maybe it’ll have the most interesting modern architecture on the Southern Hemisphere after the tragedy? New shops Re:Start. I like it!

Down along the street you get again to the fence and you can see the CBD through windows.

Avon River

Christchurch Art Gallery untouched, but closed anyway.

Up Worcester Boulevard, Arts Centre damaged and closed too

Opposite Caterbury Museum, slightly damaged, but all exhibitions open and free.

The highlight of the Museum, Paua House. In Bluff, there used to live a couple, Fred and Myrtle Flutey who decorated their house in paua shells. They became world famous in New Zealand. They had been married for over 70 years! They died ten years ago, and recently the interior of their house has been moved to the Museum.

When I left the Canterbury Museum, the sun was gone and the sky was covered with clouds. Behind the Museum, there were Botanic Gardens, so I went for a short walk around. I could hear some music playing near the Gardens, so I followed the sound. In Hagley Park, there were 10 local bands playing, ticket $10. It was tempting, but I was getting tired, cold and I had to catch a bus to Kaikoura early next morning, so I made my way back to the hostel. Going through Cranmer Square, I saw some tents and there were hours displayed in front of them and people queuing. I came up to one of the people wearing bright coloured vests and asked what was happening. I was told that there were buses going to the CBD red zone and if I wanted to go, they could put my name on the waiting list. H., my friend from Auckland had told me that those buses had recently started running, but I didn’t know where I should look for them. Probably the easiest way would be asking at the iSite, but I didn’t know where it was either. Everything from the centre has been shifted and when I found the Visitor Centre, next to the Museum, it was already closed. While I was waiting for a free place in one of the buses, I had a chat with the helpers and she told me that the best way is to call and book a tour or come and sign in at the square, just as I did.

Buses depart every 10 minutes, cost a golden coin donation, go for about 30 minutes and every one is usually full. Imagine how many people visit the CBD every day! There are tourists, but mostly local Kiwis from Canterbury who finally can see the centre of Christchurch and what has been happening there for almost a year. So it was with my bus at 7:20 pm.

“Victoria is still standing!” I didn’t notice that first, but time stopped there. You could see decorations from Chinese New Year or ads about summer sales.

I’d probably stay here

We stopped by the place where used to be CTV building

“I had a great party in this pub!”, someone said.

The creepiest view, the only human shapes were window mannequins.

The last stop was at Cathedral Square.

I didn’t know that this tour would be so emotional to me, but when I thought about people who died under those buildings, I couldn’t stop my tears from flowing.

Moeraki Boulders and Elephant Rocks

TUESDAY, 15th November

Breakfast. Check-out. Bag in the boot. People in the car (Eeeck! I was responsible for three more lives!) Half hour later: Moeraki. There was still low tide.

some people tried to steal boulders by swallowing them!

The Boulders Family

My next destination was Christchurch and I had booked my bus at 3 pm. By 12 pm we saw the boulders and had plenty of time and petrol to go somewhere else and there was nothing to go but Elephant Rocks again. The valley looked different than the day before, even though I was driving the same road. It was because the clouds were higher and I could see the higher mountains behind the ones I had seen earlier! Because I turned back and went to Oamaru another road, we came across the proper Elephant Rocks!

There were more beautiful views, but I was worried that I would miss my bus, so I didn’t stop anymore.

2:40 pm, back in Oamaru. The whole trip cost us $14 each! And my friends told me that I drove very well and they were falling asleep on the way back. We didn’t have the radio and no one wanted to sing instead.

2:45 pm, I returned the car and asked the rental guy for the lift to the bus stop, which he gladly did.

2:50 pm, by the bus stop and had the time to go to the toilet and then buy a pie.

Who was my driver? Graham! He remembered my name, waited for me to finish my pie (no hot food or drink on the bus!), then asked me to sit at the front, so we could talk on the way. After 3 pm he started the engine when I swallowed the last hot piece of my pie.

I was a bit worried, because I’d arrive in Christchurch in the evening and I hadn’t had time to book my hostel there and I totally didn’t know the plan of the city, which hostels would be close enough to the centre and where the bus stop was. I told Graham about it and he said, he would show me some hostels. In fact he did more than that. When we got to the city and all the passengers left the bus, he told me to jump in and he dropped me off close to the Kiwi basecamp backpackers. Unfortunately, it was full! I tried to stay calm and went along the avenue. I found out that the bus depot and a lot of backpackers were on Bealey Avenue and a couple numbers down I found Rucksucker Backpacker. They didn’t have any free beds in a dorm room, but there was one in a share room, so I took it. I shared it with a French guy and it cost me just a couple dollars more than for the dorm bed. But it was only for one night and if I got a dorm room bed for the next night, I would have to wait till the next morning. I was fine with that as long as I had a place to sleep for now.