Visiting Christchurch was a sobering end to an action-packed road trip across the North and South Islands. The Garden City, as it is called, really surprised me; naturally, it was sad seeing the city for the first time after the earthquake, but at the same time, it was great to experience the reconstruction, innovative projects and the great attitude of people! I didn’t quite know what to expect. My first few minutes of driving through town were quite “normal.“ A bit of dirt here and there, but I did not see any damaged buildings and thought to myself that it must either be an unaffected part of town or that reconstruction had progressed much more than I had imagined.
However, when I got closer to the centre, it started – detours, earthquake signs, gaps. Suddenly I was glad I had been there before and knew my way around the detours to get to my hostel.
The soundtrack of a city rebuilding
I set out to explore Christchurch, one of my favourite cities, by foot, as I knew from visits before that distances in the centre were entirely walkable. Unless you have a Red Zone that cordons off all the roads you want to take!
Where there were buildings, there was nothing. Rubble everywhere, but no people, and still it’s far from quiet; a constant rumbling follows me around wherever I go, the audible signs of reconstruction, now the new omnipresent soundtrack of Christchurch. Many new parking lots from Wilson and Tournament Parking, on land previously occupied by homes or commercial properties. It’s a ghost town that I’m walking through at 11 am. Is everyone at work? Walking around the CBD (literally, around, as the Red Zone cordons off the CBD completely), there were hardly any people to be seen. Only around the areas of Cashel Mall, the punting spot, the Botanic Gardens, etc., one sees fellow visitors or groups of people in general, as far as central Christchurch is concerned.
Helping Christchurch rebuild
None of this should deter you from visiting the city though; on the contrary. There are quite a few things you can do, and it’s not just checking out the gap filler projects and enjoying a coffee in one of the new pop-up cafes (although I highly recommend this too). If you know where to go and stay, Christchurch is great for a few days. I will write more about what to do, where to stay and how to get around post-quake Christchurch in my next post; but for now, let’s explore the effects of the earthquake in pictures.
And I am sure you will agree, there was still plenty a good reason for fundraising efforts! I threw myself off a plane, jumped off a bridge, rafted down a 7m waterfall, and did a few other stunts outside my comfort zone, to raise money for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal as part of my Blog4NZ tour of New Zealand. Thank you for everyone who has donated to date; the donation site remains open for another few weeks, so there is still time to give a few dollars to much-needed community projects in Christchurch. Remember, Microsoft will double your money!
Thank you very much to everyone who has donated to date; your contribution is very much appreciated and will reach the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal once the donation site closes and the funds are matched by Microsoft.
In all the destruction, there’s also plenty of colour, creativity, and expression in the art to be found around the centre:
To meet people in the centre of town, head to Cashel Mall, the new retail centre full of old and new shops, cafes and restaurants in colourful containers. It also hosts market stalls with arts and crafts, music, entertainment, and more food!
As you can see, Christchurch still has a way to go to get back to some sort of normal, and that includes homes for people (especially in the badly affected suburbs), critical infrastructure but also places to meet, community projects and all the things that make a city worth living in. If you’d like to contribute, consider donating a few dollars (or any other currency) to my fundraiser for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal by clicking on the button below. Your money will be doubled by my employer.
The next post will feature Christchurch again, this time focussing on things to do in Christchurch after the earthquake.
Have you been to Christchurch recently? What did you make of the Garden City? Or do you live in Christchurch? How do you feel about the current situation and reconstruction developments?