Christchurch and Canterbury

My time in Christchurch is drawing to a close already and tomorrow morning I’ll board the Stray bus. Then we will find out if I can do groups and hostels… right now I’m not so sure, been very spoilt with my accommodation so far 😉

Christchurch right now is a very interesting city. After an earthquake in September 2010 with a magnitude of 7.1 on the Richter Scale, it was hit by another one on 22 February 2011, this time registered at 6.3. This second quake, as they call it here, caused huge damages to the central areas and the infrastructure and 185 people lost their lives.

You know by now that I like bus tours, so the Christchurch Rebuild Tour it was this time. 90 minutes of driving through the affected areas, looking at new buildings, lots of building sites, but also many buildings that still are badly damaged. We heard that in many cases it is not quite clear yet what will happen to the buildings like Christchurch Cathedral or the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament – until then, they stand wounded.

Most powerful was the memorial of 185 white chairs, each representing one of the victims. Standing there, in bright sunshine, it gave me goosebumps looking at a baby cradle, a wheelchair and all the other different chairs…

Another interesting fact: Shipping containers (yes, those big metal boxes) have been a major help in the years since the quake. Not only can they be used as temporary office or shop spaces, if you stack them up on the site of a building, they will stabilise it 🙂 Re:Start is a square completely made up of those containers and a very lively shopping and lunch area.

The tour was absolutely great and I recommend it strongly! It’s quite fascinating to hear about what is going on and how they are finding solutions in technology. And of course it changes every day 🙂

Today, Charlotte took me to a walk in the Hinewai Reserve with her tramping club. Tramping is the Kiwi word for hiking 🙂 It was a glorious sunny day and a very nice group who were very welcoming to me. Our leader was the botanist Hugh Wilson, from what I understand quite a legend in his area. He has been living and working in and for the Reserve since 1987 and knows it like the back of his hand.

We walked up and down hills, through bushland and beech forest, crossing small streams and smelling the gorse – it was great! And of course the view towards the bay on the East Coast was absolutely amazing 🙂 There will be pictures at some point…

On the way back, we took a little tour through Akaroa where a French Festival was being held this weekend, celebrating the French ancestry of that area. It was extremely full, so we didn’t even try to park – but there were lots of French flags, some roads are still “Rue de …” and the police station features a big sign with “Gendarmerie”. Maybe we can come back to Akaroa in December and enjoy it’s beautiful scenery in a calmer atmosphere 😉

I’m mostly packed now and as I can leave some things behind here that I won’t need for the bus, it shouldn’t be too bad with the luggage. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten anything important…

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