Christchurch, New Zealand
Just over 3 hours on the coach. Ideally I’d have gone in the morning, but the bus was due to leave just after midday, giving me time to sleep in, wander to the supermarket and library and use the free internet at the hostel. So many different prices, 10 cents per megabyte is common, but at Sunrise lodge you can just take 100mb codes for free. It can’t be the case everywhere in Kaikoura because New World supermarket always had a few stragglers hanging around outside, using the free wifi there. Carefully, because it only gives you 45mb.
The train route between Picton and Christchurch is known for being scenic, but the road and tracks intertwine, so the bus ride was pretty lovely, particularly along the Kaikoura coast. I didn’t feel 100%, not sure whether that was due to bus manoeuvrings or a cold, but we got to Christchurch bang on time, which hasn’t happened for a week or more.
Three years after the earthquake – not quite to the day, I leave on Friday, the day before the anniversary – the clean up operation is in full flow. Around 70% of the CBD has been, or is due to be, demolished, so there are vacant plots all around. Equally, some buildings have been fenced off and left, giving them a ‘just derelict’ look, signs advertising deals still sadly giving out their message. The first building I walked past was the YHA, disused. It is essential to book accommodation; there are fewer beds than there used to be, and an influx of construction workers puts extra pressure on those that are left.
I checked in with chatty Graham, again sharing a room with two German girls, and went to explore. My last roommates had found the city ‘just sad’ and on balance I agreed. There’s plenty to be optimistic about, a chance to rebuild the city, create lots of public spaces and so on, but the near-completed projects and fenced off buildings give a wistful air of disaster. Walking through the cool Re: Start mall-shops made from shipping containers, I couldn’t find the bridge of remembrance before realising that it, too, was behind fences.
Much as it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of rebuilding a city if you live there, this place seems like a good one to be a repeated tourist – it is going to change appearance every few months, fascinating to see as a time lapse photo.
Reading: James Kelman, How late it was, how late.