The transitional city

The transitional city
Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand

Pastel-coloured buildings form a pretty shopping street
New Regent Street mall.

A Garmin strap, my wrist for a Garmin strap. First thing today, an errand. I’d found a supplier with Garmin straps in stock, to replace the one that had been torn free in my Perth bike tumble. I checked he was in and ran over. Perfect, just under 6 miles to his house, taking me through Hagley park and out through Riccarton to Russley, motel after motel displaying ‘no vacancy’ signs. Riccarton is a bustling high street, more or less unaffected by the earthquake and so filled with busy shops. Kiwi GPS is run out of a house in an ordinary street, so it wasn’t like calling in to a shop, but once I’d saved him from undercharging me – “oh, I thought it was only $20” he said – I was off, running back in to town, and I soon had a wrist rather than hand-borne Garmin.

Hostel owner Graham had seen me leaving for the run and dropped into the start of a conversation about running, and we picked it up once I returned. He is the master of the non sequitur with his own special linking sentence, used whenever there’s something else to add; ‘the thing about that is’. But “the thing about that is” always the thing about something else and we darted between topics with dizzying speed.

Shipping containers blocking or shielding an area
Shipping containers used to contain. Not a real man on the roof behind

I started the rest of the day with ‘Quake City’, which tells the stories of the earthquakes of 2010 and 11. The former was large but away from the city and caused less damage-at the time they felt they’d dodged a bullet, only for the next earthquake, Feb 22nd 2011, to be nearer the surface and to the city. I am not sure why, having no connection to either city or earthquake, but I found the exhibits extremely moving, pictures of railway lines bent adding to the collapsed pavements and ruined buildings I’d already seen in town. Shortly into the exhibit is a ‘feature length’ film with residents giving their quake experience and that is very effective and a varied view of what people went through, from the lady rescued from the cathedral to the policeman who had to take prisoners from basement cells, find a judge and conduct an impromptu court session by the river in order to process them. It’s not a huge museum but doesn’t need to be-just make sure you watch plenty of the video, or you’ll be through it very quickly. There’s plenty of information about earthquakes in general and this one in particular. Even the toilets are themed, decorated with pictures of residents’ long drops, dug in gardens either because they had no water or because using existing loos was overloading the system.

After a dim start, the day had warmed right up and I walked the streets in the sunshine. With so much of the CBD taken down or out of use, you have to work a bit to find shops-there’s a paucity of convenience stores. Not exactly a post disaster search for supplies experience but still worth bearing in mind.

A huge rugby ball on display
Of course.

There’s a great sense of energy in the centre, the gap filling project leading to popup shops, cafés, art exhibits and murals. I found my spirits went from sad at the sight of broken buildings and rubbly plots to optimistic at what people had created. The pallet city, cafés and take aways round a space marked by painted wooden pallets was underpopulated but charming, with live music in the centre. I liked the art exhibit of wooden shelters, with a box for feedback in which someone had dropped the note, “lovely smelling wood”. I’m not sure whether it was lovely smelling or just smelling wood that was particularly fine. Quick! Fetch the smelling wood!

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