1,400 Kilometers for Easter: Part 1
Easter Break just concluded a couple of weeks ago, but now that we’re pretty much all caught up, I can tell you all about it. However, as I started writing this, I realized it would be entirely too long to fit into one blog. In order to do this trip justice, I will have to split it up into two blogs.
Below you can see the exact route Sam and I took across New Zealand. Though I still have about two months left in New Zealand, I truly believe that through the course of this week, I had a genuine Kiwi experience that surpassed all of the enormous expectations I had for this trip. Everything from here on out is simply a bonus.
Dunedin – At about 6:00am on the morning of Good Friday, April 29 we boarded our bus to Christchurch. The 4 hour and 30 minute drive was to take the bus about 6 hours due to the fact that the bus has to stop and change bus operators rather frequently under New Zealand law.
Oamaru – We stopped and changed bus operators, as that is New Zealand law. You can read about this place more thoroughly in my previous blog, anyway.
Christchurch – Finally, something to actually talk about! Well, not really. Seeing as it was Good Friday, the town was completely void of human activity. Furthermore, Christchurch suffered a horrendous series of earthquakes two years ago, and a great deal of the town is still in ruin. These two factors combined gave the town an eerie-post-apocalyptic sort of feel. Stephen King would have loved it.
Cue ‘Twilight Zone’ theme song.
Oh, and another thing – we hadn’t booked anywhere to stay. In our previous expeditions outside of Dunedin, we had always found hostels with great ease, and didn’t think anything of endeavoring into the unknown of Christchurch without knowing exactly where we would stay.
Fun Fact: Not only is Christchurch a MASSIVE city, it’s also incredibly spread out.
Sam and I walked around for a few hours with all of our luggage before we found an open hostel. Unfortunately, it was also completely booked up. However, the manager, in a typical New Zealander fashion, let us use his phone to call other hostels to stay at. This would be the first act of kindness we would see in this city over the course of our short stay here.
Now, a great deal of Christchurch has been repaired. In spite of this, there are still several blocks in the center of town that are still in shambles. The destruction is so bad that this entire area is fenced off. It’s a rather grim sight to behold. Well, it would have been, anyway, had people not plastered the fence with little cards and pictures of hearts and photos of people smiling. ‘Smile For Christchurch,’ seems to be the prevailing motto of the the city’s reconstruction.
As I’ve said before – a large portion of Christchurch was destroyed in the earthquakes, and remains that way today. This was once one of the busiest areas of the city:
However, this does not mean the there is no longer a main hub in central Christchurch. They’ve simply moved it:
Behold the Container Mall. Following the initial quakes, rubble and debris was moved into these shipping containers and removed from the site. In a brilliant connection with the devastation, and a commitment to healing and moving on, the Container Mall was born. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and it has become Christchurch’s hot-spot.
Other forms of optimism can be found across the city. Free salsa lessons are given on top of the wreckage of what was once a building. Turning nothing into something:
People decorate the fences surrounding the destruction with some nostalgic characters who have put smiles on millions of faces:
The Anglican Cathedral of Christchurch, an icon of the city, was not spared from the quakes. Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban was invited to assist in plans for rebuilding the Cathedral. While he was at it, he came up with the idea of building a Cathedral out of cardboard, to serve as a monument to the events which occurred, and the city’s response and the hope it has become enshrouded in:
Christchurch was an incredible way to our Easter break. The spirit of the people who live there, as well as the country’s response and aid in the wake of the tragedy were truly inspiring, and revived my faith in humanity. This positive attitude stayed with us for the remainder of our trip, and I expect it will for quite some time from now.
This was just the first leg of Easter break, but we’ll end up in Auckland and return back home to Dunedin by the end of my next blog. Until then, take care,