rising from the ashes
by a major earthquake in February 2011 that killed 185 people, Christchurch
is rebuilding itself. We spent a weekend in the southern capital
to see how the reconstruction is progressing and to let you know
what is available for visitors.
pictures from our visit
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of Christchurch (pre-quakes)
of Christchurch Gondola
poor Christchurch. Looking at her wrecked
central city area you'd think she has been through a war and
has been bombed unmercifully.
a degree she has ... almost 12,000 earthquakes since September 2011
and a really nasty quake in February 2012 that left 185 people dead.
are wrecked buildings being torn down and scores of gaps and level
areas where offices used to be.
air is filled with the sound of destruction and construction with
jackhammers, rubble being dropped into trucks, and the muscular
drone of diesel engines.
Christchurch were a boxer you initially think she is on the canvas
and down for the count. However,
while tough as nails, Christchurch is no brawler.
is a lady.
is a dignified lady with steely resolve, determined to stand again
and while her legs may be a bit wobbly on occasion she will not
let on and will smile at you gracefully as you enter her domain.
Christchurch is welcoming travellers again with open arms.
up I have to say that I was in Christchurch for three days and there
was not one earthquake. Not a tremor, nor even a slight up and down,
or sideways, movement.
felt safe. In fact I never gave a thought about the ground moving
as there was too much to see and do around the city.
may think that with all the collapsed buildings and closed off Red
Zone areas that the Central Business District would be dead, but
that is very far from the case.
is an energy and life in Christchurch brought about by not only
the unflagging spirit of the people there, but their refusal to
be broken by nature's brutality.
of the most exciting aspects to the city's re-emergence is Re-Start,
a large group of central businesses that sell their wares from shops
made out of containers in Cashel St, one of the old commercial areas.
is unique and gives the edge of the destroyed CBD a colourful, quirky
and lively place to go.
be misled by the container tag, as these former cargo holders have
been spruced up and fitted out as classy premises that equal your
normal bricks-and-mortar shops.
there is an architectural touch that makes Re-Start a must see in
also mention there are a large variety of food outlets in the Re-Start
precinct and one recommendation is to try Dimitri's fabulous souvlakis.
Take time out to sit down and eat it while enjoying the regular
musical entertainment on offer.
there are what is known as Gap
Fillers. These are quirky, community-focused areas that have
sprung up on the empty footprints of the demolished buildings.
see them around all of the damaged parts of Christchurch and they
are really interesting to visit.
from our hotel we had an astroturf mini soccer pitch - complete
with goals - that people would play on.
down the road there was the Dance o Mat - an outdoor dancefloor,
complete with mirror ball, that has four speakers on large stands
at each corner. For $2 you can plug your ipod into a modified clothes
washingmachine and boogey away for 30 minutes.
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, danced
there during their royal visit.
Gap Filler is a community library where you borrow books to read.
It is set up on a vacant lot and the books are protected by their
unusual bookcase - an old shop drinks fridge.
people steal the books? Not according to the locals, it's all part
of a return to a more caring community brought about by what they
have been through.
community aspect of Christchurch is very powerful to see, and the
Gap Fillers are the seeds from which a new Christchurch will emerge.
are the Pop-Ups.
These are businesses, usually bars or eateries, that have lost their
permanent premises and have reopened on vacant blocks in caravans,
shipping containers and one in old buses.
are fantastic to visit and enjoy good food and drinks from.
Pop-Ups are informal, friendly and a delight to indulge in, adding
more than just their food's flavour to Christchurch's cuisine life.
you have the time it is well worthwhile strolling around the inner
city of Christchurch around the borders of the Red
Zone - the off-limits areas where buildings are being pulled
down or construction of new ones is taking place.
area is policed by the Army and, it has to be said, some of the
guards are very enthusiastic about their jobs.
stepped several feet (through an open gate) and was yelled at by
a uniformed chap who asked me if I could read. I had several sarcastic
comments lined up to vent at him but instead said "I'll only
be a second and it is only a few feet."
people in Christchurch are not thrilled with the autocratic behaviour
of some of fence minders either.
walking around the fence lines will give you a good look at the
damage done by the quakes and I have to say some parts of town remind
me of East Berlin in 1989, where damage from World War II was still
to be repaired.
way to tour the city is in
a red double-decker bus courtesy of Hassle Free Tours. They
have one-hour and three-hour tours around the city.
the weather is fine the first hour of the journey is in an open-topped
bus that will take you on a city discovery tour around the damaged
Central Business District.
commentary is informative and the views allow for some great photos
to be taken.
if you happen to lose your mobile phone, the staff are really helpful
and if you ask sweetly enough will deliver it back to your hotel.
the bus tour you will travel past one of the most moving sights
in the city.
is a memorial of 185 white
chairs representing each of the victims of the disastrous February
22, 2011 quake.
memorial is across the road from
the site of the infamous six-storey Canterbury Television Building,
better known as the CTV building, which pancaked during that quake
killing 115 people.
and notes are on the fence surrounding the now-empty space. It is
a good place to reflect
on what happened to the city that day.
third way to see some of the damage in Christchurch is to go punting
on the Avon River, which wends its way through the central city.
a relaxing time it is hard to go past sitting in one of the boats
while someone else propels it along.
see some astounding sights along the way - including brick
steps turned into solid waves by the quakes, twisted metal bridge
support beams and large cracks under other spans.
is a commentary and you can glide along safe in the knowledge that
if another tremor hits you are in one of the safest places to be.
you are flying in to Christchurch then we can throughly recommend
taking a couple of hours to visit the nearby International
easy to find - just follow painted
blue footprints (and penguin tracks) for a four-minute walk
from the terminal.
Antarctic Centre is terrific for both kids and adults with something
that will excite everyone.
can get to ride in an all-terrain
Hagglund vehicles, get up close to some very cute Little
Blue Penguins, thrill yourself in a 4D Extreme Theatre experience
or put yourself through an Antarctic
do take the time to watch the looped movie of Antarctic landscapes.
It only goes for 17 minutes but has some utterly breathtaking images
of the white continent.
Antarctic Centre is a must-do, particularly if you are travelling
with children - they'll love it.
mentioned before containers have taken on a life of their own in
post-quake Christchurch and not just as Gap Fillers or Pop Up destinations.
coastal Sumner, containers
have been stacked along the road under cliffs to protect vehicles
in the case of any more tremors dislodging rocks and throughout
the city they have been carefully pushed up against building facades
to prevent them falling over. In this way they may be saved when
new structures are built to in corporate them.
Canterbury is not just about Christchurch as you can see from some
of the exciting tours on offer.
hours drive away is Kaikoura, home to
whale spotting - by boat
and air - and swimming
is a lovely province that offers beautiful landscapes with the Southern
Alps as a backdrop, the delightful town of Akaroa
and also ... wineries.
visited two in the Waipara Valley and are very glad we did.
up was the magnificent Pegasus
Bay Winery, which offers terrific meals on top of some superb
platter for two was filled with delicious treats and eyeing the
plates of fellow diners (as I am wont to do) I must say the meals
do look very inviting.
Bay is a perfect destination for a weekend tasting session or relaxing
far away is Black
Estate a winery that offers some of the biggest wines I have
had in a long time. It has something to do with the soil mix and
that gives the winery's products unique flavours.
can also enjoy meals at Black Estate, sourced from local products.
are some more winery tours.
the subject of food and eateries when in Christchurch you must pay
a visit to C1 Espresso.
the quake the cafe was regarded as being one of, if not, the best
in the city but it got flattened.
owner Sam Crofskey decided to get the building opposite his old
premises and build his dream eatery.
looks fantastic. It is stylish, sexy and sustainable. And, bringing
joy to an old journalist's heart, comes complete with a lamson vacuum
message system to take the orders through into the kitchen. Ah,
the memories of those things in newspaper offices.
vision is not only daring, but he seems to have the iron will to
bring his venture off exactly as he wants it.
were treated to a delightful rooftop breakfast at C1 and next time
I'm in Christchurch the restaurant is top of the list to revisit.
battered and bruised Christchurch is still a wonderful gateway to
southern New Zealand.
a trip up to the picturesque Hamner Springs, or go horse
trekking, try your hand at salmon fishing for half
a day or a full
day's outing, or go jetboating
for a major adrenalin rush.
city is rising again and tourists should not be put off flying in
and staying because of the damage they see on TV.
Christchurch is a work in progress and will be for some time, but
it is an exciting time to tour as you get to witness the energy
and determination of the locals to fight their way back and make
the best of the hand that has been dealt to them.
we stayed in Christchurch we were at the Ibis Hotel in Hereford
Ibis has very comfortable rooms and the hotel is exceptionally well
placed on the edge of the city's former Central Business District.
are eight rooms for people with reduced mobility and 36 connecting
rooms. It has a bar and restaurant to
cater for guests.
Ibis was a great place to stay in Christchurch.