Many people outside New Zealand may not know (or remember) that Christchurch had a big earthquake…no, make that two big earthquakes. First, in September 2010 there was a 7.1 magnitude quake that did damage close to the City Center. As everyone was making repairs from that one, boom. Quake two.* That one was a 6.3 magnitude quake in February 2011, also with a huge impact to the City Center.
I traveled to Christchurch twice in the late 1990s, each time for about a week. The people were friendly and the city was vivacious, gorgeous, artistic, fun. Despite having heard about the quakes (as in 5 minutes on the evening news), that’s as far as my thoughts and memories went. It wasn’t like the constant news of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Nope. Not at all.
Fast forward to December 2015 when Dan and I flew into CHC on our way to Greymouth. We decided to stay a few days and in my mind, we were going to walk to the City Center, grab a flat white coffee at a sidewalk café in the shadow of the cathedral. Next we’d take a walk along the river that runs through the city, photographing the gardens.** You get the idea.
We arrived at the airport and the closer we drove to the City Center, the more destruction and construction we saw. We still didn’t quite grasp the magnitude. That first night, as we walked toward the City Center, I was figuratively kicked in the gut. Destruction, construction, and bare lots overwhelmed us. But don’t stop reading now—please go on.
Before we returned to the US, we discovered the Hagley Park oasis. Peace and natural perfection right in the city. We also found ReStart, a cool thriving shipping container mall with food trucks and store-containers right in the City Center. Huge colorful and often funny murals are painted on remaining walls. Near our AirBnB house, we discovered Thai Container and ate outside on a picnic table.
After Dan was hired by Bay Audiology, we found out that we would be in Christchurch for a month. By then, we had moved past the quake-depression. So as we close out month one in the city, here is my new view:
Christchurch is vivacious, gorgeous, artistic, fun…and in the coming years, visitors and residents alike will witness the incredible rebirth of a great city. Each day as we wander in the City Center, new repairs are made, great progress can be seen in new construction. Locals proudly point to the empty spaces and describe well-planned the parks, shopping, hotels, residences, and gardens of the future.
When you visit Christchurch—and do, please do—look at the construction as exciting. Shop local. Eat local. Wander through Hagley Park. And most of all, have fun.
*It wasn’t really “quake two” because there are frequent shakes going on. We felt one (a 5.6)–described in our Shake, Rattle and Roll post.
** Photos taken in May 2016, not earlier.