Christchurch (09.11.12 - 11.11.12)

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November 17th 2012
Published: November 17th 2012
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Arriving into what was the centre of christchurch is quite a strange experience. When we stayed before picking up the van we never ventured past the hostel, and that was out to the north of the centre. When we got off the bus in what was previously just outside the city centre,the damage was everywhere. There is a red zone in the centre of the city where all the buildings have to come down. So if businesses were not directly destroyed by the quakes, they were closed down by being inside the red zone. We were staying in a motel, only 1 street outside the red zone to the east of the city, and around us was mostly knocked down buildings. The bar and restaurant culture of the city has basically moved out in all directions, but basically not where we were staying. Most of the city feels like the set of a disaster movie, deserted streets with half demolished buildings. We spent the evening having tea in a nearby cafe and then a few drinks in one of only 3 bars writhing about 20 mins walking distance from the hotel. Fortunately with the lack of bars, the ones we found were good ones and busy.
The next day was our one full day in Christchurch before flying to Fiji the next day. As always with the last day in a country we had lots we wanted to do. So we were up early and headed to Riccarton, an area west of the city which promised to have a Westfield shopping mall. We had some presents to buy and send back to the UK, so we got started, and failed to find anything we needed, including a post office. When carrying your life in a backpacks we have found that every now and then it is essential to just post things home, to avoid a broken bag and sore shoulders. We then headed for an Internet cafe, as I needed to ring home, only to find they didn't have skype, going well so far! With the feeling his was going to turn into one of those days we headed for Riccarton farmers market, one of our things to see in Christchurch. This was a big turning point in our day, and we enjoyed walking around the stands before buying ourselves some cheese, bread and wine for a park picnic. This was lovely and really improved our moods, preparing us to continue our shopping mission. After this we got the bus back into the city with the aim of finding the re:start shopping centre. This is an area of shops that has been created in the city centre, from a series of shipping containers. We hadn't gone straight there, thinking it was more of a gimmick with exclusive boutiques. It turned out top be a really brilliant special place. It was in amongst all the closed streets of the CBD and comprised of lots of different shops, gift shops, boutiques, big companies, banks and a post office! So we managed to do everything we needed as well as stopped for a drink in one of the cool two story container cafe's. On the evening we went to a busy bar for some tea and drinks. We saw loads of teenagers and student looking people heading for a massive tent all in various white clothes, which we thought looked exciting for a minute until we found out they were off to a big event where they got paint thrown at them..we can't afford to sacrifice clothes right now!
We have enjoyed our quick stop in Christchurch, and it is quite humbling to see what has happened to the city, and strange for us having never seen the city when it wasn't half closed. It is really exciting top see projects like the restart shopping centre being so busy and suppported, it is like a little ray of light in the rubble! Tomorrow we fly out to Fiji, the trip continues to fly on before our eyes! We have both loved New Zealand in a way we never quite expected, it is a beautiful and interesting place and we have no doubts we will be back as soon as we are able!

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