Visiting Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city, is an extraordinary experience. Christchurch was hurt by a devastating earthquake exactly two years ago, and nowadays it is a combination of a disaster zone, a recovering city, and parts that seemingly continue just as they were before.
It took us a while to realize the scale of destruction. As one local said – one day we were all normal, the next day we all had to dig toilets in our backyards. (They are all normal again in that sense by now!)
There are hardly any tall buildings left in the city center, which is mostly closed to the public, forming an eerie “no man’s land”. Hundreds of buildings are still waiting to be demolished before rebuilding can take place, while nobody knows if and when another earthquake will hit, and small aftershocks happen frequently.
On the positive end, a fascinating container culture arose – storage containers are very strong, portable and quick to design and put to use in new places. The re:start mall is a buzzing outdoors shopping mall – all built from stacked containers. We saw popup coffee shops, clothing boutiques, wine stores, restrooms – all inside re-purposed containers. Containers are also filled with cement and used to protect from falling debris and stones.
Another side effect caused by the earthquake is the lack of tourist accommodation options – many of the hotels and hostels were located in city center and no longer exist. Therefore tourists are relegated to the suburbs, which have started to flourish with ancillary businesses in the past two years. We stayed at a wonderful AirBnB home in Hornby, a 20-minute drive from the center (but only 10 minutes drive from some awesome coffee shops in Addington! And the lovely weekend farmer and artisan markets in Riccarton).
The nature around Christchurch was not as badly damaged, and a quick 30-minute drive took us to magnificent viewpoints of the Banks Peninsula (you can see our excitement in the photos below).
After five interesting, fun, sad and memorable days in ChCh, we were again southbound… going to kayak with dolphins and watch some penguins. Stay tuned!
Big chunks of the Christchurch are still in ruins, and the “red zone” fence surrounds the city center, with the army guarding the gates.
This spire is being renovated (we hope), and will soon be put on top of the building again
Christchurch’s beloved Cathedral, now in a shambles
Looking beyond the “red zone” fence
Businesses that reopen have a problem: This Ibis hotel is open – but the view from the rooms is not that welcoming yet
Part of the scenic Summit Road is closed
But the views are still nice
We mean, very nice! woohoo!
The “re:start” container mall, bringing back some life (in a very solid form factor) to the city center. The shops are so lovely (and the coffee so good). The whole thing can be transported as-is to Brooklyn, no quake necessary.
We loved the farmers market and its unusual visitors
Everyone loves a good cup of coffee!
Good luck rebuilding, ChCh!