The next morning, bright and early we made our way to the bus. It had snowed quite heavily over night so it took a little while for the bus to defrost.
Our destination for the day was Christchurch which was a few hours away on the bus. Christchurch is the second biggest city in New Zealand and the largest on the South Island. The city is however located right on a fault line which results in large amounts of tectonic activity in the area. Unfortunately Christchurch was hit by a devastating 6.3 earthquake on 22 February 2011 which completely changed the face of the city and sadly claimed 185 lives.
There is no hiding the devastation that the earthquake caused; almost six years on there are still countless wrecked buildings and flat areas where buildings used to be. The only way I can describe Christchurch is like walking through a film set for a disaster movie – it really is so sad.
After checking into our hostel, the YMCA, Mia, Tabitha and I headed to Re:START – a post earthquake temporary shopping mall which has been set up in the city centre and which is made out of shipping containers. It’s a cool little stop off with lovely coffee shops, boutiques and restaurants.
After a little browse we headed to Quake City which is Christchurch’s museum depicting the tragedy of 2011.
The museum started with a short presentation which explained the Maori belief behind the occurrences of Earthquakes. I found this fascinating.
According to Māori tradition, earthquakes are caused by the god Rūaumoko, the son of Ranginui (the Sky) and his wife Papatūānuku (the Earth). Ranginui had been separated from Papatūānuku and his tears had flooded the land. Their sons resolved to turn their mother face downwards, so that she and Ranginui should not constantly see one another’s sorrow and grieve more. When Papatūānuku was turned over, Rūaumoko was still at her breast, and was carried to the world below. To keep him warm there he was given fire. He is the god of earthquakes and volcanoes, and the rumblings that disturb the land are made by him as he walks about.
We spent a couple of hours in the museum learning about the scientific reasons behind earthquakes, the events of 2011 and stories from survivors. The most shocking aspect for me was realising just how different Christchurch city was prior to the earthquake from the before and after photos. You really would have no idea it was the same city. When Miles visited Christchurch 10 years ago it would have looked completely different from the city I was visiting today.
The museum ended with a presentation showing the plans for the rebuilding of the city – in some ways it is a pretty cool opportunity. How often do cities have the chance to completely redesign themselves? I would love to come back and visit the Christchurch in 20 years time and see all the changes.
After spending time in the museum we headed to the Cathedral Square which was one of the most badly hit areas in the city. The damage to the Cathedral is obviously apparent, but what I found most shocking was that the Cathedral used to be surrounded by high rise office buildings and hotels. Now there is pretty much nothing.
After spending some time in the square we went to the cities ‘transitional’ cathedral which has been erected on a temporary basis. The Cathedral is actually made of cardboard which is really interesting.
Having spent some time in the Cathedral we visited the earthquake memorial which is called 185 Empty White Chairs. Each white chairs to represent each victim of the earthquake and every chair is purposefully different to represent the individuality of each victim. The tragedy really does hit home when you notice that the chairs ranging from baby seats to rocking chairs.
That evening we had a brief reunion with Corrine and Jade before saying goodbye to Mia who was off to the airport. The four of us then decided to have a lazy evening in the room in front of the TV. It was exactly what we needed.