Punting on the river
Travel

Re-Visiting Christchurch before the Earthquake

They thought they were safe. Although New Zealand sits atop the “Ring of Fire,” where the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates join, there were no known fault lines where 25,000 people lived for 160 or more years, building beautiful churches, universities and homes. One day, in 2010, that changed forever.

Church

Christchurch, located on the south island of New Zealand, has excellent walking or cycling trails due to its plain-like nature and compact size. The shallow and immaculately clean River Avon runs gently through the city’s centre, and not only boasts trout and salmon in its waters, but is flanked by easy, level, walking trails. The age old Alder, Oak and Birch trees, lining these paths, give the city a distinctive English atmosphere, particularly if you visit during winter.

The tranquillity and reminders of English village living are everywhere and I thought Christchurch a cosy place to make a home, that is, until two weeks after my visit in 2010.

Earthquake

The first earthquake registering 7.1 hit the unsuspecting city of Christchurch on September, 4th 2010, causing widespread damage but no loss of life.

The second quake was felt barely six months later and with a magnitude of 6.3, of which the epicentre was a mere 10 kilometres south-east of Christchurch’s central business district.

Killing 185 people and injured several thousand, many of Christchurch’s unique buildings collapsed, water and gas mains burst causing flooding, roads were uplifted. Countless houses sustained damage, especially in the CBD, where we had stayed not long before. Continuing liquefaction issues have rendered many homes unliveable and unable to be sold.

https://cdn.britannica.com/84/152184-050-0C74FF5D/qualities-soil.jpg

Experts thought a new fault line had appeared in the areas immediately surrounding Christchurch, meaning the city was unlikely to be the same again.

Surprisingly, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, retail store owners in the commercial district quickly improvised, bringing in shipping containers so that they could continue operating, albeit in a limited way.

It is a vast change from Christchurch, the way it used to be, just two weeks prior to that day the first earthquake hit. Here are my memories of the way it was.

My Christchurch Memories

Cathedral Square – as it was

An earthquake was the furthest thing from our mind when we ate a delicious and ample breakfast at the Holiday on Avon motel, prior to boarding the hotel’s free city shuttle bus to Cathedral Square to do some sightseeing on our first day in this pretty city.


Our dining room at the hotel overlooked this lovely vista and a 15-minute stroll along the river took us to the City Square, the site of the iconic 170-year-old Christchurch Cathedral.

Cathedral Square – Christchurch City

The Christchurch Cathedral Square, a few weeks before the earthquake devastates the town. Some people here enjoying Chess, on a clean crisp winter’s day. We spent some time examinging the ornate tiling and interior of the Cathedral, itself.

A group of Maori buskers performed songs for us, with traditional Maori “Poi.” The performance, they freely admitted, was in its early stages.

A short distance away, we explored the Botanic Gardens – a location I always visit when I am travelling, in order to see the local botany and floral displays.

Botanic Gardens Christchurch

The Curator’s house at the Botanic Gardens, replete with herb garden, was tasked with supplying the herbs for the restaurant. Again, very English.

  • Punting in Christchurch
  • Christchurch
  • Christchurch
  • Punting on the river
  • River Avon

Transport in Christchurch

I guess the city was pleased it kept its city tram network, although I am unsure if this is still operating, as a tourist, ‘hop on hop off’ tram. Formerly, it stopped at the major sites surrounding Cathedral Square. For a small city, they really looked after their tourists.

Ornate iron fretwork on the bridge over the river captured my attention. I wonder if it is still intact?

Christchurch’s Heritage Architecture

Beautiful architecture was found in many corners of Christchurch.

A collection of 23 heritage bluestone buildings formed the Arts Centre and University. Housing many different artists and crafts from painting, ceramics, to older ladies spinning and knitting socks, the Arts Centre was evidence of multi-purposing these stately structures. Demonstrations were occurring daily whilst I was there.

Note: This area sustained much damage from the quake, so may look different today.

Day Trips from Christchurch

The Christchurch area of New Zealand can be a convenient hub for day trips to Akaroa, Mt Cook National Park and the TranszAlpine Train Trip to Greymouth.

The relatively small population of Christchurch has had support from the New Zealand Government in the slow process of rebuilding. That continues with further earthquake-proof structures, similar to those found in Wellington.

I feel lucky to see it in its original state.

New Zealand, mountain, joy, happy, achievement
Architecture, Community

Te Papa, Beach and Wind Walk

Around this time 6 years ago I was walking in Wellington, New Zealand

A light shower greeted me this morning so the day started with an indoor activity hunting down a friend’s family history at the library. To our surprise we found a connection with our own family… is everyone in New Zealand related in some way or another to a resident in the Hawkes Bay area????

Wellington promised to live up to Melbourne’s weather reputation of having four seasons in one day… becuse pretty soon the sun came out, allowing us to have a picnic lunch, after walking along the beach. The children had a great time and I saw the harbour at its best. It really is a huge natural harbour surrounding by breathtaking mountains and forest.

The old part of Wellington has some beautiful houses:many perched on the absolute top of the ridge, and especially around Oriental Bay, one could be forgiven for thinking you were in San Francisco.


After all, New Zealand is on a fault line, like San Francisco, has a cable car like San Francisco, has houses perched on perilously steep cliffs and mountain sides, ending in a beautiful harbour, and lots of wooden architecture from the early 20’s – 30’s like San Francisco, and then of course, there is the earthquake issue.

New Zealand had around 15,000 earthquakes each year, mostly in the North Island, but very few are felt. The town centre of Napier, in Hawkes Bay, was completed flattened by a quake in 1931 and you’ll find footage of this in the Te Papa Museum, central Wellington, which was my next destination on this walk.

An earthquake ‘house’ gives a simulation of what it was like to be in Napier on that fateful day. The terrible rumbling, the premptive the shaking and rattling, and sudden movement underfoot is actually terrifying. Really gives you an idea , of what it is like to live through such an event, without experiencing the danger.

The Maori exhibits are also interesting and one can sit inside a Maori meeting house where they occasionally hold council meetings…. it is quite dark inside and has an atmosphere of solemnity and seriousness.

If you visit this museum, don’t forget to see the Kiwi and, the Giant Squid, both preserved and dead of course. Children are well catered for too, with dress ups, games, activities and play areas that allow for interactive learning.

Travelling further through the main centre of Wellington, we took a ride on the cable car to the small museum at the top of the hill. The museum itself, outlines the history of the Cable car, has some Vintage cars and you can also see the cable mechanism at work.

On our return to the city, we paused at the fully timbered church where my cousin’s parents were married. Truly unique I think in New Zealand’s church architecture. Our walk continued following a short car ride (sorry Jo, I cheated),  to the wind turbines at the Karori Reserve. Some energetic Wellingtonians were actually jogging the whole way up the narrow 5 kilometre road, and this in very windy conditions, one of the reasons I declined the offer to walk the 5 kilometres. Even then, we almost got blown away when we stepped out of the car at the top!

The wind turbine was built with Danish technology. While being able to sustain winds of up to 200km/h, it shuts down when the winds goes over 80km/h.

Wind power is something many cities are now pondering about.

Linking to RestlessJo and her Monday walks