Wednesday, 30 December 2015

New Zealand: Christchurch (part 1)

Christchurch Cathedral
I was recently lucky enough to have three weeks off work for a trip to New Zealand and America. Here's the first blog from that holiday which started with a few days in Christchurch.

This was my first visit to the city having previously visited with my sister on our trip round NZ back in 2001. I also passed through Christchurch briefly back in 2012 when I walked the Queen Charlotte Track with some friends.

I was pretty disorientated by my last trip, it wasn't the city I remembered having suffered the devastating earth quake the year before. It was nice to be able to spend a bit more time in the city this time, seeing places from Becks' childhood and having the time to revisit places that I remembered from 2001.
Penguin street art near the cathedral
Before arriving in Christchurch I'd, naively, completely underestimate the amount of reconstruction work there would still be to complete and how fundamentally the city would have been altered. Nothing hit this home quite as hard as when we visited the red zone, a suburban area that was badly damaged by the earthquake. Huge tracts of land have been completely cleared as it has been deemed too unsafe to return. It was quite eerie to drive down broken roads with trees and shrubs dotted around. They once would have been in people's gardens but both the houses and gardens are now gone.

Thankfully it wasn't all depressing and I sensed a real energy in the city. The Restart Mall is the best known international example, but the colourful street art almost always put a smile on my face and there is a lot of construction going on round the city. It appeared, to my untrained, eye that there was a strong plan. They weren't just throwing up rows of anonymous identikit buildings, either in the city centre or out suburbs.
The Restart Mall
On a lighter note, in an effort to keep fit I did a couple of pleasant runs round Hagley Park in the centre of the city. The jet lag had the positive effect of getting me up early and out before the heat of the day.

We were also able to visit a few places from Becks' childhood with a drive past her first house, the university and walks round the suburb of Ilam where she grew up. I learnt about frisbie golf and had my first pie of the trip.
Cashell Mall under reconstruction

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