Some of you have been asking about the recent earthquake in Christchurch. We were in Auckland at the time, so we didn't experience it firsthand. We heard about it on the news shortly after it happened.
Earthquakes are part of the deal when you come here. GeoNets estimates that about 20,000 earthquakes happen around NZ each year, although only about 250 of those are big enough to feel. (And New Zealand doesn't even make the top 10 for earthquakes around the world!) Severe earthquakes like the one on Sunday happen much less often. If you're interested in info on the magnitudes and locations of recent (felt) earthquakes in New Zealand, the button below will take you to a website that tracks them. I usually check it if I think I've felt a little rumbling, just to satisfy that age old question: earthquake or really big truck?
This quake was one of many that have been part of the chain reaction the magnitude 7.1 earthquake of 2010 (including the much more famous 2011 quake) caused. At magnitude 5.7 this one was decidedly tamer, but it probably brought back some unwelcome memories. While it caused a huge chunk of cliff to cleave away and seriously rattled some people, I haven't been able to find any reports of serious injuries or deaths in this or any of the aftershocks that have followed. If you want to read more about the recent earthquake, its cause, and the likelihood of repeats in the area, the below button links to an article about it.
It stands to reason that the people who remain in Christchurch five years after such a big earthquake must be cut from sturdy cloth, and some are saying that the media coverage of this has been overblown and even said the recent earthquake was not a big deal. People steadied their TVs, things fell of shelves, buildings were evacuated--all pretty normal in a place that feels the earth shake regularly. However, I can't imagine the people who witnessed the cliff falling would say that wasn't a big deal to them. (Note to self, don't live on a cliff in an earthquake prone area.) At least as an outsider, it seems natural to question your safety. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle, but given that the city is used to dealing with events like this, and everyone came out OK, I'd call that a win.
We had big plans for Tongariro this weekend, but by mid week we scrapped them for a last minute business trip to Christchurch. Josh is visiting the office now and I’m sitting in the Hummingbird Café, enjoying some much needed coffee and shade among the brightly painted shipping containers of the Re:Start Mall. It’s a gorgeous day, full of intensity and warmth tempered by a fresh, icy breeze. Knowing how close we’ve come to Antarctica, I like to imagine the wind skirting over glaciers on its way to blow past our faces. The mall I’m in was built to replace a shopping area that was destroyed after the 2011 quake: a short-term solution to a problem—but to my eye it’s one of the most vibrant spots in the city. It gives a badly needed sense of renaissance in a city that still feels mostly like rubble. From what I’ve gathered progress has been slowed by disagreements over how money should be spent and over the vision of the city’s future as a whole. It’s a question I can understand: when something so central to your identity has been destroyed, which impulse do you feed? Do you fight to get back what you once had, knowing that it might be an impossible dream? Or do you wipe the slate clean and build something new, risking that it may never equal what you once loved? The choices we are given in the face of loss are always emotional, and never clear-cut.
As it is now, it’s a city of contrast: it has beautiful parks, lovely historical spots, and lively street art right alongside piles of rocks, heavy construction, and ugly dystopian grey buildings. Our hotel was next to a beautiful mural (which I forgot to take a picture of), but the surrounding flat-faced buildings (which felt ripped from the paged of 1984) spoiled the effect. Come on ChCh, at least paint them a nice color.
On Saturday we traveled south, and just as the last bits of urban sprawl seemed to be petering out, we drove through a tunnel. Christchurch is very, very flat, so when we came to the mountains south of it and drove through to Lyttleton on the other side, we felt like we’d traveled through a portal. We’d just been in a city built on plains that stretch far into the distance, but now we were teleported to a mountainside harbor town, with steep, narrow, serpentine roads and a harsh, industrial beauty that Josh was in love with. Judging by the mammoth piles of tree trunks, logging seems to be a big industry here. Here's a shot of the town from high up in the scenic reserves, looking more classically picturesque.
We also spent some time getting to know the city center a bit. The first day we explored on foot and then spent a lot of the second seeing it all again by tram, just to add in a little 20s era nostalgia. We lucked into some seats on the evening dinner tram, which was pricey but a lot of fun! We must have circled the track five or six times during the course of the meal, and it was cool to watch the light change in all these little bits of the city as we rolled along into dusk.
A lot of people I’d talked to before coming here told me how depressing they found Christchurch, and I can see where they’re coming from--but it's also exciting. The city's got good bones, even if it is still half skeleton. It's clear from what's there that it was once something special, and judging from the energy that's poking through the cracks in the cement, it has the potential to be something pretty special again.
Like our photos?
You can thank the talented
Josh Salim for taking most of them. Check out his other work at joshsalim.weebly.com
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