Rediscovering Christchurch

Phil and I went to Christchurch in January 2011, a few weeks after the first big earthquake that affected the town and a couple weeks before the second quake.  We had a picture in our minds of what the city looked like from that time, but we hardly recognised it when we went back there on this trip.  I chose a hotel right near Cathedral Square because that's where we stayed before and it was a great location, close to lots of restaurants, buildings, and interesting things to see.  As we drove into the heart of the city, it became clear that things weren't the same.  Entire blocks of buildings were missing - those lovely restaurants and the big library were gone.  The building right next to the hotel we had stayed in was gone.  The cathedral was half gone.  It was really hard to get oriented because none of the landmarks we remembered were there.  Some were new buildings, some were parking lots, and a few were still piles of rubble.  It was really eye opening.
View outside our hotel - boarded up building and empty lots from other buildings that were torn down
During the day, we drove north to Hanmer Springs.  It was a cold and rainy day, but turned out to be perfect for a rafting trip.  It was a pretty tame ride, but still fun to get out and splash around.  We all got to jump in the water and one point and float for a bit, and as a surprise the ride back up the river was on a jet boat.  Sorry Amanda!
Setting out on the raft
Jumping into the water 
Floating down the river
We weren't very good at the jumping picture trick
Riding back on the jet boat
 After the morning spent in the cold water, we went to the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools to warm up and relax.  It was a large complex with lots of different hot pools of various temperatures and we really enjoyed the soak.  On the drive back, we stopped at a few wineries and did our best to fill our luggage.
Pretty drive from Hanmer Springs
 The following morning we walked around Christchurch.  I was wanting to understand the full extent of what was damaged, and the walk was very eye opening.  The street immediately next to our hotel was still standing, full of colourful little buildings.
Charming New Regent Street
 A couple blocks from our hotel we saw the Transitional Cathedral, which was built after the second quake.  It is an interesting building using materials that you wouldn't expect in a church.  The ceiling was made from reinforced cardboard tubes!
Cardboard ceiling and cross
Stained glass surrounded by cardboard
 A couple more blocks away is an art installation with a chair for each person who died from the earthquake.  It was really sad to see, and very sobering to see the different shapes and sizes and realise how lucky we were to have not been there during the quake.
We walked farther along and came across a building that was being demolished.  It was pretty crazy that this was still happening six years later.  It was also really fascinating to watch - like a hungry dinosaur clawing away at the remains.
Building being demolished 
Building being demolished
 Christchurch Cathedral had changed quite a bit since we last saw it also.  The support structure was put up after the first earthquake, but the second quake ripped apart so much more of the building.  A decision still hasn't been made on whether to or how to rebuild.
The front of the church is supported with a big structure

 The positive aspect of the rebuild is the city had so much devastation that artists decided to cheer things up with lots of random installations here and there.  
Lego sheep
Giant patio furniture
 There was also a lot of rebuilding going on, and we enjoyed finding lunch at the container mall.  Lots of shops that lost their buildings reopened in these containers and the mall was very colourful.  While we ate lunch we listened to the bangs and clanks of workers building a new high rise.  What an interesting contrast.
The colourful Container Mall
Back near the hotel we stumbled upon a dance floor complete with disco ball and speakers in an empty lot.  Curious, we walked over and saw that there was a washing machine.  Turns out it was the DanceOMat - you put money in the slot, connect your phone, and you could play music form the speakers.  You could reserve the dance floor for a certain day and time.  The intent was to get people to smile and bring back cheer to the city.  Of course we had to try it out and were soon grooving to "Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls."
On the dance floor
Dance floor selfie
With the sunshine on our faces, we enjoyed the last few moments of our time in Christchurch before heading to the airport.  We dropped the girls off for their flight to Auckland and we dropped the car off before heading back to Melbourne.  But the airport is tiny, and we soon found them again and shared one last bottle of wine (ok, maybe it was two) before their flight check in opened.  It was the perfect way to end a great day and a truly epic trip!


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