Friday, October 7, 2011


Friday was a strange day.

Christchurch has the bluest skies you can imagine. It plays the confidence trickster with visitors, fooling us into thinking that it’s not really that bloody cold.  It really bloody is.

Barrier to the CBD
Definitive information about what is up and running in the city is hard to come by, a ‘fluid situation’ is the term used. Week by week businesses and attractions reopen to the public, and week by week others close again, unable to cope with the fall off in customers.

We visited the recently reopened museum, and yet again it was a great example of what every city should make available for inhabitants and visitors. The ‘Hearts for Christchurch’ display is especially poignant.  After lunch we walked through the botanical gardens, winding along the river Avon, passing gigantic thousand year old trees, wondering what it would be like to see or feel this entire setting shake around you. From the peace within the boundaries of this place it’s hard to imagine what went on outside them.

Just two blocks away you don’t have to imagine. Buckled footpaths lead the way to the metal fencing that surrounds the centre of the city. Signs warning of extreme danger obscure the view of ragged buildings just beyond, with occasional flowers or notes of tribute dotting the metal perimeter.

This is a town that was hit by a force of nature, no one’s fault and nowhere to lay the blame, making it all the more tragic. In a physical manifestation of irony, the bridge of remembrance – the city’s tribute to fallen New Zealand soldiers is unapproachable. It looms large and proud yet unadorned a good ten metres behind a metal barrier that itself is now a place of remembrance, with wreaths, flowers, and poems marking loss of life. I read one note simply telling a daughter that she is missed every day, left by her dad.

The Bridge of Remembrance

Outside of that centre, life goes on, exactly how I’ll never know. Plans are underway to demolish and rebuild, some 12,000 homes may never be inhabitable again. Reminders are never far away, today the town should be bustling with Irish and Welsh rugby fans for the world cup quarter final, but the games have been moved to other cities.  New Zealand’s party continues, elsewhere.

We made the arrangements to come here back at the beginning of February, and it seemed only right not to change those plans after the quake. Today we’ll rest up, before picking up the camper van in the morning and moving on to Dunedin.


  1. You have had three strong earthquakes in Christchurch in the last hour or two. At 4.17pm a 4.8 quake, at 4.27 a 3.6, and at 4.48 a 4.1.
    The two over 4 you will have felt. All were shallow - from 5-8 km below the earths surface.

    This may not be the kiwi experience you would have wished for! Hope all is well.

  2. I'm really enjoying hearing about your trip. Must have been very emotional for you in Christchurch.

    You should get yourself some of those Possum gloves!

    I have missed your writing Martin, you have a wonderful talent and shoud do more with it.
    Yes, I'm still rattling on about your book!