Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year from Christchurch

Hello from Christchurch! We got here Friday night, after touring across South Island one last time. We saw Aoraki Mt Cook and loved the lake country - definitely the best sunsets of the trip, if not the best weather.
Aoraki Mt Cook sunset
We met up with Jenny and Rob when we hit Christchurch, their camper van parked next to ours in the little campsite we found. We spent the day today tidying out the van and then exploring central Christchurch. Really weird vibe there - most of the CBD is fenced off and undergoing demolition/repair due to the earthquakes so the place is pretty empty. Much of the damage dates back to the big quakes in Nov 2010 and Feb 2011, but quakes continue daily and the most recent damage we saw was a bar that had been terminally damaged on Dec 9th (three weeks ago!). Liquifaction is a big problem further out, the ground turning to mud and everything sinking in - a load of that happened last Friday when a mag 6.2 hit.

Central Christchurch, one year on

Downtown, just outside the "red zone" exclusion area, a couple of blocks have been cleared entirely and replaced with shops and cafes housed in brightly coloured shipping containers - "RE:Start". Very cool, and some good bargains in the Kathmandu store. We had some good coffee and cake and enjoyed the free wifi before heading back to camp with J&R for a BBQ dinner.

We felt one quake in the afternoon, a magnitude 4.8 that struck while we were in the Kathmandu store, shaking the displays for a few seconds. No-one batted an eye-lid. Checking online it seems that this was the fourth quake of the day, and that's pretty average. Living with this daily, with the odd bit of damage hitting every week or two, must be really weird, siege-like. The media say that 1 in 10 locals plan to leave Christchurch permanently if/when they can sell up.

After a BBQ at the campsite - replete with hand-assembled strawberry pavlova for dessert, kudos J&R - we headed back into the centre for the free NYE celebrations - some live bands and fireworks in the park.

We're now all packed and just about to drop the camper van off before heading to the airport. It's been fun, probably time for just one more coffee…

Happy new year!

River sunset

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