Two years on from the earthquake that all but detroyed the whole city, I wondered what I was about to discover. A depressed city that had lost its way? Or a community that was “digging” itself out of the depths and restoring its own former glory?
Through the eyes of one of its residents, I was to learn that some amazingly imaginitive solutions were being found for the problems. I met Jo Anne in Kaitaia, up in Northland, minutes after I had set off from the airstrip to find my first hostel. She, along with her friend Kim, were having time together with their respective special needs children. They both made the first Kiwi donations to the Children in Syria Appeal as I was standing in line for a Subway sandwich. Jo Anne said she lived in Christchurch, and offered accommodation when I got down there.
A tour of the city centre revealed a huge amount of devastation. Many buildings and tower blocks had been razed to the ground, and many others were awaiting a similar fate. But amidst all the destruction, imaginitive methods of regeneration were strongly in evidence. Ship containers can be seen everywhere, shoring up crumbling cliff sides as well as providing temporary accommodation for many businesses.
A whole shopping mall has been generated from ship containers, all artfully structured and painted, windows and facilities installed…..in fact you could be forgiven for thinking you were entering a concept precinct that had been designed by eminent architects.
The people of Christchurch are evidently still very proud of their city, the most English of all the cities in NZ, and one day the restoration itself will be a huge draw to visitors, like the art-decco style of the once destroyed Napier on North Island.
Now a little eavesdrop on conversations I’ve had with fellow cyclists. Whenever I meet a fellow cyclist on the road or at a campsite, I am inevitably met with the observation: “Heck, you are travelling light. How do you do it?”. I usually reply: “Oh it’s quite easy, I just leave a lot of stuff at home”. Not satisfied, some of them continue: “Well I’ve been doing this for years, trying to cut down on the weight I carry, but I could never get by on that small amount. How do you manage it?” “Oh simple
really, I just leave a lot of stuff at home………”. At a campsite, after one such conversation, the cyclist in question told me the next morning that he had thrown half the contents of one pannier in the bin……. Strangely, he didn’t seem saddened by the radical action. In fact there was a hint that a weight had been taken from his shoulders!
Funny thing is, others think I travel light, but when I’m climbing over mountains I am always convinced I could shed a few more grams.
My route tomorrow was to take me over Arthur’s Pass, a long labourious crossing of the Southern Alps, heading in a NW direction. With the forecast predicting that a front will be coming in from the NW and dumping a lot of rain on the west of the island, I have decided to head across Mackenzie country (flat and fen-like), then head into the mountains towards Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook (and hopefully stay in the dry a few more days).
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