One of the main topics when talking to anyone about visiting Christchurch, is the devastation wrought by the earthquakes in 2010/11. So, when we were finalising our check in at the apartment office this morning, it didn't take long to discover that the manager had been here for both. It was fascinating - and just a little scary - to hear first hand from someone who had lived through it and of the impacts on the city and its population.
We wandered off into the rain and our first stop was at the information office to gather info on road conditions for our drive over the Southern Alps tomorrow, and also to get more info on our West and South coast destinations. The visit was productive on both counts with the added bonus that the rain had stopped by the time we resumed our wandering.
Our morning objective was a relaxing stroll around the Botanic Gardens to see the Spring blossoms. Unfortunately, the dull weather took away some of the impact, but we nevertheless had a very enjoyable couple of hours or so. We also enjoyed the best coffee we have had since arriving in NZ!
After lunch back in the apartment, we drove out to the airport to see the rental company about those darn snow chains. The manager got us sorted out in quick time, so now we are equipped and trained to handle anything Kiwi roads can throw at us! ;) Hopefully, we won't need the chains at all, but better to have them than not.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon strolling around the CBD, observing not only the still very visible devastation - especially to the cathedral - but also the tremendous amount of reconstruction work that is going on. Apart from the many substantial new buildings that are going up, there were signs everywhere of the resilience and resourcefulness of the people of this city in the early months following the earthquakes. There is Container Alley, which is a shopping mall made up of repurposed shipping containers; the "Cardboard Cathedral", a transitional building that does actually have many cardboard components; and an outdoor church that has dozens of assorted chairs, all painted white, and which seems to be completely respected despite the total lack of security. All going well, Christchurch is going to be totally transformed in another five years or so.
Another great dinnter concoction tonight - Thai pork stir fry, Christchurch style! Then we packed for our drive tomorrow, hoping the road is OK...