Thursday, June 14, 2012

June 8 - Christchurch

June 8 - Christchurch

The previous two days I spent traveling from Dallas to Christchurch through San Francisco and Sydney. The entire trip took about 30 hours, of which I slept maybe 5 total. After we checked into our hostel I wrote a few journal entries and then fell asleep, at 6:30 PM. I woke up a few times in the night, but only briefly. Mostly due to the fact that the bed was extra soft, as in you would sink down into the middle. It was also pretty tiny, but that’s ok. It was better than sitting in the plane. I didn’t get out of bed until about 9 AM.

Our goal for today was to see the city center, the botanical gardens, and the Re-Start mall, which is made entirely out of old freight cars stacked next to and on top of each other. I didn’t know anything about it until the woman that ran the hostel told us about it.

After getting a shower and eating a light breakfast we walked across the street and waited for the bus to take us to the city center. It took about 25 minutes before it came. I was getting to the point that I just wanted to start walking. It was already 10:30 AM and it gets dark around 5:30 PM.

The bus finally picked us up and we headed for the city. Our hostel was more on the outskirts of town but due to the earthquake there weren’t many places to choose from. The ride took about 20 minutes before we decided to get off. We didn’t go all the way to the center because I saw a river with a bridge that looked neat so we decided to take some pictures and then wander around until we got to where we wanted to be.

It turned out that the exit was very near the Re-Start mall and the red zone, which is the area of downtown that was destroyed by the earthquake. It was kind of strange that most of the nearby houses and roads seemed fine, but the taller and older were pretty badly damaged.

We spent about 20 minutes taking pictures along this random river. As we made our way down we saw a large bridge with lions on top and a sign that said “Remembrance Bridge” or something like that. I don’t really remember. We again spent about 20 minutes or more taking pictures of it and the river.

We looked on our map and noticed that the mall was nearby so we walked towards it. Along the way we could see a lot of construction taking place. Even after all this time it seemed like they hadn’t repaired that much, but it’s hard to tell since I don’t know how bad it looked before. A lot of people seemed to be in the area just looking at the damage. I’m not sure if they were other tourists or just people from the city that wanted to see how the repairs were coming. The people seemed really determined to rebuild their city and talked about it like it happened yesterday.

The Re-Start Mall was nothing like I expected. I was envisioning a large mall completely built out of freight cars, and it was. But it was mostly just little shops with one, two, or three freight cars that had been stacked on top of each other with windows and doors cut out. It was really cool, but I was thinking it was going to be built like an actual mall. I guess that was dumb of me. It wasn’t very big either. There were maybe 20 shops total, but it was a way for people to come down to the area and see that the city was being repaired. I wonder if they will keep it after everything returns, or if it will only be temporary.

While we were there a group of three school children and their teacher asked if they could film us for a report they were doing about the aftermath of Christchurch. They were focusing mostly on the mall and the impact it had on the city. It was neat that they were doing something like that I thought. Andy spoke on the camera and I just stood there. We had literally just walked into the area a few seconds before so when they asked how we felt about it I didn’t really have an opinion yet, I hadn’t seen anything.

There was a live band playing near some of the outdoor food stands. They were pretty good, but nobody seemed to be around listening except one random guy that was filming them with his phone. We wanted to go to the Botanical Gardens and the museum to see the church spire which had fallen off of the Cathedral. Most of the Cathedral looked pretty badly damaged from what little we could see. Apparently they are trying to tear it down, or restore it, or something, but people in the town are protesting whatever they are doing. The only reason I know is because of signs we saw posted on the fences surrounding the red zone.

The Botanical Gardens were right next to the museum and only a few minutes walk from where we were. We had driven by it the day before on the bus. Along the way we saw a few neat looking buildings and an outdoor art gallery. We saw that for a few minutes and talked to one of the guys that worked there. He wanted to know where we were going, for how long, and other random information. We were kind of in a hurry, but eventually were able to get away. A lady working there was shoveling snow into a cardboard box making squares. I’m not really sure why, but I got a picture anyway. I guess she had nothing better to do since nobody was there buying their stuff. It was all way over priced.

A few blocks down was the museum. It was closed. They were doing repairs or looking for damage of some kind. We didn’t ask why, but we did go to the gardens right next door which were open. We spent the rest of the day here, which was about 3-4 hours. I didn’t have a watch, so I’m just guessing, but we were there until it was almost dark.

A river runs through the middle of the park, the same river as before. It was a really neat place and the snow made it look even prettier. I bet in the summertime when it’s warm it’s a great place to go. It was free so that was even better.

We spent a long time walking along the river taking pictures and shooting videos of the gardens. A lot of the trails were closed due to the snow knocking branches down. Most of the green houses were closed too. In the middle of the park was a rose garden. It wasn’t real great, but I’m sure in the spring and summer it’s much better.

We stayed in the botanical gardens for about 2 ½ to 3 hours. By the time we left it seemed like nobody else was there. Across the street was a boat dock where you can rent boats, but there were no boats there. Probably because nobody wants to be sitting outside on a small boat in the freezing cold. We took some pictures of the dock though.

It was getting dark and we were starving. We had only eaten a few bites of limbus bread and a granola bar for breakfast and a lunch snack. We had very little water so we were pretty dehydrated. I felt dizzy. We walked past the city center again and took a few photos.

Our plan was to eat at Subway. We had seen a few on the bus ride earlier and they had a special on foot longs. We didn’t know exactly where it was but we had an idea of what route the bus had taken. We walked through the town looking for familiar streets. It must have taken about an hour from the time we left the gardens to get to the Subway.

This particular Subway had a deal on a foot long pork riblet. I had been wanting the meatball sub since that’s what one of the signs we saw said had a deal, but this one didn’t have that deal. So I ordered a 6 inch BMT. We ended up sharing each of them. If I had been thinking clearly I would have gotten a foot long also, because it would have only been about 50 cents more. Oh well. We will probably be eating Subway a lot since it’s so cheap.

We spent about 25 minutes at Subway warming up and eating. We decided to walk back to our hostel since we didn’t want to spend money and it looked like it was only a little more than 2 miles on our map. We left Subway at 6:08 PM. My hope was that we would be back by 7. We didn’t stop at all along the way. It was dark and cold. The area we were in was a main road with lots of houses. Many of them were abandoned. Most likely because of earthquake damage. A lot of people have left the city in the past year. We walked fast and made it right on time.

When we got back I went straight to the room and into my bed. I spent the next few hours transferring pictures and writing in my journal. A girl showed up tonight while I was typing. She was using the empty bed in our part of the dorm. I don’t mind it, but it means you have to be quiet when you are packing in the morning. I should have probably packed things up, but I’m too tired. Tonight I stayed up late. It’s almost 10:30 PM.

I would like to wake up around 7 AM so we can get an early start, but we’ll see. We have plenty of time in New Zealand so we aren’t in a huge hurry and tomorrow is technically a free day. I think the plan is to see Akaroa, a small French town on a peninsula. There is swimming with dolphins, but it’s way too expensive and cold for that.

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