My passport has seen more action in the last 24 months of its life than it did in the first 7 years of its existence.
When I go to a new city, I try and take my camera and have a bit of a poke around. having a wander around a new city is how I pass my time. Unless there is something really famous, like the Eiffel Tower or the Berlin Wall, I usually don’t bother with the tourist things. Maybe this is because I am a boring and uninspired person, and I should really read more travel guides before going to a new an unfamiliar city. Oh well.
Christchurch, New Zealand, had a terrible earthquake in Feb 2011; one which razed the city and killed about 200 people. However, it had a misfortune timing, as less than three weeks later, the Great Touhoku Earthquake wiped a large portion of Northern Japan off the map, and all conversations about earthquakes were subsequently pointed north of the equator.
I’ll admit that I had also forgotten about the Christchurch Earthquake. Last year I traveled to the Touhoku region, and in general things had returned to normal. There were some signs of the events of March the 11th, but the cities were mostly livable. The works that were still ongoing could have easily been mistaken for standard urban renewal.
But here, in Christchurch, it is like time has stood still since 2011. I initially couldn’t work out why it was so hard to find a vacant hotel in the city – it’s because there isn’t a city left. My current hotel is something that has been renovated and re-purposed as serviced apartments, and is very close to the official centre of the city. And yet, there is not much around here. There is a single Chinese take-away around the corner, and I’ll be honest, I’m not even sure if it is open. There is a shopping arcade made up of small shops on street level. Every second one is boarded up with warning signs put up by the Earthquake Authority. There are big posters of a Wizard calling for the disbandment of that Authority, and calling for donations to fix the Cathedral.
The tram system, which looks like it used to cover the whole city, now runs about a kilometer, with many of the branches and tracks blocked off with concrete bollards.
And the demolition is still ongoing. It’s been more than 3 years, yet there are still ruined buildings and vacant lots everywhere. didn’t make it far today as I was forced back inside due to the rain. I’m about to venture out to see if I can find something other than take-away, but given my earlier reconnaissance I have my doubts.
Still, it did give me inspiration for the latest Arctic Gale. Maybe I’ll go back and tweak the description, or at least put some of it into Chapter 14. We’ll see.