The Shaky City
Last fall, the city of Christchurch made international headlines for a devastating earthquake, followed by another, more destructive one last February. Multitudes of tremors and aftershocks since then (over 7,000!) have earned Christchurch the nickname displayed in our title.
Though aware of the damage, none of us realized its full extent until we attempted to drive into town. A chain link fence peppered with ominous warning signs blocks off the entire city center, so that no one other than construction personnel can enter what was once the bustling downtown. Countless restaurants, hotels, bars, shops, and other businesses stand forlornly empty, their imminent demolition scrawled on the walls in spray paint and posted notices.
The streets, too, were oddly empty for a beautiful Saturday morning. It all felt suspiciously like a scene out of a zombie apocalypse movie.
We were relieved to find happy, living faces outside of the admirable Canterbury Museum—just safe on the outskirts of the destruction. Rooms full of Maori carvings and moa bones, early English settler photos and homestead tools, Arctic exploration paraphernalia, stuffed New Zealand birds, and countless other displays kept us captivated.
It was too nice of a day to spend much time inside and luckily Christchurch’s lovely botanical gardens—always one of our favorite urban attractions—were also fully functional. We spent a good part of the day strolling past newly unfurled leaves and blooming azaleas, and sleeping off our hangovers on the fresh cut grass.
Due to our constant latitude hopping over the last ten months, it was really the first time we’ve felt the full change of the seasons since we’ve left. Bring on summer!