Still in deep lockdown… So don’t really want to talk about anything too dark today. Actually, I want to show you the ways that Christchurch has rebuilt itself in the time following the disaster.
In my previous post, I concentrated on the ruins, and you might remember seeing the ruins of the Anglican Cathedral. The people of Christchurch didn’t want to be without a place of worship for too long, so they quickly commissioned the Cardboard Cathedral, which was opened 2.5 years after the earthquake.
It’s a very creative and positive building to enter, and when we visited there was a lot of activity. It was supposed to be temporary, but I heard they’ve decided to make it a permanent fixture for the city.
In other places around the city they’ve planted gardens where there were buildings. This one is a memorial garden in the place where the CTV station building was.
Other places are getting rebuilt in typical 2010’s style.
However there are places that are a little more innovative. Christchurch is famous for its use of shipping containers as structures.
And some interesting sculptural elements.
And finally there’s a proliferation of street art everywhere you look, on old and new buildings.
The combination of all this artwork is very moving. It shows a city that’s rebuilding itself using art. We can learn a lot from that.
Walking around the CBD at Christchurch in 2018, I was of course struck by the level of devastation that the earthquake had caused. But in saying that, I was also struck by the things that have survived.
Looking at these photos, it was reassuring that the old-time pioneers built such hardy buildings.
And even when the buildings were damaged, the fact that they survived in some form (as in the case of the Anglican Cathedral) is astonishing.
After following the alpine rivers to the coast, it was a case of retracing our steps back to the city of Christchurch. We’ll concentrate a bit on Christchurch here. Few people can visit this city in 2018 and emerge unmoved.
On Tuesday, 22nd of February, 2011, the city was hit by a 6.2 earthquake whose centre was a mere 7km from the CBD. This was after 7.1 earthquake hit the area some 5 months before. What resulted was utter devastation, and though we visited almost 8 years after the earthquake, what happened in 2011 was still all around in the vacant lots that were waiting to be rebuilt.
But I don’t want to dwell solely on the tragedies, because I think it’s the creative and vibrant ways that the locals found to get back on their feet – things that can be found around almost every corner – that really made our visit. I’ll write about some of these little things in this series.
So it’s downhill from the crest of Lewis Pass, but no time to get distracted as there’s the odd landslide to dodge.
And a few twists and turns.
Here, the road follows a series of rivers. First the Lewis, then the Nina, the Boyle, the Hope, and finally the Waiau Uwha, as it makes its way to the Pacific Ocean.
We travelled in early summer, so the rivers weren’t flowing full-pelt. It must be exhilarating to see it in full force in the spring time.
From Reefton, the road climbs through beautiful forests.
And eventually opens out at Marble Hill.
It’s a beautiful spot, with meadows surrounded by mountains. It is close to the highest point in Lewis Pass, some 907 metres above sea level.
From here it’s (mostly) downhill all the way!
We’ll continue driving from the west coast to the east coast of the South Island.
Our route took us through the small town of Reefton. It is another former gold-rush town (where they found an extensive gold-bearing quartz reef, hence the name).
If it looks and feels like the ‘wild west’ then you’re not far wrong.
Probably because the first gold was found in 1866, just after the Australian gold rushes started and not long after the Californian gold rush that opened up the American ‘wild west’. They all probably employed the same architects.
Because of the riches of the gold mines, and also the power of the nearby Inangahua River, the town was the first in the Southern Hemisphere to be connected to the electricity grid, courtesy of the Reefton Hydro Power Station.
The last big drive of our South Island trip was from the West Coast town of Westport to the East Coast city of Christchurch. We took the most direct route, through Lewis Pass.
Because I did most of the driving on the day, Hubby decided to document the day by taking lots of photos. It was a good thing he did because I was concentrating so much that I probably wouldn’t be able to recall much of the drive if it wasn’t for these photos. It also shows to you readers who haven’t been to New Zealand as yet what typical Kiwi road conditions look like. Now that the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand is up, some of you might be thinking about having a holiday across the ditch. I say, go ahead, but be aware first and don’t take on too much. It’s not like driving from Sydney to Melbourne down the motorway.
How different is it? Let’s start our journey.
The first section of the journey follows the very pretty Buller River.
The road is a typical Kiwi road, one lane each way. This gets even tighter in one section of the road, where it’s one lane full-stop, as the road has been hewn out of the cliff.
Now, with a single lane, you hope that there isn’t anything large passing the other way, like a double tanker.
Luckily that didn’t happen to us, however it didn’t mean that it wasn’t nerve-wrecking…
Some more moody coastal scenery from Pancake Rocks and the West Coast of NZ before we head back east.
For those who want to find out more of what it was like on the West Coast in the ‘bad old days’ then having a read of Booker Prize novel, The Luminaries or watching Jane Campion’s classic film, The Piano, would probably give you an idea.
One day trip we did on the West Coast is to drive an hour south of Westport to the village of Punakaiki. The drive down required a lot of concentration as the west coast road was very windy (aren’t they all?) but despite the bleak weather, I think it was worth the drive to see Pancake Rocks.
The rocks were quite unique in that the do look like pancakes. There’s of course a scientific explanation to all of this, and like most things geological it’s not the work of an instant.
Let’s continue exploring Denniston. Being on a plateau, a good 600 meters above the township of Waimangaroa and where the railway line stood, it took a bit of work to get the coal down to the trains for transport.
They had a few ways of getting down. There was the road, but that was not very efficient, being winding, narrow, unpaved and so very dangerous. So they built a cable railway straight down the hill that was eventually called the Denniston Incline.
Gravity would move the filled wagons down the hill and also pull any empty wagons back up.
You can probably tell that it wasn’t the safest of ways to transport a fully-laden coal wagon, especially when the wagon derails, which was rather quite often apparently. Since no adult wanted to lose their life down the hill, the ‘drivers’ of these wagons were often young boys of 12 or 13 years old.
Well, that’s all from Denniston. Mining is still going on in the area, but on a hill some 20km further north. I hope today they’ve got a less dangerous method of transportation.