Rebuilding in Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Christchurch, New Zealand

I sailed from Moorea to Tahiti in warm, fair weather. I would miss the beautiful South Pacific Islands, but I wanted to go to New Zealand. I took a flight from Papeete to Auckland; the Pacific Ocean is so huge that it still took almost six hours to go from Tahiti to New Zealand. There is so much to see and do in New Zealand that there is never enough time, so I decided to spend my time on the South Island. I took another flight to Christchurch and there exchanged currencies, picked up a rental car, and drove to my hotel. I was a bit put off because my cell phone wouldn’t work. Buggers, as they say there.

It was cooler here, as it is further south and closer to Antarctica. It was a change to walk on city sidewalks, and I went to the Botanical Gardens, one of the only places not touched by the February 2011 earthquake. The beautiful grand trees were all in good shape, but almost every square in the city was devastated. My son had flown into Christchurch the day before the earthquake, hiked outside the region, and a month later flew out of Christchurch.

Now it seems worse, as after the quake many of the buildings still standing were declared unsafe and had to be razed to the ground: 350,000 people living there were affected. Many lost their jobs and relocated to other places; only construction workers came to work in great numbers. Every section of the city is being rebuilt. I drove all around the city and saw entire sides of steep hills gone, where million dollar homes once stood—no trace remains.

Much of the city’s infrastructure was affected, including large numbers of streets, roads, gas stations, high-rise buildings, schools and hospitals, which are now gone or in disrepair. Many home owners are still waiting for insurance settlements.  Malls, markets, bridges, and part of the shipping port are still gone or in need of construction. The cathedral and 45 churches were also damaged.

This earthquake has caused so many problems. It will take an estimated 10 years to get things back to normal in Christchurch. In the heart of the city, where stately buildings once stood, there is now a shopping center with stores made out of colorful shipping containers, as you can see in my photo at the top of this blog post. It is a new look for this grand old city. One evening I had dinner on the trolley which goes around the city squares. It was pleasant to be with friendly companions, but sad to keep seeing the blocks of torn-down buildings.

My heart goes out to the people of Christchurch who are bravely rebuilding, and I wish them all the best.  Someday I would like to visit Christchurch again, and I envision that it will be a beautiful city once more.

(posted April 19, 2016)