Christchurch was like having a large English or Scottish town teleported from Great Britain to the South Island of New Zealand complete with river meandering alongside banks resplendent with huge northern hemisphere trees and...... what British river would be complete without it's resident punt silently transporting young lovers on a Sunday afternoon in spring.
At 12.51 pm on Tuesday 11 February, 2011, an increasing rumble was heard accompanied by severe shaking of buildings which intensified and people knew from experience that this quake was going to be devastating and it was, for it claimed 185 lives, mass destruction, chaos and bewilderment. A beautiful city left in ruins and the city's population in deep shock.
|Christchurch Cathedral post earthquake|
|The above photographs show a fraction of the damage caused by the 2011 earthquake|
At approximately 3.30 pm on 2 March 2014, 16 cyclists from Redlands University of the Third Age (U3A) arrived at Christchurch Airport to begin an adventure, riding from the Alps to the Ocean. No big fanfare as we were not the pro cyclists you have seen in the Tour de France but none the less very excited and full of energy. After unpacking and having some refreshment, we broke into small groups and set out to explore the city.
I don't think anyone was ready to take in what we encountered as we walked around the old CBD. Personally, I had a mixture of emotions, firstly, it was a feeling of grief and loss. This emotion was not personal as in the loss of loved ones but it was a feeling of sadness at what these people had experienced and the loss they had to endure, an emotion I can't remember having had before. As I walked around, the emotion changed to one of wonderment at the resilience and resourcefulness of these people. From a near complete loss they had started to rebuild their lives and not from nondescript rubble, but in vibrant colour, as if to say - 'Hey! Hughie I might be down but I'm not out yet'. Out of this rubble and mud they had started doing business again.....coffee shops and bars, brightly painted boutiques in shipping containers, inspirational graffiti painted on condemned walls of buildings. Colour everywhere, in all shapes and sizes. I've never had so much respect for graffiti, it looked great and I think.....gave people hope. I read somewhere that it may take between 50 and 100 years to return to a normal economy but with the resilience of these people I don't think so, 10 at the outside and it will be like the birth of a beautiful flower forming from the bud.
It didn't take long to take in the devastation but it's memory will be ever lasting. My mate Murray and I found a bar which was packed with both locals and tourists alike and tasted our first New Zealand beer since last year when we toured Hawkes Bay on the North Island. We didn't dwell on what we saw because everyone around us was in good spirits and knew that like Phoenix, a new Christchurch would rise from the ashes and be bigger and better than ever.
Cheers and safe riding,