Friday, November 11, 2011

Riding in The Red Zone

This is an earthquake related post, probably  most of interest to my fellow kiwi readers. I'm trying to work out how to put the Quakytown posts on a different tab, but I'm not sure that blogger allows it; all posts must show on the main page as well. If you are looking for a food or fitness post, check back tomorrow. :D


Last weekend The Programmer and I took our lives in our hands and, along with the entire Familia Programmer (his ma, pa and sis), took a ride through The Red Zone, which is the badly earthquake-damaged Central Business District of Christchurch.

Since the earthquake of 22nd February, which those in the know will recognise as the second major quake that hit Christchurch - the first was on 4 September, 2010 - the city has been cordoned off and closed to all visitors.  Understandably, there has been a constant risk of aftershocks and the distinct likelihood of being squished by falling masonry. 

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) has just started regular bus tours of the CBD, which the on-bus representative informed us is now 'the country's biggest construction site'. She went on to warn us very seriously that visiting it was highly dangerous and that we 'might not survive'. Before the bus started its engine, we were given one last chance to save ourselves. Nobody got off.  I think we are ready to confront what is there and start healing. 

Below are some images taken from the bus. We were not allowed to disembark, but the bus made stops at sites of interest, such as the Cathedral and the empty spaces where the CTV and Pyne Gould buildings used to be. The latter two are where most of the fatalities occurred.

I was seated next to a visiting research student from Boston that did not know Christchurch before the damage and was interested in my running commentary. I'm sure he understood my pain at the state of C1 Espresso.

The building which most caught his interest though was the Grand Chancellor hotel, which you can see to the far left of the above picture (that's his camera in the foreground). This hotel is currently like the leaning tower of Pisa. Boston kept saying 'oh wawwww, I kent believe it, that's craaaaazy' (how to do an American accent?).

Chloe's Bar - this is where my Grandparents took me for dinner when I passed School Certificate (5th form). It used to be called something else, can anyone remember what it was?

One of the more interesting things that has happened is the appearance of pieces of Christchurch past. This old Polson's sign (below) had been hidden from view for many years, but the building constructed next to it has now been deconstructed.
Things are not looking too flash for the 'Two Fat Indians' restaurant (red building with green awnings below), although it's still up, which is a good sign. This is where The Programmer had his leaving dinner when he went to England. The shipping crates are bracing a piece of historic facade which is hopefully going to be saved.
The shipping crates from the other side, and a tree. If only buildings could be made as resilient as trees..

 Southern Demolition doing their thing... demolishing stuff. Seems like a job that boys might enjoy.

In terms of emotional response, I have to say that I didn't really have one. I was expecting to feel something, but the closest I got was a sense of, well, annoyance.  Like, 'who made this mess???'

Being stuck on a bus made it a bit like looking at pictures, and we have seen plenty of those! I would have liked it if the windows were able to be opened. Then we could have experienced the atmosphere - the smells and sounds. Also, the fact that the city looks so different made it hard to connect with what we were seeing. Empty spaces where there used to be recognisable buildings and a sheer lack of people made it difficult to fit the 'Christchurch as I remember it' puzzle piece to what we were seeing. The Programmer said that he was most affected by Victoria Square, which had some beautiful gardens in it. These are now completely unkempt and wild. 

The overall impression was pretty much what I expected. Work has begun, but it's going to be a long time before we have a functioning city. If you live locally, I'd recommend the bus tour. It only costs $2 and might be good for you. Exposure therapy they call it in my Psychology textbook. Get ye exposed, it helps the mind to adjust. 

See you tomorrow with a fitness post and I know you must be getting desperate for some foodcam, so I'll plug in the SD card and see what's on there that's foodie. :D


  1. Let's hope the rebuilding moves along at a smartish pace now, so you can reclaim your lovely city. And so that the next time I come to visit, you can show me around all the lovely new and restored buildings and landmarks.


  2. Yes, that's a novelty I'm really looking forward to! It is a shame that mostly the buildings that fell down were pretty and the ones that stayed up were ugly though... I can only hope that the new ones are nice looking!

  3. Sadly only 5% of your photos were viewable. I'm sure lots of people did feel something by going on the bus tour.

  4. That's strange.I wonder what's going on with those pics. I haven't had anyone else say they couldn't see them.. will do some research.


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