Our next big adventure in Christchurch was to hit downtown and see some of the sights there. You may or may not be aware but Christchurch endured two earthquakes about 8 years ago. The first was a 7.1 magnitude quake that hit in early September 2010 and the second, a 6.2, hit a couple of months later in February 2011. They did massive damage to this historic town and 185 lives were lost. These days they call Christchurch “A City In Mourning” because it still hasn’t quite recovered from the damage. This is rather evident as you travel about the city. Of all of the places we’ve visited so far this city had more homeless people and lots of gang tagging everywhere. It’s quite sad to see and hear how these quakes affected this once vibrant, historical city.
With all of this damage many of their most beautiful and historic buildings were lost. One of the most significant is the ChristChurch Cathedral. Apparently there was a lot of debate about whether or not to restore it and finally they have agreed to do so. During our stay here we had an opportunity to view the dilapidated church. It is really a somber sight but the fact that it’s being restored brings hope that the city will someday recover from these disasters.
With one of the city’s main churches out of commission the city needed to do something to help people to heal so they built a transitional cathedral called the Cardboard Cathedral. A Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban, designed this cathedral and it’s really quite something to see. It’s an A-frame that rises 79 feet to the peak. The beams are made of 86 cardboard tubes reinforced with wood beams. The ceiling is polycarbonate and the walls are made from eight shipping containers. Even the cross at the alter is made of cardboard. No, it’s not meant to last forever, rather to last for 50 years. The point it to show that post disaster buildings can be built quickly and last long enough to allow a city to transition back into some sort of normalcy. It is definitely something interesting to see.
We also visited a quaint little street with shops and restaurants. We stopped and had an ice cream cone and even ran into a statue of Grape Ape. Who knew they were aware of him down here in Kiwi Country?
For dinner we had a very special evening planned. We had reservations on the Christchurch Tramway Restaurant. At $109 NZD per person it could be considered a bit pricey but this was a fabulous experience. I mean, what could be more fun that having a four star dinner aboard a streetcar while riding around the city? Yes, this was pretty cool and the food was absolutely brilliant. They started us off with the chef’s appetizer of the day then followed that with our choice of salad or ahi tuna. After that you had a choice of one of their amazing main courses and then there was dessert. OH MY! I had the chocolate mousse cake and it was literally to die for! And the city at night was so awesome. It was like having dinner with an ever changing view. The driver offered historical information as we passed through town and the waiters and waitresses were spot on! Yes, this was definitely one of the best things we’ve done so far. This was a treat we will never forget.
We’ve sure enjoyed our stay here but they say, “All good things must sometime end” and for us this is it. Tomorrow we head north to Aogatete where we have an other amazing evening planned….a night at Hobbiton! From there it’s back to Whangarei and then Auckland where alas, our wonderful three week journey will end. It certainly has been a once in a lifetime adventure with amazing friends.
Captain Dan & Jilly