Today I did one of the things I've been intending to do for a while, but left until I had finished my thesis. I walked around the cordon in Christchurch's CBD. This has been up since the February earthquake, but has diminished in size somewhat. The 'red zone' still endures. It's guarded by police and the army. I didn't feel particularly comfortable going on a sightseeing walk earlier. But more than three months have passed since the earthquake. Now I just miss the city centre, and I wanted to see it with my own eyes.
There are flowers and messages pinned around the place:
There is interesting brickwork everywhere:
And there are plenty and plenty of fences separating you from potential danger:
It's what makes Christchurch one of the safest cities in the country at the moment, in my opinion. We've been told there's a 23% chance of another big earthquake over 6 on the Richter scale, and we had a reasonably big (5.5) aftershock yesterday morning, while there are smaller ones rumbling away every day. So, understandably, people are nervous. Having visited a couple of other cities since the whole earthquake situation got underway in September last year, however, makes me thankful that I am here, if only for the reason that all our dangerous buildings have come down already or are surrounded by security fences.
I took a lot of photos. Here are some:
Yes, that is a cathedral being held up by shipping containers.
This is the Grand Chancellor hotel, Christchurch's tallest building and our very own leaning tower. You can probably see that it's angled slightly awry? Unfortunately for every building in its way if it should fall, it's going to take over a year to demolish it, which means business owners won't be back in for a very long time.
The Provincial Chambers were one of the most dramatically ruined for me. Very sad. There are a bunch of similar Gothic Revival buildings which have crumpled, but this is the most terrible one (except Durham Street Methodist Church, which was practically razed). Thankfully, it will be one of the few buildings on the priority list for rebuilding.
It was very eerie walking around the city. Where traffic is allowed, it's pretty busy, but as soon as you walk down a street closer to the cordon, the silence is overwhelming. No - it's not silent - but all you can hear is a building being demolished a few blocks away, and a few birds. Ghostly.
It is also strange to see some blank spots where well-known buildings used to be. St Elmo Courts on Montreal Street. The Cranmer Centre on Armagh Street. And the CTV building on Madras Street is the most poignant of all in its absence. I'm glad I wasn't able to see it. I think approximately 100 people died in its rubble.
It was a comfort, however, to see a few places that are still open and functioning. C4 was an awesome little café on High Street that has all but fallen down. Their street is also closed and will be for a long time. So I had thought there was no chance of a C4 flat white anytime in the future. I did not know that the C4 company roasts its own coffee, and so stumbling across its premises near the city, with a functioning and funky (though quiet) café, was very exciting. Here is my trim flat white, and a piece of lolly cake:
Now I am (a) footsore; (b) a little awed at the difference it makes to see some of these places with my own eyes; (c) glad to have been into the city finally, and glad to have visited C4; but (d) a little sad again.