Sunday, January 15, 2012


There was one more bit of the trip I wanted to write about: Christchurch.  I’d never been to a city destroyed by recent natural disaster until I arrived in Christchurch.  I spent the first and last nights of my trip there and didn’t see anything, because there was nothing there to see. 

Coming from the airport, the closer to the city you get, the more broken it becomes.  First, there’s the odd garden wall being held up with planks.  Then there are cracks in the sidewalk.  Then a church that’s missing its sides.  The city centre is closed entirely.

My last night, the bus from the airport dropped me off about a 40 minute walk away from my hostel because it was on the other side of the city centre, where he couldn’t go.  I walked around the blocked streets with a suitcase in tow that was, fortunately, under the 10 kg carry-on limit because I kept having to lift it over sections of broken pavement.

Buffalo, with its innumerable abandoned houses and architectural treasures left to decay, has nothing on Christchurch.

One empty storefront after another is plastered with notices saying “Danger!  This building has a red placard.  Do not enter.”  The odd place is boarded up but labelled with a big ‘open’ sign.  I guess the sign is necessary because ‘open’ is not the default.  There are entire blocks of houses that dissolve into piles of rubble out back.  Some are missing the back wall, just like when tornadoes ripped through LA in The Day After Tomorrow.  Yep, Buffalo is sad, but you wouldn’t compare it to a movie about the end of the world.

I didn’t take any photos, not because there was nothing to take photos of – there’s nothing like a cathedral in ruins to give a picture some weight – but because it didn’t feel right.  I couldn’t go around snapping shots like an ogling tourist any more than I could when I visited the concentration camp at Dachau.  Suffering isn’t a tourist attraction.

There were two things that gave me hope, though.  The first was my hostel.  Not because it was a remarkable place – in fact, it was a bit of a hovel and I’m fairly sure that was the case even before the earthquakes – but because it had a big sign in the hallway that said, “Sorry about the cracks & don’t worry, the place won’t fall down!  We’re waiting on insurance money to do repairs.  The other was Domino’s.  I was happy to find the place hoppin’ when I walked around the corner to pick up dinner, and even happier to discover that NZ Domino's has cheap Tuesday too!

Humour and pizza.  They solve all the world’s problems, right?

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