Along the Away

travel, dream, create, inspire, appreciate

I only spent one morning in Christchurch as on the way back here I made plans to move on to explore the south east of the island.

While I was there I stayed one night in a very cool hostel called the Jailhouse – located, you guessed it, in an old jail. It was an actual working prison from 1874 to 1999, when the last inmate left. The ‘cells’ have been converted into rooms including multi-bed dorms, but you can also stay on your own in a one bed cell (if you dare!). There is a cell preserved, with artwork from a former prisoner still on the walls – quite a cool thing to check out! I stayed in the dorm and it was a good experience; clean, quiet, friendly reception staff and great barista coffee from the reception desk (YES!)

But I didn’t spend a lot of time at the hostel, just enough to sleep and get caffeinated. I spent my morning taking a walk around town. The hostel was a bit of a walk into the CBD, maybe 15 minutes? But the path takes you along a pretty tree lined park and it’s pretty easy to find the way.

Christchurch, NZ

Christchurch, NZ

I found the CBD suprisingly/not-suprisingly still looking quite battered post-earthquakes (Christchurch was tragically and dramatically altered by large earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. I have read 80% of the CBD has been demolished).

Christchurch, NZ

I knew the city had been hit hard, I knew there was a long road to recovery… But 5 years later I assumed it would be further along that path that I found it to be. There is scaffolding everywhere. Everything looks like it’s being supported and braced so it won’t get worse, but not a lot looked like it was getting rebuilt.

Christchurch, NZ

Christchurch, NZ

The Christchurch Cathedral is smack bang in the middle of Christchurch and was built between 1864 and 1904. It’s been damaged over the years by a number of earthquakes, but none so much as the 2011 earthquake which measured 6.2 magnitude and brought down the west wall, the spire and part of the tower. The remainder is now held up with various steel structures, a stark visual in the city centre. The Anglican church has decided to demolish the structure and rebuild which has been considered a controversial decision – the cathedral being such an icon of the city’s identity. What will take it’s place? And what will it say about Christchurch?

Christchurch, NZ

Christchurch, NZ

Christchurch, NZ

Because the rebuild will take a long time, the Transitional Cathedral in Latimer Square, more popularly known as The Cardboard Cathedral, was built as the first significant rebuild project after the earthquake. I went there and had a tour by a lovely old chap, a lifetime Christchurch resident who shared with me the impact of the earthquakes on the city, which went further than the physical damage and the emotional grief. The logistics of getting everything repaired put a big strain on resources. The priority was getting all the residential damage fixed up so that people had somewhere to live; this is why the city itself, and major icons like Christchurch Cathedral are still a long way from repaired. They had to bring in Tradies from out of the city and country, but meanwhile there was a residential shortage due to the damage. People were crammed into share houses, which made it more difficult to attract workers in to help. It opened my eyes to the complexity of a recovery effort.

Cardboard Cathedral, Christchurch

The Cathedral is the only church in the world built mostly out of cardboard, and is a sight of beauty. Clean lines, with a colour neutral palette that let’s the stained glass windows pop!

Cardboard Cathedral, Christchurch

Downtown, the re:start precinct is a ‘shipping container mall’. It’s really quite funky, particularly the two-storey cafés and restaurants with upstairs balconies – really cool to see how inventive the creators have been. The concept brought the retail and tourism trade back into the CBD years before it would have been if business owners waited for new building developments.

Christchurch, NZ

It was such a different vibe there than walking the main streets where there is so much scaffolding and, though I’m not sure if it’s because it was a weekend, but just a general pervading sense of desolateness. Of course, maybe the weekdays or weekend afternoons are full of hustle and bustle, I don’t know, I only have my experience walking around on an early winter Sunday morning.

Christchurch, NZ

The Shipping Container Precinct was bright and colourful and full of business, it was refreshing.

Re:Start, Christchurch, NZ

Christchurch, NZ

I had breakfast with some fellow travellers and then parted ways as I headed back to the Jailhouse to get my stuff. Along the way, there were signs of revival amongst the empty spaces and cleared lots.

Christchurch, NZ

Art and design; creativity seeping up through the cracks into the city.

Christchurch, NZ

Christchurch, NZ

Christchurch, NZ

I thoroughly enjoyed my morning stroll in Christchurch, it took me by surprise, the vibe, the street-scape and the innovation across the city.

Next, I headed to pick up my car rental ready for my next adventure :-0

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Sydney based, coastal dwelling. When I'm not at work I'm somewhere outdoors, or in the yoga studio, or at my local cafe, or pottering at home.

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