Rise Up, CHCH

Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, May 21, 2011

The harbour town of Lyttleton was our first exposure to the aftermath of the Christchurch Earthquake of 22/02. Closed off roads, scaffolding everywhere, reconstruction underway, porta-loos galore. But the sun was shining brightly that day and life seemed to be going on...

The Saturday farmer's market was abuzz and we indulged in some local produce for lunch - the best smoked mackerel ever and organic ciabatta we'd had in a while.

We were nervous about our next stop: Christchurch city centre. Not because we feared the shake, rattle or roll. The unfortunate residents have obviously been through a lot and then some. So we weren't sure how our peering tourist eyes would be perceived. As disrespectful? Or as tourism revenue?

So we opted for the compromise position. We visited for just 24 hours. We cruised around to get a feel for the lay of the land. It was a sad sight indeed. The heart of the city (a.k.a. the red zone) was still cordoned off, along with it most of the stuff that attracted tourists. Beyond the barriers were buildings with various degrees of destruction - broken windows, collapsed walls, absent ceilings - and in some cases, totally vacant plots. Remnants of businesses, livelihoods, hopes and dreams. And this is just the damage we can see :( We decided photos would be distasteful.

Only a few activities remained opened including the decidedly over-priced Antarctic centre. We did it anyway as it's probably the closest we'll ever get to the frozen continent. Riding the Hagglund was great. This all-terrain vehicle took us up, down and alongside steep hills, across deep crevices and through 3 metre water. Better than a rollercoaster ride! We didn't have to hunt these penguins in the dark. The poor buggers are either blind, deaf or maimed in some way and wouldn't survive in the wild. The rest of the centre was mildly interesting and somewhat educational when we could be bothered to read the endless blurb.

We worked up quite an appetite and that's when we happened upon Little India. It seemed like the place to be. The main restaurant was booked out and soon the overflow restaurant (Littler India) was packed too. We were offered Kiwi hot or Indian hot. It was the best Indian food we'd had since London, pushing our tastebuds and heat tolerance to the extreme.

Next day we were ready to move on but the local radio station summoned us to the Global Telethon, an appeal to raise funds to rebuild the city. We popped by to a very empty CBS Arena and caught a couple of performances - a Maori dance crew and my new favourite Kiwi performer, Iva Lamkum. A powerful voice larger than the woman herself accompanied by funky tunes. Check her out and see what you think: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paRpgIx3rGk&feature=youtu.be

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