The same weekend we went to Akaroa Peninsula, we also toured around the city of Christchurch. Before we left for our South Island weekend getaway, our friends were all telling us that there was nothing to see in or around Christchurch. They were all wondering why we chose to visit that place, and to be honest we didn’t really know when we bought the air tickets. We were just blinded by the cheap prices for the flight, and hungry for adventure. So far the weekend had been a success and as beautiful as anything we had seen before. Headed on to the city of Christchurch.
Here’s a little history lesson for you all that are not aware of Christchurch’s situation. In recent events, Christchurch experienced a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in September of 2010, which was apparently the worst they had in 30 years. Somehow no lives were lost, but it left the city broken and weak. But wait, that’s not all. In February of 2011, only 5 months later, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch once again. This time there were many deaths and injuries, and the city was left in ruins.
We had no idea we would be going straight into ground zero of this natural disaster. Upon arrival, we quickly realized that the city was almost a ghost town. Many people left after the last earthquake to start their lives elsewhere while the remaining citizens helped to rebuild the city. It is 2015 and they are still cleaning up the mess! I couldn’t believe my eyes on how many buildings were literally just in a pile at ground level.
We had a whole day free to explore the city and had heard about an art exhibition being held down the street so we started out there. On our way we noticed several wall murals of beautiful street are and stopped to take a look. It wasn’t your everyday graffiti or tagging, it was artwork filled with emotion, creativity, and hard work. We reached the exhibition and follow the path through. It was about the street are in Christchurch, what a coincidence. Apparently, all of the street art we had seen was a sort of ray of hope though the destruction and a symbol of strength in Christchurch. We picked up a map that pointed out several works of art throughout the city created by the starring artists on exhibit. We followed the map and checked out every single picture on the map, plus many more along the way.
I couldn’t believe how many walls were covered with artwork. It turned into a sort of competitive scavenger hunt for the three of us. We would try and call out first new murals as soon as we spotted them peaking around a corner. Everywhere you looked had some sort of artwork on it, between storefronts, abandoned restaraunts, apartment buildings, and even parking garages. We would walk completely around a single building standing out in the surround rubble and have four different works of art represented on one building. Some murals were all about thanking the construction and cleanup crews working day and night in Christchurch, while others portrayed strength and hope for the new city calling it “Christchurch 2.0.”
Honestly, it was really sad seeing all of the buildings completely destroyed, but at the same time, empowering and inspiring that everyone had come together to rebuild their city. There were even little pockets between still standing buildings that had small playgrounds made of completely recycled materials from the destruction, and there was even a whole mall made from shipping cargo containers. I loved seeing all of the innovation and motivation.
So to prove all of those that doubted us wrong, we had a very successful and cheap weekend in Christchurch! I learned a lot and saw a lot of really sweet things. Travel is not all about going to mainstream place and doing advertised things. It’s about learning new things about the place and experiencing it completely. That was honestly one of the coolest trips we have taken since I have been in New Zealand, simply because we didn’t have a full plan.
Stay tuned for more about my two week South Island road trip in the coming weeks…