Graffiti, abandoned buildings and street art. Christchurch, you stole my heart! Part two of my resting up consisted of spending a few days in New Zealand's third largest city. After spending all morning on the bus, I arrived in downtown Christchurch where my Air B&B host, Jeremy, was kind enough to pick me up. Jeremy and Noi live just outside of the downtown area and have a great place! My favourite thing is that they have a huge greenhouse in the backyard full of fresh veggies, literally as much as you can eat! I decided to shock my body back into healthy eating and gorged at the trough of freedom for the 3 days I was there.
I took it pretty easy in Christchurch and honestly didn't do much! I was feeling a little worn down from all the travelling, so mostly I just took it easy and hung out. The one thing I did do was go on another free walking tour of the city since they are always so much fun. The instructions said to meet by the chalice in Cathedral Square, so I found my way downtown one morning to check it out.
Our tour guide, Michael, showed up right on time and we all started that awkward crowding around him, like a group of vultures *BIRD SCREECHING SOUNDS*. Someone asked if we were going to see 'The Wizard'. This peaked my curiosity, so I struck up a convo with Paul who was the one who had asked about it. Paul was from Melbourne and travelling solo as well. Apparently there is this guy who dresses up like a wizard and goes around the city ranting about anything and everything. He even has a staff given to him by Ian McKellen! We didn't end up seeing The Wizard, but I did end up hanging out with Paul the rest of the tour. The first part of the tour focused more on the history of Christchurch, both past and present. We wandered past the shipping container mall, the Bridge of Remembrance and to the botanical gardens. Something I really loved about Christchurch is there is street art literally everywhere! Their traffic cones are shaped like sheep. SHEEP. Also, if anyone is ever to erect a statue in my honour, I want to be posed like this BAMF below.
Michael was a great guide, very friendly and he knew everything there was to know about his city. He took us to the Dance O' Mat which I can't lie, was my favourite part! Basically it's this dance floor outside with a disco ball above, surrounded by four speakers. You put $2 into this washing machine, hook up your iPod and go nuts for 20 minutes with the music blaring. Lucky for all of us, Paul had some T-Swift on his iPhone (shout out Khristine, wish you could have been there!) and we proceeded to make fools of ourselves in broad daylight. Amazing.
The second part of the tour focused on the earthquakes that had struck Christchurch in 2010 and 2011. The first thing you notice upon entering the city is how much they are still struggling to recover from all the damage. I feel very naïve to admit it, but I had no idea there had been such extensive damage and that they were still rebuilding. The Cathedral is partly collapsed, a dozen high rise buildings sit vacant, windows smashed and covered in graffiti. I think for most people this would be really off putting, but for me it was a pleasant surprise made out of unpleasant events. It was a city full of graffiti and abandoned buildings, basically my dream. I got a little trigger happy with my camera and had to restrain myself from running into the buildings to explore.
At the very end of our tour, Michael took us to where the former CTV building had stood. This building is where 115 people lost their lives in the February 2011 earthquake. He read a passage from a book written by one of the survivors who had been trapped in the building. It was quite emotional to hear him reading this girls account out loud right where the building used to stand. The building had been deemed safe after the earthquakes in 2010.
Directly across the street was a memorial, 185 empty white chairs, to represent all the lives lost in the earthquake. It was a somber reminder of the tragedy the city had suffered and I think, a touching tribute.
Once the tour wrapped up, Paul and I grabbed some lunch and then headed for the art museum (it was free, yay!). Apparently it had just reopened a month earlier, that is how long it's taking the city to recover. Outside the museum was an interactive exhibit where they gave you a ball of fabric and you went into this tangle of lines to add your touch. I quite enjoyed being 5 years old for a couple minutes and weaving my fabric, while a guy all dressed in yellow spandex rocked out on the keyboard. Once inside, we wandered around for a couple of hours taking it all in. I can't believe it was free, some of the exhibits were phenomenal! My favourite was 'Unseen', every single piece in it blew my mind!
Paul and I parted ways after, so I then ran around the city taking pictures of all the abandoned buildings and graffiti like a maniac.
If I had the energy, I would have really loved to do some hiking in the area. There were trails right behind Jeremy and Noi's place, but I was just too tired. Maybe when I come back, because I don't think I can stay away from New Zealand!