Construction, Conservation, Christchurch

Sunday, March 27
On Sunday after a brief but much needed two days of rest at the Rough and Tumble lodge we embarked for Christchurch. Aside from being cramped into a freezing bus the ride down provided us with breathtaking views of the west side of the Southern Alps. On our way to Greymouth, during our lunch break, we stopped part of the western coast in the town of Punakaiki famous for its “pancake rocks”.  These odd rock structures formed due to immense pressure and weathering over thousands of years and eventually ended up resembling pancakes. We were able to see the rocks in higher tide. We arrived in Greymouth to take the Trans-Alpine crossing through the Southern Alps and to Christchurch. The train line itself is still in heavy use, and since its construction in the early 1900’s it has been used to transport coal from the west to east coast. It was a relaxing winding cruise through the mountain valleys. We arrived in Christchurch after a full day of traveling where we were welcomed by Matthias (and squirms!) We had kebabs at the RE:start mall. The mall is completely made of redesigned shipping containers  and was one of the first things to pop up following the earthquakes. After eating dinner we arrived at the YMCA, our home for the next week in Christchurch.

Riding through Arthur’s Pass on the Trans-Alpine crossing

Monday, March 28
We set out bright and early on Monday to visit QUAKE CITY, a museum dedicated to tell the history of Earthquakes on the South Island, what happened in Christchurch, and what to do looking towards the city’s future. The museum provided a wealth of knowledge regarding what happened during the earthquakes and extremely moving first hand accounts of them. After our time in Quake City we visited Christchurch’s Quaker meeting house and met with their meeting to discuss and gain further insight to their lives after the earthquake. Following lunch we provided sixteen pairs of hands to help clear away rubble and weeds to make way for a new parking lot. After offering our service we were on our way to Godley beach park for a short hike with Mattias. Aside from pastures, there were old military installments that had been made and it is still in use as a major shipping port for the South Island. We hiked our way down to to the baches on Roberts Road took some throwtography and made our way back to the vans. Matthias had set up reservation for an Indian restaurant in Sumner; we also got the chance to see the Roberts’ old apartment there prior to the Earthquake. We ended the day with leftovers and on full stomachs.

Tuesday, March 29
The next morning we traveled to the estuary. It came to our surprise that we met in the parking lot of the grocery store. Tanya, a member of the estuary trust in the south shore area, took us to the park immediately adjacent the shopping center. She told us that following the earthquake not much attention was given to rebuilding the parks, reserves, and green spaces, but through several workdays and thousands of volunteer hours they were able to restore areas of the estuary park important to the nesting of several bird species. Interesting enough the areas of vegetation that returned with the most success are the areas where the liquefaction wasn’t removed. Following our visit to the estuary park we visited with Bill Simpson who shared how building regulation and housing changed in south shore in the aftermath of the earthquakes. With some of the onsite visits that we made with him we saw first hand how new regulations imposed placed many houses in the “red zone” forcing those within it to relocate. From there we left the housing sites to visit the Epic center for their weekly jam and toast. There we had our morning tea, jam, and toast and met Ryan Reynolds. He got his degree in electrical engineering in the U.S., but ended coming to New Zealand afterwards. He eventually, without any intention of it started this program called Gap Filler, an outcome of the earthquake. The idea of the program that developed was to make creative temporary installments to help rebuild the sense of community that was lost after the earthquakes. They used repurposed materials and and empty lots to make these pop up installments. Some of them remain permanent in Christchurch to date. Next two of the co-founders of The Ministry of Awesome talked to us, Erica and Katarina. The whole purpose of The Ministry of Awesome was to provide the planning and help needed for people inspired to make their ideas and dreams into reality. They are for the most part a non-profit organization, but they do rent out co-working space to tenants. Their involvement was explained further to us by Lauren, the head cofounder. After this follow up we toured other parts of the Epic center, which is this massive collaborative workspace that was built and sponsored by BNZ. To debrief the day we went to Stranges Lane, a quirky alleyway home to several bars and restaurants. We received a stipend for dinner and were free to explore the city.

Wednesday, March 30
The gang started the day off right with a little volunteer work! We spent a few hours painting furniture, fixing golf courses and prepping the public pizza oven with Gap Filler and weeding a public garden with Greening the Rubble. By noon we were enjoying exciting games of tetherball and baking handmade pizzas in the oven (and enjoying those pizzas afterwards). We left The Commons to see some other Christchurch icons, such as the so-called cardboard cathedral and a moving memorial to victims of the 2011 earthquake. We ended our day by visiting Cultivate urban farm and having class discussion before dinner.

Thursday, March 31
We took to the streets this morning for a trip to Akaroa, a 90 minute drive from Christchurch. Here we hiked through Hinewai Reserve, a formerly gorse-swamped farmland turned into a regenerating beech forest. We learned about the minimal interference management strategy of the reserve from Hugh Wilson, the man behind the recovery. After taking in great  sights, chasing ducks and walking down a hill backwards, we explored the town and enjoyed a dozen ice cream cones.

Friday, April 1
Today marked our final night in Christchurch, and the end to block three. It came so fast- we’ll be embarking on our independent travels tomorrow! We started off with a reflection on our South Island experience, spent the day exploring on our own, then got together one last time for a celebratory dinner at The Astro Lounge. The food was good, the decor was quirky, and it was quite the wrap up to a zany three week experience!

Saturday, April 2
Spring break, here we come! (Technically speaking, it’s fall break here. Or should I say autumn?) The group has scattered all over, from Auckland to Queenstown, even out of the country to Fiji. Whether working, camping, hiking or otherwise, we’re sure to have lots of great stories to swap when we return to the settlement next week!


Until next time,
Brianna and Alex


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