We returned our rental car in Greymouth, and took the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch on the East coast. What a breathtaking journey! The train zigzags through the mountains and climb from sea level to 739 m / 2425 ft at Arthur's Pass. Audio commentary is provided through headphones, and cars have very large windows to admire the landscape. There is even an observatory car —great for taking pictures!
In Christchurch, Lauren had the idea of staying at a hotel that was a former jail shut down in 1999. Cells have been converted to rooms, shower stalls have been installed in the common bathroom, etc. This was a lot more interesting than it may sound in writing :)
Before arriving in Christchurch I was curious to find out if any scars of the 2011 earthquake were still visible. I do not know what I expected, but 4 years later the downtown area is still quite a tumult: (re)construction is going on everywhere, entire city blocks are fenced off because damaged buildings have yet to be safely demolished, shops that have been closed and never reopened, etc.
The city has an ingenuous use of shipping containers (a nice "hack" as we would call it in my field). For example they built walls of shipping containers filled with ballast to use as protective barriers for damaged buildings that might crumble down on streets. And there is also Re:START, a temporary mall where stores are built out of repurposed shipping containers; this is funky but I really liked this space.
|Lauren was amused by this shady shack and the "Free Hugs" sign.|
Most shocking is the state of the ChristChurch Cathedral which was damaged very heavily, and still stands almost as it looked right after the earthquake. I tried to take a picture from the same viewpoint as another picture published in the media to compare them. There is debate about whether the cathedral should be demolished or is worth salvaging, hence why almost no work has been made on the building.
|Cathedral immediately after the February 22, 2011 earthquake. The spire was destroyed —only the lower half of the tower remains. The rose window (on the right) is still intact.|
|Cathedral as of October 9, 2015. Notice that both the spire and the rose window's wall were demolished for safety.|
After seeing the cathedral we walked through the Botanic Gardens.
Finally we took off on October 11, direction: Singapore!