It is difficult to get away from the topic in Christchurch.
A warm night for a change. The sun in the morning also drying the tent made it a template night out hopefully to be repeated in the coming month. Yea, who am I kidding?
The day was promising fast easy riding but it started with a steep climb that, as well as waking me up gave me the opportunity of a last glance at the superb view in the valley.
The rest of the ride was going to be down, not a steep descent, but a gentle sloping almost imperceptible for the walker but definitely detectable on the bicycle. It is rather amazing how it is so, with the first hour delivering an average of nearly 14 MpH despite the first 3 miles hill.
After that hour, at just above 17 miles completed, it was time to refuel and I enjoyed a very very full breakfast in a place I highly commend, Hororata Village Bar & Caffe food and drink was superb.
And then, filled up, on the way again with the average speed climbing and climbing. You know that there is not much to report when I start taking pictures of road signs but the one below, while not very glitzy, had to be photographed.
Then I got to a junction and I was a bit surprised as my phone was telling me that I was more than 40 Km away from destination. It turns out that the map on the phone and the sign were both right as Mary and Hamish’s house is indeed some way out of the centre of Christchurch where I suppose the sign was pointed at.
In less then 20 minutes I was in fact getting into the west outskirts of Christchurch and the signs of things to come was starting to appear.
I got to the centre of Christchurch with some time to spare before I was going to meet Hamish and I decided to take a ride through town. It was a pretty shocking experience, aside from seeing the famous landmark in rubbles, what was striking was to see a number of empty pieces of land in places where it just did not make sense for them to be.
As I was riding through the centre of town it become apparent that there were a number of places that had been renovated and were back in business, there were places that were waiting to be addressed and finally there were ghost spaces where there once were buildings and now there is just the empty space.
A case in point was riding down New Brighton road where at one point I did not realise what I was looking at, there were on my left pieces of land that looked like sections of land that should have houses on. They all had landscaped lawns and trees planted in a way that mede them look like individual plots and not part of a wider park, and yet there were no houses there.
As it turns out, Hamish and Mary told me afterward, there were houses there, a whole lot of them, but they were all flattened and eventually removed. This was in fact a “red zone”, one high lined for not immediate use due to the low laying nature and the excessive cost of making it earthquake proof. All the people that lived there have now moved away, including the residents of the old folk home where all the people had to be scattered around the country and suffered as a consequence.
I eventually made it to Mary and Hamish’s place and started the staying well by having a beer with Hamish. When Mary arrived from work we went for a ride around the bay and a lovely meal at the Governor’s Bay Hotel. For the first time in New Zealand I had lamb and it was cooked to perfection.
After the meal we drove back through the hills and had a fabulous view of Christchurch at night and then we drove through it at which point they told me what were the building that occupied the now empty spaces in the centre of town. It is quite astonishing to fully appreciate the level of devastation, and it is also astonishing that the death tool was not higher considering scale of the quake.
I’m off to town again today and no doubt I will have more to say about this but I hope to be able to see past this huge tragedy and see what is great and still standing, or already standing again.