I would like this piece to be known as an end of recovery trip stinger. For those who are unaware of who these words come from, I fell 3.5 stories and recovered from the physical and mental injuries that such an accident entailed. I say end of recovery because humans have a start/finish, do/done, back/forward…everything is simplified to yes and no without colourful embroidery in between. So recovery in a big way has stopped.
My trip to the South Island of New Zealand marked a significant healing leap over recent months when speaking of the Brain Injury I suffered. I am writing a book of that recovery tale, but I think that gives you a piece of my headspace during this time. I appreciated or thought deeply about existence in a way unmeasurable by my previous approach to such thinking.
Now let me take you to Christchurch. It is a magnificent city but a small one. This is despite being the largest on this landmass known as the South Island of New Zealand and so far from global calamity. I want to start by giving you a recent history of this city and one that is overtly obvious when speaking to the locals of their lives.
In late 2010 the Earth shook in a nearby location. Lives were not lost from this earthquake but it appeared that Earth was angry at this point in time. New Zealand, unlike Australia where I’m from, is on the edge of two tectonic plates and that means several earthquakes occur here each year. At my home in Australia, we sit at the centre of one of these plates and little occurs in geological catastrophe.
In February 2011 the Earth shook in Christchurch as the shallow quake epicentre was closer to the population than the previous large shake. It did overtly catastrophic damage, killing over 180 people and leaving Christchurch in ruins. I recall this on the news, but not being from Christchurch meant that I did not truly fathom the ferocity of the action and the great devastation this would cause. Christchurch had changed.
When I arrived two days ago I went wandering. Looking around the city and seeing what was on offer to the Onlooking Traveller. Cranes dot the landscape and new constructions are being crafted to show a determination that I had not seen in other cities. One not built on economic prestige entirely but one built on ingenuity, class and a contemporary display of modern capitalist warfare. The city is clearly in the mindset of rebuilding and reshaping itself. Many new complexes seem to have appeared across the cityscape, with concrete and glass as a signature of the new and refreshing.
One thing I also noticed was my personal love of street art was alive and well. Many pieces dot the landscape and I begin to see these differing dots as a freckled complexion of this city. The city is made of so much more than just cranes and reconstruction. It is more than that. It has complexion, it blushes, it moves and it is once again a city as before, although one that is not the same as the past. Christchurch is the third largest city in the country and a new city for the New Zealanders that call it home.
I like the calm feel of the place generally. It is my first introduction to the South Island of New Zealand and a very welcoming walk into traditional relaxation mode.
I once lived in New Zealand many years ago as a child. I have travelled the world and have not returned to my old home in 16 years. I once lived in Auckland and that is another reality of any country. Auckland is the bigger city (about 4 times the size of Christchurch) and it has a very invitingly different feel. I can sing the national anthem in Maori but that is one of the few realistic connections I have to this land, other than the selection of yummy New Zealand chocolates I love so dearly.
On the first day I arrived, I decided to go on a gondola that climbed up overlooking the city and nearby landscape. It was here that I felt for the region and what was soon to be seen, as my next destination will be Queenstown, a much more famous location for scenic enjoyment. It is surrounded by the Southern Alps and I will speak of this place in a later piece.
The gondola climbed up over the city and you could see the awe-inspiring nothingness of the region. Nothingness defined by human terms. I overlooked a nearby inlet or harbour and turned the other direction to see the town before me. I was so far from the busy time of this world and my own recovery. New Zealand brought that truth to newcomers. Calm.