Sometimes, you need a good dose of perspective to get you back on track. Earthquakes will take care of that.
After leaving Fiji in a rut, we arrived in New Zealand to a country on edge, but in remarkably good spirits. Five years after the earthquakes that shook Christchurch, another series of quakes had struck just an hour north, laying waste to the roads around Kaikoura and sending shockwaves through Wellington. The tremors could be felt hundreds of miles away.
I expected panic and frayed nerves, but instead we were met with good humour and open arms. A friend of ours from Christchurch told us how her boyfriend flew that same night to Wellington to help with the relief effort. We met a retired American couple who had been in Kaikoura when the first earthquake hit and were forced to evacuate because of the ensuing tsunami warnings, only to be caught on the road when a second quake hit. They could have been upset, but instead they talked about the outpouring of support they experienced — from grocery stores donating their goods to feed those stranded, to families offering drinking water out of their homes. People chipped in where they could, no questions asked.
To visit Christchurch is to bear witness to the damage an earthquake can bring, but also to see firsthand the ways in which the city has regrouped in the years since. Stand on a street corner, and you’ll see ruined buildings right across from living walls and community spaces. Cranes fill the sky. A five-minute walk will take you from a beautiful cathedral built mostly out of cardboard to an entire mall composed of shipping containers. Life finds a way, no matter the circumstances.
The threat of earthquakes isn’t over. At the moment, we’re still waiting on ferry service to resume between the North and South Island.
But all things considered? We’ve got everything we need.
Tales from the road:
1. Warren and I have seen the same cashier three days in a row at a certain fast-food restaurant, including three times in the same day. For obvious reasons, we can’t go back anymore.
2. After nearly two months spent in hostels, it’s been really nice to be welcomed into a few New Zealand homes as a guest. The warm beds, good conversation, and Kiwi kindness have led to a wonderful stay in the country.
3. Old habits die hard. Spend enough time driving on the left side of the road, and you’re bound to have a slip-up. I had to remind Warren of the country we were in as he rounded the bend on the right side of a country road. My story is worse: in Australia, I pulled out of the rental car lot, and the very first intersection we came to, I turned into incoming traffic. I had to stop and reverse in the middle of the intersection — still within full view of the rental car office.
4. No matter how grown-up Warren and I may feel at times, throw candy in front of us and we revert to eight-year-olds. We bought a kilogram of candy and spent the next half-hour divvying it up, and then the next half-hour trading with each other to get our favourites. I learned Warren is helpless in the face of ‘livewires’: red, sugar-coated candy sticks filled with icing.
Things I’ve seen:
1. Endless hills.
Whether in Christchurch or on the road to Queenstown, New Zealand is filled with them — each more impossibly green than the last.
2. Snowy peaks.
After the sweltering heat of Fiji and Northern Australia, the relative coolness of New Zealand has been a welcome change — especially when it includes sights like these. The former was just outside of Fairlie, where we spent two nights; the latter was in Mt. Cook National Park, where we took a day trip to hike to Hooker Lake.
What I’ve been reading/listening to:
Rob Evans and Paul Lewis – Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police
A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
Common – Black America Again