We arrived in Christchurch and went for a wonder in town. We found Re-start mall which is a shopping mall made out of shipping containers. It's a temporary idea until they start to rebuild the centre but it looked really cool. They use shipping containers for everything, to hold up damaged buildings, protect from rock slides, shopping malls, pubs, shops, art galleries, you name it there us a shipping container that is it. We went looking for food but were amazed by the amount of deserted building and whole city blocks that were still there. There is a huge area in the middle of town called the red zone that is completely shut off. All of the buildings need to be demolished and building needs to start again. Where buildings had been demolished are were waiting to be rebuilt there was large spaces all over the city and set up a fund so people could try and fill these spaces with temporary attractions like football goals, coffee machines and the best idea was an 18 hole crazy golf course spread around the city and you have to try and find all the different themed holes. The old theatre has been red stickered as well meaning it needs to be demolished and has pretty much collapsed anyway, but they are going to keep to old front of the building and are currently holding it up with containers and rebuild the rest of the theatre behind. After wondering for over an hour we found no food, no bars and went back to the hostel. There are some places around but you have to really know where they are as the city is still so hard to get around with roads and whole areas shut off you have to really plan where you want to go before you start.
The next day was all about finding our camper van. We went down to the backpackers car market where they had over 70 camper vans and instantly both loved the one that was $2000 more than our budget. We test drove a few and came back to the fact we only wanted one. We had a bit of money left over from the bus tour so were looking at going to Fiji and getting some sun for a few weeks but that was thrown out the window as we decided to buy our van. After a lot of frantic text messages between us, the garage and the owner in England we finally agreed on a price and just had to wait for money to transfer between bank accounts. That night we set out to find a container bar the other side of the city and succeeded. It was really cool, with shopping trolley chairs, fire places as tables but very expensive beer.
Whilst we were waiting for money to transfer we went to Quake City. It's a centre set up with lots of information about the earthquakes, plans for the future and real people telling their stories of what happened; some ended well, some didn't but they were all very moving. The main cathedral in Christchurch was destroyed in the earthquake so when we were there they opened up the new one - the Cardboard Cathedral. As its name says it was made out of cardboard and as with most things in Christchurch it's a temporary structure only meant to be there for a year or two until the centre redevelopment plan starts. That evening we finally went to find the burger we had set out to find on our first night. We went to a place called Smash Palace which lots of people had recommended as it's a bar made from two buses.
One of the main things that we liked about Christchurch was the ingenuity of the people there, using anything they could to continue with their businesses and get things going. Smash Palace used to be a huge music venue attracting a lot of bands, when you go on the website it says - we had a lot of fun before but now we're a bus which is good. That sums up the locals attitude, always optimistic and pushing to keep going. We thought the city was still a mess but even in the week we were there new things were constantly opening and changing and everyone was very upbeat. 45% of the population left Christchurch after the earthquakes and there are still tens of thousands of homes that are getting red stickered meaning they have to be demolished and there isn't really anywhere for these people to go, houses are being knocked down in their tens of thousands but new ones aren't being built quick enough meaning house prices are flying higher and higher.
We picked up the van the next day and driving back to the hostel was a bit of a mission, with roads closed, one way streets changing direction daily and us not knowing are way around anyway made this all a bit tricky but we eventually found our way back and over the next few days bought a few bits to kit it out ready for our trip. We went on a bus tour around the suburbs of Christchurch through old and new harbours up over mountains and around town which was really nice. We saw some scary things though, million dollar houses on the cliffs had fallen down the mountain and other evacuated, roads still not repaired from the quake but it was very peaceful and nice to get out of the city. On our way back into town we start at the quake memorial. An artist made a memorial to the 185 people who died in the quakes, there were 185 different chairs painted white laid out in rows on grass which was quite moving. This was opposite the CPD building which collapsed during the quake killing over 100 people. There is a court case going on at the minute because the architect who designed the building actually faked his degree so didn't have the skills to design a building like that.
Our last two days in Christchurch were spent putting a few finishing touches on the van and planning where to go. We're running low on money so need to find work soon, we have planned to head down to Dunedin passing few a couple of places on the way and try and find some work there. So off we go!