For some reason, we always arrive in cities during rush hour. Now, Kiwi rush hours are not the same as the Dutch ones, but still. It is a shock when you have been in the outback and backroads for a few weeks and suddenly there´s a car next to you. Or two. What do you mean with; three lane highways?
The worst experience, we thought, would be Wellington. The most windiest city in New Zealand – and it sure was – and probably the most windiest capital in the world. We arrived there around 5 pm, just when whole working-Wellington though “Let’s go home!”, where ever that may be. After spending 3 hours looking for a free parking spot and some food, we gave up and drove 30 minutes along the coast, out of the city center, to find the most beautiful, out-of-the-wind-spot along the coast. How grateful we were.
We thought that if our Nissan Homy survived the Wellington roads, it could survive any road. Unfortunately it wasn’t prepared for the Christchurch roads.
If you’re in Christchurch, you’ll be surprised of the rural road conditions of the area. How? If you had been following the news, you might remember the news item on an earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. There have been two major ones.
In my two weeks time there, I experienced three shocks, which I didn’t realize because they were too deep underground and too weak. Maybe I should be glad for that, considering the damage the earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011 have done. The former had a magnitude of 7.1 second and lasted just 40 seconds. The latter only took 24 seconds, but with a magnitude 6.3 and just 10km southeast of the city center, this quake caused much more damage than you could imagine. Roads were split, buildings collapsed, many people became homeless and in total, 185 people died.
Today, you know when you’re in Christchurch. You don’t need an iconic church to recognize this city -also because there is non. Walking through the city center makes you feel you entered a war zone; buildings are broken down, most houses are empty. The Starbucks has not changed at all – part from the dust and broken lamps on the floor. Still, you can find the coffee cups and newspapers of that day lying on the ground. The Levi store next door has its jeans in the shopping window, while the convenience store is packed with dated energy drinks because that was in discount back then.
The roads are still a mess. One way or not, humps and bumps are everywhere. For instance, the bridge to the suburb New Brighton gave our car a completely new interior and reorganization. And where on earth would you get a flat tire? Exactly, down town Christchurch, where a drugsdealer comes out of his house, in the pouring rain, to help you out and offers you free weed – “You’re alright there, buddy?”
You know you’re in Christchurch when there are locals living in their car for more than 6 months on the same parking lot where you are staying – the council doesn’t provide them with a house, with electricity. You know you’re in Christchurch when there are more parking lots than cars and where you can park your car for $1 per hour. You know you’re in Christchurch when art and graffiti paintings are on every building. And you know you’re in Christchurch when the navigation system leads you to a laundromat which doesn’t exist any more.