Christchurch, New Zealand

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Christchurch, NZ

We have, to a degree, made light of the titanic forces that shaped and continue to mold this tiny island nation within the South Pacific’s ring of fire.  We don’t do this out of lack of respect; simply out of acceptance of how very small we as humans are before the fury of Mother Nature.

As people who have lived in Northern California and Southern Florida we have learned to live with the fact that a natural disaster could just up and kill us at any given moment and there is, in the end, precious little we can do about it.  Coming from the San Francisco Bay people ask Greg what they should do if there is an earthquake.  His response,

“The truth of it is that if you actually have enough time to realize that an earthquake is what’s happening, you have more than likely already survived it.”

What he doesn’t say is that conversely, by the time you realize you’re in danger from an earthquake you’re probably already dead.

Christchurch Cathedral
Before the 2nd quake – taken by us
After the quake – thanks to wikipedia

That knowledge, mixed with our unapologetic and absolute love of this country, made the fate of Christchurch weigh heavily on our minds as we prepared to depart New Zealand.

We first came through Christchurch with Greg’s mom on our Great Kiwi Roadtrip.  The timeframe was a few months after the first major earthquake but a few months before the second earthquake.  The city was still in the process of clearing the last of the ruble from downtown and repairs were underway.

This was pretty normal actually.  Even when cities get lucky with minimal damage or loss of life after an earthquake, like Christchurch after the first shake, they still have to spend months if not years doing evaluation and repair work on cracked foundations, strengthening faulty building supports, replacing damaged sewage lines, upgrading safety standards, etc. etc.  For example, right now the state of California is in the middle of a multi-decade project to completely replace a span of the Oakland-SF Bay Bridge to bring it up to modern safety standards.

Christchurch didn’t let a little rubble and dust get in the way of showing us a good time though.  After all, these are Kiwis people; concrete is something they have with their afternoon tea.  This city ended up forever immortalizing itself in our minds as the town where we first saw the breathtaking views of the South Island, were introduced to India’s Bollywood movie making machine behind the scenes (yes, we said Bollywood), discovered Monteith’s brewery (one of the few drinks we’ve given top ratings to by the by) and of course saw the famed Cathedral.

(Interesting fact: Christchurch was the first English colony set up specifically as a religious settlement.)

The important thing to remember is that the repair work was still not completed when the second quake hit only a few months after the first one.  They were spaced just far enough apart and strong enough to be a perfect one-two punch that weakened then, before the citizens had a chance to fully recover and repair, decimated the entire damaged city.  A fact that stuck uncomfortably close to home, considering where we had booked to sleep the night after the quake…

Then after the quakes and the global community rushed in to help something worse happened:

The world got called away by other emergencies.

Flood of Queensland, from wikipedia

Queensland Australia flooded and most of us remember the tsunami that hit Japan.

Resources that would have flowed into New Zealand instead flowed to two other grievously hurting peoples.  International attention, and importantly fundraising efforts that would have been directed here instead went to other, albeit very worthy and deserving, sources.  Not to take away from the suffering of the citizens of Japan or of Australia, and the only thing worse than being devastated is being devastated then forgotten.  Which, in our world of constant bombardment media, happens all too often.

This is not something we should forget.  The Kiwis have all too often bled and died for our country for us to forget them when they’re hurting.  It’s a year later and Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city, is still trying to get the rubble off the streets.  They have suffered over 200 aftershocks, some equal in power to the quakes that literally leveled their entire city.

The Red Cross is still running a charity drive for the people who are still, a year later, not even rebuilding yet but just trying to clear up the rubble from this “forgotten disaster.”

Liked the Lord of the Rings?  Looking forward to the Hobbit?  Feel like it’s important to honor the sacrifices of those countries who have stuck it out with us and bled and died with us through peace and war no matter what?

Heck if you’ve enjoyed the last several months of entries don’t thank us, skip a latte today and donate 5 bucks to the disaster relief fund; the link is here.

We are.  Be sure to select “New Zealand Earthquake Appeal”.  Christchurch is a city worth saving.  New Zealand is a country worth our friendship and support.

Look dude if freaking Gandalf is getting involved in the effort, you know it’s a good cause!


About the authors

Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures.  If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at!

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