We traveled from Melbourne to Christchurch yesterday with very few problems, though getting out of the country was a bit trickier than getting in. By the time we went though the first passport checkpoint in New Zealand, grabbed our bags and then went through customs, Paul and Kathy were already waiting for us. We caught a cab to the two bedroom apartment we are staying at for a couple of days. After catching up for a bit, we walked a block or two to a little restaurant that is housed in a shipping container. Christchurch was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2011, and it is still recovering. We have heard that the country does not have enough skilled labor to rebuild very quickly, so businesses have sprouted up in these containers.
Today we had a quick muffin with coffee or tea at the apartment before heading out to explore the city. Christchurch Cathedral suffered significant damage in the earthquake, and other than shoring up the front wall little has been done to repair it. Apparently there are two different camps of people regarding the church - those who believe it should be restored, and those who think it should be torn down.
The Christchurch Cathedral's Transitional Cardboard Church was opened by the Anglican Diocese in August 2013. Dubbed the "Cardboard Cathedral". Designed by Shigeru Ban, it is the world's only cathedral made substantially of cardboard. The building also contains local wood and steel, with a polished concrete floor and a polycarbonate roof. It is designed to last 50 years, and seats 700.
After checking out the two cathedrals, we visited the container village. There were probably more stores originally, but they are disappearing as buildings go up. The area is colorful and vibrant, and had lots of visitors on this Saturday.
We also stopped by the 185 Empty Chair exhibit, a memorial to the 185 people who lost their lives in the 2011 earthquake. It reminds me of the empty chair memorial in Oklahoma. It certainly gives a visual for the number of lives lost.
Tomorrow we board the TranzAlpine train to travel to the west coast of the South Island. At Greymouth we pick up a rental car to head to the Southern Alps.