We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Heidi, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Heidi is from the United States, and submitted the following report about Christchurch. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo travel rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages spoken: English
Brightly painted shipping containers are used for stores at RE:Start Mall.
Reasons to go: Wow. It took some time to process all that I saw in Christchurch. It’s a city that was crushed by earthquakes, first in September, 2010 and then an even more devastating one in February, 2011, when 185 people lost their lives.
I rented a bike on a beautiful, sunny afternoon thinking I’d be able to cover more ground on wheels than walking. The friendly owner of the Vintage bike shop showed me a map, drew arrows, circled highlights, and sent me on my way.
After a cruise through the park, the first stop was the Bridge and Arch of Remembrance, honoring those who fought in World War 1. The bridge was closed, however, and a fence surrounded the construction zone. It had been damaged during the earthquake, like so many other monuments had been. Across the street is the “RE: Start Mall,” which is just a bunch of shipping containers brightly painted and sitting at various angles. Retail therapy lives, if only temporarily!
Temporary seemed to be the word of the day. The 185 White Chair Memorial sign said it was only temporary “just as life is temporary.” The “Cardboard Cathedral” was built at the temporary location for the once magnificent cathedral in the center of Christchurch. Everywhere there are fences around damaged buildings awaiting demolition and detour signs blocking the direct passage to locations on my map. I felt like I was on the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. Signs indicating the new location of businesses are everywhere, as well as “For Sale” signs. Huge holes are all that remain of entire city blocks. I imagined the shaking of the earth while I stood staring at the ruins. It lasted 12 seconds. I heard the screams, the sirens, and the buildings crumbling down. Utter chaos and fear. Dust seems to be everywhere as heavy equipment operators move rubble from one place to another.
I dropped my bike off and the friendly shop owner asked me how I liked Christchurch. All I could say was, “I feel like I want to give every resident of Christchurch a hug!” He immediately changed his demeanor and nodded. Three years have passed and the city is still in shambles. I read somewhere that they figure it will take between 20 and 50 years to fully recover.
After leaving the bike shop, I walked through Hagley Park where enormous pine and oak trees grow! Joggers and bikers were out enjoying the perfect weather. Almost instantly, I felt better. The earthy smell of fall was in the air under all those massive trees. Acorns, leaves, needles, and cones carpeted the ground along the path back to my motel. I’m glad that I spent a few days here. I contributed to their economy and absorbed some of their pain. I wish I could do more.
The 185 White Chair Memorial for those who died in the February, 2011 quake.
Clearing way to rebuild their city.
Hagley Park is a beautiful, natural respite from the city.
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety - 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language - 1 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 1 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)