At one point we stopped to get out and take pictures. We were out of the car and overlooking a small cliff-like drop of about a dozen feet when I noticed fur seals on the rocks - a whole colony of them in their hundreds, stretching all along the coastline.
It seems we had discovered the Kaikoura Seal Colony. After hanging out here for a while we set off again for Christchurch.
It was with some amusement that we ended up in Belfast first!
Part of our motivation for staying in Christchurch was to find out how it was recovering after the big earthquake in February 2011 and to support the regrowth of the city.
I'd been hoping to write an uplifting post about how the people of Christchurch had inspired me with their fortitude. Sadly that wasn't the case. Instead, I only saw a sad city embroiled in petty politics and in-fighting that resulted in a stalemate, halting any progress beyond the "make-do" arrangements they'd put in place immediately after the quake. Insurance companies were refusing to pay out and people were understandably frustrated that their city was now suffocating in a quagmire of red tape and bureaucracy.
At least this was the impression we got when we took the city tour. The tour guide and a couple of locals on the tour (they were hoping to become guides) did nothing but bicker with each other about the decisions that had been made and sniped at the politics behind it. It created a nasty atmosphere in my opinion. Perhaps, we'd just been unlucky to have that perspective thrust upon us, but it certainly tainted my view of the city.
If this was how a "first world" country coped with the aftermath of such devastation, what hope was there for less wealthy places like Haiti, Mexico and Nepal? I have not visited any of these and so have nothing to compare it with. I wonder if perhaps not having insurance and red tape allows you to forge ahead and fix the place up.
They still had the Re:Start Container Mall in place. An ingenious use of cargo containers that was intended to tide them over until the rebuild. They are all still there and threatening to become a permanent fixture.
However, it was more common to see many derelict and abandoned buildings.
185 white chairs sit on a lot in the city. Each chair represents a person who died in the earthquake. The variety of the chairs, some high chairs and baby seats, shows the uniqueness of each life lost - death is not choosy. The earthquake did not discriminate.
This haunting reminder put it all in perspective for me. The city will recover physically. People will get past their anger and frustration, but those who lost loved ones will never forget, and rightly so.