Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Out of the Cracks. The Christchurch Earthquake Aftermath

I headed down to Christchurch last week to do a bit of imbibing with friends and family for Christmas.  It was my first trip since the second of the two big major quakes, and although I knew that parts of Christchurch was in a bad way, and that I thought I knew what to expect,  I was wrong.  It takes a physical visit to see the damage, to understand even a fraction of what it would have been like for the people living in the city and what it might have been like when the earthquake hit.

I was taken to Avonside Drive - one of the worst hit areas, and in the 'Red Zone'.  That is, people have to leave the area as its no longer safe to life there.  The houses are beyond repair, and although many properties have been abandoned (and understandably so), there are still many people living in their damaged homes, holding on to what is dear to them.  I can understand their feelings.

Out of the cracks of the earthquake though, nature is slowly taking over the abandoned properties.  I've been told that if anything ever happened to the human race, it would only take 90 years or so and then nature would take over and very little trace would be found of us.  Certainly, after only 12 months in Christchurch, you can see it happening already.  The earth has chasms, the houses are ruined, but the flowers are in bloom...

This house is bent in so many ways, I couldn't even begin to align it in photoshop.  Nothing around the house was in a straight line either, so the only way I could tell was the alignment of the weeds coming out of the cracks in the pathway!
 The house next door - overgrown...
This house broke my heart.  Its obviously newly built, and like my new house, made from brick.  And this is what happened to it.  I'm on the Alpine fault, so when that goes, my house will most likely end up looking like this. Seems that wooden houses fare a bit better than the brick ones.  (Makes notes for my next house).  Notice all the liquefaction around the house as well.  It was everywhere.
The house sank.  Or the ground came up...
Whatever happened, the garage entrance is now very small.  This is Kellye - she's five foot nothing and a half.  As you can see she can touch the top of the garage, something that is usually impossible for her.  She tells me that further along, there was a house with a garage that went underground.  It filled with water.  It now has a brand new Mini sitting in the garage full of water and the car can not be retrieved.
A lovely curled deck, courtesy of the ground shaking event.
This house also sank.
Once a perfectly flat concrete driveway.  Now uneven sand.
 I took a photo through the glass with the lens up onto the window.  This is an image looking inside at the damage to the floors.  Liquefaction went right through the houses as well.
The cat door, now buried.
And everywhere the flowers bloomed beautifully, oblivious of the ruins around them.
Blooming in every conceivable crevice and crack wreaked by the huge earthquake... 
Gates can no longer be opened or shut.  My curiosity got the better of me so I wandered through...
The kitchen door was open so I took a photo of inside.  The liquefaction was all over the floor.
Bedrooms ruined, and mould now on the walls..
Carpets and underlay ruined as well.  It would be absolutely heartbreaking for any owner.
Another near new house with huge cracks in the plasterboard.  Didn't really stand a chance.
Everywhere there were port-a-loos still on the side of the roads as the sewerage system around this area is gone.  At least they were bright and colourful!
Many houses had bricks missing, some had props up on the outside holding complete sides up.

A bridge that once was almost flat, now squashed together so it rose in the middle..
Roof tiles gone...
Huge chasms in driveways...
I hope they were able to get their car out of the garage.
Bright red poppies growing in the huge chasms...

The Christchurch residents decorating road cones in preparation for Christmas..
This bridge just twisted.  Almost as if someone grabbed each end and yanked it in different directions.
I was told no one was on the bridge at the time of the quake.  Thank goodness for that...
Can you imagine the noise it would have made?  Not only the earthquake giving out a noise like a freight train, but the grinding of metal and concrete when the bridge twisted?

A city rubbish bin also got munted..
And the last word came from the locals...  They didn't like my photojournalism and mum wanted to protect her ducklings from nosy photographers.  I took the hint and left...
I have vertigo pretty much 24/7 anyway, but being in Christchurch it was 10x worse than normal.  Being in buildings that were on a slant because of uneven foundations, made me feel dizzy and sick.  Driving around on the roads full of potholes made me feel like one of those toy dogs that used to be in the back windows of cars, which used to nod their heads as they go over bumps.

I take my hats off to all those hardy people in Christchurch, and I am looking forward to visiting again to take photos of the rebuild.  You have my utmost respect.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Leiden, Netherlands, and my Last Day in Europe

I woke up sad.  This day was my last day in Europe.  Also the last day I get to spend with my lovely daughter.  The last 31 days had gone just too fast.  I've seen much, laughed, been overwhelmed at where I was, eaten wonderful food, tried beautiful wines and spent the most amazing month in my daughters company - something that is so special and I shall treasure it for the rest of my life.  What huge memories I have.

I have 24 hours before I fly back to New Zealand so we had to pack as much as we could into that.   So the first thing we did was walk to the supermarket by Anne's apartment.  There were two actually so we went to both.  We picked up breakfast, as well as ingredients for the Dutch dinner that we were having that night at the apartment with Anne's lovely flatmates. 

I was amazed at how cheap things were compared to New Zealand.  I compared prices.  Dairy products were extremely cheap in comparison.  1 euro for butter, which is the equivalence of $2 NZD and we're paying nearly $6 for the same thing.  Cheese.  Dutch cheese is incredible and half the price.  Fresh fruit and veges - also incredibly cheap.  Wholegrain bread - of which we pay $5 here for was only 89c.  That's it - I don't want to come home!

Even non food stuffs were cheap.  Moisturising facewipes - 99c.  $10.29 here in NZ.  I bought some to bring back with me.  I'm using them sparingly.  We picked up some bread rolls, smoked salmon, yoghurt for breakfast, and the ingredients for our dinner that night, then headed back to the flat.  Unpacked then headed out the door - destination Leiden.  Our plan was for an hour or two in Leiden, then head into Amsterdam to the Dam square for a serious shopping spree.  I wanted a pair of boots, and Anne needed boots and jeans.  

We got the train down and arrived about half an hour later.  I was amazed - such a pretty town.  The Netherlands knew it was my last day and turned on glorious weather for me, making up for the terrible weather I had the week before....

Fantastic buildings...  I wish I knew more about this one.  I have looked on google but found nothing.  If anyone has any information about it, please leave a comment.
The canals were gorgeous...
And I found a windmill...  The big windmill in Leiden was undergoing constructions so I wasn't able to get a photo of it.  This one is a replica of the Molen de Put.
Beautiful reflections which meant my camera was working overtime...

Everywhere here were bikes.  On every available wall, bridge, or anything that one could be leaned against.
More reflections...
And reflections in windows even..

At this stage we found a department store and left the gorgeous canals and started shopping.  I found my boots in there.  Which is good, as it means I didn't have to try on another 127 pairs in Amsterdam later that afternoon!

We then found the Citadel of Leiden which was built in 1150.  It was erected on an artificial hill by the citizens of Leiden as a defence against the water of the Rhine.  The city expanded around the fortress and consequently lost its defensive purpose. The city magistrate bought the citadel in 1651 and made it into the park it is today.
At the top of the stairs you walk through the doors into citadel itself, and from there you are able to go up to an upper level to look out over the city...

The upper level has some good views to historic buildings.  This view is to the Heeren and Hoomoed which is the 17th century City Inn and Coach House.  The church behind it is the second parish church of Leiden.  It started out as a simple wooden building in 1314 and expanded  until the 16th century...
Here is the rear view of the orphanage.  (Don't ask me which buidling!!). Orphans supplied labour for the cloth industry in the 17th century.  When demand was high, orphans were imported from other countries!  To the left you see the high storehouses.  Here grain was stored and bread baked for the poor..
The domed church, called Marekerk, was the first Dutch church built specifically for Protestant services.  Until then formerly Catholic churches had been used.   The high chimney is part of the public utility.
Here is the rear of the City Hall. The original Renaissance building burnt to the ground in a huge fire in 1929.  Only the front on the other side survived.

Obscured by the City Hall you see the Pieterskerk.  This church, dedicated to St Peter, supplied the keys in the coat of arms of Leiden as St Peter held the keys to Heaven's gate.
Anne pleased with our shopping spree so far...
From the second level..
Back into Leiden, we headed back to the train station to catch a train t Amsterdam to finish our shopping.

We never got there though.  Instead we found some shoe shops and jeans shops in the centre of Leiden.  Actually it was a really really nice shopping centre.  We found some beautiful boots for Anne, then found a Jeans shop and bought some Jeans and a couple of tops for her, and a winter top for me, which was on special.  Loaded down with bags, we decided to go back to the apartment, to drop off the bags then head into Amsterdam by tram quickly for Anne to get her hair trimmed.  I waited at the tram stop while Anne dropped the bags home - it wasn't far, but it enabled me to rest my foot for 5-10 minutes.

We stopped one stop short of the Dam, and Anne rushed down to get her hair done.  I stopped to take some photos so told her I would catch up with her...  The sun was beginning to set so it once again was really pretty.  This is the Prinsengracht Canal.
Just over the road from the canal above is the big Westerkerk.  A prostestant church built in 1620 to 1631.  The spire, called the Westertoren (Western Tower), is the highest in Amsterdam at 85 metres.  Rembrandt was buried here in 1669, the exact location is unknown but it is presumed he is somewhere along the northern wall.  Just behind the church is Anne Frank House which I visited the week before.
We then caught the tram to Anne's work and visited a few more shops, tried some cheese, and bought a lotto ticket.  Then caught the tram back to the apartment to get ready for my first dinner comprising of Dutch food.  
Copious amounts of wine was drunk and lots of laughs.  The company was excellent and the food was divine!  Anne's flatmates are lovely. From left to right are Anne, Werner, Angelie and Serieke.
And crazy.  Did I mention crazy?  (I have a dozen more crazy shots too of which I will take bribes to post them up here or not post them up here! - The highest bidder will win !!! )

Such a gentleman - a single rose...  (if I was only younger!) - he did look a tad nervous!
A sausage?  I haven't been offered one of these for such a long time!  In fact, I don't ever recall being offered one quite like this before!!!
Then someone was experimenting with my camera.  I quite like what they took...
After playing cards, drinking wine, laughing, I attempted to pack my bags for the 2nd time trying to fit eveyrthing in!  I really really didn't want to leave.

The next morning, as Anne had to go to work, even though my flight wasn't til midday, it was decided she would drop me off at the airport at around 8.00 then head to work.  I would wander round the duty free and use my computer in the airport lounge while waiting for the plane.  It was really really hard saying goodbye, even though I knew I would see Anne in six weeks in NZ for xmas.  I simply wasn't really ready to go home.

My plane ended up being delayed for 5 hours so instead of sitting around in the airport for 2-3 hours, it was more like 7 hours.  Rather annoying.  Which meant it as highly possible I had missed my connecting flight in Malaysia.  Fortunately (or unfortunately - I haven't decided which yet), they held the plane in Malaysia so it was straight off one plane, and onto the next to fly to NZ.  Which meant 22 hours of sitting down straight plus 7 hours of sitting round airports.  Instead of getting in at midnight it was 2am!!  And yes - I was exhausted.  I am still hankering after Europe.  It's highly addictive.  We HAVE to win lotto so I can visit again!