Christchurch Recovering After 7.1 Earthquake

Author: , September 27th, 2010

Christchurch Earthquake“Did the earth move for you?” became the most popular joke in Christchurch . It moved for us all. It shook, rocked and rolled us as we clung to the nearest man or door frame if you hadn’t got lucky that night.

It was 4.35am on 4th September 2010. I had two guests from Auckland at my B&B, Christchurch Gaystay . While Christchurch is close to the faultline, earthquakes are unlikely in Auckland on the North Island.

Suddenly our beds started shaking violently.

There was crashing and banging as vases and wine on shelves fell to the ground. We lept out of bed and clung to door frames which are supposed to be the strongest part of a house. We were all naked but the power had gone off and we could not see each other . “My willy is being swung by the earthquake” yelled Mike so he grabbed his Calvins to contain the pendulum .

“Please!” I yelled to anyone who might turn off the shaking. I expected any minute for my house to fall like a pack of cards. 30, 45, 60 seconds? Who knows? It stopped and the house seemed to sway back on an even keel, as if the storm at sea at suddenly stopped.

In the dark I found my way downstairs and the door to the lounge would not open, but it was impeded only by a broken bottle of wine. “A cheap red”, I sighed. Red wine making its way across the tiles towards the wool carpet. So I grabbed my massage towells and threw them over glass and alcohol and began the clean up. As the boys upstairs still clung to each other or a door frame I cleaned up then found some broken family heirloom Doulton plates in pieces.

The electricity was dead so we used gas to boil water and have a cup of coffee. A bicycle light was the only light we had till I lit the candle sticks. I found a transistor radio so we sat over it like the family in Woody Allen’s Radio Days, listening to the news. It emerged that 80 buildings in town were destroyed.

Thousands of chimneys had crashed down on to house rooves. New faultlines snaked across the countryside , not respecting anything in their paths, breaking apart houses and gardens, opening great cracks in the land. Grey mud began bubbling to the surface, liquefaction, a new word to us, the cause of this. Water pipes and sewer pipes broke and their contents flowed in to the street and rivers . We are proud of the cleanliness of our rivers and streams and now they were flowing a muddy brown, contaminated.

The news kept coming. Houses split in two, verandas dropped to the side walks, restaurant walls fell on to the street. Historic buildings, earthquake proofed years ago had parapets and spires at strange angles . People stepped out of their front doors and into 5 feet of water where their path was a minute ago. They hugged each other and cried at the loss of their beloved home.

We sat at home as dawn arrived, wondering what to do. Eight hours later we had electricity again. some had never lost power, some still do not have it several days later .

We began to feel a warmth for each other, that we had survived. Miraculously the news told us that no one had died. Building standards had proved to be important. Haiti’s earthquake was the same magnitude.

We had to get out of the house so walked around the area and found great cracks in roadways, mud and sewerage bubbling up. I went to a friend’s house and found him shovelling mud, so joined him in barrowing it to the roadway. His house had cracks inside and out and his back door would not open.

It was the weekend so no one went to work as we cleaned up our houses, wondering when the next after-shock would scare us. Power and water came back on so we could watch the TV images of our town, images people around the world had seen before we had.

Things are returning to normal, the central business district was closed for a couple of days as the safety of buildings was assessed. But many people are not allowed to return to homes, some are sleeping in school halls until temporary accommodation can be found. 2000 houses are uninhabitable. The city has 330,000 residents.

Aftershocks occurred for some days, including several at 5.4 magnitude.

Texts, phone calls and emails arrived from around the world, former guests inquiring about me and my house.

Bulldozers are knocking over the remains of old buildings, mainly old brick buildings, built 100-150 years ago without a thought for an earthquake. Meetings are being held trying to set architectural standards for the rebuilding of shops and houses.

The last major earthquake in NZ occurred in 1931 in Napier on the North Island of NZ. 256 people died and the central city had just 4 buildings standing . As it was rebuilt in the art deco era many of the buildings are a tourist attraction these days, and there is an annual Art Deco Festival. So, out of the ashes grew a city with a different emphasis and character. We hope the same happens here. 80% of the business district is undamaged so not affected to the extent of the Napier earthquake. TV loves to present the extremes, so it looks worse to viewers than it actually is.

Spring is here and daffodils, magnolias and rododendruns are defying the eathquake and brightening us up

You can see pics of the affects of the quake by googling Christchurch Earthquake.

My business Christchurch Gaystay is still open for business. www.gaystay.co.nz/chchgaystay . I hope people will still come to Christchurch and New Zealand. My B&B caters for gay and lesbian travellers . It is 10 minutes walk from downtown . It costs $60 for a single traveller. That includes breakfast and broadband. $95 is the rate for a couple.

Napier accommodation can be found on www.gaystay.co.nz. There are 85 gay owned B&Bs on that site around New Zealand

New Zealand’s Third Island: Visiting Stewart Island

Author: , July 27th, 2010
by Bruce Morrison, Christchurch Gaystay, Christchurch, New Zealand
Email Bruce | Visit the Christchurch Gaystay

Visit the Purple Roofs Canterbury page

New Zealand is generally thought of as two islands , the North and the South , but there are many more . The third biggest island, Stewart , is to the south of the South Island.

Flight to Stewart IslandA Tahitian friend and I recently flew to Stewart Island, just a 10 minute flight in a 6-seater aircraft from Invercargill, the most southerly city on the South Island.

The stretch of water we flew over is known as Foveaux Strait. It is the home to the famous Bluff oyster beds, crayfish and blue cod.

The airstrip was just like a road in the middle of the bush. No terminal, just a strip of tarmac. A bus appeared to drop off the next passengers and to pick up those arriving. Gerard and I had hiked a lot of NZ famous walks but neither of us had been to Stewart Island.

Stewart Island FlightI found non-gay accommodation in Lonnekers Bay, 10 minutes walk from “downtown” Oban. The whole island has a population of 390.

We hiked every day and visited Ulva Island, the predator-free island. New Zealand has no native mammals, just birds, a bat and one reptile. But people have brought rats, mice, stoats, weasels, cats, possums and dogs and all have upset the ecological balance, decimating the native bird population.

The magnificent native forest is alive with the birdsong of the New Zealand of yesteryear; saddle-backs, kereru, tomtit, robin, tui, bellbird, kaka and parakeet.

Foliage, Stewart IslandWe did a kiwi-spotting trip late at night, so we watched kiwi, a most unusual bird, feeding on worms and sand-hoppers on the beach and in the forest.

The kiwi is the only bird in the world without a tail and lays the biggest egg of any bird in relation to body size. It will not survive on the mainland and so efforts are being made now to transfer the kiwi to predator-frree islands. It is the country’s national symbol and New Zealanders are often known as “kiwis”.

Stewart Island PlaneWe flew to Mason Bay in a tiny plane, where the terminal was a log on the beach. A lonely hunter sat on the log waiting to be picked up, while we were dropped off and had a 25 km beach to ourselves. We swam on what must be one of the southern-most beaches in the world.

We walked for 4 hours to a tramping hut and were picked up by a water taxi and endured the roughest boat ride I have ever had back to Oban.

We ate Titi or mutton bird in a restaurant after having watched them flying.

They are unusual in that they burrow underground to form nests and fly to Siberia for the winter. 200,000 to 300,000 are caught by the native people, the Maori, for food every year, so we convinced ourselves they are not endangered.

We ate blue-cod and crayfish in the few eating places. The South Seas Hotel, the only pub, is a reminder of the pubs of yesteryear, and they sell a T-shirt with the logo “Stewart Island – where men are men and fish are nervous”. We bought more conservative ones.

On the Beach, Stewart Island, New ZealandWe hiked every day on well maintained tracks often with board walks across wet areas. There are 3-day or 10-day hikes where you carry your food and sleeping bags and stay in huts provided by a Government department, the Department of Conservation.

Our accommodation was never locked for the 5 nights we were there, and a van was provided for our use. There are a total of 12km of roads on the island. Other forms of transport are mountain bikes, vespas, walking, water taxis and a “tuk tuk”.

We had 5 nights on the island, and we managed to find plenty of hiking tracks to walk and beaches to enjoy. Apart from a couple of restaurants and a pub there is little else to do in the evenings other than a kiwi-spotting night time adventure or DVD watching in your room. But there is daylight till late in the evening, much later than the rest of the country.

I have a B&B in Christchurch , Christchurch Gaystay, catering just to the gay/lesbian community. www.gaystay.co.nz/chchgaystay. Christchurch is the biggest city on the South island of New Zealand, and is famous for its gardens. It is a gateway for people to start their holiday. From here people generally hire a car and spend a week to 10 days driving around the south Island visiting the jewels of the south, Queenstown and Milford Sound. There are glaciers to walk on and be helicoptered onto. Cyclists are catered for with 3 day cycle trips in Central Otago and there are many 3 day hikes, some with full catering and pack-carrying service.

I am happy to help people plan their NZ holiday , and know of a lot of gay B&Bs in NZ. The first ever gay cruise around our shores happened in February 2010 and will be repeated next year with cruisers disembarking at Mardi Gras in Sydney. Wellington, the capital city of NZ will host the OutGames in March 2011 . So a trip “downunder” could combine Mardi Gras, OutGames, and Kiwi-spotting… the feathered variety and the lycra-clad variety.