Sunday, April 29, 2012

Feel the earth move in Christchurch

It was another early morning (after one late evening…) and I was getting on a bus from Queenstown to Christchurch. I had planned to go to Christchurch that day simply because I knew there was going to be some zouk that night and I certainly wasn’t going to miss that! But I had no idea what an interesting town I had added to my travel plan...

On the way from Queenstown and Christchurch: Mount Cook - the tallest mountain in NZ
Christchurch – the largest city on the South Island - is located right on the border of the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates and an unfortunate target of a couple big earthquakes and aftershocks. Now in the April of 2012 the town was still in bit of a distress after the latest shakes that tore the city into pieces. The biggest quake happened in February 2011 and it also killed 185 people. A lot of the beautiful city center, including the Cathedral, was demolished beyond repair and there's still a lot of work to be done all over the region. Many families are in desperate need of new homes and many have been forced to leave the city or have fled in fear of future earthquakes.

For travelers this means that a lot of the places are closed and fenced off – and it was hard to find accommodation. Lucky for me I was offered a place to stay by one very hospitable fellow zouk dancer. Safe to say I was really excited about arriving to Christchurch! I got to my destination in the afternoon and Becky & I went to have a little rest before we would go out dancing. I was barely awake since I hadn’t slept enough in the past couple nights but no one could keep me away from a zouk party! 

The party was the local latin dance school, Salsa Latina. There was plenty of dancers and a good athmosphere. In the larger main room there were mainly salsa and in the small room zouk. I had lots of good dances and certainly didn't have to sit down - actually my host & I had done good work in promoting the zouk room for that night, lots of people turned up and when I was introducing myself it seemed that most of the zoukers knew me already :)

The next day Becky took me out for some sightseeing. We walked around the city and I got to see first hand some of the building that had been damaged. A large area was cleared out and filled by cool shops and cafés - made up of containers! One tall building was actually being taken down right then behind the wire fences - there's a few blocks that are completely off limits. I just saw a small glimpse of the destroyed Cathedral through the fence. The fences were opened to allow the town citizens to go see it for the last time a couple weeks ago. Sadly it cannot be repaired.

Container city
We then went up the hill for some views of Christchurch and drove to Lyttleton where the centre of the biggest quake had been. People are still quite worried about quakes and about going to Lyttleton. Small aftershocks occur quite often: in fact there was a “small” 4.5 shake on the day I arrived – before I got there. 

What else is there to see in Christchurch? Well it was a nice autumn day so it's good to take a stoll in the botanical garden. Next to it is also a museum where you can get familiarized with the area's nature, geology and how & why earthquakes happen. It was interesting to see some footage and video of the last major quake there. The museum is also free (donation recommended).

The second night I was there we headed out for some live Latin music and some more dancing at the Mexican café. They played the usual mix of salsa, merengue and bachata. It was fun to go out again with the locals and do some crazy dancing! And yet again it was quite late when I we got back home. Next morning I would be off again, off to my next Kiwi adventures!

Zouk in Christchurch

For social zouk dancing you can go on Thursdays to Salsa Latina (54 Fitzgerald Ave - the location will change soon: find the new address here): 8:45pm-12am and free entry! In Studio 1 DJ Reuben plays salsa, mambo, merengue, cha, bachata and zouk from 8.45pm; in the smaller Studio 2 DJ Ezra plays zouk & other Brazilian music from 9:30pm. 

Lately there's also been outdoor zouk socials at the "Dance-O-Mat" that has appeared in one empty lot (where a damaged building have been tore down) that has been fitted with a dance floor and a sound system. More about these and other socials at the local Facebook zouk community. You can also check that for info on classes & worshops organized by the local dancers as well as by international teachers!

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