04.12.2013 - 09.12.2013
February 2011 saw Christchurch's second earthquake in 5 months and one of the worst on record. It resulted in the deaths of 185 people as well as the collapse of many of the buildings in the city centre. The Quake City exhibition is designed to educate locals and visitors alike about what happened, the rescue effort that followed and how the city is recovering. Rebuilding has been slow and the centre feels like a scene from 28 Days Later, but it's getting there. There has been some ingenious use of the empty lots for outdoor art and there is a whole mall constructed from shipping containers.
One of the installations is '185 empty chairs', a moving memorial representing each of the people who lost their lives.
The cathedral was decimated in the quake but recently a temporary replacement has opened, almost entirely built from cardboard and designed to last for 50 years.
I stayed with Hamish, who was also an F2 in Worthing and is working in Christchurch Hospital in order to avoid the NHS treadmill. Virtually all the doctors in the place are from the UK, which speaks as much to the failings of the training programme back home as it does to the humane treatment of juniors in New Zealand.
I ventured out to Akaroa, New Zealand's only French settlement, on a searingly hot day. The natural harbour was created by volcanic activity millions of years ago and is home to the world's smallest (and rarest) dolphins, tiny penguins and fur seals. I saw all of them from a catamaran whilst drinking Sauvignon blanc and eating home-baked biscuits. This is pretty much my idea of heaven. It was cruise day, with a 2800 passenger ship vomiting middle-aged tourists in to the town. This is pretty much my idea of hell.
After a long overdue night out (coinciding with a local school leavers ball, guaranteed to make you feel ancient) and an equally overdue lazy Sunday I headed to the station for my 18th and final train. The TranzAlpine cuts its way across the Southern Alps, through Arthur's Pass, arriving in the aptly named Greymouth on the rugged west coast.