A Very “Moving” Vacation in New Zealand

30 Nov

Exhilarating, exciting, refreshing, relaxing….these are words I usually associate with my vacation abroad. But…”Moving”?

On September 4th, 2010. 4.35am, I was roused from my slumber by a violent rocking on my bed. We had enjoyed a very agreeable meal at Joyful Restaurant a few hours before and the sleep was a very welcomed one as I have just driven about 180 kilometers south from Kaikoura. And of course, just prior to the road trip we had a most rewarding, but rough, sailing to do some whale watching.

So, I was suddenly confused as I struggled to open my eyes and wondered if I was still out at sea. I could hear my wife calling out my name and I wondered what fuss was all about. As I opened my eyes, I could see that the whole room was shaking violently as if a ball wrecker was slamming repeatedly on the building.

Yikes! It didn’t take long for me to realise it was an earthquake. And a mighty gargantuan one. Looking up the ceiling to see if there was any installations that might fall over us, I quickly got up and crouched over my wife just in case something might fall over us. (yeah….I must play the hero mah…die for my wife…so romantic, huh?) Oh…yeah, to explain why I needed to crouch over my wife, we were on separate beds as our hotel room came with 2 queen size beds (though 1 queen size bed for the 2 of us would be extremely cozy – hee hee). And being Singaporean,  we wouldn’t pass up on getting both beds sleep on, right?

To add to the drama, the wine glasses fell out of the cabinet, breaking on the floor as they fell, the street lights went out, car alarms were set off and the creaking of the bricks…now that was rather like the sound of ten pins falling in a bowling alley, except that the sound was much louder.

Anyway, thank heavens that the quake stopped within a minute. We looked around and everything seemed alright in the room, the ceiling didn’t collapse, our floor didn’t give way, nothing fell over us. But the eerie stillness in the building that followed after the quake somehow made it all seem so surreal.

Anyway, we quickly put on  a jacket (which was grossly inadequate – good grief! it was 4 degrees out there) knocked out our neighbours’ room next to ours as they were our travelling companions. One of them came out in her hair curlers and all and it was quite a sight. Anyway, there was no one to help us evacuate from the building and we had to help ourselves. Honestly, the hotel staffs were all caught off guard as no one expected an earthquake in Christchurch, let alone one of this magnitude (7.1 on the Richter scale).

Using only a reading light and our mobile phones, we made our way down to the carpark, which we presumed to be the mustering area. Strange as, we were the only 4 people who were there. I really didn’t know where on earth were the rest of the people. Were they all dead? Finally, after about 10 minutes, a China man (no offense k? he was really from China but working in NZ) came and told us that an earthquake had occurred. Hallo…..!!!! Anybody home??? Of course it was an earthquake, nobody could have farted that badly. He told us to stay there and he promptly disappeared. Honestly, had he known we were Singaporeans…all he needed to tell us was to stand behind the yellow line and we would have automatically complied (if you don’t understand this “stand behind the yellow line” business don’t worry – you’re quite normal). Anyway, about 15 minutes later, this man returned and told us that the building is safe and we can go back to our rooms. Now…I didn’t see any building inspector coming around but I believed him, after all he worked for the hotel. Besides, I honestly thought, at that moment, that the New Zealand building inspectors must be highly skilled to be able to get to everyone in Christchurch within half an hour to inform the occupants whether their buildings are still inhabitable.

Well, we barely reached our room when the aftershocks rocked the building again. Naturally, we quickly made our way down to the lobby area and  this time we saw a few more guests milling around, some with their blankets around them (now, why didn’t we think of that??? It was freezing outside). There were some minor tremors that followed and finally sleep got the better of us, and against all good sense, we went back to our rooms, in spite of the many aftershocks that night and continued sleeping. Cool, huh?

We awoke to a beautiful morning – completely cloudless and we could see the snowcapped southern alps in the distance. For a moment, the events of a few hours ago were almost forgotten. But just outside of our room was this view that reminded us that a major earthquake had struck (Haiti had the same magnitude earthquake in Jan 2010 and 230 thousand people perished in that one).

As you can see above, the chimney of crashed through the roof. As we later learned, no one died in the earthquake, which was nothing short of a miracle. We decided to refuel and the petrol station was chocked full of cars and people. It was chaotic. After a long wait, we finally got our petrol and we drove around the perimeters of the city as the CBD area was cordoned off completely. But it was a surreal scene: as we see people jogging and walking their dogs in daffodils-lined parks…er…excuse me, I thought there was an earthquake…? But I supposed Kiwis are cool people. Now I wonder very much, if a natural catastrophe of this magnitude struck Singapore, how will people react? But nope, the order of the day in Christchurch was to walk the dog. It’s just an earthquake. No big deal.

As you can appreciate, we were very annoyed that our favourite restaurant, Joyful Restaurant, is joyful no more. Aiyo…how can we survive without Joyful Restaurant!!?

But really, amidst all the uncertainties around us (I was supposed to welcome my brother and his wife and  they got stuck in Sydney – as Christchurch airport was closed – and another couple’s plane was diverted to Auckland), we forgot something quite important – water. Oh, we did have our bottled waters, but we ought to have purchased more. Thankfully, that night, we found ourselves another accommodation with water and power (many parts of Christchurch was still waterless and powerless).

We lived to tell.

Anyway, the aftershocks were aplenty – about 3000 and lasted for months since. If you want the latest update of the situation in Christchurch, check out these links:

Christchurch Accommodation – Who’s Operational?
Christchurch Earthquake Information

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One Response to “A Very “Moving” Vacation in New Zealand”

  1. seocology December 2, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    It was a close shave, wasn’t it? It’s really absolutely amazing that no one died in the earthquake.

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