We arrived in Christchurch from Greymouth, via scenic Arthur’s Pass (which from now on shall be known to us as bumble bee alley, but I'll have to come back to that one day), and headed to the accommodation that Mr T had booked a few days ago. After he’d booked it, we’d received an info sheet that explained that the house was actually an old truck, and that linen was not included - no problem, I popped into The Warehouse and bought some discounted bed sheets and we were quite excited at the prospect of staying in a ‘van’. Plus the views in the photographs looked stunning!
We skirted the edge of the city and headed through a few suburbs where we started to see hints of earthquake damage - uneven road surfaces and cracked pavement edges, a closed school, then half-houses, with their insides hanging out, hanging off cliffs. Many of the roads around the cliff walls were lined with stacked containers - I assume to act as a barrier. A few times Gipps sent us down a road, only to find that it had been cordoned off, so we would have to find another way around. It was a sobering experience.
We made our way up the hillside, commenting that there was something comforting about being at the top of the hill, and knowing there was nothing else above us. We turned into the road we were staying in and down quite a steep hill, to the very end of the cul de sac and down a steep driveway. ‘Ýou have reached your destination’ said Gipps. Standing before us was our home for the next three days, clinging to the edge of the cliff , attached by some sturdy looking guide ropes to the rocky surface around it. It had the most magnificent views out to sea. And it terrified me beyond belief; I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be clinging to the edge of a cliff in an area that had been devastated by a major earthquake just a year ago..
We found the keys and let ourselves in - it was gorgeous and cute and I loved it. But I was finding it hard to take it all in beyond the cacophony of alarm bells which were blasting in my head. ‘A campervan!’ exclaimed the Littlest Hobo, ‘I love it! Where’s my bedroom?’ I glanced up at the mattress suspended in the ‘master mezzanine’ above our heads, as she and Mr T went off to find her bedroom. At the end of the truck, at the same level as the hanging mattress was a small door, high up in the wall above our heads, with a ladder below it. Mr T climbed up and pulled it open to reveal a bedroom fit for a princess, and they both bounded up the ladder enthusiastically.
I sat on the staircase that led from the entry level up five or six unguarded steps to the raised living area, looking down at the unguarded wood burner by my feet. I listened to their happy chatter, as I took in every toddler-unsafe area and tried to imagine sleeping here over night, with the littlest hobo in a separate area to us; an area that was accessible only by a two or so metre drop to the floor. It was blowing a gale outside, and the house was gently jostled by the wind. I sat and imagined how it would feel if we experienced one of the aftershocks that I had heard so much about the people of the city living through. I sat and imagined trying to sleep.
I glanced out of the window again at the unimaginably beautiful seascape, and noticed the cliff walk three or four metres in front of the truck. The info pack had mentioned a walk at the edge of the property that had been closed since the earthquake. I loved and feared this little place with each shaky breath I took. Mr T and the Littlest Hobo appeared in front of me, she was so excited. Í can’t do it’ I said to Mr T.
So we replaced the key, got in the car and drove, in search of a motel. I think the Littlest Hobo thought I was joking - she kept saying ‘no, we are staying here’ and ‘no, we love our campervan’ and I felt quite stupid - wondering if I was being all over the top and unnecessarily cautious when so many of the people of Christchurch have been living with conditions probably far more terrifying than this since February 2011. But I felt more comfortable with my decision than I did stupidity or disappointment at my wussiness, or frustration at wasting so much money. So we found a motel for the night, negotiated a relatively reasonable rate, and headed off to explore Christchurch. But that, my friends, is a story for another time.