Christchurch in the aftermath of the earthquake, and points south


Dunedin has quite a hill

Not every car has the mill

   To get to the top

   For the slope has drop

Of 30 percent, that’s a thrill. 

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical to dance back from the brink of burnout, while my one-year non-compete clause ticks away I’m having adventures and working in out-of-the-way places.  My current assignment is in Waikari, an hour outside of Christchurch in New Zealand’s South Island.

I see patients in Waikari who left Christchurch in the aftermath of the earthquake, and I’m helping them deal with the stress.  Some need words, others skills, but I write a significant number of prescriptions for antidepressants, sleeping pills, and anxiety medications.  An earthquake followed by hundreds of deaths and an evacuation to the countryside with subsequent crowding does nothing to improve limited emotional resilience.

We traveled south to Christchurch in the dark, finding the highway to the city center marked CLOSED.  We drove on through the night.  Bethany and I talked about the worst rain we’d seen (Sandhills of Nebraska, summer 1986) and the worst fog (Lookout Mountain 1988) for comparison.  We stopped in Oamaru.

We arrived in Dunedin (dun EE din) after breakfast in Palmerston. 

We tried to visit the world’s southernmost synagogue, but found it closed.

Dunedin sports the world’s most photographed railway station. 

The railroad station in Dunedin, at one time the busiest in the country

I found it a little ornate for the small volume of rail traffic it handles, but beautiful and dramatic in the midday lighting.

Theauthor in the Dunedin train station

We walked east through the city center.  At two-thirty, crossing the street, Bethany spotted sushi take out.  I could read the CLOSED sign which she couldn’t, but she saw patrons at the street window.  We bought discounted salmon sushi, and they threw in a chicken roll for free.  They closed and locked the window as we walked away.    

We knew when we entered the University of Otago, the oldest in New Zealand.  College buildings maintain a distinctive architecture world-wide.  We ate our sushi and watched skate boarders jump over a soda pop can.

No visit to Dunedin would be complete without a trip to Baldwin Street, which the Guinness Book of World Records lists as the steepest street in the world. The hill’s worst gradient comes to 1 in 2.86, a 35% grade.  Signage at the bottom warns NO EXIT, NO TURNS.  The place resembles San Francisco’s Lombard Street on Viagra.

World's steepest street:  Baldwin Street, Dunedin

  We parked at the bottom and walked up.   Then we loooked down.

Looking down Baldwin Street

This street really belongs to the people; cars struggle to the top and some don’t make it.  Once there, turning around comes with difficulty and the descent shortens brake life.  Of course, the top wouldn’t be the top without another famous narrow Kiwi driveway extending upwards.

In the late afternoon we decided against trying to get to Invercargill, two and half hours further south, and turned around to head towards Moeraki.

Fifteen million years ago, calcite precipitated around nuclei under unique circumstances, resulting in boulders a meter and a half in diameter.  Harder than the surrounding mudstone, wave action erodes them from the bluff and brings them down the beach.  As the sun set, the moon rose, the temperature dropped, and tourists walked along the strand.

Due to technical difficulties, further photographs will be uploaded at a later time.

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