“Dark Tourism” is a highly lucrative niche of the tourism industry. It can include past warzones, torture museums, historic prisons, hurricane damaged areas, and a large variety of other sites whose previous lives once housed danger, depression, and even death. The earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011 took nearly 200 lives and left irreparable damage to the infrastructure of its Central Business District.
Our ship anchors just off the coast of Akaroa, New Zealand, about an hour’s drive from Christchurch. I woke up feeling adventurous one sunny day and managed to sweet talk a local tour operator into letting me join free of charge as a means to advertise their company among future guests – go me! Although I didn’t literally pay to join, the bus ride along the coastal roads is so full of tight turns and steep hills; I very nearly paid in another way. Luckily I caught some winks to ease my nausea instead.
The tour company I happened to coax is the only one that goes beyond the restricted areas and deep into the Red Zone. Aftershocks are a common occurrence here so travelling into this part of the city can be fairly risky. From the presumed safety of our bus we saw firsthand the devastation that Mother Nature wielded on the city – churches torn apart, shattered windows, deserted blocks. At this point, a large amount of the damage is due to intentional demolition to rid the city of non earthquake-proof buildings, however the remnants of the original earthquakes damage are readily visible.
On a happier note, the efforts put forth to give the city a fresh start are exciting and iconic. The most famous example, “container city,” is a perfect example of the resilience, strength, and spirit of the people of Christchurch. Taking something so simple – shipping containers – and altering them to provide necessities in a time of struggle? Brilliant! Now, brightly colored and trendy, I have a feeling that these once essential means to an end will continue to retain popularity. They’re definitely a great tourist attraction! And if those eventually fail to attract outsiders, surely the gorgeous views would do it.