Kaikoura Disaster: Tourism and bad luck.

Their Disaster:

It has been a week now since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit New Zealand’s South Island.  So far, the clean up is barely beginning near the town of Kaikoura, where the epicentre of the earthquake hit. Placed on the east coast, and just over a two hour drive north of Christchurch, Kaikoura, is mainly popular for their wildlife and sea life. Including popular whale watching, albatross watching, and dolphin swimming. The town is a touristic hub attracting millions of tourists each year. It sits on the side of the Hope Fault line which is part of the Marlborough Fault System.

The earthquake caused an enormous amount of land to be shifted, causing landslides and deep cascades. This completely disabled the roads and trains leading in and out of Kaikoura. Leaving the residents of the town feeling much like the cows pictured, who were also stranded because of the earthquake. The estimate for the clean up is set to be billions of dollars and will take months to accomplish.

Though accustomed to slight tremors, the total of approximately 2,000 residents, were still rightly shaken by the earthquake. The death toll still stands at 2 people, one from a heart attack, the other who was crush in the rubble of their house in Kaikoura. A man who was driving a truck just outside of the town at the time the earthquake hit still remains missing and concerns grow that he is trapped under one of the many landslides.

As Kaikoura sits on the edge of Highway 1, its main road, people in the town remained stranded for days. They had originally lost all electricity and have had to ration their water supply since the earthquake. Since the town held so many tourists, many had to be airlifted out of the city. The closest estimate of when the Highway 1 will reopen is two weeks from now. Which for residents and tourists, is a major burden.

My Disaster:

This burden I’ve felt myself, as I planned a trip to New Zealand a few months ago for this December. My partner and I had planned to leave on the 30th of November and return to Australia on the 9th of December. During that time, we had planned to visit Kaikoura by driving up from Christchurch, on our way to Blenheim. Naturally, we would’ve taken Highway 1, since it was the only way to get to Kaikoura from Christchurch directly.

The day after the earthquake, I received the notification that our hotel in Kaikoura had been cancelled because of damage to the establishment. This didn’t worry me, there was always damage from earthquakes. I had decided to reserve another hotel, as I was certain that the landslides wouldn’t take that long to clear from such majorly used road. I was absolutely wrong. I found out that it would now take, what would’ve been a broken 5 hour scenic highway journey from Christchurch to Blenheim, to a 9 hour journey. As after the earthquake we were required to travel around the mountains, onto the west side of the island and back, to reach Blenheim. It just wasn’t worth the time.

As I read through a few articles of the earthquake, I noticed how huge the destruction was to the road and the town. I quickly went online to the company who we’d booked with to swim with the dolphins in Kaikoura. Up flashed a notification that stated that they were out of business indefinitely with limited office hours. Naturally, I started to panic, my plans were falling through and I desperately needed some answers to replan the last part of our trip.

I sent through an email, not trying to sound too worried, as I’m sure their worries were much more than mine at the time. To this day, I haven’t received an email back, and my anxiety is growing. At this point, it doesn’t look like we’ll be going to Blenheim or Kaikoura unless they fix Highway 1 within the next week. As much as I am generally worried about the people over there, I was really looking forward to swimming with the dolphins and drinking wine in Marlborough vineyards.

The whole ordeal is just bad timing. To all the people over there, my worries don’t compare close to yours. I am truly upset that I probably won’t get to visit the great vast wine fields of Marlborough and the beauty of the mountains contrasting the ocean in Kaikoura. On the plus side, it means that I’ll have to make a return journey one day (when my student wage can afford it again). Only this time, I’ll make sure to get travel insurance that covers changes in travel plans when  it comes to natural disasters.

-Naomi V (22/11/16)

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