On Boxing Day we bade a tearful farewell to Queenstown. It had been a wonderful three night stay, surrounded by stunning mountains, rivers and lakes, but most heart-breaking of all was that we were to leave behind the first and possibly last 4-star breakfast buffet of our trip.

After stuffing ourselves full of lamb and mint sausages, Danish pastries and banana bread, yoghurt with cinnamon flavoured berries and hot chocolate with marshmallows, we put ourselves on another InterCity coach and headed up to Christchurch.

Sadly we arrived in a ghost town, far more widely damaged by the earthquakes of 2010/11 than I had realised. The whole of the city centre is currently fenced off as a danger zone, with many of the surrounding areas seemingly abandoned and barely any sign of life during what you would think of as the busy holiday period. It was all rather sad, and as if to exacerbate the morose atmosphere, it pissed down the whole time we were there.

We couldn’t leave without finding at least one bright spot though, and find it we did. In amongst the debris of the former town centre is a small shopping precinct constructed from colourfully decorated ex-shipping containers, put together in the aftermath of the earthquakes to try and bring about some regeneration of the area, or at least cling on to what vestiges of city life remained. It is a very small collection of shops, mostly selling postcards or gift-y items, most of which seemed to be imported from the Lanes in Brighton and therefore held little interest to two ex-Brightonians. However it is all worth it (perhaps not all worth it; the two earthquakes, 185 killed, countless more injured, who-knows-how-many lives forever ruined) if you manage to find the butter chicken on sale at the little Indian takeaway tucked in to one of the slimmer containers. Mop up a bit of that with a naan bread and you can’t be faulted for momentarily forgetting that you are in the middle of a crumbling heap of broken dreams. Delicious.

Advertisements