Serenely beautiful Christchurch was a mecca for tourists. New Zealand’s second-largest city also receives 82 per cent of inbound foreign visitors to the South Island. Last September a major earthquake did serious damage but the second quake in February did catastrophic damage, killing 181 people, levelling much of the stately city centre. Christchurch residents suffered terribly (and still do), and tourists fled.
Who would have thought that this lovely, safe part of the world would be hit by such a catastrophe?
I recently visited Christchurch’s ruined heart. I was an unwitting quake tourist – gobsmacked by the devastation the way people rubberneck at fatal road smashes. Some of the tourist attractions have re-opened (see below for details).
And then there’s this. An Australian tourist and her partner got into a cab to go to the airport in Lima, Peru for their return home after an exciting holiday. The cabbie robbed them and shot 26-year-old Elizabeth Littlewood of Newcastle in the stomach at point-blank range.
After being driven around for hours by their assailants, the plucky couple managed to persuade them to go to a hospital, which turned out to be ill-equipped to treat her. Her partner had to buy the medical supplies needed.
We travel expecting to experience great things. Unless we are slouching around a resort with a cocktail, we also know our comfort zones may be rocked and destinations may challenge and change us. But we still expect to come home unhurt and savouring the memories.
Increasingly recently it seems the world has more no-go zones than ever before. And Lima, Peru was not one of them. Neither was Christchurch, or equally as tranquil Japan.
Japan’s tourism has also been reduced by catastrophic quake and tsunami, a massive death toll and nuclear environmental disaster. Middle East and North African destinations such as Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Yemen are off some people’s bucket lists, although the regimes of murderous despots are often fabulously exotic and fail to deter travellers. Until now.
Libya, these days, gets inbound traffic of the missile kind. Northern Iraq is attracting a few intrepid visitors to the mountain areas, but the rest of the country will take a while. Afghanistan and most of Pakistan are totally no-go zones. Ditto Haiti.
Congo is a mess. Things have settled a bit in Zimbabwe but considering all the recent unrest and maltreatment of innocent souls, would you truly really want to go there unless you wanted to hunt and shoot African wildlife, and how grotesque is that, anyway?
Wow, that’s quite a list.
Heed the travel warnings but don’t stop making plans to get out there and see our planet in all its heart-stopping, gut-wrenching glory.
CHRISTCHURCH CHECK LIST:
The International Antarctic Centre, Orana Wildlife Park, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Wigram Air Force Museum and the TranzAlpine train service are fully operational. A temporary visitors’ centre has been set up at the Chateau on the Park, near the no-go city centre.
©Taste for Travel 2011