Back home

We’re back in Christchurch, and feeling much refreshed and ready to face whatever this city throws at us. Dad drove us up yesterday, with a car load of food, water, and camping gear – some for us, some for friends in need.

George didn’t enjoy the trip at all – for the first half hour or so he was fine, and much less nervous than he was on the way down (he was sitting on my knee with his paws up on the windowsill watching out the window like a dog!), but then we went over a bumpy bit and he got a fright and hid under the seat for a while. Then we noticed the smell… he’d obviously pooed, and then sat in it, because there was a serious whiff around his nether quarters (once we got home and were able to give him a good wash, we discovered there was a big lump of poo stuck in his fur – that’s the trouble with long dark fur, it can hide all sorts of nastiness within). The poor thing was miserable the rest of the way (wouldn’t you be?) and spent most of it cowering under the seat, even when we offered him food and water when we stopped for breaks.

We got as far as Hornby without (non-smell related) incident, but then hit the traffic. What would normally be a 10 minute drive from Hornby to our place took well over half an hour there was so much traffic on the by-pass, all crawling along. At our place we let George out and quickly unloaded our share of the food etc, then headed over to Ferrymead to meet Jenny (who lives in Sumner, so has been without power or water for a week, and unlikely to get either back soon). We’d originally been going to drive right out to Sumner, but she rang us to say they’d just closed the Sumner road because they’re worried more of Redcliffs might collapse, so the only route out was over the Summit Road, and they’re restricting that to residents. So we arranged to meet in Ferrymead, and told her we’d be there in half an hour or so. Yeah, we didn’t take the traffic into account. It was actually more like an hour and a quarter – lucky she was sensible enough to bring a book to read while she waited for us!

It was weird travelling out that way – there was no visible damage at all until we reached the corner of Brougham and Antigua streets, and then we started to see the odd crumbled wall or chimney. Then we started to see the silt from the liquefaction. We were travelling on major roads, which had already been cleared, but there were huge piles of silt along the sides of the road, and the smell was awful (nearly as bad as George!) – obviously there was sewerage mixed in with the sand and mud. Everything is covered in grey dust now that the silt is starting to dry out and blow around (they’re advising that people with respiratory conditions wear masks – I reckon everyone should, given what’s in that dust!). All the streets leading off Brougham towards the city centre were cordoned off, with soldiers standing guard, and when you looked down the streets towards the city all you could see were huge clouds of dust, obviously being stirred up by the rescue/recovery efforts, and rubble lying across the roads. A sobering sight. As we got further east, the roads got worse. As it’s a major route they’ve filled in the major potholes with gravel, but the road surface was still all buckled, with weird humps and dips all along it. Really strange looking.

At Ferrymead we met Jenny, hugs were exchanged, and supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables and camping gear gratefully received (I’d rung her to get a shopping list while we were in Alexandra). She was looking pretty stressed, as they’re just living day to day waiting to hear if they’ll be the next street to be evacuated (I of course offered her our place as a refuge if that happens, or if they just can’t stand the strain of waiting any longer).

Next stop was in Bromley, where Dad’s friend G (the one who gave me a lift home from Alexandra at Christmas) works. He owns a construction firm, so we met him in their yard. Outside was an enormous pile of silt cleared from their yard (about the size of the piles of gravel you see when they’re constructing a road), and he showed us the corners of the yard where they still haven’t cleared all the silt – it was nearly half a metre deep. We had more fruit for him (we’d stopped at an orchard in Cromwell on the way up), and some equipment he needed.

As we were standing in the yard talking, an aftershock struck. It was only a tiny one, just a single jolt, but incredibly strong. It felt like the ground dropped away beneath us. I leapt about a mile in the air, and grabbed onto the nearest solid object (Dad’s arm :-)). Later when I checked GeoNet I found out that it had been small, only 3.3, but it was only 2 km deep, and centred just about directly under where we were standing – no wonder it felt so scary!

Back at home (after another long slow crawl through the traffic) we had a quick dinner then Dad attempted to fix our bathroom tap (not earthquake damage – it just had seized up over Christmas – I’d been planning to get a plumber in last week, before the earthquake hit, but they’re impossible to get hold of for anything less than an emergency now, of course) but discovered (like everything in this house) that the fitting isn’t standard so the parts he’d brought up wouldn’t fit. So we’ll be without hot water in that basin for another few weeks until he can get back up here with the right parts (that’s not a major difficulty, because there’s not a lot of point in washing your hands in contaminated water, so we’ve been using hand sanitiser instead anyway).

A few minor aftershocks last night, but nothing dramatic, so it’s feeling surreally back to normal here now. But I just have to think back to what we saw yesterday (and remember that was only the very edge of the damage) to bring back to mind just how bad things really are. I’ve been trying to think of things I can do to help out – we’ve put our name down to billet a student if needed, and I think I’ll probably do some baking later and take it to one of the aid centres.

And we’ve got another refugee arriving in a couple of hours – more on that shortly…

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