– Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Day 4: On Friday, my husband returned to work and I rode with him in his 4WD. I can’t remember now if it was Friday morning or Saturday when we were able to travel over the bridge and down Ferry Road, through Ferrymead. Friday morning, I think.

That road was one massive mess, full of ripples, holes, dips, rises, and cracks. My husband joked that it was more 4wd than the recent trip we’d done on the Ashley River (just the weekend before – seems so long ago). Thing is, it was definitely more of an obstacle course than a roadway.

We each had a quick shower when we got to my workplace, and then my husband headed off to his office, maybe 5-6km away from mine. We had agreed we would leave work around 1pm, so got to work getting everything done that needed to be done.

I mentioned a shower at my workplace, which is located on the western side of town. Much was written about the tale of three cities – those with water/electricity, those without, and the so-called red zone (the central city). Most of the damage was confined to the eastern suburbs and central city, and having access to showers was a godsend. We had many calls and offers to sleep and shower at friends’ homes, but just wanted to be home as much as possible.

I was over the moon when I learned that, as I’d requested and hoped, someone driving in from Timaru had been able to bring back four bags of ice. Woot! We would be able to keep drinks and food cold over the weekend; you wouldn’t believe how good that made me feel. No power, no water, no sewage, but hey, we would have cold drinks and I could have mayonnaise for my sandwiches.

At 1pm, my husband and I tossed three of the bags of ice in the chilly bin and headed off to Countdown just a few blocks away from my workplace. We bought enough supplies for the weekend and started our long journey home.

I think it was this night that our neighbours came over for a drink and a chat after dinner, and we sat on our deck for a while. Afterward, I went to bed fairly early not to sleep but to get warm, as once again I was freezing. I listened to the radio and just before 9pm leapt out of bed when I heard that the street lamps in Sumner had come on. I was ever hopeful that that meant our own electricity would soon be on; even though it wasn’t, that development gave me hope that we would have electicity soonish. That hope was nearly destroyed a few times in coming days when we would get conflicting reports about how long it might take to get electricity.

Every time I awoke in the night, I looked to make sure those lights were still on. Like the battery-operated radio, those lights became a lifeline.

Days 5/6 (The Weekend) With the street lights having come on the night before, we half-expected to have electricity on Saturday, but it wasn’t to be.

We started our day talking with neighbours from up the hill, and touring a couple of the hard-hit properties at the end of our drive. One of them (red-tiled roof) was the front-page photo of the Press one morning, with every wall down; shortly after we had a look, the owners showed up with a crew of men wearing hard hats to remove all their personal items.

We also found the woman who’d been calling out for her lost cat several times a day, but sadly the cat that turned up at our neighbour’s home was not the one she was seeking. Her house sat against a cliff, and had been compromised by a rockfall, with rocks crashing through the back of her home.

We later ventured away from Sumner to go to a family member’s home in order to wash dishes. That proved to be a mission as so many roads were closed. We originally planned to drive down Linwood to the river and then onto Bealey Ave, down Cranford, and onto McFaddens Road.

Didn’t happen.

We ended up finding our way over to Fitzgerald, seeing the tanks and trucks which are blocking access to the central city. We turned toward Moorhouse and alongside Hagley Park to the far end of Bealey Ave, and got back to Cranford from that direction.

It was at the nephew’s home that we finally access the internet and were able to leave some messages for family and friends. We also did a couple containers of dishes – everything we had left, which was not broken.

Leaving there, we went to Riccarton to try to find somewhere to have a late lunch/early dinner around 3pm. As expected, most things were closed, but we did find a Robbie’s Restaurant which was open. Alister had a lambs fry and bacon meal with mashed potatoes, and I had fish and chips. It was nice to have a meal not cooked on our campstove.

Back home, we were disheartened to still not have electricity, but happy to see that the street lights came on again at dark. I think I may have written that I slept in the recliner on Friday night, but it was actually Saturday night that I did that, after failing to fall asleep in bed. I mostly catnapped, but was able to look out at the moonlit ocean.

Sunday is pretty much a blur. Some time that morning the electric company came by to make sure we were safe in regards to having the power turned back on; we were given a green card, but some properties at the end of the drive were disconnected as they are unsafe. This person told my husband that it would be up to 2 weeks before our electricity was reconnected. That was hard to hear.

I think it was this day that we went down to the beach to collect some sea water to flush the toilet (which we are using at night, with a guilty conscience). Our clock tower is still standing, with the clocks stopped at 12:51pm.

At some point this afternoon my husband went down the hill for some reason, and came back up to say that electricity was back on in most of Sumner. We checked our own electricity and it was working.


We turned it off again and made sure everything was turned off. We then tested room by room to make sure that everything was working properly. Next thing to do would be to turn on the computers; they were slow to start up, but finally did.

The TV, however, was stuffed. We’d known there was an indention in the screen, but when we turned it on the light showed us how badly the screen was broken, looking a bit like a big spiderweb.

We still do not have water or sewage, but just getting our power back was a huge success for us. Being able to put away the flashlights and to have a clock and to be able to access the internet…. It was so amazing.

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