– Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Day 7 February 2011: On Monday morning, my husband and I drove down the hill and saw ‘closed road’ signs blocking the road to the city. The only way in and out of Sumner was via Evans Pass, over Summit Road, and down Mt Pleasant.

And so we turned right and headed through the village, passing the huge rock which has fallen down from the backside of our hill onto the RSA building. At least one body lies beneath the rockfall there, if it has not been recovered. Our neighbour’s after-funeral gathering was to have been there within the hour after the quake.

We then drove up the valley toward Evans Pass, dodging a couple sizeable cracks and dips. This wasn’t long after the early morning 4.1M aftershock which later caused concern in the area; getting back home later would prove to be a bit of a mission.

Turning right, we followed Summit Road. We drove over to Mt Pleasant, and talked about how we’d been planning to bring my sister’s nephew to the top of Mt Pleasant and set him loose on a mountain bike. The ride down the hill takes several minutes, no pedalling required.

As we drove down the hill, we looked for views of the city, hoping to catch a glimpse of the central city. Normally, you would also see the spire of the Cathedral, sadly missing this day.

We were somewhat amused to see the rubbish trucks out and about. Services have not been as quick to open as they were in September, but some services are starting again. Rubbish trucks are picking up bins full of broken items and household rubbish, in an effort to minimise the risk of disease. Normally, we have 3 different types of rubbish trucks: yellow (recycling) runs every fortnight (two weeks); green (compostable items such as food, garden clippings, etc.) every week; and red (all other rubbish) every second week. This week, there was no separation, and all trucks were picking up all bins.

Weaving our way through backroads, we made fairly good progress to my workplace, where we each showered. My husband then set off for his workplace, and I met with my team. I learned that the server had finally failed on Sunday, thus leaving me without access to my files. In the early afternoon, one of my staff offered to drive me home. Thus began our adventure!

I grabbed a veggie delight sub at Subway and we headed across the city. We decided to drive straight toward Sumner, seeing how far we could get. When we reached the closed roads, we were told we could access Sumner by going up Mt Pleasant, across Summit Road, and down Evans Pass – in other words, a reverse of the morning trip.

So, up we went.

And across we went.

We were told that the aftershock that morning had caused concerns of rockfall on the road down to Sumner, but that we could take the 4WD track down the hill, as the police had opened it for Sumner residents. We went through the gate and about that time saw people farther down the hill waving us back. Some 15 or so vehicles slowly travelled back up the hill, with their police escort advising that heavy traffic was making the road unstable.

We got as far as the pine trees at the top of our hill before seeing that the road was closed. An army vehicle blocked the road down toward Evans Pass.

Holy sheep! I was not able to get home, and was about to ask if I could walk down the hill. We called another of my team members and asked if she could find any information online; she reported that it looked like Sumner was totally blocked off. I just wanted to get home, even if it meant I was trapped there.

About that time, we saw another rubbish truck go past us. It was allowed down the hill, raising my hopes again. We drove back to the checkpoint, and were asked if we were residents; I advised that I was, and we were allowed down the hill. At the top of Evans Pass, we were stopped at another checkpoint, repeated my address to them, and were allowed to pass. We wondered if my driver would be able to get back UP the hill and out again, or if I would have to put him up for the night.

My husband brought home a few grocery items to restock the fridge, and we used the stove to prepare our meal. Small victories! The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur to me now.

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