nearly a year has passed since the earthquake that devastated central christchurch, but the city is still a mess and the frequent aftershocks continue (although i was there for about 36 hours at the weekend and didn't feel the earth move). everywhere there are deserted houses, ragged curtains flapping through broken windows, leaning letterboxes, fallen fences, overgrown gardens, braced walls and signs declaring "danger! keep out!". the house next to where we stayed is abandoned, its garage entrance taped with "danger" tape. there are empty sections, some recently cleared and other still with the bulldozed remains of buildings. at the arts centre - formerly the university, stone buildings about 150 years old - a salvaged turret sits oddly on the ground next to its damaged tower. a few blocks away a turret from what must have been a beautiful old wooden house sits beside the rubble.
we drove out to the hills above sumner, to check out the home of friends which was so badly damaged it will have to be demolished. ferry road, which leads to sumner, has been resurfaced, but not levelled - driving along it feels more like surfing on gentle but unpredictable swells. the road up the hill becomes worse, with large depressions and damage to the edges. when we arrive at the house, what hits me immediately is the silence. it's a warm sunday afternoon in january - normally people would be working in their gardens, doing a bit of home repairs, cleaning cars, children would be playing ... there's nothing but birds. nearly all of the houses in this street have been so badly damaged that no-one can live there. it's heartbreaking to walk around our friends' house - all the bricks have falled off, many windows broken, cracks all around the foundation, in places revealing broken joists under the floor. when we visited almost 2 years ago, they were finishing renovations and starting work on the garden. we water the garden, which is overgrown but thriving, with this year's brocolli & beans nearly finished, apricots & apples beginning to ripen. across the road, a curtain flaps sadly through a broken window.