I had decided that I would write one last post reflecting on my year at the South Pole and then end my blogging career, but things have just continued to be exciting so my mom and sisters have convinced me to keep writing.
I had a new experience that made me question the security of the ground below my own two feet. I have never experienced an earthquake before and I can honestly say that I would be very happy if that was my last. Max and I are very lucky to have been out of avalanche terrain and in a safe city. There are many people in very terrible conditions without a house, stranded on the streets of kaikoura. We passed through kaikoura on the bus and walked around during an hour break just a week ago. Hard to imagine the city now. Over one thousand trapped, homeless and hungry tourists are being evacuated by helicopters and a navy ship. Even three cows are stranded on a hill top, with a helicopter rescue in the works. The whole thing is very scary, but it is actually extremely lucky that it happened at midnight. The tunnel that is now completely covered in a land slide and many other damaged parts of the road were very heavily trafficked during the day and the landslides could have killed a lot of people. Plus, many more people would have been on the roads and in those dangerous places, not in their homes, which is often the safest place to be during an earthquake.
Since the first earthquake, according to an article in the Guardian, 1,823 subsequent quakes have occurred throughout New Zealand. Max and I felt movement 24 hours after the first one and reports say they will be felt for weeks. The magnitude has been revised for the first quake, which is now measured at 7.8.
I woke up with the shaking in my dream. It took me a little time to process what was happening. I really felt like I was on a boat in very tall waves. I reacted before I figured out what was happening in my half asleep state of mind. Max and I woke up at the same time with the bed rocking and slamming into the wall. There was also an opened door outside of our private room that was banging very loudly. I immediately opened the bedroom door and stood under the frame. I am proud that I remembered my elementary school training and practice drills.
Max was still on the bed and I made him stand in the bathroom door frame, but at that point the shaking had mostly stopped. The main movement lasted about three minutes. I was really freaked out. But, compared to many of the other people in the hostel who were outside screaming, we were cool as cucumbers. We started to process what was happening and my adrenaline was going at a million miles an hour. It did not take long before the after shocks started to hit. The first one felt as rocky as the main one, but lasted a tenth of the time. We continued to have many very small ones and about eight more pretty big ones that shook the bed. Max went back to sleep, but I was too panicked to feel like I could fall asleep. So instead I kept my eyes glued to my iPad refreshing the news and watching the live chat feed for information. Then people started posting about being in tsunami warnings, so I found our street on the Nelson tsunami map and found that we were in the red zone since we were in a hostel by the ocean. I found out where we needed to go and was completely prepared to get our hiking gear and sleep on the hill. Luckily, about this time being panicked and alone (since Max was sleeping) my mom woke up in Texas and I was able to text with her and calm down. I went to sleep at 3:30 am and woke up at 6:30 am to catch our bus. Of course, our bus was canceled for many days, so at the moment we are on a plane and just landed in Christchurch.
With all of this craziness and our plans continuously changing and costs adding up, we decided to go back to the states early. So tomorrow we are leaving on a flight to Honolulu. It is turning out to be a great idea. Max has a cousin who has offered us his apartment since they will be going out of town. We will have ten days in Honolulu and then Maui at last!
What I learned that I should have known- read the fine print. I had no idea I needed to look at earthquakes in our travel insurance policy when we purchased it. Turns out our $5,000 each of “trip interruption” on our insurance policy covers trip changes if we have to get home because of an earthquake that happened at home, but does not cover travel changes because of an earthquake that happens while we are away. So, unfortunately we each spent about $500 in flight and housing changes, but we decided it was totally worth it.