A bumpy, lumpy ride on the only road to Kaikoura

7:11 pm on 18 November 2016

First Person - It's the only way in or out of Kaikoura and at the moment feels bumpier than a turbulent landing at Wellington Airport.

The inland road, or State Highway 70, is expected to open in a few days to the public, when it will become the only ground route in or out of the town.

An army convoy of 27 trucks bringing urgent supplies to the town drove along the road this afternoon.

It was not an easy trip - they were delayed overnight after heavy rain, and delayed on the route itself after running into difficulty.

The road is passable, but not yet for the general public.

Nevertheless, I managed to talk myself onto a ute owned by Bob Dronfield, who has been clearing trees near the road since Monday's quake.

He drove me as far as the Conway River, which has been inundated by rockfall and debris. We turned around about 30km away from Waiau, roughly halfway along the road.

The scenery remains stunning, but a closer look reveals devastating damage.

Many of the surrounding hills now have gaping wounds and long, wavy cuts where the land has fallen.

The road itself from Kaikoura begins like any old country track - it's bumpy, it's lumpy, and there are a few potholes making things uncomfortable.

After about 10km it gets a lot trickier.

The slips come thick and fast, some are little more than rubble shovelled into a small pile on the side of the road, other slips take up a whole lane.

Some of the rock faces overlooking the road hang ominously overhead. It is the biggest danger holding up the road's opening.

There is no rain forecast for at least a week, which makes workers a little more optimistic.

The tarmac is ferociously torn up in places.

Workers on cranes and diggers and rollers have been working feverishly since Monday clearing the road, and have done a remarkable job papering over the cracks, but it's still a gigantic mess.

Driving over the deep holes and tall rises at 5km/h still feels too fast.

There are a few old bridges on the road that made me clench my cheeks.

The longest bridge - over the Conway River - dips in the middle in a bow shape, but I was reassured it was safe to drive over.

One construction worker, who did not want to be interviewed, said the road was "passable".

It's increasingly unlikely the road will open by the end of tomorrow and having driven up it, or more accurately, bumped along it, it is easy to see why.

"Passable" is not yet good enough.

Trapped beyond the cordon without power

About 20km inland, well beyond the cordon, we stopped as farmer Rachel Bartram and her family tended to their chickens and pigs.

They, like thousands of people around the country, had a rude awakening on Monday morning.

They huddled together in an upstairs room of their 19th century home during the quake, and when a big aftershock hit soon after, they jumped out of a first story window onto a veranda, and again to the ground.

Their chimney collapsed and the house is now uninhabitable.

"We have lots of scrapes and bruises and stitches and things but we're good as gold - we're really lucky," she said.

"We went into town the second day after the quake and went up to the medical centre to get my son's leg stitched and my leg fixed up.

"I guess we'd always worried about fire and knew how we could escape from the house."

The family is still without power and the phone lines are down. There is no internet or water.

There is no high school on the horizon for her children either, as it remains shut.

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