I am sure a visit to New Zealand’s East Coast is not complete without experiencing the heavy winds and rains that can be characteristic of this region of New Zealand. The wind is part and parcel of my driving here and is making for longer journeys than envisaged ( I can hardly ever travel at maximum speed as the wind gusts do wobble the camper about); the most impressive rain experience so far presented itself in Hokitika.
Lucy and I had finally managed to meet up in Hokitika after my journey took me rather longer than planned due to the sea sickness- induced fatigue and strong winds. On the way, I had been able to see the startling pancake rocks in Paparoa National Park which really do look like pancakes. While scientists understand that it is due to sea erosion that the rocks gradually form into strange shapes (I thought this one looked like a face!), noone quite knows how the pancake look came about. During my little walk round these bizarre formatinons, the winds were picking up and ominous dark clouds were forming. That said, Lucy and I managed to meet in the dry by the sea front of Hokitika and it was so good to see her and catch up.
We found a lovely little campsite by a lake just outside the town, which promised good views in the morning and settled in the campervan with a delicious chicken and salad meal (Pete and Barb’s wonderful fresh lettuce from their garden 😀) , cheese and rich passion fruit yoghurt before tucking up on the cosy double bed into which the seating area of the van can be converted. By then, prain had begun to fall and the winds were picking up.
Over night, however, the storm really started. Lucy and I laughed as we heard the winds howl outside, shaking the van, while the rain was drumming hard on the roof and windows……we had many a chat that night as we kept waking up due to changing wind and rain patterns or the sound of campers moving their tents in front of the toilet and kitchen areas.
At 3pm we were both woken by the bright headlights of departing cars but despite the rain, nature beckoned…….why do we always need to pee when it is just not convenient? As it was still stormy and bucketing down with rain, I decided to hop out briefly and retreat into the bushes behind the van. I leapt out of the van in the pitch black in my flipflops and landed with a splash to find myself ankle- deep in water; it felt like the van was in a lake. Lucy and I pondered moving both her car and the van but decided against it in the pitch black -in any case we were likely to get stuck and the AA might be towing more than one person out the following day given the circumstances.
In the morning, despite a temporary lull in both wind and rain over night, it was still raining but at least “Lake Camper” had receded. Idit and Yoav, who had ended up at the same campsite by sheer fluke, joined us in the van for hot chocolate and ginger biscuits, happy about their good quality tent which had withstood the torrents from above and beneath. Many others in tents had clearly not been so lucky…….many a spot was empty and some deserted saucepans and chairs testified to precipitated departures of afflicted campers.
As we drove to Lake Matheson, Lucy and I could see the sheer extent of the flooding. The river had broken its banks, Hokitika’s football pitch was completely under water, and fields were flooded sometimes up to the front door of local farms. It was surprising to see how quickly the water receded, however……as we returned from Lake Matheson some of it had already been absorbed, but it was still pretty impressive
What with that and the encounter with Phil the policeman, it looks as if I am destined to experience as many facets of NZ climate and life as possible ☺