So, we flew to Christchurch and met ‘Vera’. Although I had bought her just a few weeks ago, I have to confess, I was a little worried that I might have been sold a pup! It all happened so quickly.
Nigel: There’s a camper van in CHCH, see if you can arrange to view.
Anne: OK. Contacts vendors, they bring it to my hotel, I look around it. Test drive it around Christchurch on roads I don’t know, scared to go too far in case I get lost! Decide the vendors sound legit, WoF and history seems ok, bit tatty, but engine seems fine, drives ok. Deal done! Money transferred. 24 hours later, they deliver it to work. We are the owners of a 25 yr old Toyota Hiace camper van!
Now what? Well, I won’t go into the details of driving the wrong way up a one way three lane street, nor the narrow missing of a huge boulder rolling down the hill and landing on the other side of the garage where we parked the van for safekeeping for a few weeks.
We’ll start the story as we head north with our new acquisition.
Part 1: Christchurch to Kaikoura (the naming of names)
Camper vans have to have names. Don’t they? So my friends say, anyway. And my Dad always named his cars. Kevin, who looked after the van, whose own car even more narrowly missed being hit by aforementioned large boulder, has two very tiny, very cute dogs. One of whom is Vera. Seems to fit! Nigel isn’t sure…
Pandas also need names. Not entirely sure what panda’s history is but he (she?) came with the van. On the way north we stopped for coffee with the rellies. They had a tour of the van and when William asked what Panda’s name was, we asked him to do the naming honours. Pete it was. Pete the Panda.
Apart from the coffee detour we also had a whiskey detour. Who would have imagined a whisky distillery in the middle of suburban Kaiapoi? We didn’t, but it would have been rude not to have called in! And even ruder not to have bought any!
The Kaikoura coast really has been decimated. In 2016, it was the centre of a magnitude 7.8 earthquake which pretty much cut the place off. Subsequent ‘weather events’ have undone some of the remedial work that was done on the roads and when we drove north, it had just been re-opened, albeit with a curfew. Access was only in daylight hours, – 7 am to 7pm. The landslides and the damage to the road and coastline are incredible and progress is slow with lots of the road operating one way only with traffic lights or Stop Go signs. It has been difficult to imagine what the road looked like from the constant news articles, and I think that it is worse than we ever thought.
We stopped at Kaikoura itself for a break and a wander along the seal colony. It is 13 years since I was last there and so memories are a little hazy. But we saw plenty of seals basking like large slugs in the sunshine. However, there is evidence of the earthquake apart from the obvious shift of the level of the coastline. In one section of the trail, we noticed skeletons of young seabirds, in situ, seemingly in nests. It was quite eerie. We have struggled to find any documentation specifically and it may well be that these are victims of a weather event subsequent to the earthquake.
As 7pm drew close, we needed to make it off the road. The NZ Campervan Association manual told us that there were several possible overnight campsites along the road. Unfortunately, it didn’t tell us that they were no longer available because of the damage to the road. Maybe because the NZ campervan association is almost entirely analogue and so can’t easily update. However, eyes peeled we scanned the coastline and soon saw the telltale white of another van parked up close to the beach. The railway track was now conveniently on our left and so we easily pulled off, followed our noses and found a sweet spot right on the beach. We nudged Vera backwards so that we could open the tailgate and have a view of the ocean. Set for the night.
Sunset, fire, sleep, sunrise. Magic. #campervanlife