Into the West

The aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle was very difficult and sad, even for the resilient Kiwis. It brought out the best in people…and the worst. Communities in the Hawkes Bay Area pulled together to help each other in whatever way they could, mostly shovelling stinking mud out of houses. Donations poured in. Power, water and infrastructure could only be repaired slowly and painfully.  There was talk of curfews as Gisborne gangs looted.

It was heartbreaking to watch farmers in tears as they mourned destroyed farms, crops and dead animals. Beautiful red apples rotted in the mud, kiwis, grapes and fields of maize were destroyed or contaminated. There were numerous stories of people punching holes in their ceilings and lifting their children into the rafters or climbing onto the roof as the flood water rose with terrifying speed. Sometimes people had to swim down corridors and under door lintels. Pets were trapped or were swept away. One horse made it onto a house roof as the water rose, but then became stuck. Finally the roof collapsed and it fell to its death.

There were some happy stories of precious animals swimming to safety and being reunited with their owners. One horse was found miles away on a roundabout. A small herd of cows swam joyfully to its humans as the flood water receded, and some dogs were rescued and reunited. A farmer staggered as he carried a waterlogged sheep to safety. But for all the happy stories there were many more limp dead animals loaded onto trailers and taken away.

During all this distressing news, we isolated for seven days and recovered from our bout of Covid. We prepared to leave our sparkling clean rented accommodation and set off (safely negative) on our holiday.

We had changed our travel plans due to the disruption on North Island. We had hoped to visit Northland and the Coromandal, but the roads were impassable or just not there. We had already booked a hire car and an Interislander ferry crossing – so we reworked our schedule to get us to Auckland via Wellington and New Plymouth, ready to catch our flight home. Somehow we knew that things were not going to go smoothly.

Roads collapsed

It started well. Having found a kind person to adopt the Impatiens plant, we collected our Toyota Yaris from Christchurch airport, and packed it with all our possessions. We waved goodbye and drove away from Methven on the Highway 73 inland scenic route. It was a beautiful Monday morning. We drove over the Rakaia Gorge bridge, and headed to Springfield and towards Arthur’s Pass.

Castle Rock

At Castle Rock we walked and took photos, then we climbed steadily towards the Pass. We stopped again in the hope of seeing Keas, but they were hiding, so we went on into the spreading green rainforest of the South Island West Coast.

Through the Pass

This area of New Zealand is notorious for receiving more than it’s fair share of rain. The rain clouds roll in from the Tasman Sea in the West, hit the Southern Alps, and drop their load on the coast. But not this day.

It was hot and sunny as we reached Kumara corner in time for a lunchtime coffee. The café’s USP was selling honey from “live bees”. We gazed towards the beehives out back and idly wondered what other sort of bees made honey. Do ghost or zombie bees exist? Perhaps this is a technical term. We sat on the café deck in the shade, sipping our Flat Whites, and watching a lone traveller alight from a long distance bus with his rucksack. He found a shady bush, diligently rubbed suncream all over, crammed his hat on his head and set off on foot up the road.

We got back into the comfort of our Toyota Yaris and turned North on Highway 6 towards Greymouth. The river Grey seemed slightly less grey in the wonderful sunshine.

2 responses to “Into the West”

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