A campervan on a boat, an earthquake, wineries + a night in an abandoned campground.
We woke up before the sun this morning, loaded our backpacks into the campervan, and drove off into the dawn towards the harbour. We were heading toward the cook strait ferry, heading with our little Jucy campervan over to the south island of New Zealand to adventure around what has been said to be the most scenic island (after seeing it all, we would have to agree).
Goodbye Wellington! It was short but sweet. I was sad to leave.
We checked in for the ferry and parked our van in line to board. The coolest thing about a campervan? We cooked breakfast in the back while waiting in line. Finally, it was time to board, and we were sent to park between a HUGE tractor, tied precariously onto the back of a trailer, and the wall of the boat. I was a little scared we would get squashed.
We went up on deck and checked out the whole boat before taking over a corner of the lounge and reading, drinking coffee, and listening to music to pass the time. Peter read to Namita while Eric and I went on deck to take photographs in the blistering cold.
After a few bumpy hours, we landed in Picton and made our way off the boat in our van. We were heading towards the town of Blenheim, right in the middle of Marlborough wine country. My uncle manages a huge commercial vineyard there, shipping famous Marlborough wine all over the world. He gave us the big tour of the winery, from the grape crushers, to the warehouses filled with wine in different stages of fermentation, to the big shipping containers filled with wine pumped into airtight bags, ready to be shipped overseas.
After the tour, my uncle asked us if we had felt the earthquake. We all looked at each other in confusion, and he proceeded to inform us that there had been a 5.7 magnitude earthquake DIRECTLY below where our boat was on the cook strait. We realised we were probably in the best location we could have been, as the ferry just bobbed on the water. Little did we know that Wellington city had shut down a mere 1 hour after we had departed. It was a severe class earthquake – we were lucky to be out of there.
My Uncle had to get back to work, and we had to drive as far as we could towards Greymouth, on the literal other side of the island so we could make it in time for our Glacier tours in a few days.
So we drove and drove, until we came to a tiny tiny little town about 2/3rds of the way across the middle of the island. A lovely old house converted into a hostel housed Peter and Namita for the night, and we all cooked and ate dinner together in the toasty lounge.
Afterwards, Eric and I took the campervan and head towards the campgrounds. Free camping is not allowed in most places, so we were happy to pay the fee for power tonight as it was mighty cold. A night with heating sounded good to us.
We arrived at the campground, and went and stood in the office waiting for a staff member. Doors were unlocked, lights were on – no one came. We drove around the park looking for someone, anyone – it was empty. Every cabin – empty – no vans in the van lot. We looked everywhere, it looked like aliens had come and abducted everyone, and left all the lights on and traces of life still all over the park.
It was getting late, so we decided to just park in the huge, empty grassy lot next to the river, plug in our van and see if we got power. We figured if anyone came up we would just say we tried to find them, and seeing as we found no one we thought we would camp and find someone in the morning. We plugged in the van and voila! Power! This was starting to feel a little spooky.
Things got spookier when we went to the bathrooms – old, decrepit, rundown and in disrepair, we started to think perhaps the park was abandoned, and no one had bothered to switch off all the lights. I ran back to the van and locked all the doors. We turned on the heater, and went to sleep. The next morning we drove through the park again – still nobody. So off we head towards Greymouth after a free night of electricity! Thanks tiny town!