In the words of Samwise Gamgee..
Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
132Trip End Jan 04, 2012
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I've been reading the Lord of the Rings. It seemed appropriate for the location. I started in Auckland and have picked off a few pages every night. Up to this day I had read 50% of the Fellowship section of the trilogy (I know it wasn't written as a trilogy before someone complains).
The evening was long. I spent a lot of time trying to convince both myself and Kate that the van wasn't going to blow over. I even did a few fag packet calculations to check for myself. It felt like it would go over at any minute. Every gust was deafening as the vent on the roof flapped up and down even though it is screwed down as tight as possible. It would be a tough night.
Other vans pulled up and we seemed to have a good spot for most of the night in the leigh of a few big trees. During the night the wind eased off a little and things were looking better.
At about 5am fortunes changed once more. The wind picked up worse than before. Clouds rolled in, Rained pissed it down and Kate started panicking. We sat it out where we were for quite a long time but by 8am it made sense for us to move. It was just uncomfortable.
We decided to move back into the little town and set up camp near there for when the weather did move on. If we could make it over the mountain pass by 1 or 2pm then we could still have an afternoon in Wellington.
We waited and waited. We listened to the news. The gales has been recorded up to 140km/hr, flights had been cancelled (a flight from Auckland to Wellington had tried landing twice and had to fly back), ferries had been cancelled and it wasn't due to ease until the afternoon.
Damnit - Wellington lost.
We continued waiting and reading and at about 2pm I had nearly finished the Fellowship. I was getting irritable and watching the weather. It kept easing off promising the half hour opening we needed and then as soon as I turned on the engine it gusted up again.
Eventually I couldn't stand the waiting any longer and I decided we should go for it. In Featherston everything seemed a lot better.
We edged up the pass and the wind seemed to be ok. We got past our layby and turned the corner and was greeted with the reason why we didn't attack the pass last night. The road wound it's way up and up and up the edge of the mountain/hillside totally exposed to the valley.
Signs promised 12km of winding roads. We eeked our way up and it wasn't too bad.
After 6km the wind was a nightmare. I was ok driving into the hill but as soon as we turned onto the exposed curve the Camper blew around and nearly sent us into a ditch. We sat and waited and I felt a bit stupid for having came up there too early. Kate had been looking uneasy the whole way up but she suggested she preferred it was me driving than her which at least made me feel a bit better. We were now stuck right up the road with no way of turning around. What didn't help was my fear of heights and how the road was totally exposed. Thankfully, the edge wasn't on our side as long as we continued to Wellington.
We sat for a bit and waited for an opening in the traffic. I edged out and stayed in second gear. We creeped up turning into lay-bys every 400-500m letting the grateful traffic past (New Zealanders are very patient and for this I am continually impressed - they all give a little smile and wave when you let them pass, or an occasional beep of the horn) and we got our way right to the top of the exposed hill. As we started descending I noted the sweat under my palms from gripping the steering wheel so tight.
Driving the camper had been a nightmare before in the breeze but now it seemed like light relief compared to the gales. I was so pleased when we had got to the bottom. It was like a weight off my shoulders.
As we drove on the wind seemed to ease a little and so we decided to push on closer to Wellington. We found a DOC campsite with hot showers and flat ground and it was nicely sheltered from what was left of the storm.
I was dissapointed to lose Wellington. But for now I was just glad we were the right side of the hills to get our ferry the next day to the South island.