• The Great Escape


Well as far as emergency evacuations go, I reckon this one was about as good as they get...

The morning of March 5th 2021 dawned blue and clear in the North of New Zealand.

We were camped right on the beach at the gorgeous Puriri Bay, in the Bay of Islands region. The baby had woken early, so I took her for a walk along the beach to let Daddy get some sleep, and her big brother was getting ready to go play with his friends camped nearby.

The morning stillness was broken by the sound of phones around the campsite simultaneously sending out an emergency alert "TSUNAMI: Leave evacuation zones NOW to high ground or inland" followed quickly by all the tsunami sirens throughout the bay starting to sound in quick succession, echoing around us.

Daddy was quickly woken up, the big brother was rounded up, and I checked on the neighbours to ensure they had gotten the warning (they hadn't, and amazingly sat inside their caravan with the door shut somehow couldn't hear the alarms! Might need a hearing check, I suspect).

Meanwhile Nathan, in typical Nathan style, had bloody disappeared. Have I mentioned that in certain circles his nickname is "Harry", as in Houdini? Seriously, the man was nowhere to be seen.

So I bundled the kids in the car, jumped in, turned the key aaaaand the car wouldn't start! All the years we've had that vehicle, never once has it failed to start, and this is the moment it chooses! Cue rather a lot of swear words, many of which were directed at my beloved husband.

The kids were bundled back out of the car, with Nathan suddenly reappearing (toilet stop apparently) to be told (politely of course) that the car didn't appear to be starting. So I set off on foot (fortunately higher ground was close and easily accessible) with the baby in the carrier, holding hands with the big brother, while Nathan arranged a quick jumpstart from a fellow camper.

As I'm swiftly walking out of the campsite with 2 children in tow I come across a woman casually standing by the office with a coffee. She stops me to ask what is happening? Did you not get the tsunami alert? Oh yeah, she says, I did. Ah right, so there's a potential tsunami and we should move to higher ground. (Meanwhile cars are passing us, doing exactly that) But do we really have to go? She says, as the tsunami alarms echo across the bay around us. Yeah, I don't think they send out mass emergency texts and sound the sirens unless they've got a pretty good reason. Unconvinced by my logic, she decides to wait for the camp hosts, who have a young family and are therefore probably a little busy (understandably) ensuring their own safety.

I carry on up the hill and leave her to her coffee. Nathan catches up with the car soon after, (but not before multiple lovely people check to see if we need a lift) we all jump in and up we go.

The first parking area at the top of the hill was already full, so we went offroad up through a paddock and found the perfect place at the top, with sweeping views of the bay below, to sit tight and wait.

We found ourselves with 4 families (including the guys from Road Life NZ, and another family who lives on a yacht that was anchored in the bay), 10 children, and another few older couples. Many of these people were not only worried about their caravans below but also their actual houses, family, and pets elsewhere along the New Zealand coastline. And yet the atmosphere was relaxed, friendly, and almost festive as we all settled in to see what would happen next.

And the answer? Well, not a whole lot

The sun shone, the water glistened. The tide slowly came in. We rigged a tarp between two vehicles for shade. A guitar was produced and some songs were sung. A few games of cricket were played. Snacks and stories were shared. The baby had a nap and ate muesli bar after museli bar. Occasionally someone

dissapeared to find a bush to duck behind. And we waited.

4 and a half hours later, after multiple official updates via phone message, listening to the sirens echo around the bay throughout, the all clear was given and we were safe to return home to our caravan and it's little slice of paradise by the bay.

Our second tsunami warning in the last 3 weeks was infinitely different to the first, and a much more pleasant and orderly experience with gorgeous views and excellent company. But geeees, twice in 3 weeks. How's our luck?

We are however exceptionally pleased that it came to nothing and New Zealand is safe again. We love this little country.

Life on the road. It's certainly never dull!

Check out the full video of our experience below!

Missed the hilariously chaotic story of our first tsunami warning experience? Check it out here

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