• The Great Escape


Getting woken up at 5am to someone banging on the caravan door is never going to be a good thing.

So far it's only happened before (in the evening, not at 5am) when there was a medical emergency and someone got wind of where the nurse lived.

But this time someone out there was saying something about an earthquake?! Before we could even get out of bed the baby started crying, and we were dazed & confused without a clue what was happening. Nathan stumbled outside (we didn't even think about not opening the door. Glad it wasn't someone there to murder us all) and I could hear him having a very relaxed chat with the bloke.

Now Nathan is probably one of the most laid back fellas going, but it sounds like this new bloke could give him a run for his money. They had a good old chat, Nathan comes back in, gets back into bed and says "he just wanted to let us know there was an earthquake near some island so to be a bit careful cause the water might be bit rough today". I'm standing there holding the baby staring at him, mouth agape.

Nathan, you dont f☆☆king knock on someone's door at 5am to tell them to be a bit careful in the water today. Has there been a tsunami warning, or has there not?!

I dunno, he says. I didn't specifically ask.

Well then get out there and f☆☆king ask!

So out he goes, they have another casual yarn, in he comes again with more or less the same story.

Forgive me if I'm a bit confused at this point. We had no reception so we couldn't receive any alerts or look up the official warning, which meant I didn't know if we could expect a giant wall of water at any moment or if it was actually nothing to worry about.

So I threw on some clothes and went out to investigate. Had a chat with our neighbour, a single mum with a daughter who we'd winched out of a ditch the day before when her car got stuck. She's madly packing up her van. What did he tell you? I ask. "He said there's been an earthquake, there's a tsunami warning, and we should get to higher ground".

Right, that solves that problem, we're leaving.

So I go back inside (oh did I mention it's bucketing down and blowing a gale?), gently wake the big kid "baby, I just need you to get up and get dressed, we have to get in the car and leave for a little while". I'm trying to explain there's a little bit of urgency, but not give him a life long fear of tsunamis. It's a fine line, ya know? Anyway, he picks it up pretty quick and says "we should probably just leave the caravan here and go Mum". Smart kid. Cottons on quicker than his Dad, anyway.

After a quick check on our other neighbours (a lovely Brazillian/Spanish couple) we're off. Meanwhile old mate is still working his way down the row of vans, chatting away. We discover as the morning progresses that everyone got a different story from the man. But eventually it seems pretty much the whole campsite decides it's better to be safe than sorry.

As we're the only ones in a caravan that can be left behind, rather than a motorhome that needs to be packed up, we're the first to leave. We figure we'll drive up to the Cape Reinga Lighthouse carpark. It's high, it's close, and we had phone reception there so we can work out what the hell is going on.

Up we go. It's pitch black. The rain is horizontal. The road is steep and winding. It occurs to me that we may drive off a cliff to escape a tsunami. We're the first to arrive, other than some poor people illegally free camping in the carpark who must have woke up also wondering what the hell was going on when a tsunami of evacuees (see what I did there?) suddenly arrived on their doorstep in the dead of night.

We pull up, get out the phone (well I did, Nathan left his at the caravan. He got the passports but forgot his phone). No reception. What the f☆☆k? We had perfect reception here yesterday, where did it go? Now what do we do? How do we know when it's safe to return?

Meanwhile reality has suddenly hit for the big kid. We hear sobbing from the backseat. He's suddenly realised we've left the caravan behind to potentially be destroyed. Through his tears we hear him wail "but we put so much work into it!". Oh darling, if the caravan is destroyed by a tsunami honestly the only thing I'm going to think is thank god we weren't in it.

Anyway, our neighbours from the campsite pull in. Nathan goes to see if they have reception. They don't. But they have just discovered a rat living in their campervan so they're a little bit preoccupied at present. Ah well, things could be worse, it seems. Once they've dealt with their rodent problem they decide to drive 20kms back down the road to the servo, where we can finally get reception and work out if this is all a giant overreaction. Plus, they reckon it opens at 7am and we can get food and a coffee. I'm sold. In our haste, we didn't exactly pack breakfast.

Excellent, we arrive safely at the servo. Full reception, perfect! We check the official warning only to find the first waves were expected hours ago at 4.20am. When we were warmly tucked up in bed oblivious. Well then. Thanks for the warning old mate, but it seems you were a bit late!

The warning however is still current so we figure we should wait it out just in case. The servo does not open at 7. Or 8. Or 9. We're all hungry. And tired. It's still bloody wet. I'm suddenly very jealous of all these people in campervans, buses and motorhomes who have had breakfast and crawled back in to bed. F☆☆k it, lets go back and have a look. Surely the worst is over?

Well the caravan was still standing, much to Ryan's relief (he's right, we had put in so much work!). The campsite was deserted other than one couple higher up on a hill who had decided to wait it out and see what happened. The water level was definitely higher than it had been at any other time during our stay, and there were some waves rolling right into the estuary, which was pretty crazy to see. It was still raining, as it had done for our entire time there. So we decided to grab the caravan and move on. Breakfast was shoved into the children while we packed up and hitched up in record time. And by the time we got back to reception the all clear had been given.

Ah well, if that's the only tsunami warning we experience in our lifetime, we'll be happy campers. (Incidentally our Brazilian neighbour said it was his second, but the first time a chopper flew over the campground with a megaphone telling everyone to leave. A rather more effective method, I'd imagine)

Anyway, here's some pictures of the stunning Tapotupotu bay and camping area. Another Department of Conservation campsite that I'm sure would have been a lot more enjoyable had it not rained the whole time.

Life is an adventure, is it not?

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