Back in New Zealand we have had a pretty crazy day too! We were leaving the Abel Tasman National Park this morning and heading to our next stop, a place called Hokitika on the west coast. It was going to be a very long day as the drive there would take us about 7 hours. As such we were awake extremely early; our alarms went off at 6am and we were on the road by 6:45am. So off we set, through the hills surrounding our campsite, through the village and up Takaka Hill. Or should I call that 'Evil Takaka Hill'? About two thirds of the way up the hill we started hearing a strange bubbling sound coming from the tank next to my seat
. A couple of seconds later we heard a loud pop from the engine and the temperature gauge went though the roof. We stopped the van, got out to have a look and saw yellow liquid pouring out of the side of van and running down the road. In a blind panic we started walking away in case it was a diesel leak. We quickly realised that it wasn't diesel and Tom went back to roll the van from the side of the road into a lay by behind us. We pulled our phones out to ring the AA and discovered that, being stuck on the side of a mountain, we didn't have any phone signal! Our panic levels were being rise quite rapidly. Our two options were to either hitch a ride back into town or walk down the hill into Takaka. The problem with catching a ride was that it was still only 7:30am and looking down into the valley we couldn't see any other cars on the road and if we wanted to walk it would have taken us about 7 hours to walk back to the main village where the payphone was. Running kind of short of options we decided to try and roll the van down the hill and see how far we could get it before it broke down again and then, if necessary, walk the rest of the way. So we started the van and were relieved to see that the temperature had gone back to normal. Slowly Tom managed to get the van down the hill and gently drove it all the way back to Takaka... my hero!! We pulled over at the nearest layby and used the payphone to call the AA, who turned up in about 10 minutes. We managed to drive the van to the mechanics garage and he diagnosed a burst engine-coolant overflow pipe
. Being out in the sticks he didn't have the part we needed but directed us to the Toyota dealership back in Nelson, telling us that if we took it steady we would get there in one piece. Which we did! We made it to Nelson and arrived at the garage. This was when our bad luck really set in. The garage had actually shut ten minutes before we arrived and wouldn't open again until 9am Monday morning. We gave our campervan company a call to get their input and their resident mechanic told us that the van would be fine to drive it to a place called Greymouth, about 6 hours away and just north of our destination Hokitika, which had a Toyota dealership too. Not wanting to be stuck in Nelson with nothing to do until Monday morning we set off for Greymouth. We managed to get about half and hour out of Nelson and then we encountered our first hill of the journey. This hill wasn't a particularly big one but we really struggled to get over it. We had to top three times and had two blowouts with engine-coolant pouring out of the side of the van. We got over the brow of the hill but the temperature just wouldn't go down. Realising that we were never going to get to Greymouth at this rate we made the decision to head back to Nelson and stay there until Monday. We were both feeling upset because we had already spent time in this area and were keen to move on to the west coast, but it was obvious we wouldn't get there until the van had been fixed properly. We booked ourselves into a campsite for the night just outside of Nelson only to find out that the campsite we were at was actually more of a Country Club with an American style trailer park at the back. And in keeping with our current run of bad luck, we were parked right next to the clubhouse which had a wedding in it. For some God forsaken reason the people getting married had hired two of the worst cabert singers known to man and we were treated to an array of cabert classics until gone midnight, including Elvis, Cher and (in a crime against humanity) the Grease Megamix! I can only hope that our luck improves over the next few days... and that I never have hear Elvis sung with a New Zealand accent again, it just doesn't sound right!
Today we recieved some very special news from home... my little sister is getting married next spring! Congratulations Sarah and Gaz!! Its a very strange feeling, being so overjoyed for them and at the same time so incredibly sad that I won't be there to celebrate their special day with them. But I know that they will have a fantastic day and that my sister will be the most beautiful bride.