The garage in Nelson opened at 8am so we were up with the lark to make sure we were there at the first moment possible. We left our campsite and immediately realised that the condition of the campervan was deteriorating fast, we couldn't even drive on the flat road without the van overheating. We managed to limp the van into the garage and beg them to look at it as soon as possible. The manager of the garage was lovely and told us to come back in an hour and they would have a look for us. So we headed out to get some breakfast with our fingers crossed it would be fixed by the time we returned. To cut a very long story short we ended up going for many many walks around the town because everytime we went back to the garage they still hadn't figured out what was wrong with it
. We finally managed to get the van back at about 2pm with no real diagnosis of what was wrong with it, other than to say it probably had a blocked radiator which they had tried to clean as best as possible without actually removing the whole radiator. So we started out on the long journey to Hokitika but it didn't take long to realise that the van was still feeling pretty poorly. We couldn't get over any hills without it overheating and we were both getting stressed and upset at the state of things. So we pulled over in the nearest town, called Murchison, and phoned the campervan company and they offered us a replacement van which we would pick up the next day. They advised us that the terrain between Murchison and Hokitika was relatively flat and we arranged to meet them the next day just outside Hokitika to swap the vans. With a huge sense of relief we started driving again and luckily we made it to Hokitika with no problems. Along the way we drove through some beautiful scenery including the Western Coastal Road and the entrance way to the Southern Alps. During the entire drive I was peering through the windows looking for Mount Cook, the biggest mountain in New Zealand. While I'm pretty sure I did see it, the Alps seem to be rather camera-shy and everytime I saw them they would disappear again behind the clouds and other mountains. Hopefully we will get a better view of them as we head further south.
We have seen some of the craziest road layouts imaginable whilst driving around NZ, from 15kph corners, some of the steepest roads, train crossings on blind corners with no signals or gates and crazy roundbouts with a train crossing through the middle of the roundabout as you drive around it, but today really gets the award for the craziest
. There a lot of single lane bridges where trafic has to give way on either side......not so strange you say, try placing one off these on a blind corner and then having a traintrack that runs throught the middle of it! Serious there is only enough room on the bridge for one vehicle at a time so if you turn onto it and there is already a train on there, you had better find your reverse gear quick. Having said that we survived and arrived in Hokitika and stayed in the local DoC camp, which was another beautiful site on the edge of a huge lake with stunning views of the snow-capped mountains in the distance. Tonight we got our best night-sky since we arrived in New Zealand, with hundreds and hundreds of stars and a really clear view of the Milky Way streaked across the sky.
Due to our enforced stop in Nelson we had a really relaxed day yesterday, enjoying the fleeting sunshine, reading our books and drinking tea and eating cookies. It felt like our first 'day-off' since we left home!