Hi everyone! We made it!! Thanks to everyone for thinking about us over the last few days and to our roving reporter @Smiley for keeping everyone updated with our progress!
Many of you will know that we have just completed a fantastic three-month housesitting adventure in New Zealand. Via THS & Kiwihousesitters we managed to find four back-to-back sits ( except 10 nights in Airbnb accommodation)
All was going well until late last week it started to make the news that a cyclone, Gabrielle, was heading our way - a very rare occurrence for New Zealand
By the weekend we were getting the news to be prepared as the area we were staying in was going to be hit hard.
On Sunday the path of the cyclone changed its direction slightly, there was an orange alert announced with the hope that it would not be a direct hit but as it was a large weather system we were still expecting bad weather and so went about moving and securing anything outside that we thought was likely to get blown over/away
On Monday, as early evening arrived so did the weather! First the heavy rain and then the wind. The main issue seemed to be that the weather system was so slow-moving that it was continuous - as the hours went by the wind got stronger and stronger.
In reality, the eye of the cyclone stayed away from land but due to its huge size the North and East of the North Island, including Napier, where we were staying were badly affected - so the whole area was put on a state of red alert - the highest alert possible - which was when we started to get a bit nervous!
Monday night around 9 pm we sat on the balcony witnessing a storm as we have never seen before - The rain was hammering down and big mature trees were visibly moving. The wind was unbelievable and, having already been blowing for hours was showing no sign of let-up!
We decided we had had enough excitement for one day so went to bed. I remember waking at 4 am and the wind was still howling, a branch of a tree overhanging our house had come loose and was banging against the side of the house.
Tuesday morning I woke at 7 am and all was quiet. I went to the garden to assess the damage but to my surprise, it was not half as bad as I was expecting. Lots of small items had moved, leaves and small branches everywhere but nothing of significance.
I went back in to check the news on my phone to find that all the power in the house had gone. Initially, I thought the system had tripped but looking outside it was obvious that the whole area was without power.
I had not bought data to put on my phone and was relying on home wifi but with no electricity that meant the router was off so I had no way to check what was going on. My Husband had bought 3 months’ worth of data but unbelievably, as we were due to leave New Zealand on Thursday, today (Tuesday) his data allowance was due to end. He turned his phone on, and picked up the news that said the whole city was without power and it was hoped to be back on within two hours…then his data went and with it all our communication with the outside world!
We waited for the power to come back on but after three hours decided to go to the shops to kill some time whilst we were waiting.
It was only then that we started to see the devastation the cyclone had caused and how lucky we had been to have been spared any more serious damage. On the short 15-minute drive to the shops there were fallen trees and flooded streets everywhere - it was unbelievable that we had sat all morning oblivious to it all!
We had been using a supermarket called Pak n Save - it is one of three large supermarkets next to each other. When we arrived we were surprised to see only Pak n Save to be open. The car parks of the other two supermarkets were packed full of caravans and camper vans - people that had been evacuated from their homes! - it was like a new neighbourhood had popped up of mobile homes, literally hundreds of them.
The queue to get into Pak n Save was huge. We could not understand why people were panic buying after the event but got in the queue and started to chat with other people waiting. It was here that we were told that the latest news was that the power was not going to be restored in a few hours, the latest estimate was five days!
Now it was starting to make sense and our home hosts being able to fly back into NZ the following day, and us being able to fly out of New Zealand the day after that was starting to look less likely… As our home was all electric we bought as much food as we could think of to last a few days that did not need cooking.
Pak n save must have had emergency generators to be able to keep the store open - it was literally the only store open for miles around so you can imagine how busy it was. What was great to see was how supportive and kind everyone was being to each other. There was good humour and no pushing and shoving whatsoever. Also, people in the queue were sharing news - it was the only way we could find out any details, and the more we heard, the more we understood how devastating the cyclone had been to the area. We have since learned that they are comparing it to the devastation of the earthquake that hit the area in 1931.
Aswell as food, the word soon got out that Pak n save also had Wifi so there were lots of people surrounding the store using the only wifi connection to be had in the area, considering the number of people using it, the connection was good and at last, I managed to get in contact with some people including the lovely @Smiley explaining our situation but that we were safe.
Wednesday - Our agreement had been for us to collect the home hosts from the airport but with no wifi, we had no way of knowing whether their flights had arrived. They had a Hong Kong - Aukland - Napier schedule. We decided to go to the airport as planned and hope for the best. When we arrived the airport had Wifi, Their Hong Kong - Auckland flight had gone as planned but most flights from Auckland into Napier, including theirs, had been cancelled. We spoke to airport staff who told us that they would probably be trying to get a standby seat on one of the few flights still not cancelled but that their chances were slim. However, he thought our chances of leaving the next day (Thursday)were more hopeful as the system of staff and planes being available was starting to right itself - They told us to cross our fingers and turn up as planned. - So we went back to our house sit thinking that if the home hosts did arrive home, they would get a taxi - the journey was only about 20 minutes.
Later that day, the home hosts unexpectantly turned up! - They had been lucky enough to get on one of the few remaining seats on a flight destined for Napier. On arrival, they could not contact anyone, and no taxis were running as, 1 - there were no petrol pumps working and 2 - their cash-free card payment system wasn’t working - so they decided to hire a car to get home
That evening we all sat on the veranda, talking about the past few days’ events when suddenly everything started to move - there was an earth tremor! We could not believe it. In ordinary circumstances that would have been a big talking point, but after the events of the past few days, it seemed hardly worth a mention!
Thursday came and, with the whole city still without power, we headed to the airport. To our delight, our flight was on schedule and our flight to Melbourne went without a hitch.
Definitely not the turn of events we were expecting but a housesitting adventure we are likely never to forget!
If any home hosts are wondering if it is worth having sitters when you go away - Our home hosts told us that their holiday of a lifetime would have been ruined with the worry had we not been there