The great escapeFebruary 5, 2020 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C
The curiosity was high. How would the streets look? We moved the curtains away and... they were fine. It was sunny, as we had expected, and Riversdale hadn't flooded. The state website however still maintained that the road to Queenstown was closed due to flooding. So were most of the roads on the other side of us. We received another emergency alert: the inhabitants of Gore and Mataura were going to be evacuated and Riversdale should prepare to do so. We had a shower and packed our stuff. Another alert: Wyndham was also going to be evacuated. As this was further down the river, that didn't worry us too much. But we learned that a paper mill near Gore could release chemicals when damaged by the floods, so it felt better to get away from there. It didn't look like we'd be able to get to Queenstown through Gore anyway, so we drove back to Lumsden and put our hopes on that road opening again. The road conditions were fine on the way back there, a world of difference compared to the horrors of the night before. We drove to the closed crossing near Lumsden, monitored by a nice guy in an orange vest, to try and find out what the deal was. He claimed it was purely flooding holding them back from opening it, not slips or damage. With it looking quite good everywhere else that gave us some hope: surely it couldn't be that bad then.
We went back to Lumsden and joined what felt like hundreds of other cars, vans and campers on a parking waiting for the road to open. Officially this was a legal overnight parking/camping for self contained vehicles only. However, joining an old train under a roof we found some tents that found shelter here last night. Just like lots of other people we were just hanging around on the parking lot, napping, writing postcards, eating lunch and once in a while checking the road status online. At 16:00 our parking spot neighbour told us the road was being opened between 16:00 and 19:00. It wasn't online yet, so we had no idea how they knew, but we and others got excited enough to give it a try. And indeed, orange vest guy was gone! In karavaan style we drove towards Queenstown, sometimes quickly stopping along the way because the nature around us was amazing. Apparently they opened the road for convoys in both directions, so sometimes we had to wait on stretches where only one lane direction was open. There was no flooding on the road anymore but in parts the fields next to the road gave a good impression that it was different here last night. And there were also parts with lots of dirt on the road and machinery to move it onto piles next to the street.
About 1.5 hours later we made it to the other side. Campings in Queenstown were expensive and we had already lost quite some days and money because of the weather, so we decided to go further. A camping in Cromwell was our aim for the night. Our question if their grass was wet or a swamp, they answered with a laughter and an assuring 'it has dried up quite well'. So that sounded perfect. And we had just enough time to squeeze in the Halfway Remarkable viewpoint and a visit to the world's first commercial bungee jumping site before going there. From the viewpoint we could also see the effect of the flood on the water color and size of the river.
When we finally went to bed, we really thought 'what a day' but like usual everything worked out well.Read more