Dropped in Nelson, we were just in time to catch a connecting coach and begin, what became an unexpectedly interesting journey. After days of sun we finally saw some of the rain the region is infamous for and, the longer we were on the coach, the heavier it got.

By the time we reached Motueka, where our connecting mini bus awaited, the rain was so heavy it was almost impossible to see out of the windows. It had apparently been raining that hard solidly for three days, totalling 340mm of rain. Our driver was sceptical that we’d make it to Takaka because of flood threats, but we set off anyway.

Already feeling sick from the constantly winding roads, my worst fears were realised when I overheard our driver being radioed – someone was telling him that the bridge we needed to cross was flooded.

After the Takaka River broke its banks and the road back to Motueka closed due to hazardous debris on the road, we were stuck. With no hostels in sight, we started to fear the worst and sat in the mini bus for several hours pondering what to do.

Luckily, Kiwis are pretty hospitable and we certainly weren’t the only ones in a scrape. It turned out that a group of school children on a field trip were stuck too, unable to get home, and that the army were in the area doing field exercises.

In such a laidback peaceful country the very existence of a New Zealand army was frankly surprising and that they should be doing field exercises even more so. Fortuitously with the safety and comfort of the children as number one priority, the army offered their services.

Droves of excited rain-drenched kids were shunted onto a unimog – no, not the Supreme Feline but in fact a kind of huge lorry sturdy enough to combat rocky roads.

As the soaked children were shuttled through the flood, we held up in the nearby country club and were offered leftover army grub. In true Kiwi style the banquet we ravenously consumed was a selection of barbecued meat and salad.

After the last school run returned, we finally clambered onto the beastly vehicle – its great height dwarfing me, obliging me to seek the assistance of a fellow passenger to haul me up.

Forced like London Underground commuters to take advantage of the limited and overcrowded space by twisting our bodies into peculiar shapes, the novel journey was pretty entertaining with everyone in high spirits.

Although I faced no real danger, it gave me a tiny insight into what it must feel like to be an illegal immigrant smuggled into a country.

From the open flaps of the covering at the back of the van we could see the river had washed a lot of debris onto the road and deep brown sludgy water covered our path, making for a bumpy ride. Our journey was punctuated by occasional stops, reuniting children with their concerned parents.

Finally arriving in Takaka and keen to put on dry clothes and get into the warmth, we followed the friendly Japanese girl who had shared our predicament and happened to be conveniently working in our hostel.

That night as sirens went off, we feared evacuation but learnt that it was a call for help, alerting emergency volunteers in the tiny close-knit community of the flooding of the main street.

The next day, despite the relentless downpour, the devastation from the night before had vanished. Unhindered by the rains, we looked forward to exploring the natural beauty of the region and headed out.