Cruising along the long country road in my car, I was singing at the top of my lungs to help pass the time.
It was just before midnight and I was making the two-hour journey to see my then-boyfriend, Richard.
After finishing my shift at the local convenience store in Kaikoura at around 11pm, I’d stopped at home to pick up my bag before setting off.
‘Drive safe and don’t crash,’ my mum, Nelle, said sleepily from the lounge.
‘Don’t worry, I never do,’ I’d smiled back.
Living two hours apart, I only ever got to see Richard once a week, and it’d become a ritual for me to drive up every Sunday night after work.
It’s strange to think I’ve been doing this trip for years and never crashed, I thought, gratefully, Mum’s words in my head.
Around 20 minutes in, I was driving down a straight stretch of road, when my steering wheel started jerking from side to side and the car shook violently.
The wind is strong here, I thought.
But when my car suddenly pulled to the other side of the road, the reality of what was happening dawned on me.
I was in the middle of an earthquake!
Situated between a mountain on one side and power lines on the other, I was far too scared to stop in case they came crashing down on top of me.
Instead, I decided the safest option was to keep driving slowly.
But, as the ground continued to shake beneath me, I grew more petrified by the second.
When it finally stopped, I found a safe place to pull over and check my mobile for reception.
But there was nothing.
Shaken, I was desperate to make my way to the nearest town to find service as quickly as possible.
Travelling at around 100km/h, I noticed a strange shadow on the road ahead.
As I got closer, I realised the bridge in front of me had dislodged from the road and had risen around 30 centimetres from the ground.
I hit the brakes, but there was no way I could slow down in time.
Slamming straight into the raised road, the impact ripped apart all four of my tyres and buckled the rims.
Coming to a stop, my car was completely totalled.
Suddenly, pain tore through my neck and body.
Hysterical, I ran to safety on the other side of the road and screamed for help.
But, alone in the dead of night, there was no-one around to hear me.
Thankfully, around 15 minutes later, I saw two headlights in the distance.
Waving my arms in the air to flag down the driver, he stopped and invited me into his campervan.
Making our way along the road, we were stopped by another man in a hi-vis shirt.
He explained that he’d just finished his shift as a train driver before the earthquake hit.
‘You can’t go any further,’ he said.
The earth had literally opened up and there was a giant crack in the road ahead.
Just then, an announcement came over the car radio.
It was a tsunami warning, urging people to move away from the ocean.
This can’t be happening, I thought.
I hadn’t survived an earthquake and a serious car accident to drown in the middle of nowhere.
Just then, I remembered that only moments earlier we’d passed a road that would lead us uphill.
There, we met 12 other residents of the street who were seeking higher ground, too.
Incredibly, one of the couples invited us all to their house for a big barbecue and somewhere warm to sleep.
But with each aftershock that hit, I was left fearing for my life once more.
Then, at around 5am the next morning, we were rescued by firefighters who’d been attracted to the house by smoke from the barbecue.
They kindly offered to drive me to the next town where Richard would meet me.
‘I thought you were dead,’ he said when he saw me.
Back at his house, I learned just how serious the earthquake had been.
Measuring at a magnitude of 7.8, it was classed as a major earthquake and had sadly claimed two lives and injured dozens.
It’d also caused landslides along the coastline and completely wiped out phone and internet service in the South Island.
I was relieved not to have been harmed, but over the next few days, I suffered frequent nosebleeds and had trouble walking straight.
Going to a doctor, I learned the car accident had caused a concussion and nerve damage at the back of my neck.
But I was just grateful to be alive.
Now, four years on, it sometimes feels like it was all a bad dream.
Though it took a while to get used to the sound of loud trucks passing by and vibrations from my washing machine, I slowly learned to let my guard down.
Thankfully, I was asleep when the earthquake struck the South Island this month.
To remind myself how lucky I am to be here, I even got a tattoo of the date shortly after the incident.
Every time I look at it, I’m so thankful I survived