As Cyclone Hale battered the upper North Island, Anna Gregg and her family were hunkering down in their tent on the Coromandel.
Before it hit, they had two choices – leave as soon as they arrived at Hahei Beach or set up and ride it out.
They chose the latter.
After surviving two wild nights and plenty of rain, Gregg says they’ll leave the cyclone camping experience as a “once in a lifetime experience”.
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Gregg, her husband and two children – Henry, 7, and Nina, 5 – have been to the same spot over the same period on the east coast of the peninsula for the last four years.
“We book it basically as we are leaving, and look forward to this trip all year.”
This year was no different, yet the Tauranga family did not factor the storm into their planning.
Gregg said they did not get the cyclone warning until they arrived at the campground on Sunday night.
“We have been looking forward to this trip for a year and that is why we were still here.
“I did not get a lot of sleep for the couple of days. I was sort of just pacing the tent and keeping an eye on things.”
Gregg was impressed by their newly-bought Zempire Aerodrome Pro 2 tent that stood up to the cyclonic winds.
“We wouldn’t have stayed if we didn’t have such a good tent. It did stand up to the storm surprisingly well.
“We moved our car along the side as a kind of windbreak. The guy [at the campground] made sure everything was alright, and checked on everyone to make sure they were prepared to endure the storm.
“There are not many people camping, but there were plenty of us who stayed. A few of us in tents, but it is only the decent tents who can make it through that kind of weather.
“I had pictures of the bouncy castle thing blowing away in the wind in my head, but I realised that air poles really perform well in the wind.”
For the family it had been a “wild couple of days” but the fun did not stop. Board games, solving a 1000-piece puzzle, a few wet walks around the campground and looking down at the beach and big surf – from a safe distance – kept them entertained.
“The kids have absolutely loved it, and they don’t care what the weather is like, they are just happy to be on a holiday and spending quality time with the family.
“I dont regret coming, but I will leave camping in a cyclone as once in a lifetime experience. I wouldn’t do it again.
“But we survived it, and it wasn’t too bad for us. We were lucky.”
For her husband’s extended family who have been camping at the same spot for 30 years, Gregg said they’d only seen the likes of it once before, Cyclone Bola.
“It is just one of our favourite places and we have been coming here since before we had kids, and it is just one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand.”
The family’s camping trip will come to an end on Sunday.