None of the details remain. I don't know how long the journey took, how long we were gone for, or even how old I was when my family loaded up the car and hit the road.
I do know that I didn't imagine the whole thing because there are photos of the trip in a fading brown photo album. This hard evidence offsets the hazy snippets that remain in my head and occasionally coalesce into vague memories.
Like most of the family holidays we went on when I was a kid it revolved around yachting. My father is both a keen sailor and a fierce competitor and so every year he hooked his boat trailer up to the car, packed the family in and drove to whichever body of water was holding the New Zealand Championships. Most of the time we returned with a trophy. Occasionally that trophy would be gold.
The class of boat he sailed was the Moth, and his one was called Magic. Moths are fast and agile, single-person racing boats designed for speed. I don't know if he was defending his title or challenging one of his many rivals on the sea when we began the 1096km drive from Auckland to Lake Brunner.
It was easily the biggest trip our family attempted. Google Maps tells me it's a 15-hour drive from Auckland, which I look at now with a parent's eyes as a foolhardy and awful undertaking. I certainly wouldn't do it myself with my two young kids, but that's easy to say when you don't have a New Zealand title to defend. Or acquire.
I guess as well my sister and I were substantially older, maybe 6 and 10 respectively, than my 2 and 5-year-olds are now.
Nevertheless I remember this journey taking forever. With many overnight stops to break up the journey and keep heads at a cool level as progress was fairly slow towing a boat.
We invented car games. I Spy was quick to be knocked from the top spot by a sort of gambling game where you guessed what colour the third, or fifth, or 18th car driving past on the other side of the road would be. A variant where we guessed number-plate letters came to a quick end when Dad swerved a little too eagerly to catch the letters on a car rounding away from us on a corner.
That first night we would have stopped in Rotorua and I'm pretty sure we went to see the Footrot Flats movie, although that might have been a year later or even the year before, and afterwards I took a photo outside Carl's Restaurant because it was "my" restaurant even though it was spelled wrong. Which is exactly the kind of thing kids do.
Our next stop, I'm guessing, was Wellington where we stayed for a couple of days. But my memories do not compute at all with what I now know to be Wellington. Back then it was bright and flat, not hilly and breezy. We stayed with two people I'd never heard of until we knocked on their door. Great Uncle Jack and Great Auntie Amelia had a big house and a campervan parked in their driveway, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. In the garage tucked away under a protective cover Jack had a night-black Audi, which I knew was the coolest thing ever.
One morning we got up incredibly early and caught the ferry to Picton. I was incredibly excited to go on a boat big enough to carry cars. But that excitement didn't last. I mainly recall feeling green inside the boat and cold and bored out on the deck. I don't know for sure but I'm assuming I moaned a lot during this section of the trip.
Before Lake Brunner there would have been another stop but I have no idea where that would've been. But I do remember watching The Incredible Hulk on TV in a motel the night of the ferry trip. Even back then I loved staying in motels. They often had beds in the lounge so you could laze back and fall asleep watching TV.
Eventually we trundled into Lake Brunner, which is roughly 31kms from Greymouth. This lake, which covers an area 40km2, is the largest in the Northwestern side of the South Island and is renowned for its fishing and, I have to assume, good sailing waters. I remember it as being big and flat and filled with sunshine.
I want to say we stayed in a wood cabin but that doesn't sound fancy enough to square with my memory of two rooms, a big couch and a giant television, so maybe we didn't. I'm not sure. But as the town appeared to consist only of a shop, a jetty and our cabins I could be mistaken.
At some point during our stay we did a day trip to Greymouth. Without using Google I can tell you that we went to Shanty Town, an olde time attraction that recreated a gold rush era town and where you got to pan for gold. I panned and you better believe I struck pay dirt, baby! A few precious specks amongst the muck in my pan were carefully filtered and transferred into a tiny plastic vial that I treasured for far too many years. Googling now Shanty Town is still there and still offering folks the chance to strike gold for a mere $7.
As always on those boat trips, my sister and I would make friends with the other kids that were there. I have a fragmented memory of a bunch of us running wildly around the adults rigging up their boats to much cursing (theirs) and laughing (ours).
I remember other prizegivings, the usual sign that it was the final night, but not the one from this trip. My memories of our Lake Brunner trip fade away into the hazy afternoon light with my sister and I standing on the lakefront watching the Moths zip away from the fading day to head to shore. Dad was in front.