The plan was this:
On the last day of filming in the South Island, we were to go back to Fruitlands for some pick up shots and then after a brief lunch in Alexandra drive to Christchurch. Get there at about 8pm to sit down to a fantastic meal prepared by Sarah (Second Production Manager) and Brett (Accountant) - eat it, drink beer and celebrate our efforts of our incredible South Island filming adventure.
This is how it played out:
At Fruitlands the wind kicked in and we had do wrap the pick ups early - thankfully managed to get all but three shots.
Went to Alexandra and after a longer than expected lunch delay we left around 4:45pm in a convoy.
On the road things were going well - then, just outside Tekapo we came across Mark (Animal Trainer) and his horse truck stopped on the side of the road. He was out of diesel.
With the help of Steve Pudsney (local fireman, paramedic, horseman). We had to bleed the engine to to get it to run again, but the pump that lifts the cab up giving us access to the engine of the truck wasn't working, so we all had to pitch in and lift the front cab and propped it up with a fence post supplied by a nearby farmer.
About this time we got a call from Matt (DOP) who was behind us driving the Big Horn with the trailer on the back - it had over heated 200 meters from the top of Lindis Pass and they only had a 500ml Pump bottle of water available! After a long wait on the side of a hill Matt and the Big Horn arrived at our scene. A brief check of the engine and we decided to send them on their way with Hellen (Production Manager) as she was sick and needed rest. So the horse truck and the red van with most of the remaining crew were left on the side of the highway.
After a long and dedicated effort by all (especially Putz) trying to bleed the truck we called a local mechanic. It was just after 11pm that the we got the truck going again but then the cab that we were propping up with the fence post would not shut!
Got a call from the Big Horn - the back tyre had blown out on a blind corner and they were looking for the padlock key for the spare tyre - luckily the keys had been left in the car with it!
Back at the truck the mechanic was asking for oil for the cab hydraulics - we only had baby oil from the make up kit which he said will probably do it. And it did. One bottle was enough to get the cab back down, but then the engine conked out again and after much swearing all round we had just enough baby oil to get the cab up to rebleed the engine.
Another call from the Big Horn who were now having trouble with the jack and the weight of the trailer. Realising our state and that we were nowhere close to them - they started enlisting the help of passing traffic.
We got the truck started again but needed more baby oil to get the cab down. Luckily Zoe (Art Director) had some packed away in the back of the truck and after a tough search through all the stuff and horses we got about half a bottle's worth but it was enough to get the cab down. On the road again things were going well - went past a small town that was supposed to have a 24hour gas station but we couldn't find it - so continued on to Geraldine. It was then at about 2am that we got the call from Mark - the truck had run out of diesel again! They were about 15kms short of Geraldine , 200meters down the road from an abandoned tourist bus. We needed gas containers but even though it was a Saturday night Geraldine was a ghost town. We figured our best bet was to drive the 15kms to Mark to get our unit water containers and drive back to Geraldine to fill them up. Then return to attempt the bleeding of the engine ourselves.
Luckily Cohen (Actor) who was driving at the time remembered passing the abandoned bus so we powered on back to Mark. Got there, got the containers and raced back to Geraldine. Got a call from Matt in the Big Horn saying they had fixed the tyre and that they were almost in Christchurch!
Filled the containers up and headed back to Mark with 60 litres of diesel. It took a long time to put in 40 litres so we stopped there knowing it would get him to Geraldine for a refill at the 24hr station. At this stage our biggest concern was that we had no more baby oil and that we had to lift the cab up and down on the half bottle from before. And going by the first bottle we went through that wasn't nearly enough. Somehow we got the cab up but the bleed wasn't running as smoothly as we would have liked. At about that time we heard a female cry for help from the darkness! This was really strange as we had not seen a car or other human for some time, The cry turned into a "Help us!" shriek which was coming from the abandoned bus. Some of us started running towards the bus and again heard "Help me!" - so Cohen yelled back "What's wrong?". After a long moment the voice replied "We're out of diesel!".
So we stopped and rested hands on knees on the dark highway in the middle of nowhere musing about the irony. Justin (Sound) managed to bleed the truck to get it going and also get the cab down on the remaining baby oil we had. We then sent the truck on its way and turned our attention to the tourist bus operator and her one Swedish tourist who had been held up on the side on the road since 10pm - it was now almost 3am! We put in our lucky spare 20 litres of diesel and waited to discover if we needed to bleed her engine too. After a longer than needed tense moment the bus started and with applause she headed straight for Geraldine for a refill.
Entering Christchurch at about 5am we came across a biting scene. A boy racer had wrapped his car around a tree - there was a dead youth lying in the grass wrapped in white and the fire department were getting the roof off to free another kid. There was a sense of luck that came over the red van - sober gladness that diesel was the only thing lost for us that night.