Stephanie McLafferty is not likely to forget this year's birthday in a hurry - she and her family were stranded in Kaikoura with nowhere to stay and no idea how long they would be stuck.
Stephanie, her husband James and the couple's six-month old son Oscar were heading north for a nice Easter weekend break with friends when they ended up with the unexpected story to tell.
"We were going to Renwick to see friends who had come down from Wellington," says IT manager James.
"We had planned to head up there on Friday morning but we heard the road had been closed so we waited till we heard it was open again, and left Christchurch at 4pm."
But by the time they arrived in Kaikoura the road north had been closed once more, and the trio were stuck.
"We got to the road block and were told we couldn't go any further, so we looked around for some accommodation but we were overwhelmed by all the ‘No vacancies'."
Fortunately the family had enough cash to buy some fish and chips so they were not going to go hungry as well as homeless.
The pair then went to New World, where they were informed there was scant phone coverage on the South Bay corner, so they headed over the hill to make an emergency phone call to James' parents.
"I knew my mum had a cousin in Kaikoura so we called her in Auckland, then rang her cousin [Marg Chapman]."
But Marg and her husband Pete were out of town, heading to Omarama. Nonetheless, they made contact and Marg offered the use of their house in Kaikoura.
It was not a straightforward option - once they had explained where they could find a house key they told the McLaffertys the water was turned off.
"It sounded like it might be a bit harder than planned, plus they live out in the country. So Marg said she had a friend, Karen, who might put us up instead."
The young family arrived on Karen Sparrow's doorstep at 9.30pm, hoping she would not be too put off by a strange man knocking at the door at that time.
"There weren't many lights on, I think she had just got out of the bath! But we were greeted with a glass of wine and some food, and this morning [Saturday] we had a cooked breakfast and coffees, and she made us a packed lunch for the journey - the hospitality has been great!"
Stephanie, James and Oscar were able to head north later on Saturday morning to celebrate Stephanie's birthday with their friends and they will be able to look back over their Easter break with fond memories of Kaikoura.
"We took a gamble [with the roads] and it didn't pay off - but it did in the end because we got to meet Karen!"
- Kaikoura Star
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