Day 24. Wednesday 29 November.

There’s something marvellous and uplifting about old machinery still in use making beautiful, timeless products. This morning we visited Stansborough Mill weaving establishment in Petone. It’s an unassuming shopfront that holds its treasures behind with 6 late -19th century British looms, producing textiles with the wool from the unique ‘Stansborough Greys’ bred by the business owner. The woven items include scarves, rugs, throws and blankets. The sheep, shorn twice a year, produce a soft grey curly fleece that feels a bit like patting a curly spaniel. How wonderful that these machines have not been scrapped and are maintained religiously, with new parts as required being fashioned from the engineering works opposite or by a wood craftsman friend. There are also apparently lots of original spares. The garments for the films The Hobbit and Narnia were woven here, and we were given 50 reasons for visiting the village/screen set at Hobbiton, between Hamilton and Auckland (that’s probably on tomorrow’s itinerary). As we have a significant anniversary looming, a lovely soft grey throw (to accompany the other soft grey items close to home) was purchased. D passed on the suggestion that a poncho would be a terrific thing to take on that mountain climb, or on the horse ride (King of Jordan has one for this purpose).

Getting out of Wellington was fairly easy, just follow No.1 north…First stop was at an ‘outlet town’: every shop on the main road being the graveyard of brands…but T got some Magic Pudding (Icebreaker) socks, that come with a lifetime guarantee…if holes appear or they shrink, or…just bring them in and they’ll be replaced. Not sure how that works…’a bit like Tupperware’ said D. Don’t know how that stands up re curing T’s foot…

Driving through central NI, we wondered where were the mountains and campervans. The sky darkened approaching Lake Taupo and showers were intermittent. It does rain in NZ, we thought. IMG_0401

At 5:30 it was time to look for a bed; Taupo offered heaps of options. ‘Just give me a lake view’, said T, ‘since there’ll be no outdoor activity’…the sky was bruising up nicely for the camera.

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So, choice was made promptly, with a bistro next door. It’s now a ‘whiteout’ with that threatening storm now pouring down. Might need to ask for a refund, as can’t see the lake anymore – the little sailing boats are scuttling for home, heeling ovdr in the wind..

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This morning at Stansborough we were told that NZ sheep farmers were edgy as there’s been no rain for 6 weeks….maybe some lambs need to be sold…now a bit of magic! The Cran drought breakers are in town!

And someone else is very comfortable, thanks! Maybe T will retreat to the back bedroom if this soft black thing refuses to vacate.

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The storm passed and we donned coats to dash next door to the Jolly Good Fellows eatery. And suitably jolly it was…D had a Guinness/beef pastie (measured around 12cm x 10cm) + peas and T went for the lamb’s fry and bacon (a treat last eaten about 5 years ago in a pub at White Cliffs, NSW). Both were fabulous.

Rain had cleared to a gentle evening, so a walk around town in search of a supermarket for breakfast supplies was a sensible but fruitless exercise. This tourist town takes on a lonely feel after dark, out of season.

 

 

 

A Two Day Catchup

Day 22. Monday 27 November.

Three weeks ago Keith drove us to the airport in the rain. Since then, we’ve had fine weather, with just one overnight rain storm that cleared by morning (or at least by the time we arose, which was a bit later).

A final flurry to clean the van, although we’d paid for the Express Checkout which included all those chores such as emptying grey and black water tanks etc. It wasn’t quite so express, as the van was checked out before we were cleared and advised that our ‘deposit’ of $NZ 7,500/$AS 6,920 (the excess insurance which was actually taken out of our credit rather than quarantined) had been re-credited. As at the writing of this report, the money hasn’t appeared back in our account, although it instantaneously went into theirs three weeks ago: why doesn’t that surprise us? D has quietly fumed about this set up for three weeks, on and off. The alternative was to pay a bit under $1,000 as to eliminate the excess – non-refundable – but that seemed silly as our Travel Insurance already covered us up to $6,000 for any vehicle excess. And the bit that really stung was that we were charged bank fees ($207.60) to do this!

But there was a courtesy bus to the airport – we arrived in plenty of time, so after the automatic check –in, a couple of hours to wait. There’s probably no more dispiriting place to while away a few hours than airport – any airport. Eventually boarded and departed – without any security screening at all. Smooth flight into Wellington, then quite a long drive to our hotel in Petone, on the other side of the harbor. The traffic was dense, and after the courtesy and ease of the South Island experience, a bit of a shock – like being in Canberra, with tail-gating the norm and very little give and take. But we made it.

A lovely meal at the Brewer and Butcher Hotel opposite the hotel then try to get to sleep in an overheated room with no aircon. How spoiled we are!

Day 23. Tuesday 28 November.

The day is partly driven by D’s work commitment at 1 PM for the job he no longer has (to write a unit history). He is to interview a NZ Army member who with breakfast at the Seaside Cabaret café on the waterfront. We’d driven the length of the Esplanade in search of a café with water views and had bemoaned the failure. Then, in an old rowing shed complex there was a café sign. Up the stairs, following the noise and there, inside it was frenetic as customers and staff milled, rushed and babbled in a ‘hip’ scene a bit like A Bite to Eat in Chifley. The breakfasts were delicious and we sat on the verandah looking out across the bay toward the city.

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T then took herself off for a haircut and a wander around Petone which is a strange mix of working class cottages, small tradies businesses, a vibrant restaurant strip, with boutiques and op-shops. D prepared for the interview, which, in due course, was completed most satisfactorily.

T, in the meantime, walked the length and breadth of Petone. The beach could have been inviting were it not for the dark brown shoreline…something spilled? No, some kind of vegetable matter washed from? Several swimmers were in and by the end of the afternoon, many were having a frolic. The day was perfect for Wellingtonians…unbelievably warm & cloudless. T heard that there had not been a summer last year and here it was November and quite hot!

In the late afternoon we venture out to photograph the wharf which has been closed since the earthquake 12 months ago.

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Then it’s time to select a dinner spot. T wants a steak and D obliges; he chooses a Cowboy combo of brisket and pork shoulder. The meat, music and vino at Kansas City BBQ was just right.

Now, we have 2 fans oscillating in our room, just stirring the air.

 Day 21. Sunday 26 November.

An overcast, cool day and gusty winds threatened to end our run of very good luck with the weather over the past three weeks. Rugged up for the conditions we walked and bussed into Christchurch, starting with a visit to the Botanic Gardens – and a coffee, of course. Some of the old cypress and pine trees were huge and majestic, but all introduced from North America. The rose garden had T fantasizing about reworking her rose garden, maybe it’s not too late, so watch this space. The first rose she stopped at was a ‘Meg’, one that we have in our front garden, and named, so D claims, after his mother.

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A short walk along and across the Avon River brought back memories of a stroll along the riverbanks almost a decade ago. As we approached Cathedral Square, the changes to the building-scape were obvious: new construction and lots still underway. Needless to say, the sight of the partially destroyed cathedral was poignant, but to counter that there was a strong sense of revival and rebuilding. At the fenced off cathedral is a ‘whare’, symbolizing life/resurrection/hope. It is still in spring flowering, so provides a very positive foil to the ruin behind.

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The square was full of activity, including a busker with a fabulous voice, and a National Geographic photo competition that had outstanding nature and wildlife subjects.

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We walked for many kilometres, seeing old sights but not recognizing some of the new. The city centre is a mass of re-starting: vacant blocks, fencing with images of new beginnings/re-construction/roadworks; retail outlets draw visitors, there are market &street food outlets operating from caravans and shipping containers. Folk still paddle kayaks on the Avon and the Christchrch tram still runs its circuit. The randomness of the earthquake destruction is intriguing: pockets of survivors amongst the fallen.

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The sun appeared off and on, Sunday city visitors moved about with a leisurely air. At the Gate of Remembrance there were white crosses in a green patch; we presumed that they referred to the fallen from WW1 but later reflection had us wondering whether they might relate to those who died in 2011.

The bus service delivered us back to the van park where the task of repacking, cleaning out, sorting and preparing to handover the vehicle begins. D tried to handover surplus toilet rolls to two campervan couples opposite: they declined, saying they had lots of their own to get rid of, most of which had been passed on as they started their trip. Seems there’s a glut of this essential item. The North Island awaits us.

 

Day 20. Saturday 25 November.

Day started with Plan A – a stopover at Hanmer Springs after a walk in the beech forest along and across another of those fantastic NZ rivers, which followed a chat with the DOC ranger in which we praised the work of DOC in providing so many fabulous campsites in an exquisite environment.

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And have we mentioned the hillsides covered in gorse and broom?

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A late breakfast was spoiled a bit by inconsiderate drivers who drove past sufficiently quickly to create a dust cloud that added that little bit of extra grit to our scrambled omelette. We drove down as we were leaving to where they were parked, with the evil D intending to skid past and coat THEM with dust, but they were two family groups preparing to set out on a hike, so the good D won out, and only an unseen glare was offered in retaliation.

On arriving at Hanmer Springs, Plan B was developed – let’s go straight through to Christchurch. Hanmer Springs is a lovely township in the Southern Highlands style, and was full it seemed of wedding groups and giggly girls – not our scene! So after a coffee and a wander, back on the road south.

We had previously written that drivers here obeyed road works speed restrictions. That comment must now be moderated: they do in the country, but here in Christchurch the same rules that apply in Canberra are in operation: the speed signs are only advisory. As we travelled around the outskirts of the city to get to our van park, there was only one vehicle that stuck to whatever speed was designated: a white Mercedes Maui campervan, being driven by an Aussie nicknamed Ove.

Here we are pretty much at the end of our three-week odyssey. A quick tally: one night in an hotel, 8 nights in paid van parks, 8 nights in DOC campsites and 4 free camps. Tonight we stocktake food and wine supplies, and T can pat herself on the back for ending with almost a zero balance on food items. D is a bit more cautious: there may be some wine left over, but he reckons that’s a better outcome than a dry last night.

Tomorrow we’ll catch the bus into town and wander the CBD, perhaps reflecting on changes since we were last here in 2008 on a CDSS tour that D was leading – pre-earthquake in 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few catch up pictures…

NZ Green Lipped Mussels are the best – and the best in the world are apparently harvested around Havelock. As previously described, 2.2 kg were bought from the 4 Square store, and cooked in white wine, onion and garlic, and a stock….

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There were enough left over for last night’s dinner!

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Stopped off at yet another idyllic lake, this time Lake Rotoiti, near St. Arnaud, for lunch.

 

 

 

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Did we mention the road works? This occurred every couple of kilometres. This morning (Saturday 25 November) the DOC ranger spoke of very bad behaviour, by locals, during winter. She works with her husband’s road maintenance business during the quiet season and handles the Stop/Go lolli[pop. She said she’s often abused, and even occasionally ignored.

 

Another beautiful evening (apart from the sand flies!), this time at the DOC site at Marble Hill, where we spent the night.

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Day 19. Friday 24 November.

It’s time to start the trek to Christchurch – the long way. Highway 1 has been closed for 12month due to the earthquake, so the route to Christchurch traverses the central Alps, heading west then south. What a bonus for this inland road, with continuous widening and upgrading in order to handle freight and travellers. But the downside is…all the freight and travellers.

Back up the windy road to Picton and then a short hop to Blenheim for a walk and to get our daily coffee. The short walk into the town centre was along the river and we commented yet again on the clean, clear flow, with no shopping trolleys upended…and only the occasional drink can or beer bottle resting on the bottom – and feeding in front of us was a huge trout (D reckons 3-4 kg), happily just hanging in the current waiting for its dinner. Coffee was in a ‘Bar, Bistro and Patisserie’ called Saveur (which we think might be French for something – any clues, HJ?) It might well be French for toffee nosed, because we were quickly ushered outside to a seat on the porch: D thinks because of his T-shirt attire (most were more suitably attired) but T thinks it was because we were just there for coffee. Sitting behind us was Brian, from Harcourts, on the phone busily working through his contacts list: we admired the schmooze!

That was the fun part of the day. From then on it was drive, drive, drive….with a couple of stops to revive. The vineyards out of Blenheim carried many familiar names but when you’re touring, there’s no point in stopping to sample, notleast because we already had. We have no trouble finding the labels in our price range at retail outlets.

A snack by the lake at St Arnaud, which was a lovely setting in Nelson Lakes National Park, but with quite a few other visitors and too early for us to call it a day. One who almost got the Ove treatment was a young boy at the campground who taunted and chased a drake: if it wasn’t for the facts that tossing your swimmers at a duck is pretty low grade crime, and D had done pretty much the same thing at the same age he would have been severely spoken to.

Average speed never got over 55 kph, mostly because of the constant road works. But as previously reported, motorists were relaxed, courteous and tolerant – and, would you believe, mostly obeyed the road works speed limit signs! D continues to marvel.

Things were looking a bit weary at about 5 PM: the DOC’s book and WikiCamps NZ had no campsites listed where we were headed before dark, nor were there any commercial camp grounds. We have been constantly amazed at how late some folks pull in to campsites, having crept along very narrow mountain roads at 10 PM.

Unexpectedly, we found a DOC’s campsite about 20 km outside Springs Junction, on the Lewis River and beside beech forest and it is perfect for our needs. The beers have been opened – which seemed to be enough of an invitation for our sandfly mates to join us. Tomorrow we’ll go over the Lewis Pass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 18. Thursday 23 November

After one night in a caravan park in Nelson, with little elbow room – and that’s all it takes – it is time to get back into bigger space (and after T had had a wifi moment attending to some emails). This sojourn brought us back into grandparent territory, as there was a high proportion of travellers with little kids – toddler size – mostly from Europe (actually, a lot seemed to be from Germany, but not exclusively). D was initially impressed by two young men travelling together who patiently waited for their pies to heat in the oven – three each! – which they then accompanied by a small handful of salad greens. They were a bit shamefaced at having those greens once taken to task by D. On a positive note, this Top 10 park on Vanguard Street was excellent in every respect: well organized, clean, lots of facilities and very helpful staff.

A return to Trafalgar St for the weavers’ co-op and the Nelson Museum, a snapshot of the area, although there was a sense that it was slanted to post-colonial times, notwithstanding that the Maori connection was included. There were some interesting stories with a suitable amount of pathos and tragedy. Two of them will suffice.

Firstly. Mrs. Gibbs, recently widowed, and her 9 children were shipwrecked on the Queen Bee. She was rescued but it wasn’t for another three days that it was confirmed her sons had also survived due to great seamanship skills of one of the crew in charge of their lifeboat. The pathos? Many of her possessions, sent as freight to minimize costs, were recovered but then auctioned as salvage: she was outbid on many instances for many of her own belongings! Is this a comment on human nature?

Secondly. This is almost the perfect way to die, except that it wasn’t a vat of whisky or a barrel of beer, but just a big barrel of hops, filled at the end of the picking season. Apparently the tradition was that the women filling the barrels would throw any man who ventured into their workspace on the last day, into the barrel. The proprietor, Mr. Smith, made the mistake of going inside, was promptly thrown into the hops and a woman thrown in after him (what for?) Anyway, that resulted in him receiving internal injuries, of which he died. There was no information about the woman: she probably just ‘hopped’ out.

And then we were on the road again, averaging about 60 km/hr due to the road itself and to the many maintenance work sites happening. This road is now used by heavy transport because the coast road in the north between Blenheim and Kaikoura is closed due to earthquake damage and big trucks pull very slowly up steep climbs. By midday it was very warm, and the afternoon got us up to swimming temp at 27 degrees but there was really no accessible beach. Heading east into the Marlborough Sound region, the road became very, very narrow and winding. The terrain was again rainforest down to the sea, colours of blue and aquamarine.

A short stop at Havelock (claimed as the green shell mussel capital of NZ, if not the world) and do you think there was a wharf distributor/seller in sight? The Mussel Pot restaurant had potential but being early afternoon, it was too soon to indulge. Could we buy some to take for dinner? No, there’s no direct seller in town but you might be able to buy them at the local 4 Square supermarket! Sure enough, there in a tank with water continuously spraying, we self-served. An English couple asked how we would cook them….pour beer or white wine over and wait for them to open….then commented on the quantity we had…for TWO? Yes, we said. At the checkout our bag of 40 or so registered at 2.2 kgs. They came to the register with 10 mussels only and T gave them a couple of shallots. If they’ve never dealt with mussels before, we certainly hope they aren’t allergic! And we forgot to mention the bearding.

The Queen Charlotte Rd took us very, very slowly into Picton and just before that a port in Shakespeare Bay totally devoted to loading cypress plantation logs.

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Still heading east we’ve come to Whatamango Bay where the tide is way, way out and that swim no longer attractive.

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Can’t believe the amount of space available, let alone a flushing toilet, no one in immediate view and best of all fewer – but still a few – sandflies. As we were sitting at a table admiring the view a NZ rabbit (an immigrant, obviously) came out of the bushes, faced us and did a Haka, thumping feet and angry expressions included. It didn’t finish by rubbing our noses, just scampered back to its hideaway. We’re not making this up – here we are, finally, in a selfie exactly where it happened.

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