Sandflies….and sandflies…

Day 16. Tuesday 21 November.

‘You reach a certain stage of life when you can easily become irrelevant’, said D as he watched another late-arrival at the Lyell (ghost town) campsite tonight. With that he proceeded to do his ‘Ove’ thing once again, offering advice to the latest registrations, as the young hippie couple filled out the form while trying (unsuccessfully) to keep the wretched sandflies around their ankles at bay. The book/film ‘ A Man Called Ove’ is a gem and D plays the part (almost) perfectly, apart from the grumpiness…..well, occasionally including the grumpiness.

The day started with T offering quilting advice to Doreeta (camp host) while Doreeta’s guy got on with campground tasks. Doreeta figured this would earn her guy some fishing time (he had bought some new flies the previous day and was eager to trial them). T had mentioned the previous evening while checking in that she was a quilter and after that she was targeted!

Then we moved up the west coast, calling in at Hokitika for an extended morning tea stop, consuming coffee/treats and accessing internet at the Ramble + Ritual café, recommended by Lonely Planet, who got it just right. Hokitika seemed to be the greenstone capital of the west coast…studio/retail outlets galore, with the Tasman Sea almost rolling into the CBD, held at bay with rocks and driftwood. Several hours passed visiting galleries/studios, marveling at the variety of greenstone and sourcing tonight’s dinner ingredients (fish curry).

Back on Route 6 then Routes 7 and 69, then back on 6, north-east cross-country toward Nelson. Rainforest gave way to dairy and timber country and patches of straight road. At 6 pm it was time to pull up at Lyell, above the Buller River, the site of a 19th century gold-mining village, where the excellent information boards tell stories of rogues and ruffians and a feisty ‘Biddy the Miner’, 4 feet 1 inches of Irish Protestant, who lived with two men (we learned nothing of them), drank whisky neat and smoked the strongest tobacco and outlived the guys to the ripe age of 86. Go, girl!

Our hopes of evading the sandflies were short lived: as many if not more than lower down. T spoke to a woman camping on the next level down (we’re Lyell Heights, of course) who has suffered as many bites as D.

NZ has been a delight. The local people have been invariably hospitable (we could make other comments about visitors), the infrastructure has been in very good order, provision for campers has been excellent, and driving has been stress free – no angst, tail-gating, fingers raised or horns blaring. The occasional lapse by D has been taken in good humour or ignored: most of the questionable traffic incidents have involved visitors (insert stereotyping of visitors from our immediate north here).

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