A Travellerspoint blog

October 2018

Top of the South

We acquaint Jabula with her home territory.



The organisational gymnastics that is required to coordinate several days off together, has finally come about and we can go with our camper for an extended long weekend.

When we first began this long protracted goal of getting a camper and being able to explore and meander at our heart’s desire, really get to know NZ extensively, this was our dream. We are well aware that we are indeed fortunate to live in this natural paradise, and to date we have not got to know our fair land well enough. So making a wish a goal, this is our plan. All that has gone before, is about taking the time to explore and discover what we have on our own ‘back door’.

The weather that preceded this weekend was awful. A last hoorah of winter chills and southerly rains makes us wonder about the wisdom of taking off and if we really will enjoy ourselves. However Maddie has excitedly gone to Grana and we have bought enough grocery supplies for 3 weeks (let alone 3 days!). So, on with our intrepid explorer hats and positive attitudes. As we left on Friday it was raining steadily, we put our faith in the Met Service forecast and headed for an overnight stay at Pelorus Bridge.

We have stayed numerous times at Pelorus, first in a tent, then our first adventure in the caravan was to this camp.The river was high and we were warned about staying ‘on the hard’ to avoid getting stuck. Needless to say there were very few other campers. We always choose the ‘no power’ side as more sun and those majestic kahikatea (White Pine). In the evening 2 French girls approached us about booking-in difficulties. I was somewhat reticent, but when Sal reminded me that I would want people to treat my children in a foreign country with kindness and generosity, then I softened and was more obliging.

We went for a walk to the waterfalls, as we always do. This was different in that after the rain all the creeks were gushing, and it was not that easy going through the mud. What was more beautiful was that all the forest was looking and smelling fresh. Once we acclimatised our eyes to notice the ‘small things’ we began to see tiny white orchids, new fronds on the ferns and amazing shapes in the bark, ferns, lichens etc.

Another first - we cooked our first roast in the camper, probably not up to standard, but nice on a cold night.

We awoke to blue skies and the river was already cleaner and quieter. The intention was to head towards Nelson and walk the Boulder Bank, neither of us having done that before. It is such a defining landmark for this harbour. Sal had discovered where we could park and unload the bikes for a ride. Thus we put on thick coats and hats and joined all the dog walkers. A big crane truck was lifting a burnt out car from the side of the road as we passed (such an eye sore in this exposed natural setting). We biked past the sewerage treatment ponds, smell not that delicate, and despite the cutting wind it was great to see Nelson from this vantage.

From there it was to locate a free parking area by the sea (for future reference) and then we hoped that by chance we could find a park and visit the Saturday Market. Luckily (or maybe not) we did, and came away with cheeses, a nice dukkah butter, I got a white bait sandwich (I think they swam through!), and biltong. Sal had noticed some nice reclining chairs at Torpedo during the week, so went back there and a 40% reduction meant they had to be purchased also! Needed to get on the road post haste.

We both thought heading for Lake Rotoiti for 2 nights would be a good idea. The weather seems pretty kind currently and there is so much to do there. Thought we’d go via Wakefield. Impulsively Sal decided to turn left up the Lees Valley, which then led onto Wairoa Gorge Road. Yes it was good to see country neither of us have seen before, however our camper now has scratches from branches over hanging and either side of the track (‘road’ is an exaggeration). One bonus was that we saw a large group of people learning to river kayak by what looked like a power station. Very picturesque.

On the road through the Golden Downs Forest, I thought it was overdue that I get behind the wheel of this vehicle. We now have 9500km on the clock, and not one of those has been driven by me. Poor Sal was grasping her seat as she felt so uncomfortable with me driving too close to the edge. No rear vision mirror, so I had to use the side mirror to judge where I was on the road. Obviously I did not stay behind the wheel for long.

Lake Rotoiti is dramatically beautiful with snow on the mountains, there is an icy wind unfortunately. The showers are closed for winter as they keep freezing up. We are on a powered site, and a few other hardy souls have joined us for the night.

Posted by Sallyj66 23:23 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Our Shangri-la

sunny 15 °C

Last night Sal donned head torch, warm clothing and went out to capture the night sky, but unfortunately minus tripod!. She joined 2 others on the foreshore doing the same thing. It is a perfect place to see an uncluttered, un- light- polluted sky. I took the lazy person’s option and stayed in a nice warm camper and awaited her return.

This morning we woke to quite a heavy frost and crystal clear skies, but our van is so insulated we didnt notice it till we went outside. The bikes were very frosty as we unloaded them. Our first ride was up to Teetotal Campsite about 2km west of St Arnaud. I had not even been aware of this place until reading about it in a magazine recently. The Nelson Mountainbike Club have made a great track from here, which is getting extended gradually.

We did not have the skills, bikes or fitness to attempt biking it, but we did walk in for about half an hour. So idyllic in absolute quiet, was also a good way to get the blood pumping after the brisk start to the day.Then we biked back into the village and rode around a new subdivision on the hillside overlooking the lake. Some very smart houses which contrast with the more original ones on the lake front.

We have decided to stay another night and just enjoy this area. A leisurely lunch, followed by a siesta (met some Spanish girls on the jetty so returned to old habits), then a walk in the bush. We started the ‘loop walk it was just stunning walking through beech forest in dappled light accompanied by bell birds and tuis. Our shangri-la. Sal has spent much time trying to capture the bird song on her phone, not so easy to coordinate.

In the evening we met up with another couple in a camper at Kerr Bay. Carol and Gary are from Stroud, England and on a repeat trip to NZ. We spent an enjoyable evening putting the world to rights, over a nice red wine. This is one of the aspect of travelling that is most enjoyable, meeting with fellow travellers and discovering that we are all really much more alike than different.

Unfortunately we needed to bring our beautiful weekend to an end as work called this afternoon. We had breakfast by the lake, went for a walk on the peninsula then drove in stunning clear weather down the valley. Had morning tea by Lake Argyle and have ear marked this for a future stop over. Despite us having been to Lake Rotoiti several times it never fails to impress and no doubt will visit again to keep discovering more of this awesome location.

Posted by Sallyj66 11:44 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Labour weekend

Family connections

sunny 25 °C
View Labour Weekend on Sallyj66's travel map.

Sal had a morning shift, so it was my turn to get Jabula ready and stocked for our extended weekend break. We have been extremely fortunate to have had picture perfect weather, minus the nor’westers that are usually prevalent at this time of the year. Our intended stop was the beach side site at Kaikoura that we stayed at previously, and made that by about 6pm. The surf was just pounding in all the way down the coast. At the new stop at Ohau Point we admired the work of the road gangs- plus the scenery off course.

We never fail to be amazed by the natural beauty of the setting of Kaikoura. We had a quieter night by parking in a slightly different spot. On waking early we got up and walked along the beach just revelling in the sunrise and surf. Had a mooch around the shops in Kaikoura and then on toward Chch.DSCF8042.JPG

Saturday afternoon we caught up with Pip - a niece of Sal’s, her partner Matt and their daughter Charlie. Luke came to join us as well. It was good timing that Pip’s Mother Pam was over from Melbourne also. A lovely afternoon catching up and also enjoying whitebait that Matt cooked for us. Then we drove out to Darfield to stay the night at my niece Emma and her partner Jamie. They have built a new home on a large section. We were able to connect to the mains which was handy. This was a special time for me as her Aunt to reconnect with Emma and all her achievements in the automotive industry. I hope this continues.

Sunday was a big day for us. My nephew Nigel had got married the previous day in Kirwee, and I was invited to his post-wedding brunch. Sal took the opportunity to go and see her sister in law in Methven. Emma and I picked up Rick and Maureen from the airport and then we made our way to Nigel and Charlotte’s place in Kirwee. They have built a new home on a 10acre block and done a huge amount of work getting it established. I caught up with Steph, Scott, Hunter and Dennis who was staying at their place. It was a very hot day and we all needed to take extra care with the sunblock. Rosie seemed chuffed with how it all had gone which is great. Caught up with others that we hadn’t seen for ages, so was a pleasant time.

Our plan was to drive that afternoon to Lake Brunner to catch up with Chris who was there wake boarding. Tiredness was starting to set in. Once we had taken the irresistible photos at Castle Hill we began to look for a place to park overnight and continue in the morning. Made the decision to stop at Klondike Corner just before Arthur Pass Village. It was very busy and a large number of vehicles had the same idea as us. Nevertheless we slept well and were on the road again by 7am with the intention of finding a place to stop and make our breakfast.IMG_0273.JPGDSCF8095.JPG

That never happened and we arrived at Moana, Lake Brunner by 8.30 just as the other all arrived down at the Lake for wake boarding etc.We spent the morning watching as these very clever people leapt, twisted and impressed us with their tricks. By 12.30 we were all ready to go our separate ways. We headed towards Stillwater and came upon the Brunner Mine memorial.

Another first for us. We spent some time there reading and walking and immersing ourselves in this dark period our history. Seems unnervingly similar to the Pike River tragedy. Originally we intended to go up the coast on our way back home, but as is our wont-changed our mind and drove on toward Reefton instead.

The countryside is so green and the grass so lush. incredibly healthy looking country which I think is for dairying. At Totara Flat we were surprised to come across 3 separate lots of Police, not interested in us however. Made a detour to Nelson Creek recreational area, but turned back and then next detour was up a gravel road to a DOC campground called Slab Hut campground. It seems most people come here to do fossicking for gold in the river .We talked to a dutchman who has been on the road for 12 years, he showed us the gold he got out of the river - what an exciting thing to do!

Sadly we need to get home and end this trip. Left our camp early and in Reefton walked up and down admiring the retro shops, they have done it very well. We had a nice coffee and slice at the tea rooms before the journey home. I was amazed at the intensive land use in this region, definitely changed its character since I last saw it. At Murchison we stopped by the Buller River and clambered over the rocks, extremely gorgeous. Needless to say we stopped at Lake Rotoiti for lunch and then it was home and the inevitable clean up and collecting Maddie. The endless hot weather has enabled us to see this part of our country in its best light.

Posted by Sallyj66 23:43 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

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