Tag Archives: camper van

Law and order in the Wild West

Friday we departed Marahau and started making our way towards the west coast. Stopped off for one our roadside lunchbreaks, hiked down near a river with plates in hands and were met by a couple of tethered goats who eyed up our sandwiches. Later stopped for ice cream with real fruit (I had boysenberry) from a quiet little place called Motupiko. Really felt off the beaten track as we travelled along. Really nice. Stopped to make dinner later and were attacked by the evil sandflies so had to retreat inside the van to eat. Then did a bit of a ‘skyline walk’ which gave great views of the four rivers plain on which the town of Murchison is built (the rivers Matakitaki, Matiri, Buller and Mangles – there will be a quiz later).

Then we continued our scenic drive through Buller Gorge, and on to Westport to camp for the night…

In Westport we located a holiday camp, went up to the office and found it closed. Now, there was a phone there that one could use to contact the management…however J suggested we park outside and just use the showers. I went along with this, then later emerged from said shower to find J waiting for me. How courteous? Well, actually he’d been sent to retrieve his friend from the shower by the irate owner who’d discovered our van outside the camp, and had been letting down the tires in the shadows when J had returned to the van. In short, we’d been busted. I learned later that the guy had used some choice words (or certain choice words over and over) until he’d cooled down a bit. At any rate, he wasn’t happy. We gave him some cash and departed. He said he’d be giving out our vehicle registration to every campsite in NZ, which makes us chuckle everytime we tell the tale. J was contrite that evening, but we later came to the conclusion that these “Top 10” type sites are a rip-off. Evidence, our campsite the next night, a family run affair: just as clean, comfortable (and one might say friendlier…) and at least half the cost of the fancy chain one.

The next morning we had to top up the low tire at a petrol station, then we made our way to a park with public toilets. J was just pulling up to the kerb when the cleaner promptly informed him he had performed an illegal move. “In New Zealand we don’t park in the direction opposite to traffic. What country are you from?” England being the response, a discussion of the nuances in traffic laws followed. Meanwhile, I was in the back of the van quite ready to use the loo, if only I could escape without a further lecture ensuing on the use of safety belts or some such thing. I sat quietly and listened. Oh dear, the friendly banter had turned to politics, the EU and the punishment of unruly children. Really, all this? Before 8am? Eventually, the cleaner had to move on, job to do, and ablutions were able to be performed. The loo had an automatic toilet paper dispenser that tried my patience, but aside from that things seemed ok now. I hoped we’d steer clear of further correction for at least a day.

We departed to visit the seal colony at Cape Foulwind (nice name). It was a beautiful morning for it. Continued on to Charleston, where we took a longer walk with further views of gorgeous seascapes. A reminder of how far from home(s) I am:

Noodles for lunch, then Punakaiki for the Pancake Rocks and blowholes (much more touristy here, but again quite stunning scenery).

Am in glacier country now….via Hokitika, with its jade, its goldrush history, its view of the Southern
Alps in the distance, and its sand and driftwood sculpture competition.

And via Pukekura (pop 2, according to Lonely Planet) where one could, if one wanted to, visit the Puke Pub and eat road kill (“you kill ’em, we grill ’em”). Yes, if one wanted to. I instead recommend Lake Ianthe for a lunch stop – we made and ate toasted cheese sandwiches here, while sitting by the lake, looking at those Southern Alps, listening to the lapping of the water, the buzzing of flies and the sound of the occasional car passing along the main road.

So glaciers to be explored and all that. We met up with some of J’s friends he met on the North Island, who are now working/lurking round these parts. Had a few drinks with them in a bar just outside Franz Josef village. A really good group of people. We’re going on a horse trek with them later. I managed to injure my hip getting into the van yesterday so that will be interesting. (A stupid injury but really painful so stop sniggering at my misfortune – it’s not an unrelenting so called barrel of laughs and scenery here, you know. Honestly.)

"Unisex toilet" in Hokitika cafe
Sign in the men's
Update on this post since I last wrote (and the power went out just before the exciting moment at which Kramer hits the Publish button)… Last night a few of us went for a walk out to the terminal face of the Franz Josef glacier. It was cool and quiet, a welcome break from the heat (there has been much wilting by day, along with comparisons of our sandfly bites). And we were pretty much the only ones there. When we got back to the carpark we did meet some other creatures, we think they were Kea. Here are some photos so go to it, bird identifiers:
And here’s the glacier:
 Pretty, isn’t it?
Planning on doing a tandem paraglide, probably in Queenstown. Just trying to get it added to my insurance…
My other hobby is hunting the Southern Cross (aka Crux). Apparently there are two pointer stars that will tell me if I’ve found the correct cross.
But for now, time to publish and exit into the sunshine once again.
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Tiaki and dusky dolphins

Heading north out of Christchurch, we parked up for the night near a beach and campground. Used the campground’s toilets on the sly, and the next morning asked about paying for a shower. They were more than happy for us to use the coin-operated showers and they were a bargain – only 50 cents. Good stuff! Ate breakfast in our van while a sparrow visited the back, bobbing into our pots and pans to see if there were any tasty morsels going spare.

We drove on towards Kaikoura, stopping off at a beach to take in the scenery and to allow me to  perform an impromptu dance. Talent, no?

Kaikoura is pretty and laidback, kinda quiet at the moment considering the time of year, but on the other hand, the weather is crap. (Very English – rain, grey skies – nooooo!) We decided to go for a full-on powered site round the back of the Lobster Inn. Really nice: open-air kitchen, power to charge our devices (cameras, etc.), friendly people about.

Yesterday’s highlight was whale watching. We weren’t sure how the weather would pan out, but even though the seas were choppy the trip went ahead. I was thankful for the sea sickness tablet I took beforehand as it was a bit rollercoastery at times. We saw loads of dusky dolphins, who came to swim alongside the boat and tease us (and 0ur cameras) with their speed and playfulness. We also saw some petrels and albatross – so impressive!

But the main target our attentions was the sperm whale population in the underwater canyon above which we were riding. One of the whales was feeding below and it was only a matter of time before he would surface…and finally he did and the excitement was on as we all tried to capture the moments on camera. Then all too soon he he flipped up his tail and was gone. Our time was running down and the crew turned to return to land…but then all of a sudden they made the quick decision to head back out. Word was he was going to resurface. And so he did…and I even caught his tail this time. And a beautiful one it is! His name, by the way, is Tiaki, which means ‘guardian’.

Once we had returned to shore, we went for some beers and food in Kaikoura. I tried the ‘seafood selection’ – lots of fried seafood, served with chips. I wish some of it had been labelled as I was curious exactly what I was eating… We had thought about going to see a band, as it was Saturday night after all, but it was a choice between a very quiet folksy thing and some sort of Australian reggae (I guess Kaikoura wasn’t rockin’ that night) so we opted for a walk instead, along the beach and along the road south.

Oh, how I love being by the sea…and walking along the beach, lost in thought, or free of thought. I think perhaps there is no heartache the ocean could not absorb.

On the road in a Transformers van

After a night in jail, we made our way into central Christchurch yesterday to pick up the camper van, which is painted with a Transformers theme.

First stops were petrol and groceries. Then down the coast a bit to Banks Peninsula, where we found a campsite next to a beach at Okains  Bay. The roads there wind you this way and that, taking you over and through some beautiful scenery. It was very nice indeed to be out of the city.

Even though the campsite was full of people, especially families as it’s the school summer holidays here, there was still a calmness and tranquility to the beach. Very nice. This morning Jode opted for a dip in the cold sea, but I went for the $2, 4-minute shower option, and waited until a bit later when it had warmed up to dip my toes in the sea.

We drove a winding path back towards Christchurch, stopping off at a pretty little bay to make some lunch. I immediately spotted a rope swing on the beach, suspended from a tree, and made a beeline towards it so I could give it a go. Fun fun fun! I returned to it after a tuna sandwich for more (who could resist?) and also took a masterclass in skipping stones. I am very bad at this endeavour but today finally managed three skips, and without emptying the beach of all its stones in the process. Which has to be a good thing.

We eventually made our way back to the city and parked up next to the big park here for some coffee, then moved to a more picturesque place in the park to make dinner. We do a mean stir fry. I got the urge to play tennis, as we were near some courts there, so we may do that one day if we find a place. Meanwhile, hoping to pick up a cheap football somewhere for kicking around (naturally). One must caper, after all. Like the lambs of NZ perhaps? Hm, yeah…

Anyway, am now sitting in a an internet shop trying to type. We came into town thinking we’d catch some performances from the World Buskers Festival but nothing much is happening until tomorrow. So probably heading out of the city in a bit to find somewhere to park up for the night. “Freedom camping” is fine here, just as long as you don’t choose someplace where camping is actually prohibited. I had my $2 shower so I’m all good and clean for a bit anyway. Will be heading north up the coast towards Kaikoura, where there are things like whale watching and swimming with dolphins to try. A very popular spot.

Apologies to anyone reading for the lack of flair in these entries. For one thing, the computers I’ve been using lately are rubbish and cramp my style! That’s one excuse anyway.