Tag Archives: camping

At the End of the Road

In early spring, when I returned to England, one of my heart’s desires was to go to a summer music festival. I hadn’t been to one for a couple of summers, I guess, and was really adamant this summer needed to include at least one. My friend K agreed a festival needed to be on the agenda and we spent time on and off over the next few months trying to find one that suited us, and to try to recruit others to join us. Bestival, Green Man, Shambala, Big Chill…various options were put out there, chewed upon, rejected or fell through. But then we chose the small and quirky Croissant Neuf in Wales. Purchased tickets! Booked time off work! Sorted.  And, would you believe, I also procured tickets to End of the Road, with another friend. Hurrah!

One day (a Wednesday, I think it was), as Croissant Neuf approached, I discovered quite by chance that I was the owner of a very interesting retina. A detached one, in my right eye.  From eye docs there was talk of surgery. From tk there was talk of “wot ’bout my festivaaaaal?” Never fear. This is not a sad tale: dear reader, I made it to the festival. My eyes and I enjoyed it quite a lot. It was a lovely distraction, being in Monmouthshire, amongst bright colours and music and trees and creative, childish fun all around. (I was to be admitted to hospital the following Monday, and didn’t really care to dwell on it. Although the op did go really very well in the end. I now have a buckle on my eye, not that you’d know to look at me, of course, but I think it’s a quirky thing to have.)

 

My favourite performer was Martha Tilston, who is awesome.

 

Martha Tilston in the solar powered Big Top

So that was August.

Soon September came and with it approached…End of the Road. 5000 people in the Larmer Tree Gardens in north Dorset, with really good music (and lots of North American musicians – even better!). And I heard there would be peacocks. Of course I was excited.

Yep, there were peacocks.

Some highlights? Well…

Best use of brass on a Friday night: Modest Mouse

Songs for a Sunday afternoon: Dylan LeBlanc

Laurels for lovely lyricism go to: The Low Anthem

And the award for making me cry (a little bit, in a really nice way): Iron & Wine

Fantastic stuff, friends.

 

Down with sandflies

Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but one thing I know is that my general mirth right now could easily fit into a sandfly’s granny’s sewing thimble without running over.

I hate to complain, really, but here goes anyway. I have been suffering from the dreaded bite of the sandfly for some time now. Unfortunately, I am very sensitive to insect bites and, even more unfortunately, in recent times I seem to have become very sensitive indeed. Witness the tedious ankle saga, sigh. During my travels I have had swollen feet several times (each taking it in turns, more or less, how very polite) and the odd bit of swelling around the wrist. Annoying but, you know, wotevah.

Last night we stopped off at a Dept of Conservation (DOC) campsite for the night, a lovely spot near a creek, along the road to Milford Sound, the plan being to rise early and continue on to Milford in the morning before the hordes of tour buses apparently take over the road. The sandflies were ganging up on us humans even more than usual but as bedtime came round I hoped for a peaceful night’s sleep, as one does.

Sometime in the night I awoke and needing the toilet stumbled forth from the van. I noticed my left eye felt a bit odd, a bit swollen. Was that a welt I detected on my eyelid? Nothing to be done so back to bed. Later I awoke again to find the eye more swollen. The best was yet to come however, when I woke to a buzzing in my ear. Right inside my right ear. I did a bit of loud complaining, I thrashed gently, hit my ear, tipped my head from side to side, what a routine. Of course the sandfly stayed put, buzzing away. What a sensation. Inspiration struck me and I took a cup of water and poured it into the afflicted orifice. I tipped it out onto the grass and the buzzing ceased. I vaguely wondered whether I had released the insect or simply left a drowned one inside my ear, but frankly it seemed trivial when I finally got a look at my face. The skin around both eyes was swelling up nicely and I looked, and felt (ish), like I’d been punched in the face.

No, there is no photo. I must preserve my dignity!

So then, plans amended, we headed back to Te Anau in search of medical attention, which I found, and was relieved of more of my money at the health centre and pharmacy. We then found a campsite in town, Te Anau to be our new base for the next couple nights. Since then I’ve been lolling around wearing ice cubes in bags on my eyes and attempting to count my blessings.

On the upside, I took a nice photo last night. And I booked us a cruise on Milford Sound tomorrow so we can at least see this place, with its reputation of sublime beauty. Well, we came all this way and the camper van days are now truly numbered. I’ll be continuing explorations of the South Island from Wanaka perhaps and then head to Dunedin for a few days, sounds nice, and the Otago Peninsula is full of wildlife. Then it’ll be up the east coast from there. Picton, Wellington, up the North Island exploring until it’s time to re-Auckland myself and fly away.

But for now, my photo, taken at Lake Te Anau….uh no, sorry. Just looked at this internet terminal doesn’t have the actual computer bit accessible. Man! Swollen eye girl is thwarted! Man.

Anyway, ignore all this and read my previous entry on paragliding. Much cooler.

I Love NZ

Since my last post, I have made it from Kaikoura on the east coast, around to Abel Tasman National Park in the northwest. I guess I keep saying things like this, but I’ve really enjoyed the changes in the scenery, and just how very laidback it is here on the South Island.

After heading out of Kaikoura we stopped off at viewpoint overlooking a seal colony and watched lazy seals, playful young seals (in a pool we called the Kindergarten) and this fellow, gazing out to sea:

We stayed around the back of a somewhat grotty hostel that night, in Blenheim. We were in wine country now and felt it would be nice to do a wine tasting. But first! The exciting opportunity to try out the healthcare (for foreigners) when my strange ankle (if you know of that saga) acted up, swelling and turning red. We visited the hospital and I was told by the triage nurse there (a friendly Canadian) that it would be best to go to a doctor and be seen for $60 rather than $300. I agreed. At the GP, I was treated very nicely as well, and then at the chemist as well. Everyone was so… nice!  So even though I spent money on rather boring stuff it was less painful than it might have been. I’ll stop now, as it is boring.

So then we visited sustainable Grove Mill, where we tasted and learned. Bought a ‘late harvest 2006 Gewurztraminer’ (which I guess is posh, it certainly tasted delicious – we drank it a couple days later sitting in camp chairs and nibbling on crackers with brie and blue cheese, mmm). The woman at the winery told us about the Irish bar in Picton (where we were headed) that has live music on a Monday night. It was Monday afternoon. An evening plan was forming.

Picton is a lovely place. Small but with a bit of bustle at this time of year, as it is is the ferry port that connects with Wellington on the North Island. After some dinner in our campsite we walked into town, I took a few minutes to play on the local playground equipment (I can recommend the slide), then we found the Irish bar, where I can report they do a good pint of Guinness, even if it is a bit pricey. And Monday night music as promised.

Next day we did part of the Snout Walkway, our uphill climb in the rapidly increasing heat earning us a great view of Queen Charlotte Sound. We met a French guy, and he and J talked football as guys always seem to do when I go walking with them. Age old ritual or something. After lunch we bought petrol and groceries and then got on the road toward Nelson. It was a beautiful route (aren’t they always) and with Eric Clapton playing (via speakers, not live) we wound our way along, stopping to make dinner alongside a river and then later stopping at a layby next to a beach, initally for the view but then decided to stay there the night as there was a portaloo and standpipe. The beach for some reason had not only the usual things like shells but also jawbones. J and I each found one, while walking separate stretches of beach. The next morning while we munched muesli and seagull had a go on one of the jaws.

We couldn’t swim at this beach, too stoney, so the next morning we found a sandier one and had a bath. Here I am admiring the view:

Our destination for the day was Abel Tasman National Park – where we have now spent the past couple days, staying at a campsite called Old MacDonald’s Farm. It was very noisy here with that roar (is that the word) of the insects or whatever it is. I can’t explain the sound – it doens’t disturb sleep or anything but it does make you sometimes need to speak up rather A LOT to be heard.

We hired mountain bikes for the afternoon and explored with them for awhile. Visited a sculpture garden run by a local artists collective, such a creative and peaceful place.

The next day we were up early for our sea kayaking trip. We had freedom rentals but still needed to be briefed on equipment, safety and so forth but were on the water by 10ish. What can I say: it was a gorgeous day in a beautiful place.

 

Will add more photos when I can.

In the meantime, have I mentioned sandflies? Bastards.

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.