South to North Island. 

How can a ferry port be so beautiful as Picton?  By being on the South Island of New Zealand where pretty well everything is gorgeous. We went to the pictures tonight (Monday). On the edge of the Sound, in the aquarium. 18 seats. Poor film but fun experience. We’d arrived at the campsite early, located our spot, marked it in time honoured way (table, if you really want to know), choosing a place near loos etc do would not disturb people when returned late (21.45!!) after film.

Der der DERRRRRRRRRRR

Someone was in our place. And daddy bear was not happy. Particularly when one of the van residents tried to sneak back in …. she was left with a clear impression of his thoughts on the subject.

However she decided it was ‘too late’ to start moving vans then. So …. to cut a long story short, involving jaunty pitches and full bladders (not mine) I managed to twist my knee badly enough to stop me walking properly today.

Never mind. The site was clean but cheesy. Lots of notices and sculptures. Like this:

Nuff said.

Transfer to north island smooth and pleasant. Three hour trip. Obvious attention to detail, reassuring. Careful ballast and balancing. Lots of interest in terms of watching huge numbers of rail containers being transported onto boat.

And clear customer information of a type I relate to.:

Thankfully low swell.

The boat we took has recently been upgraded. They took it to Singapore, chopped it in half, inserted a further 30 m of boat, and brought it back. This increased the ability to carry rail freight by 28%, reducing the flights Between islands.

Views from the ferry were stunning ( of course, we’re in paradise):

Wellington was an assault on our senses, noise, people, odours (not unpleasant). Heading directly for Tony’s Workshop, there was, of course, great service.

Shattered wing mirror fitted within an hour but during that time we were able to:

Find reduced fresh bakery (55p for both) and excellent coffee. Butter with muffin? Why ever not says my companion;

Wonder at the concept of ‘after 5 underwear’ (for men);

Marvel at the stylish manhole covers in Wellington:

Particularly the top ones;

Ask ourselves about the seven deadly sins…. greed, avarice (is that different we ask ourselves) lust. Wondering what the others are and what determines the fun/sin balance.

And whether all are practised within…..

Smile at the grape/olive cartoon:and Ponder the seriousness of various captions on cards:

Once again, NZ shows itself to be kind:

Essentially coffee and WiFi unlimited all day for about £1.50. ThIS opposite the salvation army HQ.

AND SO ON UP THE COUNTRY: long drive ahead so quiet evening in…..

After watching the setting sun, and before discovering that I have passed my assessment and now have an MSc ! (Reading for Life, Liverpool uni. )

New words: precaffeination. (Aimless messing about before first coffee of day)

Kindness:

Shelter for bikers waiting for ferry. Really appreciated.

Tomorrow – from here to Auckland. Via Mordor. Obvs.

The land New Zealand forgot….and where we lost two days…..in Paradise

Friend Megg suggested a trip to Clarence, just north of the most recent major quake at Kaikoura where she assured us we would get a true kiwi welcome. …..

On the way south from Blenheim, the road people used to take to Christchurch prior to the quake, we passed the saltworks, only source of salt in NZ. Essentially the brine is dried in huge ‘pans’ or shallow huge boxes, for want of a better description. 

The crystalline salt is heaped up and then cleaned. 

Maybe working with salt affects brain or visual ability: why else would this building…..(in foreground)….

Need this sign? 

Otherwise an uneventful trip south other than the many roadworks along this coastal road. Scenery was stunning though,once we left the winery plains of Blenheim. We had mountains to the right of us and green ocean to the left throughout. 


Megg’s friend Lynda was a counsellor at a medical centre in Kaikoura. What used to be a short road trip to work became impossible once the quake struck just a year ago. However she continued to access Work by arranging to fly from a tiny strip locally, staying away from home for four days each time. 

Her other business- accommodation – was destroyed by the quake as there is no longer any through traffic. So she has had quake road workers to stay, at times, and now is ready to start with the accommodation business again. A year after the quake,and just as the road looks set to open again. 

Lynda seems to live in the garden of Eden. There are peach, plum, grapefruit, lemon, apple, pear and other trees. The garden is full of flowers – roses, jasmine, geraniums – which smell gorgeous. Her house is full of light and quirky items. She has a tremendous sense of humour. 

Then there are earthquakes: Lynda’s description of the quake, 7.6 on the Richter Scale I believe, and subsequent fear of tsunami was chilling. 

She showed us photos to demonstrate how the quake had changed the landscape, then with an English friend, looby, took us On a tour: 

These show how the river used to be on the far side of the valley, running along the bottom of the hill, and is now, after several interim changes running down the right side. The ‘island’ in the middle used to be attached to the fields on the right! This shows the extent the land has slipped/risen. 


The mouth of the river constantly changes shape/ location. 

Despite the signs at Blenheim,  50km away, people turn up at Clarence intending to carry onto Kaikoura. There is a road block. The staff work in pairs – 12 hour shifts. They are anticipating some issues in a couple of weeks when the road is open, but only for light vehicles, and only for restricted hours..   

The many road workers are housed in portacabins on the playground of the local school: 

Three individual units to each cabin – bed/bathroom/desk. Window. 

We had a great day – lunch then ‘earthquake tour’ and time at beach. Then ‘local’(wild) venison steak with potatoes and Home grown salad. And wine. 

And to end this perfect day, what nicer than a hot bath under the stars?

Topped off with ‘Home delivery’ of a glass of locally made fruit liquer, delivered to the bath by Lynda wearing Head torch. 

Keith had thoughtfully left the van lights on so we could find our way back. Unfortunately we followed the wrong lights for some time….  

tantrums: impossible in Eden. 

Endangered species: nil

New words: gark (l think it means land slip?); feijoa (a fruit)

Megg was right. We had a terrific time. 

On the road again…

 This is the refrain I start singing each day (though not as well as Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson) but actuallly I find I take to travelling so much that maybe it should be Lee Marvin’s ‘ I was born under a wandering star’ – and my singing approximates his quite closely. 

Today’s plan was simple: up towards  Nelson, coffee stop, some visiting around Marlborough Sound, then down beyond Blenheim to Clarence to witness the effect of the most recent major earthquake on the infrastructure of roads etc. 

Then someone clipped our wingmirror on a narrow bridge. And didn’t stop. This was complicated by the fact that a peloton of cyclists was likely to follow behind (a150k road race), and shortly after this incident a fire engine then police car came hurtling in the opposite direction. All a bit fraught after our days of relative solitude. 

Of course it matters not who was driving – but it wasn’t me. 

Risking life and definitely limb I returned to the scene of the incident, took photos and collected the debris. Surprisingly useful as ‘the man who can’ managed to fashion something that helped us limp along to a man called Jim. Good with glass. 

We missed our coffee stop. 

So we doubled back on ourselves to visit a jester house cafe near Nelson, former New Zealand cafe of the year, boasting many attractions including tame eels, and also the former family home of a good friend of mine, Megg. 

Megg was on the masters course in Liverpool with me, and is a genuine kiwi (I hope that’s an ok description. Megg?). She’s one of the reasons I’m here now – so we can work together on some shared reading training in Auckland next week. 

The cafe was so entertaining, although I don’t think Keith was particularly impressed when I appeared wearing a tiger’s tail. 
Even the B and B accommodation fits the bill. 

I thought this award was wonderful – would that more companies used this as their game plan!

Jim. Good with glass. He was good with us too. Got us back on the road – we can see what’s behind now (rear view mirror just shows the unmade bed). We need to get it fully fixed on Monday, and have to pay the excess too. 

Fortunately we took the insurance which avoided us having to pay up to $7500 at this stage. 

Interesting fact: car insurance not obligatory in NZ. 

NZ : huge difference between north  and south of South Island. In South was difficult in some remote locations to buy any fresh food. In Blenheim we visited the hugest supermarket I’ve ever seen – like IKEA!

They have virtually no stop signs and rarely have traffic lights (why would you) using People where some traffic control is necessary eg road works. 

It’s obvious traffic lights are the exception. They come with instructions! Including a ‘please’.

So – a campervan is a van, isn’t it? 

There are huge variations …..

Tantrums: bit lip. How else does one deal with 1) being woken up to see if you’re asleep or reading 2) being woken up two hours later to be informed that companion needs to empty bladder (and I don’t mean waking up I mean Being woken up) 3) being woken up to be informed that it’s late for us (not yet 7 am, Saturday morning, no deadlines) and companion is getting up – but it’s fine for me if I want to lie in bed?

New word /endangered species etc: nil to report. 

And so to bed, by main road in Blenheim, but also by river. 

And evidence of more NZ kindness. 

Whoops! Upside down! 

Farewell Spit, northern tip of South Island 

It’s 11000 miles from the arctic to here at Farewell Spit – and the Godwit family fly seven days and nights without stop. The Palling family (SKI division)* on the other hand  have taken 7 hours today to travel 57km and this involved two coffee (one with lunch)  and a tea stop. It’s exhausting! 

Excited (and still scratching) Mrs P was awake from around 4 and finally got up before 6. Showered and sun cream in place by 6.30. Strangely, no shower mayhem today     Slight breakfast mayhem trying to remove cooked porridge from microwave above Head height:

The person cooking was considerably taller than me. 

First stop on way to coast: 

Known as the Pupu Springs, properly named the Waikoropupu Springs, they  are the largest freshwater springs in NZ, and reputedly the clearest in the world with 14000 litres of water thrown up per second. To local Maori the Springs are a taonga (treasure) and wadi tapu, a place held in high cultural and spiritual regard. 

A short video may convey the peace of the place: ​(stay with it, movement and sound seem to start after 15s). 

The surroundings are lovely – even the old tree trunks have a beautiful pattern – like peacock feathers (not that you see peacocks round here of course)…….

Tiny Collingwood has a population of around 250 and is the last town on ‘golden bay’ heading towards the Farewell Spit, a 27 km long sandbar stretching east west, and lying more northerly than the southern part of north island. Around Christmas I’m told the population of the area increases to around 25000. I’m not sure how the fragile infrastructure supports this. 

The museum was great, including a pear of whale eardrums, each the size of a large Victoria plum, and a really evocative picture of the early village settlement:

Photo taken at an angle and through a cabinet, it’s not the best, but does convey the idea of the chaos experienced.

Also a lot of kindness in this museum: 

Talking of trips, we also met the owner of the M.A.D. Cafe restaurant. No liquor licence – if people want to fall over they can do it next door. No fast food -‘we don’t need Kentucky Fried Chicken, we’ve Nantucket Fried Hare’ (organic). He reminded me of Dave, a man who lives close to us, but was fascinating because of his attention span. Quite short. The coffee was great. The menu looked great. He’s been vegan since he was 30 and is now nearly 65. Bet you can’t guess his name….**


His beautiful garden reminded me of Mary Mary Quite Contrary:

And off to Farewell Spit itself – birdwatching (including two pied stilts) and competitive telescope brandishing, and finally the incomparable  Whairikiki Beach, 20 mins walk from the end of the end of the end of the first track at the end of the road. Seals galore. Rock arches. Golden sands. 

And what was that about no peacocks? 

* Spending Kids Inheritance

** Nganga. ‘A name the aboriginal elders bestowed on me’. Well there you go. 

Tantrums: too exhausted

Lewdosity: the peacock did it for us. 

New words: none to include here. 

Endangered species: I identified one particular kind of wader then found it was the rarest wader in the world with only 120 known pairs. So that was obviously wrong. We did see a pair of stilts though  – new to me. 

Finally – what could be better than lying in a campervan on holiday, listening to the birds and watching dawn break through the skylight? I can tell you – lying and watching the stars over the Southern Hemisphere, twinkling in the midnight blue sky. Love it!  

Murchison, Tasman to Takaka, north of South Island, still in Tasman. 

Reflecting how seven minutes is perfectly adequate for a shower, and enjoying the view of mountains through the shower room window, I suddenly had a thought: SCABIES!! As you do.  Hmmmm. Itchy when hot. Forearms and ankles. But then I’ve not been in contact with scabies. Slept in my own bed. How could I …..OMG. I’ve slept in this campervan bed for almost three weeks. and the shower went cold. More shower mayhem. 

The site was the best we’ve stayed on so far. Adequately without being overly organised. And they had animals. 

Murchison is a town at the confluence of four rivers – a service town to the scattered populations of the Buller River plain and sits at the confluence of four rivers. It’s main claim to fame, sadly, is its situation at the epicentre of the 1929 Murchison earthquake. It’s other claim to fame is being the site of the world’s earliest non military suicide bombing attack. See below. 
At any rate we spent a happy morning looking at the remains of the local HEP station, another impressive engineering feat thAt had my companion rapt. Me less so although the Walk was pleasant and a baby Weka (sort of water rail bird) showed no fear and came very close to K. Within kicking distance. 

Murchison also had a disturbing businesss. V disturbing for those of us with a basic tenet that Ifor Williams, Corwen, is the world’s only trailer maker. Bad news guys – there is competition and it’s strong. 

The museum contained something of pretty well everything. The main interest for us was the telephone exchange, operative until about 25 years ago: 

And the numerous cuttings about the two very local earthquakes within the last 100 years, quakes which led to the creation of a waterfall and redirection of one of the four rivers. 

Pies are big round here. In Australia all the small towns advertise poker games. Here it’s pies. 

The post office is relaxed and in the general store. 

Rest of day spent making our way to takaka, stopping at awesome viewpoints and for lunch and snacks on the way. 

When we started the trip I was a little concerned about drinking a glass of wine each night. But surely, I thought, that’s only the equivalent of a couple of biscuits mid morning, or cake/ I e cream in the afternoon, which many people have as a matter of course…..this week was added the morning biscuits. Today the ice cream. I’ll roll rather than fly home. 

Now we believe we’re in the Garden  of Eden – lemon trees at campsite. And we know that God is watching us……

Awesome. So let’s deal with that by having a smile (the mural at tonight’s restaurant):

No new words or tantrums (or lewdosity), no endangered species eaten or seen, although they were mocked: same campsite tomorrow. We’re off to some springs, and may be salmon fishing…..

Punakaiki, Westland To Murchison, Tasman. 


What are your thoughts about using disabled facilities?
If they are free, and there’s a queue for the regular ones????

Last night’s very popular campsite in the world heritage marine park reserve of Punakaiki is, according to trip advisor, legendary for its challenging showers. The button needs to be pressed literally every ten seconds. There is much talk of this in the travelling community. Furthermore notices in the camp warned us of a possible bottleneck between 8.30 and 9.30, encouraging us to get up early and miss the rush. So of course we all got up early (6.20) and created the rush. Anyway, singled out no doubt due to my extreme age as mentioned in previous blogs, the owner invited me to use the disabled shower. No button pressing required, as presumably not always possible. You lose some, you win some. ““””

Incidentally the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes were well worth a visit. Unusually v thin separate layers of limestone had deposited in a series of layers looking like a stack of pancakes. Earth movements mean that they are here horizontal, there vertical, covered in moss and in nesting Tara Terns, erosions allowing the tide to WHOOOOOMPH  through it and spray over all visitors. Think Durdle Door x infinity, then on steroids. 

Of course the site is clean, interesting and free, quietly encouraging donations. We do donate but appreciate that there is open access to everyone, independent of means. Great, isn’t it?

Early shower means early walk, so the Porarari River was selected. Two hours walk and we met only one other couple. The scenery was again wonderful. So many shades of green. 


Unlike the early users of this track we had the benefit of a ‘swing’ bridge. Swing seems apt to describe the motion as my companion bounces across it. 

The route was taken after the coastal route was abandoned due to difficulties ascending the well named perpendicular rock. Can you imagine? It’s  like climbing the side of a tower block. 

This inland route (pic above) was constructed from pebbles. Looks steep to me and must have been hard to manage with stock, carts and so forth. 

After this the Fox River. Recall Marge from Hokitika asking me to remember her to the man in the cafe? Well we couldn’t find the cafe, just this van, reasoned that Marge would be no worse off if we hadn’t seen her friend, and justified not searching out the cafe by our need for coffee exceeding any other pressures. 

There was some banter with another customer about getting a discount. The van man said only locals get discount at which point the penny dropped, I realised this was the cafe and asked whether knowing a local qualified for a discount, offering to show the pic of Marge. 20% discount. Result. 
His name is Andrew although most people only know the dog’s name (Peanut). In between customers Andrew goes fishing. Seriously – two steps to the beach. 

No idea whether he or a mate spent the previous night in this shelter but it looked well comfortable, and the mussel shells were enormous. 


On the road again. To Charleston and an ‘intact’ goldmine – obviously not working but everything in place and in this land of relaxed (sensible)  health and safety we were able to wander in and out of the mine tunnels, see the water race and admire glow worms. 

I was struck by this vertical earth face – difficult to see but one huge layer is intact smooth pebbles. I always thought pebbles were only formed when broken off a big rock, rubbed together and accumulated on the coast, having no idea that this happened much longer ago and pebbles were deposited with all the other layers. 

Lyell, now a tiny settlement boasting New Zealand’s longest swing bridge, was once Home to thousands but is also well known for The Old Ghost Road an 84km track through the mountains, previously used by settlers. We took a short walk and we’re not surprised to hear another helicopter. We were surprised to see a cafe  carrying bikes swinging from it. As it landed close by k asked – the thirty somethings had cycled the track (two days, 84km) then taken the helicopter back ($164 or about £90 each). Different. 


Tantrums: nope

New words: grike


Lewdosity: nil. 

In Marchison for the night. 

The attacker revealed, and you don’t have to be fit but it helps. 

After yesterday’s frenzied attack on our van at Fox Glacier, we now have the technology to reveal his face: 

Quite terrifying even in repose, but caught in flagrante delicto, as it were (using the non colloquial meaning)(incidentally, what a delight to find I can italicise too! Undoubtedly more of that to come.) as when viewed from below, my case a mere 36 hours ago, is scarring, deeply scarring. 

Lunch pause: hard life but someone’s got to do it. Just outside Hokitika. 

There were individual whitebaiters here too- catching the penultimate rising tide of the 2017 whitebait season. 

Today we visited Hokitika, without any particular expectations. They were greatly exceeded. It’s a quiet town with a lovely feel. And a cinema screening six different films this week including some live streaming from The Globe. 


Site of a gold rush in the 1860s it was said to grow at a rate faster than San Francisco or Melbourne. Fortunately Hokitika knew when to stop. The resident population was 319 in 2013. We met some of the population today. 

Doing a walking tour of the town (we’ve so done glaciers and mountains recently….) we passed by the old customs house on the wharf and suddenly were inside with the knit and natter group. 
Some of the ladies shear their own sheep – sadly slow to sell the wool I thought until I realised that Nov 12 refers not to five years ago but rather to two days ago. The wool was clean soft and smelt wonderful. Lanolin I suspect. 

They meet twice a month. One morning session and one evening to accommodate those at work. In addition to knitting there are also spinners, felters, weavers and there was a great communal project underway too. 

Marge (left) and Jean. Marge’s family left the northwest of Skye in 1863, travelled to Liverpool (already a huge journey) then took the boat to NZ.  She’s grateful to them for making that decision, and also reflects how difficult conditions must have been to make travelling to the other side of the world the preferred option. (She asked us to say hello to the man at the wonderful fox cafe when we passed by. Remember this)

The knit and natter group: 
Jean (dark blue lhs) is the lady who brought the freshly shorn sheeps’ wool (a tongue twister). The homemade cakes and biscuits looked and smelled  amazing but of course they were not for us. 

Happy with our chat and learning more of the local history (lots of information about how the port functioned, the number of wrecks caused by the massive sandbar – and also local places of interest) we investigated the wharf and found this: 

Perfect timing, perfect coffee and superb cheese scones with fresh butter on Sunset Point from I think the only Mobile outlet I’ve seen during the visit so far. (The blackberry muffins looked superb too). 

The Three Little Birds is not, as I thought, run by a group of three women. It’s run by Jeanna who gave up her regular work in a cafe to be able to fit Work round her family life. The little birds are her three sons: 15, 3, 1.  

I had a picture of Jeanna but it failed. 

Here is a close up of her sign and my finger, the birds representing the sons. If I were writing her up on trip advisor she’d be getting five stars. 
Next stop the vinyl fashion shop. 

My companion wonders ‘what they get up to round here’ and squashed (?quashed?) my old fashioned look with a reminder of my cat woman suit (purchased, with whip and mask, for last year’s works Christmas party, but never worn. That’s another story. ). Still…… I protested, now somewhat feebly. 

The vinyl fashion shop does what it says on the poster. Sells vinyl and fashions. 


Who’d’ve thought it? 

The trip from Hokitika north featured stunning coastline and virgin forest. The multiple rivers on each day’s trips are frequently crossed by single lane bridges, priority being clearly defined. Today one of those bridges, which was essentially wood,  carried the railway line too. Three ways to misinterpret other peoples hand and light communications and signals. Ah well…

We’ve arrived early at the campsite, The fourth in a queue of campervans, and more turning in behind. But we are in punakaiki, part of the Paparoa national park, and site of the island-wide reknowned pancake rocks and blow holes. Sorry. ….. Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. That’s better. Pictures later. 

How is life In a 7m camper-van?Well it’s good to be short – the bed is. Getting onto said bed is a totally different matter though and as such I try my hardest to ensure I will not need to rise til the next morning. 

The top of the mattress is at hip level. There is no step. I have three choices. 

Run and hurl myself at it, grabbing pitifully at the sheet and hope it’s tucked in properly to break my fall. 

Sort of jump and lurch forward at the same time struggling to get one knee on to the bed and then scrabble to get the other one up then manoeuvre from the all four position (which incidentally is the one many men adopt when asked to get into the examination  couch, and never fails to amaze me, particularly when I have asked them to ‘ lie on your back with your feet at this end and your head at this end, by the wall’. ) I digress. Then move from the all four position to one suitable for sleep. 

System 3. Stand and wait for husband to appear (this one does not work if he is already in bed and (feigning) sleep) then ask husband to help you up at which point he may put a hand under one buttock, maybe both, or possibly enter into a detailed discussion about the physics and geometry of someone my build mounting said bed. We are no further in the process but know all the factors that need consideration. 

System 4. Go to side of bed, raise left leg and wedge against wall using this to elevate body. Then scrabble again. 

(Ok. So that’s four systems.)

Which explains why I don’t like to get up in the night. Not the cold, or a desire to avoid using the in-house facilities, or a fear of a possum bite if I  go outside. It’s the monumental effort of getting back in. 

Back to hotitika – they lady at the knit and natter told us there were many seats around the town. I think my other half took this as an aspersion and judgement about our age and reassured her we wouldn’t need them. She was referring to the art seating trail. Here are some examples. 




In other news, Keith ‘got a hit’ today as recommended 20 days ago by the man at Moeraki. I’m sure you’ll agree it suits him well. These are shots of him making sure. 

And now I know why I’m finding it difficult to find meat-free meals….


That’s it for tonight folks. 

Endangered species: coming out of our ears. Kiwis today. 

Tantrums: too laid back to count

New words: the verb to gazetteer

Survived the night, view of views and more….including a potential new tally..

Our attacker was a Kia, a huge more than chickensized parrot which was last seen stabbing furiously with its eagle like beak on our skylight.  As we went to bed Keith adjusted the ventilation: fly screens to keep biters out, skylight open enough to let air in but keep parrots out. 

Up early and left before breakfast to catch the view of views at Matheson Lake, capturing a reflection of the back of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in the lake. We were there before 7. It paid off. 

Beautiful. Typically though I was more interested in the eels. They grow to be 25kg – pretty frightening to come across. But maybe more frightening is the story we read in today’s papers of a Mexican child who weighs 28kg at 10 months.  The eels take a longer view- read below – essentially they live to be 100 or so then die after major procreation activities. 

Other interesting items round the lake: 

  Examples of Maori use for plants. 


Encouraging thoughts. 

And so to breakfast:

Just beyond the table you can see the reeds of the sewage treatment plant. No smell. Delicious toasted bagel and cream cheese.

Hands up those of you who thought that Fox’s Glacier Mints were simply mints made by the Fox  family?  Well they probably are, but there is also a glacier called Fox Glacier. And it’s a minty blue colour when you get close. 

Here you can see it in the distance….. the next two are close ups. Look how tiny the vehicles look on the second picture (the next one now): 

En route we found Gollum climbing into the lower branches of a tree: 

And one final picture  of Fox Glacier for good measure:


Next stop: Franz Josef glacier slightly higher up the West Coast, along the western edge of the Southern Alps. 

The walk here was much more demanding, past huge waterfalls and exhausted tourists, too weak to complete their journey. 

The weather changes rapidly here. The ‘four seasons in one day’ remit does hold true. It’s sensible to take notice as the walk is at least 45 mins each way. 

Not everyone listens to the advice:      

Even the department of conservation (DOC) can be taken unawares: 

It was really worth the walk though: 

Waterfall and glacier. 

River flowing from glacier. Slightly milky appearance due to ground down pebbles etc which all settle down eventually to leave a clear blue green water we saw around Banks peninsula 2 weeks ago. 

Health and safety quite strong. Drones are used extensively by certain groups of tourists. They fly them so low that people could easily get injured. Here they are banned as they can interfere with helicopter control. 

And finally as our days are slightly more numbered we realise we have to drive further today to Hokitika. We debate whether to shower before or after emptying Grey and, horror, black water. I proffer the suggestion we should empty said  reservoirs first, shower later. 

Which is just as well as my companion, charged with emptying black water as he was the one who ‘availed himself’, managed to flush the cassette through and spray me with what would politely be called slurry! How we laughed!!!!

Sheets changed, washed and dried, undies washed and dried, loo empty and clean water full….. life is sweet. 

Which reminds me of a cyclist we saw pushing his bike on the verge yesterday. Compassionate to the nth degree we stopped and asked if we could help. To which the tiny, wizened, black clothed, virtually edentulous man (or maybe an orc or sprite) replies he was ‘good as gold, good as gold, mate’ adding swiftly – ‘ unless you  smoke of course. ….’ Reminding me then of a person (young man) arrested on suspicion of driving whilst under the influence and needing blood samples taken. I was police surgeon that night. It was around 1998. 

When asked how things were going he replied  that he was ‘sweet as a nut, sweet as a nut, mate’. No Particular point to that paragraph. Simply an observation. 
Today’s tally: 

Lewd knowledge revealed/areas of ignorance revealed (k/h): 1

Endangered species etc etc: 0

New words: 1 *

Tantrums: 0 

* gimp. 

 Overnight carnage, Possible child abuse, and a well known sweet. 

I was woken to find my bed covered with spattered blood this morning, Keith crying that he was not prepared to stay a moment longer, and masterfully instructing me to stay put whilst he got the van on the road again. I was pinned to the bed, legs crossed, feet and head tightly swathed with the duvet, barely breathing.  

But more of that later. 

The Hapuko Estuart Walk is a short loop walk through a world heritage section of tidal estuary (yes WORLD HERITAGE, folks. That’s big! ) with ancient trees, mudflats, birds calling and feeding and yet a terrific peace. 

Beautiful small details too: 

There must be a great caption for this picture…..

Then we visited the river and asked questions about white baiting – big business in New Zealand at this time of year. It’s said to take a huge amount of patience and resilience. 

Whitebait are a local ‘speciality’. A whitebait fritter is like a small omelette, normally served as a sandwich for around $10 (around £5.50). Each one has maybe 20-30 whitebait. 


The 10 week season ends in two days.  The whitebait are essentially the immature offspring of five kinds of fish that are caught on the rising tide (only) from official river side stands. No new stands are allowed. Stands are passed on through generations. 

A stand is essentially a kind of pier with a net on the side. 

Here you see the pier/stand. Each one has a ‘shed’ at its head. Each shed is occupied by a man, a newspaper and I think a glass or two. Here is another ‘shed’ with the net drying in front of it. 

Each stand has to be removed from the river at the end of the season. They can be dismantled completely – and stacked in/under/by the shed – or elevated over the water thus:

The whitebait stand concept reminds me of the British allotment system BUT this man, who with four mates runs two stands, tells us they are costly to acquire – around $85-100,000!!!! And whitebait sells for around $140/kg (around £77/kg). 

This man comes up to his stand without his family for a week at a time. He tells me ‘it can get social. VERY  social’. L

Talking of social, this is Ken, Helen and Dave from Lancashire who have always wanted to come down under. The fact that the rugby World Cup is here this year made them make the move to come. (Is it? I had absolutely no idea tbh). 

They’re over here and in Australia for seven weeks, staying in hotels etc. Lovely people. 

And finally – wildlife again at the Lake Moeraki/Monro Beach Walk. 

Believe me there are four wild Fjordland penguins pottering on this beach (40 mins walk through more beautiful forest and across a suspension bridge suited to I’m a celebrity get me out of here). They were so special, if distant, interacting, poitling  into and out of the sea. 

Bits of the Walk were so gorgeous it felt as though someone on a film set had been along before us providing clear pools of water, beautiful pebbles, banks of glowing green sphagnum moss, trunks of fallen trees…..

Obviously as I’m writing this I survived the night – we were eaten alive by sandflies despite our best efforts with flyscreens. Not wanting to have a light, which would attract them, in our bedroom I lay quietly with my curtain open watching a star scape on a scale I’ve rarely if ever  before experienced. An ear splitting noise around two this morning terrified me (in retrospect k suggests it was a mosquito in my good ear). But they bit and they buzzed and they bit. And repeat. So we drove to higher ground. 

Tonight our attackers are much larger and persistent. As I write one is trying to enter the van. But worry not. Keith is here. 

Endangered wotnots: 4of 1 kind Seen

No tantrums although my companion needs to have more confidence in his wife’s driving abilities. Enough said. 

Tomorrow: the sweet. 
Oh yes! What do you see in this condiment set? Keith thought it represented some kind of ritual child abuse.

Wanaka, Otago to somewhere by a river, north of the Haast Pass, Westland. In which we risk attack. 

An early morning run of barely 5k around and around the massed overwintering band of caravans at  The Glen Dhu Bay motorhome site left me limp- having done so little for two weeks other than potter around my legs seemed to have lost their mojo. The view was good though: and how nice to eat breakfast in the sun?
What better choice after this braving start then than to do the ‘Outlet Walk’ in Wanaka?

But outlet in New Zealand doesn’t mean shopping mall, it describes the walk that goes from the source of the river Clutha as it leaves Lake Wanaka in Otago and travels at rates of up to 25km/ hr for a total of 338km to a place called Balclutha, a place we had passed through a week ago on our route south on the east coast. 

The waters of the Clutha are glacial, green and clear. 

Throughout the walk we were serenaded by birdsong, entertained by ducks, herons and cormorants as well as mountain bikers young and  old, some more able than others.  We watched fly fishers. The track meandered through ancient forest and then open ground thick in wild thyme, escholzia (Californian Poppies) and lupins. :

I dozed in the sun, way too hot in double merino jumpers, thermal leggings and waterproof trousers, merino scarf and hat. Well it was cold at the campsite this morning (but was 20 degrees on the walk). 

Coming back we heard the dum dum dum of A ghetto blaster. Then realised it was three people sitting cross- legged on the banks of the river, playing portable drums and singing. I took a video of the area. It did not catch the sound well, but conveys the atmosphere of the area. ​

 Onwards through the mountain passes, along the lakes, towards the coast. The Haast Pass allows direct traffic (when not closed by snow or rockfalls) from the east to the west coast and was only finished about 50 years ago. This river at the Gates of Haast was one of the major impediments. Look at the size of the boulders it brings down – Keith seems quite tiny in comparison:

Just upstream from here lies the beginning of one of the longer distance walks. It takes 3-4 hours (6-8 in keithHelen time) to reach the first hut which has four bunks and no heating or cooking facilities. The start of the walk requires that the river be forded. We were shocked to see this girl wading across by herself about 5.15 pm and hope she had thought it all through. 

The orange triangle on the far bank marks the start of the walk….
Tonight’s view. Freedom camping. Yes! 

We are alone in the lay-by. Sporadically vehicles pause, look around then drive on. 


Aah but all that glitters is not gold. …. see tomorrow’s update. 

Tantrums: 0

Endangered species mimicked:1 eaten:0 seen: 0