Archive for the ‘Kaikoura’ Category

Back north

Our last day on the South Island and after showers, breakfast and final packing we left Kaikoura and headed back north.

The weather started off being slightly overcast but as we drove on it slowly cleared with a little sunshine.  The journey was pretty smooth, albeit windy at times and with several lorries and road works to slow us down.

Kaikoura mutant crayfish.

After a little over an hour’s  journey we stopped at a picnic place just outside Ward (Opa’s town) for a mid-morning snack of biscuits and fruit strings.  Then Tim offered to drive the second half to Picton. 

As we neared the town I noticed the petrol light had come on, one of my main worries when driving,  and Tim happily drove past one or two petrol stations!  Fortunately, as we got closer to the ferry port we managed to top up the car with the minimum 2 litres – all to do with returning the car to Apex in Wellington with an empty tank.

Now that the fuel was sorted we could check in the car.  But where was the ferry?  Where were we meant to go?  We could actually see the ferry but couldn’t get to it.  We had ended up in the long-term/short-term car park!  Because we had been so focused on finding a petrol station, we had missed the one and only sign to the check-in point.   I suddenly spotted a queue of cars behind the station, so we drove back past the petrol station and turned right across the railway line and joined the queue with still 20 minutes to spare.  (If you miss your check-in time you automatically lose your place!)

Once we had parked our car on Deck 5A we headed up the stairs and settled ourselves in the family area again.  We had our jam sandwiches in the car whilst waiting to drive onto the boat, but we were still feeling a little peckish so I went to buy a couple of sandwiches and muffins to share.

The crossing was very smooth, but seemed to take forever.  There were lots of families with screaming tired little children, a clown to entertain them for a good half hour (Ellen came back with a balloon in the shape of a giraffe) and two television screens showing Disney Channel (Mickey Mouse and The Little Mermaid) or the Oprah show.

It was gone 4.30pm before we drove off the ferry and into Wellington.  Within ten minutes we had parked at New World supermarket, which is pretty much opposite the Youth Hostel.  We checked in, received our key and found out about the post office (just around two corners) and clothes recycling (we could leave our bag with old clothes in a box on our floor and YHA staff will sort it out).

We left our two bags in our room and went to park the car at the waterfront.  If you park at the other side of the swimming pool, it’s free until 10am tomorrow morning.  We managed to find the last parking space and walked back towards the hostel. 

Whilst Tim and the girls carried on, I popped into the supermarket to buy a little food for breakfast and lunch (muffins, rolls, ham, fruit and dried apricots – pretty healthy!).

Tim quickly checked emails and then we all went in search of Burger King, we had promised the girls we would eat out there when back in Wellington.  We opted for a “midnight feast” again, and there were no left overs and even room for a small dessert.  There was a lot of to do about Ellen preferring her 60c ice cream in a cup rather than a cone.  We were told to buy her a $2.30 ice cream in a cup, although the customers in front of us were allowed to buy a 60c ice cream in a cup!  Anyway, after we pointed that out to the staff we were offered a tiny cup, which happened to be exactly the right size for Ellen.

Back at the hostel we made our way to the “lounge”, two comfy sofas and a coffee table where we sat for over half an hour reading, blogging and playing lonpos (12 puzzle pieces to be put in a rectangle – sounds easier than it is).

At about 8.30pm we retreated to our bedroom and got the girls ready for bed.  Time for me to write today’s entry and for Tim to update the blog with other recent entries.

View from our hostel window.

Not a very early start tomorrow.  Our flight isn’t until mid-afternoon, so that should give us enough time to visit the post office (send home leaflets) and return the car.


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Trash Fashion

It was good to see the sun again today. We spent much of the morning in the garden, the girls sketching flowers while the adults were hatching plans.

Shortly after lunch we decided to make the most of the fine weather and walk into town along the South Bay Track. This looks straighforward enough on the map, but we discovered that it involved quite an ascent and subsequent descent to traverse the breadth of the peninsula. Lovely scenery and all good exercise; the girls’ initial grumbles (why didn’t we drive?) soon wore off.

On the north side we walked down to the pebbly shore and failed to skip stones on the water (too many waves).

Chameleon Ellen blending into the background…

Then west along the esplanade with its side streets – Margate, Ramsgate, Brighton and Yarmouth. Into the i-Site where Hannah and Ellen each bought a bookmark (one with the Moeraki boulders at dawn) before a welcome sit-down in the library (no WiFi here, though).


We (well, Hannah) couldn’t pass a shop/gallery called ‘Trash Fashion’ without looking inside; as you might expect, it was full of recycled items of clothing, some for sale and some just for display – past entries for an annual themed competition inviting creations made entirely from discarded materials. No, not simply material, but materials. So we saw bottle-top skirts, toothbrush bras, fabric woven from old video tape, and Hannah’s favourite which was a wedding dress composed of old bras and petticoats. All very creative and (by and large) skilfully executed. We weren’t encouraged to take photos but I don’t see the harm in giving them a bit of publicity.




Another rest in the Why Not Cafe for some much-needed refreshment and then to Paper Plus where we stocked up with diaries for the girls – we reckon Ellen will fill four of her half-picture half-text exercise books by the time we reach the end of our trip while Hannah will need two of her narrower-lined books.

We then continued looping along the main road (SH1) and back to South Bay; a long walk in total, perhaps three or four miles. We’ve lost the habit of going by foot since South America, but it’s reassuring to know we haven’t completely regressed to couch-potatodom since then.

Back around 4.30pm, after which the girls had a bath (yes, there’s a bath here) and we prepared our final home-cooked New Zealand meal – sausages and mash. We’re packing tonight, but this time it’s serious – in other words, packing for our next flight. Time to slim down ruthlessly from our bootful of belongings to six bags and no more. Leaflets to post home, clothes to leave at a charity shop, food to leave for the next visitor here.


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We had a poor night’s sleep (always seems to be the way after having restful days) but dragged ourselves up at 8am for final packing, cleaning and departure. Our first stop was a shopping centre to the south-west of Christchurch, recommended by Christine, and here I successfully replaced my tatty and stained microfleece with its broken zip. So what? Well, I’d just about given up on finding such a garment in New Zealand, and this represents my first new item of clothing in nearly six months of travelling (bar the hat from Cusco). That’s a clothing budget for me of about 13 pence per day so far (about the same as at home, then…)

We pressed on to Hanmer Springs a good hour and 40 minutes away, stopping for lunch (a savoury muffin followed by cake) in Culverden, half an hour before our destination. On arrival we were lucky enough to find a free parking space near the entrance to the Springs, but the vast numbers of cars foretold something of a scrum inside. We paid our $35 family admission, got changed, stowed our belongings in a fancy computerised $2 locker and picked a random hot pool to begin with. It seems that each pool has a unique temperature and chemical composition, and we started off with the 33C with sulphur, sodium and magnesium (presumably not in their pure elemental forms). Don’t put your face in the water, we were warned at every turn, and even when I floated on my back a ‘lifeguard’ came over to tell me (via Kirsten) to find another non-mineral pool or else keep my ears out of the water.

We sampled various aquatic environments, including the rock-and-concrete-lined ‘river’ connecting some of the pools and the three large and hot hexagonal tubs bearing a barely-humorous sign saying ‘beware of the honey bees’.


The girls particularly enjoyed the cooler children’s pool with a little crocodile water slide – just the thing to boost their confidence, especially when Ellen managed it on her own without needing me to catch her at the bottom of the chute.

Yes, it was all so much busier than last time, not just the Springs but the whole settlement which now offers bungy jumping and the full range of thrill-seekers’ activities. A shame – I don’t want to see the whole country turned into a giant Queenstown.

We spent two hours in the water (the time limit of our locker code), then emerged, got changed and had an ice cream. It began to rain and we continued our car journey to Kaikoura under dark skies along mountainous and twisting roads, arriving around 6.20pm.

Our penultimate stay is called The Kiwi Bach (no, it’s not the former residence of some talented Antipodean composer) and its slightly dog-eared, quirky charm is typical of so many seaside holiday homes here. The variety of accommodation here has been fun – many have had their little shortcomings but at least we haven’t been stuck in a series of nondescript and indistinguishable motel rooms. We’ve had the tree in the house (Motueka), the house in the trees (Punakaiki), the smart new fully-equipped townhouse (Christchurch) and the tatty old bach with no storage and water restrictions (Hot Water Beach). Kiwi Bach has lopsided curtains for some reason (i.e. they don’t meet in the middle of the window), moths in the bathroom and a fine sea view.

I met up with the owner (who lives two doors down) to settle up for our two nights here and then we drove into town to find somewhere to eat. Now we stayed in Kaikoura during our previous trip but apart from a walk along the beach in a gale we have zero recollection of anything else here. Scary to find one’s memory failing so spectacularly; you tend to think that it all gets stored away somewhere and with the right trigger it’ll all come back to you. It’s as if we’ve never been here before, and the beach episode may be down to a snippet of video we took rather than the original experience.

Anyway, we found The Black Rabbit Pizza Co. on the main road and ordered a Hawaiian pizza, garlic bread and spaghetti (well, tagliatelle as it turned out) with venison mince. Not a lot of ambience – no tablecloth or candlelight – just benches and a basic slatted wooden table for those strange customers (such as ourselves) who didn’t want a takeaway meal. Still, the food was good and more than enough to fill us up; even Hannah (who is not a great pizza fan) was impressed.

It should be a pleasant sunny day tomorrow – not sure we’ll be whale-watching, but we can get outside for a change.

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