Published: March 26th 2006March 26th 2006
Kia Ora, possums! Kia ora is Maori for ‘hello’, but we could also have said Tena Koutou as we are greeting three or more of you. Woooooh, clever aren’t we? But enough of the smart chat, and down to the juice.
It felt really excellent to be heading away from Nelson, and get out on the road and see more of the cool sights of the South island. Honestly - everywhere you look there are stunning views of mountains, pine forests, rain forests, turquoise milky waterways, dried up wide & winding grey stone riverbeds, and the sunsets are something else. We shifted Beryl into gear on Tuesday morning, and headed south towards Nelson Lakes for a relaxing woodland overnight by Lake Rotoiti at St Arnaud. St Arnaud has a Maori translation of ‘Sandlfy City’ - not really- but that’s what we were referring to it as while we swatted & swore our way through Tuesday afternoon and evening. Here’s some triv on sand flies:
1) Sandflies hang around in gangs of thousands, preferring areas which are wooded with water nearby. Although they will happily buzz into to town for a bite to eat if the notion takes them.
Sandflies are about an eighth of an inch long, and they can get into your campervan through the mesh window screens. We have witnessed them spend a minute looking for big enough holes, then they pop through and attack you.
3) They don’t have big pointy hose noses to stick into your skin / tap a vein or artery like the evil mozzies do. Instead they have their own chilling method of getting their blood feast underway….. They bite you several times, making loads of teeny incisions to get the blood up to the surface of your skin, then they lick away until they have had enough. Minging.
4) The bites itch as they inject this anticoagulant into you to keep the blood coming. Minging again.
5) It’s only the females that bite you because they need a blood meal before they can lay eggs. ‘Typical women’. Wait a minute….. who said that???!!!!
6) It’s fairly easy to take them out by flattening them with bits of kitchen roll as they climb up the glass trying to get back out of your van. Problem is though, that by this time they have already got you and then you get the
creeps because the bit of kitchen roll is covered in bright red blood, recently ingested by the little feckers.
7) Vitamin B12 does not, we repeat DOES NOT, prevent them from biting you. Nor it would seem does 40% Deet repellant. The best thing to do is wear ten layers of clothes and go out into the sunshine looking like Nanook the eskimo.
8) Our cousin Eleanor was right though….. a little dab of Vegemite will take the itch away. Only thing is that you look like a freak with bits of brown stuff dotted all over you. Another side effect of the Vegemite is that dogs take a liking (and a licking) to you. Ho hum.
After our stint in Sandfly City we headed onwards and downwards to the Glacier district, via a one night stopover in Hokitika. There’s not much there but in the surrounding areas you can go walking and mountain biking and all that sort of thing. If you can be arsed.
So then……glaciers…… ice n’ that……. Very dramatic looking. Very cold. Very big. Very dangerous. Very much like a cold snowy day in the homeland? Not quite. There are two glaciers that most
Top part of FJG
Look closely and you can see a teeny white helicopter hovering above... getting ready to land no doubt.. This might help with the scale.
people visit here in NZ. These are the Franz Josef and the Fox (as in Fox’s Glacier Mints). We visited the Franz Josef, and it’s basically a great big frozen ice flow which is wedged between a series of rainforest covered mountains. Location wise, it’s situated about half way up the South Island on the West coast. The glacier has been retreating for the last few hundred years (‘retreating' means melting, crumbling, getting smaller) except for a period of 11 years between 1985 /96 when it advanced (got bigger again) by nearly 2 kilometers! The glacier looks pretty amazing and you can see it from a fair distance away. In the village, there are loads and loads and loads and loads and loads of companies offering you the opportunity to hike for a half day or full day on the ice, or even take a helicopter trip to the top and, wait for it …. WALK on the snow. Imagine! Walking on SNOW! The very thought of it. Gee whiz, that would really be something, wouldn’t it? Walking on snow, yeah... Unsurprisingly we haven’t done either of these activities because to be honest it’s a bit of an expensive ticket
to more or less replicate what we’ve done so many times since birth. Also, it just wouldn’t be the same without a school bag and derry boots. However, we do appreciate that there are heaps of folks from, say, Australia who will never have seen snow, let alone trudged wearily along on it, so in this situation we guess it would be fair enough.
And we’ve got a new hobby. Kayaking. Pocahontas style on mirror lakes. It’s truly fabulous, and sometimes a bit weird in that you can’t tell where the water is. When it’s really calm, all you can see is sky below you. Bit freaky, but brilliant fun. Gives you sore shoulders too, if you are unfit chunkers like us, but otherwise it’s one of the best activities in the world, and we’re going to have a go again in other places. We did this during our stint in Franz Josef, on Lake Mapourika. Kayak hire cost us 50 dollars per person which transfers to about 20 quids each. Great value we thought for three hours of total tranquility, paddling around on our own with the most awe inspiring views of snow capped peaks and rainforests. The
Don't know what's going on here. One of them is sticking its tail into the other one's head. Aye, aye!
company we hired from is called Ferg’s Kayaks, and they take you to the lake, give you safety instructions and sort you out with gear including dry bags and waterproof skirts and let you get on with it till your time is up! And the weirdest thing - when you paddle up close to the rainforest, you get a magic echo, echo, echo, echo, echo…… Lastly, a top tip is to go first thing in the morning (pick up at 9am) as this is when the lake is at its most calm. As the day goes on the wind picks up enough to put a light ripple on he water, and this prevents you from seeing the splendour of the mirror effect.
What else? Hmm.. (scratches head). We’ve done some walks including a lovely trek round another lake -Lake Matheson- which is located about 6kms outside of the small village of Fox, next to the glacier of the same name. That was really nice, and we saw loads of wildlife and unusual plants and flowers. We actually stayed in Fox for one night in a great campervan park with good facilities and marvellous views of the mountains. Most nights
Beryl meets Bertie
Beryl is on the left. Alan shakes Trev's hand outside KFC.
we’ve been really well behaved and cooked our own dinner (much more economical), but on the night we were here it was a Friday, so we decided to treat ourselves by going out for tea. Any excuse will do, Friday or otherwise. Fox village is teeny weeny, but there is a welcoming American style saloon, called ‘Cook Saddle’ where we bought smashing pork ribs for dinner, smothered with gloopy BBQ sauce and accompanied by well salted crispy potato wedges. In the saloon there was a real fire going and there were sets of antlers & rugby memorabilia on the walls. Burly men with hairy faces stood around in red and black checked lumberjack shirts drinking pints of the local poison - Montieth’s Ale, no less!
Just remembered something else that happened which was completely bizarre. We stopped off in a KFC for some food after a big drive, and while we were finishing up this old guy approached us and enquired as to whether we were the owners of the Diahatsu campervan parked in the lot outside. We thought ‘ here we go, he’s crashed into Beryl or something’, but we were wrong. Very wrong. He told us that
he had a campervan which is exactly the same as our Beryl. And not only that… he had seen us from his house, some 10kms away, and jumped in his campervan (now known as Bertie) and followed us so we could take a deek at each other’s prized vehicles. So off we all traipsed outside. We thought maybe the old guy meant that his was a similar style to Beryl, so imagine our surprise when we got outside to find that they were like two peas in a pod apart from the number plate! We hung about for a half hour or so chatting away with the old dude, Trevor Snow was his name. He was great, dead interesting and incredibly young looking and acting for his age - 78! We had thought he was maybe about 60 or so. Anyway the upshot of the whole thing is that we now know a bit more about Beryl’s history. Apparently a guy was setting up a campervan rental company back in 1989, and he bought 12 of these vans and did them all up the same way, down to the interiors, finishings and paint job. Unfortunately the company went bust very
early in its life, and the vans were all sold to private owners. Our Beryl has only been owned by one guy before we bought it, and Trevor has had his since 1990 when the company went broke. How great is this? We couldn’t believe Trev had followed us, although it’s kind of like that here in NZ. The people are completely friendly and always say hello as you pass. Also, there is a total Campervan club thing that goes on. Whenever you pass one on the road, the drivers always acknowledge each other. We love it, especially Shaz, who waves her hand vigorously and grins away like a big Cheshire cat!
Guess that’s it for now folksters. Our next blog is going to be about our adventures in Queenstown - that’s where we are today.
Over and out,
Al & Shaz. xxx
There are more photos below