Published: May 28th 2012May 25th 2012
Friday 4th May
Our overnight at Hokitika was spent enjoying a good cooked dinner and some wine in Crowded House and we had no real reason to venture out to sample the 'nightlife' of Hokitika as it was pretty chilly and we were in need of a good nights sleep so on Friday morning we did a bit more shopping for the kids, topped up with diesel and then headed off north towards Greymouth.
One of the 'joys' of driving in another country is some of lifes little surprises you come across. We were a bit open mouthed when just north of Hokitika we encountered a roundabout with a railway crossing right thru the middle of it! Next, we come across a narrow one lane car bridge with a rail line running down the middle. No traffic control on either, you just work it out!!
On to Greymouth and I might say here that it was one of our better decisions to stay at Hokitika last night instead of going on to Greymouth and staying there. Sorry Greymouth but what we saw on our way thru town didn't inspire us to linger there. The towns image was further
diminished by the thick fog which, probably in Greymouths favour, hid a lot of the poor looking houses badly in need of attention and a coat of paint. The whole place had the depressing look of unemployment and poverty about it and the smoke and polution belching from the brick industrial chimneys reminded us of some of the depressing towns in the midland of England. All of the towns we had previously visited so far in the South Is. were, in the main, nicely kept with pretty gardens and nicely painted weatherboard houses, especially in the smaller rural towns. Sadly, Greymouth seemed aptly named and depressed us somewhat.
After only a few km's out of Greymouth the scenery improved and soon the fog lifted, the sun came out and once more we were back in green pastures and agricultural land with the welcome sight of some mountains in the distance. Saw some deer farms and more sheep and cattle. Always a nice sight for the soul.
We originally intended to stop overnight at the little town of Murchison but now decide to keep going right thru to Nelson. This is a big day for us, probably the longest
drive we have undertaken but we have been lured on to Nelson by the thought of going to the Saturday markets tomorrow morning. We had been reading that the Nelson markets were something special so we are going to make the effort. Also, Nelson is a big centre and boasts all sorts of attractions so we may even spend 2 days there.
After passing thru the town of Reefton on the Inangahua River we proceed on up to where we stop for lunch in the van by a picturesque picnic area where the Buller River cuts a spectacular gorge thru the mountains. Some real great driving here and wish sometimes I was in a sports car than dear old Crowded House. Which brings me to the point that during all our travels so far in NZ, we have rarely had any real problems with other drivers (unlike our fellow West Australians!) and only once or twice have encountered the dreaded "tailgater". Most drivers have been well mannered and held back their distance. At all times we have tried to pull over wherever possible to allow fast cars to pass us and in most cases have been acknowledged with a
waving hand and a toot. Being a small light campervan we have been able to sit mostly on the speed limit and hold our own on mountain roads. We had one Kamakazi driver behind us once who couldn't wait for us to pull over (we had nowhere to go!) and decided to chance his arm (and the life of his passenger) and passed us on a double line and nearly wiped himself and us out! The infuriating part was that only 2km further up the road there was passing lane!
Somewhere along here we stop by the site of NZ's Longest Swing Bridge. You have to park in a special parking area near the bridge and walk to the little hut where for a fee (admission!) they allow you to walk across this attraction. You can also take the "flying fox" across if you wish. See pics.
On to Murchison, a lovely little town with pretty houses and parks and gardens. We drove around a few back streets and were impressed by the neat weatherboard houses painted in contrasting colours. Pictured is a nice little church which is an example. In the main street we counted several great
looking cafes and restaurants. We commented that had we decided to stay overnight here we would have been quite happy. However, we keep going. The trouble with a short driving holiday is the time restrictions and trying to see too much. Next time we will sort this out.
On from Murchison we skirt around the edge of the Hope Range and cross the Buller River again and so on until we finally get to the outer approaches to Nelson and the beginning of the wine country. Soon we are driving in thru built up areas and shock horror, back into traffic lights. It is a long drive from Richmond in the outer suburbs of Nelson into the main town centre.
We manage to find the centre of town and park in a huge public carpark just opposite the big Tourist Information building. Inside you have to take a ticket and wait to be called to speak to an "information officer". I was amused to see that some of the ticket options were for how long you wished the 'interview' to be! eg, less than 5 mins or longer!! Guess they must get pretty busy here. It is a
huge place with all sorts of departments and tourist information stuff and rows and rows of books, maps and other merchandise. I get what I came in for, directions to the nearest Campervan Park. The information officer, I might add , was super polite and helpful.
The nearest park happens to be the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park and in peak hour city traffic on a Friday afternoon we head off in search of it.
The traffic around the foreshore to the park is under road works and we are very wary of the sign saying "give way to cyclists" when the whole road is under construction and the cycle path is closed off! We creep along between road works, graders and one lane markers and we remark that it would take a very brave cyclist to attempt this section. The edge of the road drops off into the water and as the tide is out, the rocks are well exposed.
Tahuna Holiday Park is a big park with excellent amenities but for us, without the usual "friendliness & warmth" that we have become used to in all our other parks around NZ. Here we encountered for the
first time a boom gate into the park. OK, yes, I know that in a big busy park this is necessary...... then there were all the RULES! Signs everywhere saying "don't do this, don't do that" Same again..necessary....but all the negativity takes away from the enjoyment of overnighting. Seems that there are a lot of "permanent" campers here. Some unseemly characters always hanging around the kitchen and although appearing 'friendly', they seemed to want to let you know that they 'lived here'. It put us off going into the kitchen and TV room.
This park is situated right on the flightpath to the local airport. Mainly 3rd level commuter light turboprop Dash-8's and the like but still...all day landing and taking off right over the park!
Just up the road from this park we found a few eating places, restaurants and fast food outlets and a big shopping centre so we decided to have a takeaway pizza and a bottle of nice NZ red. Must say here that this was a great pizza and after nearly 5 hrs on the road we crashed in Crowded House .
There are more photos below