Day 463-465: Arataki Visitor's Centre to Ambury Farm RP, New Zealand

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May 6th 2010
Published: May 7th 2010
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The bird version of the TerminatorThe bird version of the TerminatorThe bird version of the Terminator

South Island Oystercathers moving in robotic unison

Tuesday, May 4th

We were woken by the arrival of a group of people at 6am. Stubborn refusal on our part to accept this reality allowed us to snooze till 8am. Sleeping in a parking lot is definitely not in anyway peaceful. Also, we were starting to feel a little like dirty street children, so we decided to go somewhere were we won't stand out so much. Some place with animals and the occasional other camper.

And so it was that after breakfast we set off back to Ambury Farm RP. We'd not spent much time there, it's nice and peaceful, there's animals and only the occasional other camper. On the way we stopped for a few supplies and managed to get most of our hiking food too.

Before reaching the park we spotted a nice spot by the water and decided to spend the day there. True, it was another car park, but it had a good view, and there were some birds that technically counts as animals. Just after our arrival a huge flock of South Island Pied Oystercathers arrived, thereby adding weight to our argument for being there. The South Island Pied Oystercather got its name from the fact that it breeds in the South Island, not because it is only found there. This is a little confusing, but we figured it out. The flock must've numbered several hundred and when Ferdi approached them they moved aside as one. With their red beaks, red eyes, and synchronized movement they gave the impression of a troop of creepy robot birds.

In the late afternoon we moved on to Ambury where found a route in that only required us to open and close two gates instead of four. We parked at the same spot we had occupied a few days ago, then gave up our nap to put up our tent. It's a proper Alpine Expedition tent designed for high wind and bad weather. It went up in moments and impressed us with its simplicity and spacious design. We unrolled our camping mattresses and sleeping bags in preparation for our first test sleep in the tent. Since the sleeping bags we carried with us are our summer bags we needed to see if we could still use them this early in the winter or if we'd freeze on the hike.

After dinner and a movie we got our pillows, put on the warmest socks we own, and headed out to our tent. We chose not to wear our thermal underwear, a puzzling and rather stupid decision considering that the summer sleeping bags are only rated to +8 degrees Celsius. Well, stupidity (laziness?) always has its price. The second thing we did wrong was to pitch the tent ever so slightly down hill. Ten minutes after laying down too much blood was in heads so we had to abandon our warm cocoon to turn around. Soon after that we fell asleep.

Today's highlights:
1. Finding most of our hike food.
2. Hundreds of Oystercatchers.
3. Pitching our mountain tent for the first time.

Wednesday, May 5th

At 4am we woke feeling a little cold. If we had no choice we could've spent the rest of the night in the tent, but the Boesman was right next to us and we decided to "change rooms". One of the reasons for being cold (other than not wearing our thermals of course) was that, unlike our winter sleeping bags, our summer bags can't zip together to make one big bag. That means very limited sharing of body heat,
Quite spacious interiorQuite spacious interiorQuite spacious interior

Finally our self-inflating mats and sleeping bags got some use
which is one of our favourite ways to stay warm. We decided that next time we'd wear our thermals and proper woolen socks. We’d also use our sleeping bag liners to add some more layers and hopefully warmth.

Before heading to bed we went to the loo. There was a freezing breeze blowing and by the time we got into bed again we were half frozen. It took a long while to warm up our bed, but after tossing and turning for a bit we fell into a dead sleep.

We woke again just after 8am. The sun was shining and there was no wind. While Talita did some admin Ferdi took the tent down. Our next test sleep would have to wait until we fetch the bag liners from our storage box at Team Smit. The tent proved to be as easy to take down and it is to put up, which is a great thing if you have to do it in high wind up some freezing mountain.

With that done we got into our active outfits, did our warm-up routine, and drove to the camp office where we filled our water tank before going
It looks the partIt looks the partIt looks the part

Now the big question is... what do we name it?
for a jog. Back at the van we got our shower gear and had a hot shower. That's right. There are a couple of hot showers by the office and we were allowed to use them! It was great.

After the shower we had a picnic on the lawn before driving to the nearest shopping mall. Talita had another meeting lined up and needed a pair of pants for the occasion. We spent hours walking through a centre filled with "outlet stores". It was huge, with little shops and big shops all over the place. It reminded us of both Malaysian and Thai malls. Everything everywhere was on sale. Ferdi was soon overloaded and chose to stay in the corridor while Talita entered shops.

Hours later we escaped the centre with only a "get well" card for Paddy. We hit the streets and a few shops, but found no pants. We did find the most amazing second hand bookshop. It wasn't quite as big as the one in Phuket, but much better organized. There's an estimated 130,000 books crammed into the tiny shop. Ferdi was delighted and ventured in while Talita continued her hunt for pants out on the street.

Talita came walking into the bookshop just as Ferdi came to the till to pay for a book he'd found. It was great timing because there's no way Talita would've found him otherwise. The little shop has so many nooks and crannies and three sets of stairs taking you to two different sections on the first floor. Books line the floors, the stairs, pretty much any place that a book can fit. We decided to come back another day and spend a few hours exploring it in more detail.

We drove back with a card and a book and no pants. Luckily the meeting is only on Friday so we have some time. Back at the park we had a sweet cuppa, cooked a delicious dinner and spent a few moments reading before drifting of to sleep.

Today's highlights:
1. Our longest jog yet.
2. A hot shower.
3. An awesome lunch.
4. Cool bookshop.

Thursday, May 6th

The night was clear and cold, but by dawn a thick layer of cloud had covered the sky. After breakfast we drove into Onehunga to find those illusive pants for Talita's meeting. Before we got to the “outlet centre” she spotted a Recycled clothing store on a side street, so we made a u-turn and went to investigate. We were delighted that we did. Talita got a great outfit for next to nothing and Ferdi got seven books.

Very chuffed with our find we printed and posted a couple of letters before going for a delicious lunch at an Indian restaurant. We were amazed at how quickly and easily things were happening today.

On the way to the van we walked past the Kathmandu outlet store and decided to see if they had any hiking socks. Even at clearance prices proper socks are unbelievably expensive here. While we mulled it over we browsed through the rest of the shop and found the "seconds" section. This is the place where they sell damaged products and we immediately found some amazing bargains. First we found a 9 piece hiking pot set for almost a fifth of the retail price because the frying pan's edge was slightly bent. Ferdi latched onto it and wouldn't let it go. At retail this set costs $140 while this lightly damaged set was marked down to $30 (Ferdi fixed the dent before we even got home). Talita found a pair of lightweight binoculars for a ridiculous $20 (usually $60) because the packaging was damaged. We also got a waterproof map pocket for $2 (usually $35). We couldn't believe it! In the end we also got a couple of hiking socks and some wooly warm sleeping socks. The socks ended up costing more than all the gear we'd gotten. Unbelievable.

Thoroughly chuffed with our acquisitions we finally headed home where we made popcorn and read a bit. After dinner we spent some more time reading, but by 8pm Talita had fallen asleep with her headlight on and her book open.

Today's highlights:
1. Finding a great outfit for Talita.
2. Seven books to read.
3. Indian lunch.
4. Great bargains at Kathmandu.


7th May 2010

Talita's meeting
Do I have to wait three days before I find out how it went? I'm praying that it goes well.
9th May 2010

hi from another SA in Auck
Hey there! Just wanted to say that it looks like you're having loads of fun. I found your blog searching for the name Talita (to name our baby due in Aug) and was surprised to see you are from SA and travelling NZ. Hope you have a blast. I see you've already discovered the cost of living in NZ! We live out in Piha, so if you're in the area, stop by for a coffee! Liesl Kruger :)

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