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Published: September 22nd 2009
Tuesday, September 15th
Today our lives changed forever. We set off from Westport, heading for Karamea, 100km north. Karamea isn't on a road that leads anywhere. Our sole reason for going up there was to meet with Bruce Smith, the guy who teaches people to build log houses during a six day course. While in Fox Glacier Talita had phoned him to see when we could meet up. He wasn't in Karamea at the time which was lucky for us. There's no Vodafone reception in Karamea so he's almost always out of contact. We were very very lucky to get hold of him.
The drive had a bit of everything in it; straight sections next to the coast and winding mountain passes. We arrived at lunch time and made our way to where he stays. He's a tall guy, 54 years old, long hair pulled back into a pony and graying at the temples, very relaxed and very friendly. We chatted about life and what he's been doing and all kinds of stuff. He showed us what he's currently working on, then showed us pictures of the houses his students had built. We couldn't believe the size of some of
those places, all after a six day course with Bruce! He confessed that the course might be about building log houses, but its effect on the students is much more significant. It changes their perspective on what’s important in life. He told us about his upcoming projects and we couldn't help but marvel at how these go to the heart of some of the major issues plaguing our society. It was very apparent that he's a genius of sorts. We both felt that we'd found the next part of our journey and there's no going back to our old life now.
With an invitation to come visit him this evening we set off in search of a campsite. We found a nice spot on the other side of the river and spent the rest of the afternoon paging through campervan magazines. We were looking for hints and inspiration. Talita sat drawing a design cause we'd decided to get our own van and set it up ourselves.
With a good first design done we went to see what the view on the riverbank was like. Here we met Ted. He used to be the head of Search and Rescue
in the Nelson/Marlborough area, but is retired now. He and his wife are here for the two and a half month Whitebait season. These are little fish, about 6cm long. They swim from the ocean up the river in massive schools to lay their eggs. They are also referred to as white-gold, cause you can sell them for about $30/pound. Ted said that he catches on average 30 pounds a day but has caught as much as 60 pounds on good days. That's a lot of money! Ted took us to his catching sight and explained how he does it. It was very interesting and he also explained all the rules and regulations. He's a very interesting guy that lives a very interesting life. For two and a half months he catches Whitebait, then he hunts deer down in Fiordland for two months, followed by another few months hunting wild pigs near his home. He seems to be having a blast.
Soon it was dark and Ted guided us back to the campsite. We said our thanks and goodbyes and made dinner. Just as we finished Ted popped in and gave Ferdi two deep-fried Whitebait-in-batter patties. Ted knew that
Ferdi had wanted to try it so he brought some over. It was unbelievably tasty! Ferdi had never tasted fish that good.
With many thanks we said good night to Ted and drove to visit Bruce. When we got there some other people had a telescope out and were looking at the stars. They invited us to have a peak so we spent a few minutes looking at Jupiter and its moons. When we finally made it to Bruce he was brewing a soup. We made ourselves comfortable in front of the fireplace and his kitty Wobbles soon joined us. We sat chatting the night away. It was a great evening and we felt like we'd become fast friends in the course of a single day. We definitely want to come back and do his course, but we'll have to see how we can do that.
1. Meeting Bruce.
2. Designing our own van.
3. Meeting Ted.
4. Hanging out with Bruce. Impressions of NZ:
We really expected to find more free camping spots, but the most common sign in NZ seems to be the "No Camping" sign. They are everywhere! The only place you
seem to be able to camp for free is if you spend the night next to a road. The DoC (Department of Conservation) camp sites are gorgeous but not that great value for money either. It only has a long drop toilet and for $10 to $15 more we can get hot showers, a kitchen, fridge and freezer (and a lot of other tourists).
Wednesday, September 16th
We left Karamea, drove back through Westport and on to Nelson. Our perspective had made a complete shift. With a few words of advice, Bruce had made us look at life and our future in a whole new way (just imagine what would happen to us if we spend a week with the man). We felt free! The pressure (self-applied of course) to "get back on track" was off.
The area we drove through has a lot of logging operations and every time we passed a logging truck we'd laugh and say "There goes our house". We had lunch at a beautiful camping spot between the road and a river and then continued on.
It was a long drive and we were tired by the time we arrived in Nelson.
From what we could see it looked like a beautiful place to live. Nelson is one of the oldest cities in NZ and the centre of town doesn't seem to have a building higher than three floors. It's great!
We found a camping spot just out of town, played some guitar, visited the local sheep and went for a walk along the Maitai River. After dinner we watched a movie and then fell into exhausted sleep.
1. Nice forest-like camping spot.
2. Getting to stroke the sheep. Impressions of NZ:
Nelson reminds us of a smaller and less hectic Wellington. It's one of the nicest towns we've visited.
Thursday, September 17th
We left Nelson, taking the scenic route to Picton, 100km away. It was a tough drive with lots of bends and hairpins, but the views were great. We took a break outside of Havelock and walked up to a viewing point.
We arrived in Picton just before lunch time and went to visit the Seahorse Marine Aquarium. We'd read that they have Seahorses and we really wanted to see them. We got in at the "kids rate" because their main tank was
getting some treatment that clouded the water today. We quickly went through the other tanks, making a beeline for the Seahorses. There were a lot of them and they were delightful, coming up to the window when they saw us peeking in. It looked like they were performing for us. It was awesome!
We quickly popped into Subway, then checked into the ferry. At 2pm we left the South Island. We sat watching a movie and then explored the ferry a bit. We were feeling lazy so we sat reading inside.
We arrived back on the North Island and drove to the nearest supermarket. Our supplies were mostly depleted so we spent an hour replenishing our stock. It was dark by the time we arrived at Clive and Lize's place. Lize had to work the late shift so Clive made us a lovely pasta dinner and Luki entertained us. Lize arrived at about 11pm and we chatted for another hour. It was great to see some familiar faces again.
1. Dancing Seahorses.
2. Seeing our friends again.
3. Delicious home-cooked meal. Impressions of NZ:
We love the northern part of the South Island. The
weather’s great and it’s gorgeous.
Friday, September 18th
This morning we said goodbye to Clive, Lize and Luki, and left Wellington behind. If all goes well we’ll be back before too long. We drove north do Feilding where we had planned to spend the night. We arrived around noon and decided to keep going. Ohakune, a small town at the foot of Mt. Ruapehu, was where we wanted to be. Our one year anniversary is coming up and we plan to keep “tradition” and spend it in the snow.
(By “tradition” we mean that Ferdi had proposed in the snow, we had our one year engage-iversary in the snow, it snowed during our wedding and during our honeymoon in Peru)
We stopped for lunch at a nice secluded picnic spot by the river, a few kilometers outside of Feilding. After lunch we had a long nap then continued on. In Taihape we stopped for fuel and to take pictures of their giant gumboot. Made from corrugated iron it is quite big and Talita had no problem getting her foot in for a picture. The town is famous for its annual Gumboot festival which celebrates the humble gumboot with
a variety of events, like gumboot throwing, held on the Tuesday after Easter.
It was dusk by the time we arrived in Ohakune. We drove through town and ended up at the DoC campsite in the National Park. We hadn’t planned to stay here, but it was nice spot and we could save some cash. We made a noodle and soup dinner, then watched a movie. We love being out here in nature.
1. Reaching Ohakune.
2. Finding a nice camping spot. Impressions of NZ:
Some people have a strange way of entertaining themselves; like building giant gumboots or throwing them around. We’re gumboot fans too.
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