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Published: October 23rd 2008
Tuesday 14th October
After a good night's sleep we were awake by about 0700, Judy going for a walk along the beach whilst Rags prepared to go. We left before having any breakfast, having this at a roadside stop next to a lake before the town of Ward.
We continued down to Ohau Point, a seal colony reserve. We had been made aware of this stop through a travel blog by somebody else and they also mentioned the Ohau Falls. This was the highlight of the day, these falls being just a short distance inland from the seal colony. There were five seal pups in the pool under the falls, playing and having a great time. Taking photos was difficult due to the poor light and the quick movements of the seals. Rags sat himself on a rock near where they were playing, trying to get a shot using a flash. Gradually the seals became more used to him being there, getting closer and closer. Next thing, one came right out of the water and sat next to him, no further than 30cms away. That made Rags' day!
We continued down the coast to the town of Kaikoura
and here we had a meal of fish & chips, an elegant sea-food meal! We drove out to Kaikoura Peninsula, another seal colony being here. We have become quite expert at finding seals as we drive along the coast, at first you can't see a thing, then suddenly you notice them camouflaged against the rocks. After walking up to the almost compulsory lookout above, we returned to the beach to notice a small group of Asians picking up small crabs and cockles off the rocks. Rags had seen the decimation of the reef in WA by these people, and one of the locals had mentioned it to us elsewhere in NZ. Rags therefore went out, alerted them to the fact they were on a nature reserve and that the shells were for all to see and enjoy. Eventually they were made to understand that what they were doing was wrong and they reluctantly returned the shells in the bucket, giving Rags the finger sign as they left the carpark.
We stopped at a roadside stall just outside the park and tasted one of the whitebait sandwiches that seem to be the highlight of many. It was ok but nothing
to write home about in our opinion. Then on to some further sightseeing in the area before setting off.
We took the alpine route to Hanmer Springs, this being more picturesque. Interesting, but Rags is looking forward to a road where you can actually set the cruise control. These roads wind and twist every few hundred metres and it becomes quite tiring after a fifty kilometres or so. We stopped in Hanmer Springs at Greenacres, with a chalet replacing the van for the first time in almost 3 weeks. It was late and we both felt like having a real bed for a change! Great to have some space.
Wednesday 15th October
Judy, once again decided to go for a jog, having seen a track to Conical Hill and knowing Rags foot was too sore for him to walk it. She set off up the track that wasn't far from our hotel but it soon became too steep to jog. She was wearing the heart monitor so she could tell she was getting great exercise just pacing up the hill. Great views were had at the top but then as she started to descend she
saw a track going in another direction and decided to investigate. Poor track markings here. It was good for a while but then it was a case of heading in the wrong direction or heading down a forestry track so off she went, pretty soon regretting it! It was steep and slippery! She managed alright for a while but then the ground slipped from under her and she landed on her bum! Wham! On top of it all she felt she'd lost her way and didn't know how to get back to the main track. No use crying - there was noone to help so off she went, thought she better move before she stiffened up. Luckily, she found another track through the bush that led to the main downhill track and she was soon back at the hotel where she could have a warm shower and take one of Rags inflammatories!
After that we did what everybody does in Hanmer Springs, goes for a soak in the hot springs. It is all very well done with the pools in plush gardens, each giving its temperature. some of the pools are just thermal, others are also sulphur. They ranged
from a hot 42 degree pool, through 40, 38, etc down to a 'cool' 34 degrees. We spent some time in each but we found that for a longer soak the 35 degree was the most pleasant. We had pleasant relaxing time here but the wind was picking up as we left so we were lucky!
On the way south towards Christchurch we drove on the longest straight road in NZ, 13.7 kms long! We stopped off at Balmoral Forest for lunch, this being a pleasant grassed area surrounded by forest.
As it was still so early we didn't camp here, instead continuing to South New Brighton Motor Camp where the sites are separated in small groups by thick hedges. The facilities here were very clean, and even though we had them to ourselves we wondered how it would be in peak season with only two ablution blocks each with only 2 showers for each sex. We had thought to drive down to Akaroa but we both felt whacked so we laid back in the camper and were soon fast asleep - perhaps a reaction to the relaxing hot springs!
A brand new motorhome came in and
after meeting the owners, cattle farmers from the North Island, found it was made in Melbourne and that they had only had it 36 hours. They proudly showed us through it, very impressive. The cost? A$240K for the base model, but they had extras added.
They recommended the local hotel down the road for a good meal and we later walked to the Bach where we enjoyed the pork roast they served with a couple of the local beers/cider.
Thursday 16th October
On the recommendation of these people we decided to drive to the town of Akaroa, the site of an early French settlement, now a very much tourist town on that theme. We took the Arthur's Pass road through the mountains, having to travel through the Lyttelton Tunnel for about 2 kms before opening out into Lyttelton, a harbour town. We continued on,past beautiful scenery, climbing and on more twisting roads towards Akaroa, suddenly noticing that once again we had forgotten to check our fuel before leaving and the warning light was on. As we had traveled for over 40kms after this happened the first time, we bit the bullet and continued, watching the gauge
slowly drop. We passed through a few towns, they either not having service stations, or they were closed. A big sigh of relief when we reached Little River which had fuel but no band!!
We thought our troubles were now over, but when we pulled into the Hilltop Cafe, overlooking Akaroa, we had steam billowing out of the radiator. On checking, found that a heater hose had blown. Rang the hire company, told to ring AA, they couldn't find that we were members, rang company advising them of the exact problem, and about 30 minutes later we had some-one there to fix it. We were very lucky that we found the problem where there was a phone, we found out from the mechanic that mobile calls were not accepted on the company's free line!
Akaroa was a very neatly set out town, french type buildings and shops but nothing like the real France. Even so we spent some time there, had lunch in one of the cafes (bland, tough chilli musels) before returning to Christchurch on the relatively flat coast road. In some ways we were disappointed with Akaroa and most probably could have spent our day better
Let us use the phone to call for help!
in or around Christchurch.
We spent the night at the Amber Park Holiday Park. Beautifully kept place, they even guide you to your spot rather than just point it out. Judy was most impressed by the facilities, they even had towel floor mats to stand on when you got out of the non metered shower. We haven't been very impressed having to pay for a spot in a camper van park and then also having to pay extra for a shower in many!
Friday 17th October
Our last day in New Zealand. After packing and tidying the van, emptying the tanks etc we parked in a nearby shopping centre and caught a bus into the city. Here we roamed around a bit until Rags couldn't walk for the pain and left Judy to look in windows and buy a few nick-nacks. He sat in Cathedral Square watching people play chess with very large pieces, and just took in all around him.
Judy again left him at the "Robert Harris coffee shop while she shopped, although bought very little. she just likes to look!
The van was returned by 1300 and after standing in line
at the airport for the most of 90 minutes to serve no more than 40 people, we awaited our plane to take us home. So ended our 6 weeks in New Zealand.
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