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Published: June 26th 2018
Char woke up on the farm for her first sunny birthday ever. We packed up the van, took one last dip in the creek and got on our way. We headed for Anatoki Salmon which is a company/ restaurant where you can fish for your own salmon. They will then smoke it or sushi it for you to eat in their restaurant - fancy eh! Well that’s what we thought too but it turned out to be a bit of a kiddies gimmick so we headed onwards in search of something better. We visited a few tourist sites along the way the first of which was Waikoropupu Springs. We had been told they were crystal clear turquoise lakes which was funny because they all referred to them as PuPu Springs! Anyway, they were absolutely the clearest turquoise Springs we had ever seen. They were set in colourful jungle with beautiful flowers and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We then went for a hike up to the Aorere Caves and Gold Fields. This was a fantastic but much steeper trek than we had originally planned but it was well worth the effort. The “Ballroom” cave was huge with stalagmites and stalactites all around the outside. We then walked up further to a man made lake at the very top of the mountain used for the old gold mining days. That evening we went to Mussel Inn and had some amazing craft ales. We also ordered and paid for one large nachos but received three plates! Some birthday girl luck we think, the portions were so huge we had to pack the two free ones up to scoff later.
We awoke from our nacho slumber, heads slightly worse for wear and suddenly we realised it was Christmas Eve! In order to fulfil our plan of swimming in the sea on Christmas Day we had to continue heading north where all of the golden beaches were hiding. We got all the way to the top and made a beeline for “farewell spit”. Which is a huge thin piece of land stretching into the ocean with a long beach. The weather wasn’t the best with it being quite cloudy but that still made the views more dramatic.
We decided to walk as far as we could, sit on the beach and treat ourselves to a smoke. We got 2 miles along and found the perfect spot - (a log)and went to find the lighter only to realise it was in the Mothership. A bit disheartened we even tried to light a fire with a bear grylls technique, that looked far to easy on television, unsuccessfully. We trudged the couple of miles back up the beach and drowned our sorrows on cappuccinos in a cafe/viewpoint overlooking the spit.
We decided to drive a little more and with the weather brightening up, head to Wharariki beach and record our Christmas song medley that we had written for people back home. We got to a spot overlooking a lake and spent the next 1 1/2 hours trying to record it. Long story short we successfully recorded the song but when we watched it back we realised it was a bit of a lacklustre performance! So it never got aired on Christmas Day but remains on our personal library.....
After this we rushed off to get some supplies for Christmas dinner from the supermarket - spent about $60 in 6 minutes - and found a perfect river on our way to camp for a wash. (Well it is Christmas after all). The campsite we ended up on was really cool. You could drive onto a stone beach river bank surrounded by woods and trees and sleep there. There were a few other travellers with campers and it had a really nice atmosphere (Jack nearly ruining it by beaching the Mothership). We decided to bang on the Christmas flicks on the iPad and get down to that well earned smoke from earlier.
We woke up and immediately banged on some more Christmas films and had a lazy morning by the river trying to feel Christmassy. It definitely felt strange to be in a shorts and t shirt watching the grinch.
We obviously had to get to a beach asap so packed up the Mothership, had a beautiful scenic drive past the bays and beaches and ended up perching ourselves on the edge of a bay where (at the time) there was nobody else but us. We chilled there for a few hours having regular paddles in the blue water and then went on the hunt for some WiFi so we could call our families that evening (Christmas morning in England). As we had to head south in order to get to our New Years festival “Rhythm and Alps” we ended up spending Christmas night in Motueka where we were working as it was the only camping spot we could get some valuable internet.
Not forgetting one of the most important parts of Christmas - dinner! As we didn’t have the facilities to make a full blown roast we decided to go native and have homemade burgers. We spent that evening making our patties with a beer in hand and after dinner made the all important phone calls. Christmas in New Zealand is pretty sweet but it doesn’t beat an English one!
We got up on Boxing Day and instead of tucking into some turkey leftovers and picking through the less popular ruminants of the quality street we got on the road and headed south. The drive was pretty cool, most of the way we drove along beautiful rivers and through gorges. We past some old gold mining towns which have now almost no one living in them and look like they are from some old movies. Lots of single story wooden houses with rusty cars and big old wooden cart wheels being used as fences. We were never short of a new view or place to pullover and go exploring. We continued down the south coast and decided to spend the night in Greymouth as we needed a few last minute bits from warehouse before the festival but because it was Boxing Day we had to wait until the following morning. Instead we went for a walk along the coast, there was much better surf here than the other places we had seen in NZ and lots of people were put in the water surfing. We had best intentions to have a decent hike and stretch our legs after a long day sat down in the car, but neither of us really had the energy, so after only about 30minutes we turned around and walked back to the car!
We woke up early and raced around a few stores and a charity shops getting the final bits for the festival and set off. This was by far our favourite day of driving as the scenery was unreal. There were huge mountains all around us, the valleys were so green and the rivers and waterfalls were aqua blue and perfectly clear. We stopped off at Hokitika with the intentions of buying ourselves some of the famous NZ greenstone as a Christmas present. There were so many shops to choose from, naturally Char needed to check out as many as possible in order to find the perfect piece of jewellery. After scouting around we both decided it didn’t feel like the right place to buy it, too busy, too many Chinese tourists and no independent jewellery makers just big shops. We then went to Hokitika Gorge which was through more amazing countryside and farm land. Then you park the car and walk over some rope bridges and snake your way down to a really pretty spot by the waters edge. The water runs a really pale turquoise colour here and you can’t see through to the bottom. We were told that it’s because the water that fills the gorge is glacial run off and it’s the “glacial flour” which gives it this colour. Had we have known it was such a nice spot we would have brought swimming stuff and joined in with the kids hurling themselves off the rocks. But maybe it was best we didn’t because we dipped our toes in and they took about 5 minutes to thaw out again! We then made our way down to the glaciers and decided to park and walk up to the view point of Fox glacier. I’m not sure what we were expecting but it didn’t really blow our socks off. It was hard to get a good look at the glacier from the view point and it just looked like a bunch of rocks and landslides. Maybe this was one of the things we should have forked out and paid for the helicopter ride..... jokes. What was amazing though was the huge gorge it had left behind and the signs telling you where the iced finished years ago. Scarily as you drive up to the car park the first sign you see says this is where the ice was in 1750 and then 1 or 2km later there was one saying 1950 then it was about 3km from that point to the ice now! That night we were tired and so just stopped on the side of the road next to a French family who we were chatting to. They saw us rummaging around making dinner and the guy brought us over some freshly caught and steamed brown trout, soooo delicious!
We said yesterday that it was one of the best days driving we had had but it was quickly beaten by this day. The drive between fox glacier and Wanaka is absolutely the best NZ scenery ever!!! When we arrived we headed to the local supermarket to get the obligatory supplies of booze and snacks for the weekend ahead and saw Rachel there. The three of us had a few hours to kill before heading to the festival so we decided to chill by the lake which was crazy beautiful. Lake Wanaka is awesome. The clearest water ever, a pebble beach running right up to the water and water sports galore. We met a German girl called Mel who was volunteering at the festival with us there too. The weather was hotting up so we had a soak in the fresh water just before we headed off..... any chance for a wash must be taken!
When we got to the festival we parked up the Mothership and checked in. Keeping our alcohol in the van initially to scope out how strict the no alcohol policy was. We immediately made friends with a bunch of strangers when we were setting up camp and wasted no time in making a makeshift fort/shaded area to get out of the heat! Suffice to say this didn’t go well and soon was falling down.
That evening we had a welcome bbq and beers with all of the other volunteers (Volly’s) and took some time to walk around the place. We were assigned to the bag checking team at the entrance and none of our shifts clashed with any music - dream! The grounds were pretty small compared to other festivals but seemed to have plenty of food vendors and toilets! There was even hot showers, yes - HOT showers. This was an overwhelming treat and very unusual. That night we all got busy sneaking in and drinking our alcohol with all of the other volunteers. Start as you mean to go on!
That first morning there were a few sore heads and dry mouths but nothing too major. Our first shift was from 12 - 8 at the entrance. We had to check people’s bags/tents/sleeping bags for any alcohol or drugs. If we’re honest we felt pretty guilty about taking stuff off people and being the killjoys but we soon got over it after we realised all of the alcohol confiscated went on our after festival celebration! We were also given food vouchers to use (1 per shift) which we cashed in for some burgers and fries. Saying that, Char managed to get her food without even having to give the voucher over - 1 extra free meal! Once our shift was over we headed out to see the music that was on. At this point both of the bigger stages were still closed and the music wasn’t the best so decided to head back to the tent and have our own little party at the campsite.
Next morning and the heads were at their worst so far for a bright and early 9am start to our shift. This was far busier than yesterday and was a struggle! This was made worse by the security manager making us be even more thorough as apparently not enough booze and drugs were being confiscated. I’m sure that had nothing to do with most of the Volly’s being hungover and not wanting to be partypoopers...
After the struggle shift we cashed in on a HOT shower and spent the afternoon watching some better music. All of the stages were open now and we even saw the artist who sang Chars Boxing entrance music. We also met another English lad, Henry, who was an ex school teacher who came to New Zealand to write a children’s book. We gave all of our ideas for this book and made sure our names will be on the acknowledgments. We soon cashed in another food voucher, headed back to the tent with some of the other Volleys and got pissed. From what we remember it was a great night!
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