When we came back, we watched Steve & Connie's wonderful presentation of their trip to Africa in 2013, after Steve had had a frustrating time getting it to work.
We didn't go to bed until 10.45.
Saturday 30th January To Richard & Teanny's on another wet day
It rained again all day! Luckily we had come to Vancouver to see relations and not the sights!
Mid morning Steve and Connie drove us to Richard and Teanny's and stayed to have coffee, then Adrian went with Teanny to get bread for lunch while I enjoyed playing with Elliott (3½) and Dylan (1½).
Steve and Doug with Dave
Late afternoon we all went to Teanny's parents to join over 20 relations to celebrate her father's 79th birthday. There was a veritable feast of food including meat, seafood, birthday cake and many Chinese specialities. We really enjoyed being part of this celebration.
We came back at about 9 o'clock for our last night in Vancouver.
Having coffee at Richard & Teanny’s with Steve and Connie
Teanny’s Dad’s birthday celebration
Sunday 31st January We leave Vancouver
It rained again until mid afternoon!
Teanny cooked us all a nice breakfast, including pancakes, then it was time for the boys' swimming lessons. We went along to watch – it was quite a while since we'd been inside an indoor pool full of children's noise. Elliott really enjoyed his swim today.
We had a short skype conversation with Emma & Barry, and later with Paul & the children. We also spoke to both Kathryn and Sharon, just back from a family skiing holiday, when Richard & Teanny skyped them. We’d emailed Simon for his birthday.
We packed up our things, then we all left, in 2 cars, for a dim sum restaurant in Vancouver. We ate lots of yummy food in the busy restaurant – the boys were really good.
Then it was time to say goodbye to Teanny, and to delightful little Dylan, as Richard then drove us to the airport, accompanied by Elliott. He was really upset when we left, we think that he imagined that he was going somewhere too! It had been lovely spending time with them and we were really pleased that our Vancouver stopover had worked so well.
Vancouver airport was very quiet and serene, with none of the bustle of other large airports.
A delightful Japanese girl booked us in, being pleased that we were visiting Japan on our homeward journey.
We had plenty of time before our flight. Adrian bought some gin with a few Canadian dollars which we had, and I bought a couple of packs of crisps with the remaining change! We cursed the gin when we then had to transport it everywhere with us (but were glad when we got to New Zealand and saw he price!)
The sun shone brightly as we waited for our 14 hour flight to Auckland, which took off on time at 6.30.
Waiting for our dim sum
Monday 1st /Tuesday 2nd February To New Zealand
We didn't have window seats for our flight, but as we took off and landed in the dark, it didn't matter! It was a shame that we weren't able to see the descent to either Vancouver or Auckland as both are dramatic.
We didn't really sleep on the flight, but each watched many films on our personal screens to pass the time. We crossed the international dateline, so didn't have 1st February!
We landed at Auckland, sometime after 5.30am, with lots of time, we thought, before our domestic flight to Christchurch, but the formalities and checks took ages, including rebooking in our luggage and catching the bus between terminals. We also managed to buy a phone card and get some money from a cash machine. By now we were feeling pretty fraught, particularly with the lack of sleep, and were surprised to hear them 'paging' us, as we were now just in time for our flight. All the staff were exceptionally nice to us – maybe they sensed our weary looks! For some reason our seat numbers had been changed, and once again we didn't have window seats. The sky was now a clear blue, and we enjoyed the bits of scenery that we could see. We'd been given tea/coffee and a biscuit on the 1¼ hour flight, which was welcome after our mixed up timescale!
At Christchurch Adrian was perturbed at first to find that the shuttle bus he'd phoned didn't now operate from the airport, but no worries – there was one that did, and soon we were being driven through the summer countryside, full of leafy trees and blue agapanthus. We noticed how pleasant people seemed to be, with stronger accents than we remembered, and more use of Maori words, and prefixing everything with kia-ora.
We reached our hotel at about 10 o'clock. Adrian had emailed to ask if we could have early access to our room, but hadn't received a reply. We were told that the rooms weren't ready, but the receptionist must have taken pity on us - maybe seeing our weary faces, and soon we were shown to our room. After so much travelling, I just wanted to have a wash and to sort out our things. We enjoyed the spaciousness as we did so, and then relaxed with a cup of tea.
Later we walked out in the warm sunshine, firstly seeing the 'cardboard cathedral', which had been rapidly put together after the devastating earthquakes of 2011.
We ate a sushi lunch at a pavement cafe, but had trouble in locating anywhere to buy bread, butter and cereal for tomorrow's breakfast We found some expensive butter and cereal in the end, but no bread. It felt hot as we returned to our room.
We arranged to meet up with Hilary and Andy, who had arrived (by coincidence) in Christchurch yesterday to start their visit to New Zealand. We met by the 'Cardboard Cathedral', and walked to 'Winnie bagoes', an eating place popular with younger people, sited in a large 'shed'. The others ate various pizzas, and I had tempura battered squid, which wasn't as good as it should have been, and the 'fries' were that – thin, pale and not crisp! The porter beer – Mac black- was excellent though.
Christchurch’s ‘Cardboard Cathedral’
With much difficulty, we also saw the remains of the 'old' cathedral, which we had so enjoyed in 1995. It was hard to find, as it was barricaded off behind hoardings.
Rebuilding was happening everywhere, with dozens of cranes. It saddened us to think of the apparent 'blandness' of the new buildings, after the lovely character of the old town.
What remains of the ‘old’ cathedral
The trams are still running
Beside the Avon River
Shops were all in containers
After a good catch up chat, we walked back for an early night, although we had coped pretty well with our change of time and lack of sleep!
Meeting up with Adrian’s sister Hilary
Wednesday 3rd February We collect our camper 109km
After a good sleep, we woke to a cloudy morning. I got breakfast with the few provisions we had bought and some scones which Teanny had given us then we got organised for the shuttle bus to the camper depot at 9.55 – the earliest time we could get.
Time passed very quickly until it was time for us to get picked up by Steve's Shuttle. We had a really cheery driver called Gazza, who picked up various other passengers including a young Finnish couple who were dropped to collect their camper from a different outlet. We had been the first passengers on, and almost the last to be dropped!
The weather was sunny when we reached 'Cheapa Campa' at 10.45, after dropping off two more people at the airport, and we then had a beautiful day. Gazza charged us $25 instead of $28 for the fare, as he was short of change!
We soon saw that things were not going to happen quickly! We had a very long wait until it was our turn to be dealt with. Our assistant was a pleasant and competent young girl, and all was going well until she asked for the payment. Adrian said that he had paid by bankers order. A really long exchange now took place, including computers, phone calls and discussions. Finally all was sorted (he had paid) and the girl went to bring the van round for us to see. Next problem was that a tap had been left on and water had come out from a pipe, flooding the floor. She went off to get it cleared up, but the mechanic decided to fit a new pipe, so that was another long delay! By the time everything was sorted, it was 1.30, so we headed off for a nearby supermarket to get stocked up. First we ate some lunch of Adrian's 'doggy bag' pizza from yesterday, fried up in a pan! Actually not bad.
We went into 'New World' for a mega shop, not leaving until 4.15. We just loaded all the bags into the van and set off, with the stuff all over the floor, except for the fridge items. The roads were incredibly busy, and Adrian was trying to cope with the heavy old vehicle, which had none of the 'go' of the Ixi. Also it was an automatic, which he wasn't used to. Topes (sleeping policeman) were here in profusion too. At one point the fridge (which had a very dodgy locking system) flew open , spilling contents all over the crowded floor.
Things got better when we neared the Banks peninsula, where both the countryside and the roads were empty. We pulled in at Caton Bay to admire the lovely scenery. The weather was warm but really windy.
We were surprised to climb steeply on winding roads before descending to the campsite at Duvauchelle, set beside a bay in a beautiful location on Akoara harbour. The price seemed expensive to us, but we needed to be in a campsite tonight to get water (the tank had been left empty) and to have electricity as we got settled in.
Having filled the water tank, we attempted to find places for the food. We soon saw many shortcomings in the van storage. We were hot, tired and hungry and we became rather fraught as we attempted to unload. Worst was not having a 'bathroom', just a cubicle with a loo and shower head, with no separate sink, and with no facilities to put anything, not even a loo roll!
Finally we ate, leaving the rest of the unpacking for the morning, and trying to enjoy the beautiful view.
Caton Bay on the Banks peninsula
Duvauchelle - lovely place for our first night in the camper
Thursday 4th February Delightful Akaroa 57km
We both slept quite well, waking at first light and watching the sun reach the top of the hills across the water. We read through our diary so far, and discussed the various shortcomings of the van. I spent the morning unloading the contents of my bag, and trying to find a suitable home for everything.
It was sunny and hot. We sat out enjoying the exquisite view as we ate breakfast and later our tea/coffee, finding the camping chairs very comfortable.
Late morning we left and drove on down to Akaroa. It was the most beautiful journey with the azure sea contrasting with the green hills. There was very little traffic to spoil things.
When we reached the charming little waterside town of Akaroa, we parked and walked around. It was quietly bustling with tourists. We managed to buy a couple of bag clips, but didn't find any hooks. Adrian had been enjoying using his new camera. We moved on a bit further and stopped to have lunch sitting on a bench beside the water, watched by a noisy red billed gull.
Beautiful spot for breakfast
The road went no further, so we took the Summit Drive back, which followed the spine of the peninsular and gave tremendous views down to the inlet of Akaroa Harbour, and to the other side of the peninsula too.
Atmospheric Akaroa with some agapanthus
Soon after reaching the 'main road', we stopped at Catons Bay, where we had pulled in briefly yesterday. We both thought that this would make a lovely overnighter. We sat and watched the prolific bird life on the water. There were ducks, geese, black swans and a chicken. We were really pleased to see two Australasian crested grebes, as these are only found on the South Island, and there are reputedly only 350 of them.
We later ate our supper outside, sitting beside the lake watching the variety of ducks. We came in at 8.30, both feeling very tired.
We had superb views from the Summit Drive
Australasian crested grebes
A black swan to remind us of Dawlish
Friday 5th February Heading south 114km
The bridge over the Rakaia River - the longest bridge in New Zealand
Saturday 6th February Ups and downs as we head for Lake Tekapo 164km
We woke early to see the sun just rising - a lovely surprise after yesterday's grey weather.
I even had a very quick swim in the pleasant little pool before a BATH! even if the bath was very tiny.
A wonderful vintage find for Adrian!
At bedtime we looked out at the stars, which are supposed to be really good here – there' s an observatory close by. We saw the southern cross, but lights from the campsite prevented it from being as good as we'd hoped.
Supper overlooking Lake Tekapo
Sunday 7th February Amazing views of Mt Cook 180km
The night was really cold. I slept pretty well. The stars were good in the night.
It still felt really cold in the morning – no heating except an electric fan heater when you had electricity. I cooked Sunday breakfast of bacon and mushrooms, which we ate inside - I felt really cold so Adrian retrieved my fleece which I'd put away. Afterwards we walked down to the beach.
The water was beautifully calm until the waterskiers started, but as we were next to the waterskiing & power boat centre, this wasn't surprising!
We left just before 10 o'clock, driving around to the other side of the lake where it was really quiet. We stopped for early coffee and some 'rocky road', enjoying the peacefulness as we looked across to where we'd camped, and to Mt John with its observatory on top, with the Southern Alps beyond.
We drove back to Tekapo, stopping by the tiny church of the Good Shepherd - the 'thing to see' here. Looking through from the front to the back window, there was a lovely outline of Mt Cook. It was really busy, especially with Japanese tourists. Two girls stood in the doorway photographing for a long time, blocking the view. A local lady mused with us while we waited! We wondered how we will cope with Japan on our return journey!
Early morning on Lake Tekapo
There was also a monument to the Collie dogs who helped the pioneers with the grazing sheep and without whom the land could not have been farmed. We enjoyed the wonderful views before setting off towards Mt Cook. We passed the road up to Mt John, and realised that you could drive there. You had to pay $5 before ascending a long winding road to the top, where there was an extremely busy cafe, but the views were amazing - 360° of the aqua coloured Lakes Tekapo and Alexandrina and stark brown mountains, some snow topped. The weather was now really hot.
The view through the Church of the Good Shepherd
We descended again, and drove across very arid country which reminded us of eastern Alberta, to Lake Pukaki where we had wonderful views to Mt Cook. We sat here to have lunch at our picnic table, while the tourists still crowded by. We didn't leave this lovely spot until 2 o'clock.
Looking down to Lake Tekapo from Mt John
We now drove on beside Lake Pukaki for 55km to Mt Cook, with lovely views but very few stopping places. We looked around here - there were great views of the glaciers and snowy mountains - but we didn't stop long – it was VERY busy.
Lovely lunch stop looking across Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook
We tried to get some diesel as we were getting very low, but the self service pump didn't like us! We headed back down beside Lake Pukaki to Peters Lookout, which we'd seen on the way up. It was just gone 4.00 and still quite busy. People seemed to envy us with our stunning view up to Mt Cook from our rear door. In fact a couple from Devon in a motorhome decided to stop for the night too.
On the way to Mt Cook
Amazingly no other campers joined us for the night. We watched as the sun went down on Mt Cook. A chap stood photographing for a very long time. (Adrian tried to keep up with him.)
We received an email from Mary & Roger to say that they had arrived in Christchurch. We worked some more on the website. When we looked out at the stars at bedtime, it wasn't cold as it had been last night.
Mt Cook from our overnighter at Peter’s lookout
Monday 8th February Back to the east coast at Oamaru 209km
We looked out at 6 o'clock to see the sun just coming up, and then shining on Mt Cook. What a view! The magpies were carolling but otherwise it was so quiet before tourists began to arrive for their quick view.
We ate our breakfast outside in the warm sun, enjoying the splendour, but when a coach arrived, we thought it time to go. It was then that we received an email from Simon to say that Laure's father Albert had died. Although we had been expecting this, we were both really upset.
When we set off, we stopped at the Lavender Farm we'd passed yesterday. A lovely Australian lady with her family was running the 'shop'. We had a long chat to her before viewing and photographing the lavender, which looked so unusually beautiful in this setting.
The sun rises on Mt Cook
At Twizel we were able to get some vitally needed diesel. The town had been built to house workers when the hydro electric plant was built, and was supposed to have been demolished afterwards, but had been kept because the locals liked it.
Now a bit relaxed, we soon stopped for coffee in a roadside picnic site, sitting at a picnic bench with the smell of pine trees.
North of Omarama we turned off to view the Clay Cliffs, but when the 10km road became unsurfaced, we reluctantly returned.
We now took the road towards Oamaru, on the coast. We passed Lake Benmore, the largest man made lake in New Zealand. It was sunny and hot when we stopped to enjoy the blue water . Benmore Dam was busy with people enjoying their holiday Monday.
Lovely lavender near Mt Cook
We drove on to Lake Aviemore to stop for lunch. We then crossed the Aviemore Dam to find a loo dumping station set in an informal campsite. At Waitaki Dam Adrian stopped to read that all these dams had been built by pick & shovel before 1940.
We took an alternative route now to Oamaru, stopping by some Maori rock art. These were set in honeycombed rock which was more impressive than the drawings, which only dated from the 19th century. It was now very cool and cloudy as we joined the many others visitors.
Our next stop, Elephant Rocks, was more impressive – we walked across a field to see huge lumps of rocks in strange shapes. We tried to remember how many other 'elephant rocks' we had seen around the world! It was still very cool.
Locals having fun at Benmore Dam
We reached Oamaru – a town of splendid colonial type buildings built of limestone. It was deserted at the end of the holiday weekend. We drove down the main street, bedecked with dozens of pastel coloured hanging baskets, and then made our way to the site of blue penguin viewing, although we didn't intend stopping. We drove on south a few miles to a free camping spot right above a long yellow sandy surfing beach at Campbells Bay, Taranui. There were just a few other vans. After one left, we positioned ourselves right above the beach.
Maori Rock Art
Tuesday 9th February Some beautiful beaches as we head towards Dunedin 104km
We were disappointed to wake to a grey, misty morning, but after our pancake breakfast, cooked in the oblong frying pan, we had a lovely walk on the beach, now in the sunshine. There was wonderful huge seaweed, looking like gigantic ribbon pasta, and also enormous mussels in the pools.
We left at 10 o'clock, soon coming to another place where you could stop. There was a lake on one side with hundreds of black winged gulls and a couple of stilts. On the other side we walked onto the wonderful deserted sandy beach, having our tea/coffee sitting on a log and not leaving until 10.50.
We drove on to Moeraki boulders - large spherical rocks on the beautiful sandy beach, originally formed millions of years ago and enlarged over the years. There were crowds of people visiting, which was too much for Adrian! We walked back to the car park through 'woods', once we had climbed up to the lowest wooden step, which was high above the beach!
Campbells Bay beach in the morning
We now headed for Moeraki lighthouse. After driving 4 km of rough road we had a long, steep climb down to a hide hoping to see the rare yellow eyed penguins. We knew that it was the wrong time of day, and we certainly didn't see any, just lots of fur seals lying on the rocks and cavorting in the sea.
Moeraki Lighthouse where we saw fur seals
I cooked bacon pancakes for supper. We sat outside to eat them. It was windy, but sunny until the sun went down.
The site was very busy, with about 50 vehicles, mostly adapted cars.
A couple of people were playing frisbee, others were walking by to do their washing up - it had a happy feel. We did a bit more of the website. It was cool when we looked out at the stars.
Wednesday 10th February To Dunedin 44km
We had the back doors open for breakfast so that the sun shone in. The lady from the next vehicle came to see what music we were playing, as it was nice - it was our favourite Colum Sands.
The site was empting by the time we left at 9.45. We made our way to Orokonui Ecosanctuary which Hil had suggested. We thank her for that, as it was a superb place. It was tranquil as we wandered the grassy paths seeing all sorts of New Zealand wildlife, mostly birds, most of which are endangered. We had a plan with many of the birds on it, as well as a few other animals - a tiny Otago skink and a lizard-like Tuatara.
We saw the noisy Kaka - a large parrot; a Takahe - a large flightless bird with a puffin-like beak; a Tui, with a white pouch on its neck, and lots of bell birds.
An Otago skink
As we left, two of the workers spoke to us. We realised that the place is kept going by a gang of stalwart volunteers. A picture showed Charles and Camilla visiting last year - it would be just up his street.
We drove on to charming Port Chalmers - a port which was originally built to serve the proposed Scottish town of Dunedin, but now exports wool, meat and timber. It was where Captain Scott left from in 1901, and on his last South Pole expedition of 1910. We took a small road by the water and stopped beside several old yachts and boat houses. It was like a scene from the past.
A bell bird
A tui - note his white neck pouch
We ate our lunch at a picnic table, watched initially by a group of noisy red billed gulls. They might be more attractive than our gulls, but are just as aggressive!
We continued on our scenic route to Dunedin, stopping by the stunning railway station to find out about train rides. Later we booked for the Taieri Gorge trip tomorrow morning (and were booked in by a girl called Bower!)
Dunedin is a large town. We had a free place marked on our maps, but had a fruitless time trying to find it. Instead we headed for Dunedin Holiday Park, stopping at a booze shop on the way to get some more wine and beer.
We pulled into our sunny pitch, then busied ourselves with doing the washing, and emptying out the water (which was a bit 'dodgy) and getting fresh.
We followed the '2 min to beach' sign, but found it to be a much longer trek, so gave up on it!
Adrian talked to an American couple from Spingfield, Missouri who were holidaying in two motorhomes - one an Ixeo like ours at home - with their son & family who at present live in Singapore.
Boats at Port Chalmers
Thursday 11th February The Taieri Gorge railway 26 km
We were up early to prepare for our trip on the Taieri Gorge railway. We saw the sun rise, but it was raining by the time we left at 8.45. Luckily it soon stopped, and we had a nice day. We arrived at Dunedin station at 9 o'clock - plenty of time we thought before our 9.30 departure. We went into the station to collect our tickets (and met the lady named Bower, of which she said there were hundreds in Dunedin.)
We asked for change for the car park, and were told to park in the car park the other side of the station, which was cheaper ($5 instead of $10). This entailed a long drive through the one way system in the busy traffic, and meant that we were now rushing past the station to get to the train on time!
All was well - just - and off we set. The first part of the journey was on the main line track, through outer Dunedin and then across flat agricultural land. After about half an hour, we turned on to a branch line, and from there things got more interesting as we wound through the wild, empty countryside, following the peaty, tannin filled Taieri River.
We had a commentary which was informative about the line, but not too intrusive. The only thing was, you couldn't hear it from the viewing platform, where we, particularly Adrian, spent much of the time.
Way up in the hills, we stopped for a few minutes at the station of Hindon and all got out. There was nothing at all left of the large, vibrant township of 10,000 inhabitants of the goldrush days. It was hot in the sun as we soaked up the atmosphere of this remote place. The scenery was now fabulous, but the ride on the viewing platform was sometimes a bit rocky! There were no roads here, just an odd track. We looked down to the clear river, crossing it on several impressive viaducts.
The end of our line was Pukerangi Station, where we all got out while the engine was turned around. Now it was time for the 2 hour return journey. The pleasant male attendant often told us which side of the train to be for the best views.
We arrived back at Dunedin station at about 1.45 - it had been a great trip. By the time we got to the van it was 2 o'clock.
A great time on the Taieri Gorge Railway
As our parking was for all day, we walked into the centre of Dunedin, to the 'square' called the octagon, with St. Paul's Cathedral beside it. This was a huge structure, and quite simple inside, but with some lovely stained glass windows.
Splendid Dunedin Railway Station
Back at the van, we received messages from Laure and from Simon, telling of Albert's funeral/memorial service. Sobered by this, we set off towards Baldwin Street - apparently the steepest street in the world at 1 in 2.86! We didn't attempt walking up it! (you aren't allowed to drive).
Robbie Burns statue outside St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin
We drove on to nearby Signal Hill, which was almost as steep! From here we had views down over Dunedin and the Otago peninsula. It was hot as we sat on the steps, beside a large lump of rock which had come from beneath Edinburgh Castle, Dunedin's Scottish 'twin'.
Baldwin Street - much steeper than it looks!
Friday 29th January A wet day in Vancouver
We were pleased to have slept quite well and got up at 7 o'clock. It rained all day until late afternoon, so we enjoyed ourselves chatting to Steve & Connie.
In the afternoon we all went to visit Dave in his care home. He was pleased to see us. Doug was also visiting, but neither of us had realised that it was him at first!
Flight path London to Vancouver
Flight path Vancouver to Auckland
Below here were the Botanic Gardens, which I'd wanted to visit. We made three attempts at going into them. First time, in the Upper Gardens, it was the area of aviaries, but the wire around them was too finely meshed to see anything much. On our way back to the van, we did see a kangaroo paw plant, like we'd enjoyed in Australia. The gardens are vast and very steep. We came to a lower down area, but realised that we wanted to get to the Lower Gardens. As we returned to the van, a chap started talking to us about football, then politics and then immigrants. He was pleasant, extremely vocal, and probably quite right in his views, but we wondered how to get away!
At our third attempt, we found the rose garden and the herb garden - which had nice sign saying that you could pick small samples to smell, so I did, and brought them back to use!
Looking down from Signal Hill - with a bit of rock from Edinburgh
We also saw little cyclamen and impressively enormous trees, but now it was time to head back to Dunedin Holiday Park, where we had stayed last night. The girl took ages to book us in, so it was 6 o'clock when we positioned ourselves behind where we'd been before.
A huge tree behind the herb garden in the Botanic Gardens
Thursday 28th January 2016 To Vancouver
After our visit to New Zealand in 1995, we said that we would return when we were 'old', as it was an easy place to visit. We don’t consider ourselves old yet, but because of Rosie's 'insurance problem' we have not been outside Europe since 2010, so the time seemed to have come and we began making plans. We decided on a stopover in Vancouver to visit our relations there – Adrian's nephew Richard & family, and Rosie's cousins Steve and Connie. We had visited Paul & Nicky the previous weekend to say goodbye to them and to Edward, now 9 months and just crawling, Louisa (7) and Joanna (5). Emma and Ruby had also joined us, plus Renee and Lena. We had spent a weekend in early January with Simon and family in Geneva, as we hadn't seen them at Christmas. We had a skype conversation with Tom, Mar & Rita shortly before leaving. The morning of 28th January dawned very frosty, after many days of rain, and a beautiful day followed. Our friends John & Jackie collected us at 1.30, and drove us to Heathrow Terminal 3. After dropping off our bags, we had a cup of tea with them, and then we were on our way. Our flight to Vancouver left at 17.35. The stormy weather which came in meant an often bumpy journey which was otherwise uneventful. We arrived at Vancouver at 7.30pm local time (3.30am to us), and were met by Adrian's nephew Richard, who drove us to North Vancouver to Steve and Connie's, who we had last seen 6 years ago when we stayed with them for Richard and Teanny’s wedding. Amazingly we stayed awake chatting until 10.40 (6.40am to us).
We slept across the van, like we do in the Ixi, and I found it much better. Although it was a greyish day, it was magical looking out from our bed to see the dozens of ducks and black swans on the lake - a lovely image in monochrome. We enjoyed breakfast too with our view of the lake. The Australasian grebe came to visit again. As we didn't have electricity, Adrian made toast on the gas ring toaster he'd bought in England. It worked well, except that it set off the smoke alarm, but that happened too later with the electric toaster. We left at 9 o'clock, heading off the peninsula. We stopped briefly by the large inlet of Lake Ellesmere where there were dozens of black swans. As we drove on, we noticed pampas grass and yuccas, as we had in New Zealand in 1995. The scenery didn't look so pretty in the greyness, but we still enjoyed the emptiness of the landscape, making us think of Iceland, Scotland or parts of Oz. We started on the flat stretches of farm land southwards. We crossed the Rakaia River on the longest bridge in New Zealand, stopping beside it to look at the rushing turquoise water. It was cool as we walked across, we came back to have tea/coffee.
As we continued, we were surprised to see large watering systems and notices about water conservation and fire dangers. We came to the town of Ashburton, where there was a '2 dollar shop', which we visited to obtain a lot of things to make life easier in the van. Adrian came out armed with hooks, clips and flyswatters. We made our way to the nearby campsite, deciding to stop early and get ourselves organised. We had a long chat with the lady who booked us in. She told us of a nearby booze shop where we now headed to get some sherry, which is not sold in supermarkets. We were glad not to have walked, as she had suggested, as it was quite a way. It was 12.30 when we settled into the residential type campsite, which wasn't pretty but practical. After beans on toast, Adrian walked back up to the reception to get some detergent for the washing machine, and to ask for a large binbag to store our bedding in during the day. He wasn't happy when the chap asked for $2 for a flimsy black sack which was no good at all - he could have bought 20 for $2 in the shop! While the washing was doing, Adrian set about sticking up hooks for towels and various other things to make life easier. We were surprised when several other campers and caravans arrived - but this is the Friday of Waitangi Day weekend - a public holiday. After supper we started on the website.
It was sunny at our spot, so we had breakfast outside, but after that the clouds came up. We heard the Australian magpies carolling - something we'd enjoyed in Australia, but forgotten about. With filling and emptying to do, we didn't leave until 10 o'clock. Adrian had obtained a thick black sack from the maintenance man, which he had given reluctantly after Adrian told him that the man yesterday had charged him $2 for a thin one which was no good at all. Adrian needed to get a charging lead for our ipod (existing one broken), so we drove back into Ashburton, but as we expected on Waitani Day, roads were blocked off for a fair. This made finding the shop difficult, but we made it in the end - next to McDonalds! Now able to play our music again,we headed out on the busy road, stopping at a bakery/cafe to get bread and pastries, including some 'rocky road'. We continued across the flat country, reaching Hinds, where we saw several old cars outside a garage. We turned around to find a parking spot beside the road to enjoy one of the delicious 'french' pastries, and on our return, stopped by the 'gas station'. What a feast we found! There were literally dozens of cars, none restored, hundreds of car doors, thousand of spare parts in the shed, garage, bungalow and outside. We chatted a bit to the very pleasant owner Ernie, who had a John Denver look. Adrian could have lingered longer!
In for a very quick swim
We carried on towards Geraldine, stopping to have lunch on the way. Geraldine had a Vintage car museum, but at $15 each, we didn't have long enough to make the most of it. The weather now was very cold. Having realised that Tuesday is pancake day, we went into a supermarket to buy some flour. We bought several other wanted items too, finding again that goods are more expensive than in England. Adrian acquired a lot of cardboard boxes to use for storage. When we came out of the shop it was raining. We stopped to get sorted while we had a cup of tea but by now the fine rain had become really heavy. We were driving towards the Southern Alps, but could see nothing of them. We came to Burkes Pass which was hardly noticeable, but having crossed it, the skies cleared and we had blue sky and could see the line of the mountain range, which includes Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest peak. When the stunning sight of deep turquoise Lake Tekapo suddenly came into view, I gasped in amazement. There was a free camping spot opposite the lake. We pulled in, but unfortunately there were already 5 vans there, the permitted number in this National Park area. We viewed the lake before trying options on the road opposite, but camping was not allowed here. Reluctantly we returned to a picnic area we'd passed a few miles back. As we reached it, a howling gale came in, and the van rocked back and forth mercilessly. We stayed for an hour or so, but the wind continued, and we both knew that we couldn't stop here. We returned, past the free overnighting place, which of course was still full. We continued to Lake Tekapo campsite, with little hope of finding a place on this holiday Saturday. Yes, the campsite was full, but you could have an unpowered site – right above the lake – for 32 dollars. This we settled for, and squeezed into a space along the front. It was now 7 o'clock, and not windy here – the other place must have been a wind funnel. We ate our supper overlooking the lake, thinking back over the ups and downs of the day.
We made the long ascent and I cooked enchiladas for lunch, looking down to the lovely coast. The weather now was grey and windy. There had been only one other couple when we arrived, but now there were lots of cars. We made the long corrugated trek back to the main road, driving on past the glorious coast to Shag Point, another spot marked on our map as a place to see the yellow eyed penguins. No luck here either! It was extremely windy as we made the short walk to the cliff edge, where we saw a few shags and several more fur seals. As we drove on through the village of Matakaea the little gardens had deep blue agapanthus and vibrant red hot pokers. We drove on through Palmerston, but didn't find the water tap shown on our map. We then turned off onto the scenic coastal road at Karitane, where there was a superb lookout to two semi circular bays, the first with brilliant white sand. It was really windy as we stopped for our cup of tea. The coastline down towards Dunedin was stunning. At Warrington we headed for a free campsite where the first thing we did was to dump and get water. We then had a long walk through the sand dunes to yet another beach of fine white sand.