Welcome to our little home on the net. We are Steve & Rosemary and live in Buckinghamshire, UK. This is a blog of our life, sometimes interesting, but mainly boring. Its is very picture orientated as Steve loves to take pictures, especially of wild life. Sometimes he has his arm twisted by Rosemary and takes the odd snap of a weed.
Rained in the morning. There was a brief spell of sunshine which Peter took advantage of to take the dogs for a walk. The rain came back with a vengeance. (But, after lunch the rain disappeared, and the sun came out.)
We visited the local SPCA (like the UK’s RSPCA), where Nic was hard at work, to admire the rescued cats and dogs.
On to Nelson town centre for lunch at Comida, an Italian deli specialising in European foods and wines. Pete bought a ginormous jar of pickled artichoke hearts.
After lunch, we viewed the exhibition of 50 iconic National Geographic photographs at the Nelson Museum. Did remember having seen some of them.
Dogs taken for a walk, along with Casper, the Rag Doll cat.
Peter rushed out to collect friend Rob from Nelson airport.
BBQed vegetables & trimmings for a convivial supper.
Up really early to catch the Bus to Nelson. We were worried as to whether there would be an Uber taxi, so factored in walking to the bus station. Should never have worried, the taxi was with us in a minute. A long wait at the bus station, and predictably the bus was 20 minutes late. A replacement bus had to be found as the original Intercity apparently would not start.
The bus took us along the East coast which had only recently been opened for traffic. There were several long single-track sections in places where the road was having to be rebuilt after the 2016 earthquake. In sections there were long rows of shipping containers protecting the traffic from further slips.
We stopped at Kaikoura for 30 minutes. This is the location for whaling and dolphin trips. We should have visited this location on our trip.
We continued on the Blenhein to transfer to the Nelson bus. Again this bus was late. The bus stop is on the rail line where there is a station. This Station was called the wine tasting station where I had a few sample wines before buying my favourites.
Arrived at Nelson where Katy picked us up and took us to Peter and Nic’s house. Peter & Nic were soon back after attending a funeral in Golden Bay. We renewed our acquaintanceships with all the family pets, but this time there were an additional three orphan kittens for Rosemary to coo over. Obviously, they were a perk of Nic’s job with the SPCA, and had to be syringe fed special pet milk at intervals. Once on solids, they will be found homes. R decided she could not stuff them all in her suitcase.
An excellent supper of Pete’s vegetarian lasagne & salad.
During the evening and night, it poured with rain.
Walked across the park again but on a different route, ending up at a restaurant called Strawberry Fare. Here I had eggs Benedict and a delicious Avocado Salsa. Rosemary ate Pancakes & berries.
Walked back to town and caught the tram at stop 13 on the corner of Armagh Street and Rolleston Avenue. The tram is well worth it for the commentary. We went around totally once and a bit more stopping off at the Oxford Terrace again to have lunch at the Craft Embassy there were 21 beers on tap, and another 6 hand pulled flat, warm, English-style beers.
Back on the tram again for a final tour getting off at the DX postbox to post a final three Post Cards, for which we had DX stamps. (Strange postal system here.)
Enjoyed our repeat visit to the Canterbury Museum where this time we viewed the Antarctica exhibition.
Walked across Hagley Park through the rose garden again and a good section which has native New Zealand plants. R spotted a California Quail in the undergrowth.
Stopped at the Hagley NightnDay to pick up pies to eat for supper.
Today the van was going back. So a bit of cleaning and repacking our belongings. Left all our excess food and beer in the kitchen. It soon disappeared. Next, we went to the dump station and cleaned out the sink tank and then left for Tui Campers out near the airport. Handed over the van which was inspected. Used Google Maps to call an Uber cab which was with us in 3 minutes and headed off to the Towers in the Park hotel. Obviously as was early we just dumped the bags before walking across Hagley Park to what we assumed would be the main city centre. Despite it being Friday, the city was a ghost town. Hardly anyone around.
We visited the old cathedral and the cardboard cathedral. At the old cathedral there was a man singing. He was still there in the afternoon and was there the next day. Talking with my bro later, it appears he is a permanent feature. Cathedral Square had a food market running which is there every Friday.
We admired the new car parks and the new buildings which had gone up. There though were large blocks which were empty, and unsafe buildings boarded up.
Lunch was at Original Sin, on the Oxford Terrace overlooking the Avon River. There are a series of new buildings along this stretch which are all restaurants and bars. New ones were still being fitted out on the ground level.
Afterwards we walked around a bit more and then visited the Canterbury Museum to look at the stuffed birds. A cup of coffee in the restaurant where we bought a couple of sandwiches after they had been removed from the cabinets at closing time. This was to be our supper back at the hotel.
Long walk back to hotel across the park and through the rose garden. Did spot an interesting moving statue at a water fountain.
The hotel room was large, with a kitchenette and electric blankets on the bed. Despite being out opposite the park, the city still sounded noisy at night.
We drove North towards Christchurch. The road was becoming steadily busier as we progressed. Long straight sections, fairly easy to overtake. I have noticed a reluctance amongst NZ drivers to overtake, even when they can see the road is clear for a mile or so. I also see some drivers still treating major highways as a country lane and pulling straight onto the road right in front of traffic driving along it a 100kph.
We turned off and drove to Birdlings Flat, where we expected to see birds. Not sure why as Jonno very explicitly says the beach is all pebble and has semi-precious stones. We then tried the road along the spit. This is a wide spit and seems fairly impossible to get to the sea or inland lake and mud flats. Both sides had sheep rearing. We did stop and photograph of some Australasian Harrier Hawks fighting over a bone. While we were parked on the verge a farm lorry drove at us to intimidate us.
The grass areas were covered with flocks of Goldfinches, who also sat on the road but kept their distance no matter how slowly we drove up to them. Now, to find a camp site. This proved harder than expected. The first place we found was on a gorgeous position on Lake Ellesmere, but the clouds of mozzies put us off. We headed for some more inland sites, marked on the atlas, but these did not seem to exist. We ended up driving into Christchurch for the night, staying at a Top-Ten. Was expecting it to be expensive because it was a Superior site, but no. The facilities in our area were not particularly plush.
Drive to Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd. During the night there were seemingly heavy rain showers, and two trains passed close by the campsite waking both of us. Luckily, we fell back to sleep quickly. The morning was cold. The good news was the sun was shining. Not sure what to do, we headed North until we almost reached Timaru and then headed inland towards Lake Tekapo. The drive was non-stop until we reached Tekapo. Loo break required, but the only toilets were surrounded by a coachload of Chinese tourists. Only option was to stop and wait cross legged.
The first tourist attraction was the Church of the Good Shepherd. Lots of people of all nationalities taking selfies, but managed to snap a few pictures without people. There is also a statue erected to the “runholders of the MacKenzie county and those who appreciate the value of the Collie dog, without the help of which the grazing of this mountain country would be impossible”.
While I was taking these pictures I overheard a conversation about other places to go. The recommendation was to go up to the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory where there was a café. Good advice this was. The day was clear, though some clouds to make the landscape interesting. Even managed to get a picture of Mt Cook as it peeped through the clouds. At the café they were selling coffee and food along with stamps and postcards all bearing the Observatory pictures. You could also post the cards there, they stated this was the highest postbox in the Southern Hemisphere. I find that a little surprising at only 1,029 metres. You would have thought somewhere in South America (Peru, Chile?) would have higher postboxes.
Back down, we headed off to Geraldine for a night. Decided to camp in the Top-Ten cos it was right in the middle of the town which would allow us a walk around. Must have been early closing though, most places firmly closed. At least we found a bar where we could sit and drink in peace.
Campervan bed made up with the blanket on top of the duvet. It’s forecast to go below zero tonight. Also done (well, Rosemary insisted we did it) our final wash because we have only one more day of camping left. Tomorrow we head to Christchurch and plan to camp near Birdling flats. Weather looks a bit iffy though.
The rain hammered on the roof of the van throughout the night. We waited in anticipation for the quietness of the forecast snow but it didn’t come. The morning was cold, the car thermometer read 3C. Sleet was in the air in the morning when I walked over to the 4 Square to purchase some yoghurt for breakfast.
Instead of driving to Twizel and Mount Cook campsite, we decided to head East to Oamaru where it might be warmer and less rainy. The mountains around us were topped with snow showing a very definite freezing point line. Stopped at the dam on Lake Aviemore, then at the dam at Lake Waitaki. We reached Oamaru to take a look around the Victorian area. The old dock and railroad warehouses had been converted into shops and galleries. Rosemary went into a secondhand bookshop, Slightly Foxed, and quizzed the chap as to whether he was connected to the UK publishers of that name. He knew of the publisher & received their newsletter. He said Slightly Foxed had been the name of many a bookshop before the internet showed up all the duplicates. He packed R’s shell book purchase in brown paper & string, added the shop’s stamp & a bookmark. She hesitated over a newish book on the dragonflies of NZ, but the $150 price put her off.
We ate lunch at The Galley, a lovely piece of Blue Cod, chips and salad. The café building was unusual cos it was clad with thick, rusted steel-plate.
Back at the Victorian Area we took a look at the Steam Punk exhibition. This art is all made from old iron objects, TVs etc reused to build sculptures, often with a sci-fi theme.
We paid a visit to the penguin colony, not to go in but to vindicate our thoughts that the place was a very circus display of penguins. Instead we watched hundreds of shags sitting on a pier. They must use the place to rest and roost. There was a continual coming and going of birds.
We are now sitting in the interim sun having a beer, waiting for the next shower to roll in. Oh, and here it is…..
Bungy jump day! So we left Glenorchy. It was a promising day. The sky was blue when we rose, but soon clouded over. Drove on back to Queenstown, refuelled and bought 2 -3 days supply of food and headed on to our destination of Omarama.
Our first stop of the day was AJ Hackett, the original bungy jump centre. The set-up is impressive, with a huge hall with food, clothing and booking. Yet you can still walk across the suspension bridge because it is part of a DOC trail. Sorry, I didn’t jump. (I know I shall regret it, but Rosemary whinged and the price ($205) was more than I expected. Almost worst for the jumpers, was the walk back up hill from the river.)
Next it was on the road again to stop to take some photographs at the Roaring Meg power station. I’m sure there’s a beer called that. Next on the agenda was the Goldfields Mining Centre. This looked rather upmarket with jewellery and a wine merchant. We stopped and had a coffee served by a delectable French mademoiselle from Provence.
Next stop was for a 4K walk around the Bannockburn Sluicings Historic Reserve. Really interesting scenery caused by the gold mine works and the hydraulic workings which were used to flush all the worked spoils into the river. Naturalists would say this was a total destruction of the environment, but still it has its beauty and is well worth a visit. The land around here is pretty poor and worthless, until someone invented the grape. Yes grapes and crap soil go well together. Oh and the weather was still holding out. R claimed never to have seen so many thyme plants.
On we drove through some spectacular scenery, then we came to Lindis Pass, and the rain belted down. The intention for the night was to stay at a DOC site in Omarama. Instead it was to be a Top10 site, required for dry cooking and eating. The host of the site said it was due to snow tonight and tomorrow. Let’s see what happens.
Early rise for us, up, showered and ready for breakfast be 7.00am. The boat had moored for the night in Precipice Cove. Today it was wet and raining with low cloud. The waterfalls we had seen before were now larger. We revisited one on Crooked Arm, it was now spectacular. We then proceeded to Hall Arm where we stopped for a period of silence. Engines off, generators off. It was not at all silent, the sound of rain, the waves on the shore. The Naturalist for the trip said she heard a single bird. A far cry from the days of Captain Cook who said the Island of New Zealand was alive with the sound of bird song. The Naturalist was rooting for a tourist tax to visit Fjordland to help fun conservation.
We learnt of the rare Fiordland brotula fish, Fiordichthys slartibartfasti. The species name is after the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy character Slartibartfast, who had been one of the designers of the supercomputer Earth and had won an award for his design of the Norwegian fjords. Neat!
We were now soon back moored at 10.0am and transferred back to Manapouri by two busses and the ferry. Still raining, we then headed off towards Queenstown and ultimately Glenorchy. There was some spectacular scenery on the way to Glenorchy along Lake Wakatipu.
The Glenorchy campsite, Mrs Woolly’s Campground, was slightly odd, empty when we arrived, but quite a few sleeper/campervans turned up. The buildings are all wood and look very rickety, but inside the facilities are pretty faultless. All young people in their 20s. We cooked a very basic meal in the very busy kitchen, feeling old amongst all the 20 year olds.
Cruise of Doubtful Sound. Today was a lazy start for the day, we had no rush as we were due to start our cruise at midday. A slow shower, a quiet breakfast, no rush as there is not much else to do at Manapouri. Thankfully today it was not raining, the sun shone amongst the clouds. We arrived at the car park and checked in for our cruise arriving before most other people. Bought a sandwich to sustain us until tea time.
Just before midday the previous day’s cruise arrived back. The not very happy looking passengers got off. They almost certainly had a miserable first day. Apparently, it rains 1.5 meters in Manapouri and 8 meters in Doubtful Sound. So if yesterday was wet for us, it must have been torrential for them. At least they saw sun on their morning cruise.
Soon we were whisked away across Manapouri lake to the far end of the West Arm next to the power station. Disgorged into a visitor centre with some information about the power station. A short wait and then on to a couple of coaches. The drive to Doubtful Sound was on a dirt road that took us up a hill, over a pass and then down to the actual Sound, about 200 meters below Lake Manapouri. The road was built back in 1963 the most expensive New Zealand, built at a cost of 2 dollars a centimetre and 2 years to build instead of the estimated 1 year.
We stopped at various places to look at the Sound, several waterfalls and places where the rivers had decided to change direction. We saw several slips where the trees above, which are basically only rooted is moss on top of the bare rock surface, had slipped away taking out the trees below. These scars start as bare rock, then moss, followed by other small plants take root and then trees.
Near to the boat we stopped, to be transferred to another coach for the rest of the journey. A bridge was out, and we had to file across a small pedestrian bridge, one at a time, to board the next bus for the rest of the journey.
Soon boarded and briefed we set off down the Sound on the boat. We lugged our luggage to the cabin and admired the scenery around us. Our first stop was in Crooked Arm where we had admired some waterfalls. Here we divided into groups who went kayaking or on the motor boats. Rosemary and I chose the motor boat where we went near to shore and were shown the different trees etc.
Back to the boat then then a quick swim in the Sound to wash myself. The surface water in the sound is not at all salty as it floats on top of the saline water below. The temperature of the water was 16.5C, a little breathtaking.
Soon it was tea time, then it was a soup meal. The weather was now cloudy but relatively calm. We went out in to the Tasman Sea and around the Nee Islets where there were New Zealand Fur Seals basking and swimming. Prior this an Albatross was flying over the sea making itself available for photographs. It was rather dark, so the ISO 256000 photos will never look great.
The sun did its thing and sunk below the horizon unseen, but at least there was a lovely glow in the sky for us.
Supper time now, and a huge buffet supper along with some pricy wine. On the protein side, I managed some roast beef, roast lamb and smoked salmon and green lipped mussels.
Went to bed with some stars shining in the sky.
We packed up and had breakfast in the kitchen area and were caught by the cleaner who proceeded to tell us her entertaining life story and then showed us around her caravan on site. After extracting ourselves, we set off for Manapouri just as the rain started. There were dark clouds everywhere, especially along the coast. We were headed initially along the coast and were soon in heavy rainfall. Some pictures of the sea were taken to show the lack of visibility.
Stopped at a fuel station not far after we headed off. This was the first one where someone came out and filled the tank for us. When I paid she asked what we had seen, when I mentioned Dunedin the conversation immediately went to Ed Sheeran, a fan I think.
We had several stopping points en route, most were in the driving rain and got ignored. When we headed North the weather improved. This was fleeting as the bad weather soon caught up with us. It did give us a chance to see the Clifden Suspension Bridge before the rain.
We reach Manapouri, checked where the Real Journeys cruises go from and where we would park. Then it was to find somewhere for coffee, was still to early to check in for a campsite. We found the Manapouri Lakeview Café and Bar, seemingly the only open place in town. Started off with a coffee, then a beer and lunch. Back to the campsite next door and checked in. The campsite has a collection of Morris Minors and other vintage rusty cars.
In between the showers we did manage a quick walk down to the lake beach. Most of the afternoon was spent editing and posting some pictures onto the blog
Dinner was back at the Lakeview Café for some wine. Beers and soups. Hope tomorrow’s weather is better for our cruise.
The day looked mixed, yes blue sky, but some clouds and it had been raining during the night. Let’s see how the day progresses. Down to the kitchen for our breakfast of coffee, yoghurt, fruit and mixed grains.
Our first destination for the day was Wilkie Lake, called the Mirror Lake at the Campsite to make it a bit more interesting. (Rosemary v insulted cos Wilkie was her nickname at school and certain friends still call her that.) The walk to the lake was through a tree fern forest, the first glimpse was from a platform well above the lake. You then descended down to the lake onto a boardwalk. Access to the lake is very limited. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing again, and ripples broke the mirror surface. It was notable in the 30 minutes we were there how much the wind had risen.
Back in the van we headed to the Cathedral Cave, stopping at a boardwalk en route. The boardwalk took us down to an estuary with reeds. Not much wild life to be seen. Bit disappointing, could have been good for dragons, but not on a cold windy autumn day.
Cathedral Cave was interesting, a lovely 1K walk down through a tree fern forest which allowed us to see many light effects. Masses of photographs of various light textures to be binned! The cave is large, you walk in one side and walk out the other side. You visit at low tide, two hours before and after. One of the few times I have used flash on a walk. The waves on the lovely beach were spectacular, especially with the offshore wind blowing their heads off.
Next stop was Curio Bay. We parked in the car park and wondered why we were here, then we saw the notice for the Petrified Forest and the Penguins. We saw the forest, but not the Penguins. The rain did come for a short period of time here. The forest reminded me of the first season of Dr Who with William Hartnell.
Now it was a drive to Invercargill where we stayed at the Beach Road Motor Camp, stopping at the Lignite Pit Café for one of our slowest arriving coffees yet.
Tonight was reasonably warm, the wind dropped and we were parked in a sheltered area, so able to cook and eat next to the van.
Today started bright and sunny as we left Dunedin for the West. Target was Invercargill, but we had a day in hand as we had decided to give Milford Sound a miss.
Our first stop was the town of Balclutha. I can’t remember why this was on my list. I had noticed the wind had been rising on our journey, a slight skittishness with the van. At Balclutha it was definitely blowing a hooley. Now we had stopped a coffee and cakes were in order along with (for Rosemary) a walk around the local charity shops, mainly the Sally Army in NZ. She bought a pillowcase (eh??).
Back on the road, we passed through Kaka Point and the stopped at Nugget Point. A walk out to the lighthouse showed us the East in sunshine, and the West in grey. The grey of course was steadily advancing our way. This was a good place to visit, loads of seals, in the water and on the rocks, some in very precarious positions. They left us wondering how they could get into these sunny areas until we saw some bounding up the rocks. Back to the car, we had mainly missed the rain.
Next place was Jack’s Blowhole. A longish walk, and the rain had not yet started. We arrived at the ‘blowhole’, not really a blowhole as we would call it, but still an impressive large hole over the top of a cave. Now it decided to rain. R was in waterproofs, I was not. I got soaked; R was triumphant, having suggested at the start that I take my waterproofs.
The agenda was now to see Wilkie Lake and the Cathedral Caves. These were driven passed, rain and of course I had not checked the tide for the caves. We stopped for the night at the Whistling Frog Café and Bar which was a renowned restaurant in the region. I think in the region was the only reason it was award winning, seemed mainly to sell burgers of various varieties, and the only option R wanted was off the menu. No matter a few beers and a chowder was fine for me, while R ended up with a chicken burger without the bun. The beers and wine were nice, and R managed a laundry load. Of course, the meal was to save us cooking in their kitchens in the rain. Of course, as soon as we went for our prepranidal drinks in Happy Hour, the sun came out. (Short lived rain showers persisted throughout the night.)
R woke up during the night when a mobilehome turned up for the night with lots of banging and shouting. I slept through this, otherwise I would have been really noisy getting up in the morning.
Another early morning rain shower which ended before 8am. As soon as it ended I was up and out, making sure I was in the shower block. The sun was shining and it remained pretty well cloudless for the rest of the day. I can live with the timing of the rain over these last couple of days.
Today was Royal Albatross day on the Otago Peninsula, their only mainland breeding colony. We drove along the coast road, inches from the water’s edge without any barriers. The wind was strong, so there was a good chance of seeing some adults or juveniles flying. Though you can see the flying Royal Albatross from the carpark, we decided to pay the fairly hefty price of $50 each to watch a short film and have a guide talk to us and take us to view the four Albatross chicks. All four fluffy, white chicks were visible. The webcam star chick gave us a good walking display as it waddled through the grass. The chicks spend all their time eating & not moving, so get overweight very quickly. As fledging time nears, the parents cut down on food and encourage the chick to waddle to them for food.
On cue, as we arrived, an adult Royal Albatross flew into view and made several attempts at landing. Unfortunately, the final landing was just below our view line.
An Australasian Hawk also flew around and we saw a ginger tom cat in the undergrowth but at a distance from the breeding grounds.
Glorious creatures, with impressive 2.9-3.3m wingspan.
After the Albatross we headed across the peninsula to Allans Beach. A huge sandy beach which had a few Seals. (Actually, I walked by one thinking it was a log.) We later passed a few estuaries where there ware lots of Paradise Ducks and Variable & South Island Pied Oyster Catchers to photo.
Many beaches were festooned with enormous kelp seaweed. Must have been detached from their habitat by the cyclones. Loads of really bleached out driftwood. Rosemary found a bit which she claimed looked like a duck’s head. Mmmm.
Back to Dunedin, and a Countdown to buy provisions including beer, wine and steak. R wanted to buy a chocolate Easter Kiwi & Egg, but none were to be had.
The rain pounded down hard on the roof in the early morning. A little lie-in, and when the rain stopped at 8.30 we got up to shower as did the rest of the campsite. Lots of Ed Sheeran fans in the campsite who had arrived back from the concert at 11.30. Rosemary said they made a lot of noise, I had heard nothing,
After a delayed shower we made it out at 10, to a lovely blue sky. Today we had a walk around Dunedin, or, is it Edinburgh? All the street names are from Edinburgh, Prices Street, George Street, Frederick Street, Hanover Street, Heriot Row, Leith Street. There’s a statue of Robert Burns. The area names are also duplicates, such as Musselburgh, Helensburgh, Corstorphine and we camped next to the River Leith.
A wander around, the purchase of a t-shirt to celebrate Ed Sheeran and his concert here, and then it was lunch. Lunch cos we would be back later than normal in the evening. We duly examined the menus. R rejected the burger restaurants. We finally alighted on Vault 21 which had an interesting menu. A beer, 8.5%, followed by a weaker beer at 5.5%, two plates of yummy food. and we were ready for the train trip. Oh, one thing, we missed noting that there was a 15% additional charge for a Bank Holiday!
Arrived at the wonderful station and caught the tourist trip to Pukerangi through the Taieri Gorge. Some grand scenery and some wonderful engineering with the viaducts and bridges clinging to the side of the gorge. The whole trip would have been a little bit more enjoyable but for a Spanish couple sitting opposite us who took the cult of selfies to a new level, along with very loud, fairly non-stop talking.
Back at the station, it was now getting dark, so straight on home for some more beers and a frugal supper of sandwiches which had been on sale on the train at the bargain price of $3 each.