A Travellerspoint blog

December 2020

Wander to Wharariki Beach

2020 Caravan Diaries

sunny 20 °C

After a day resting up in Takaka and its surrounds, I decide to go a bit further afield, out beyond Collingwood towards Cape Farewell. I don't plan on seeing much of Farewell Spit, as it is very low lying and there is no public access - with the café closed, the only vantage point is at sea level, and it gives no advantage. I stop for a coffee and carrot cake in the Courthouse café in Collingwood and wander the streets (there are two of them) with little to see - the great gift shop in the former post office has closed but some of its stock is in the second hand shop next door, and the chocolate shop has also closed.

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Cape Farewell is the most northern point in the South Island, quite easily accessed by walking a couple of hundred metres through a farm. It is blustery and there isn't much to see, so I do not linger.

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There is a bit of the road I have not explored, out to Wharariki Beach. I am a little surprised to find not only a holiday park but also a café, one which is open - the sign says it will be open every day "if sunny". It has outdoor seating of a fairly rustic design, and a resident peacock who wanders around. I naturally stop in for a coffee.

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The walk out to the beach is rather more substantial, through a farm where I am quite exposed to the wind, then through some bush and finally along the top of a sandhill ridge.

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At this point, of course, the battery in my camera fails me but I do have a bit of juice left in my phone. The scale of the beach is so big that it seems deserted, even though there are several groups of people about - including some on horseback.

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The rocks here are apparently so famous that Microsoft has used them as one of their standard Windows screensavers - maybe you have seen them (probably without bonus fingers)?

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I wander about a bit, and then discover the downside of sand dunes being the path back to the beginning. One line of dunes looks very much like another, and I, of course, don't pick the right one. Looking across to the next one, I don't think it is right either. There's a pretty hefty wind blowing sand along the surface of the beach, which has covered my own tracks, so I can't follow them.

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If the beach had been deserted, I might still be there but a couple of women were on their way out - I watched until they had gone, and then headed up after them. Back near the café, I encounter a peahen with three chicks on the path. Mum takes off up the bank, but the wee chicks are a bit confused about how to proceed. I don't want to get between them and their mum, so wait and eventually each one takes to wobbly flight to join mum up on the bank. I don't know if they are related to the peacock down at the café, but I do ask him why he is hanging out there while his wife and kids are stuck at home.

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Posted by NZBarry 03:33 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Transit to Takaka

Caravan Diaries 2020

sunny 22 °C

I have worked out that this is my sixth visit to Takaka, and Takaka itself has a big part to play in my evolution as a traveller. The first time I was here, I was (I think) in a car, but maybe I had come over in the bus. In any event, I was staying in a backpackers, and seeing all these people getting about in vans, and sleeping wherever they felt like. I wanted some of that and it wasn't much later that I acquired a van - Webster - and took him to Takaka, I remember sleeping at the top of the hill in him. Some years later, I was thinking about getting another van, or even a campervan, but ultimately decided on a caravan, because I'd be able to unhook and go exploring. I have now spent four summers in it.

Of course, there's a bit of a drive to get from Moana to Takaka - about six hours, according to Google. I take three days! First, I have to go to Greymouth for coffee. People give it a hard time, but I am always tempted to potter around. I'll be back this way early in the New Year so persuade myself to stay for the bare minimum - some library time, coffee and a whitebait fritter sandwich and a visit to the new Red Door bookshop. The fritter is from Sevenpenny, named in honour of a dispute over the price of beer. The brewery tried to put it up to 8 pennies, but there was a drinkers' boycott, so the brewer had to back down and put the price back to seven pennies. The fritter is rather overcooked but the bookshop is splendid. I already have many of the books for sale - always nice to find a place with matching tastes - but pick up John Lanchester's Capital for a whole $5.

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I have nowhere booked, so head north to see how far I get. The road is not particularly difficult, apart from having a poor surface, which causes the caravan to bounce a bit on the towbar. Despite the supposed lack of dithering, it is around 3:00 when I get into Reefton: no chance of lunch, so after a quick coffee I head off. Murchison has even less on offer, but I am beginning to flag and am tempted to stay. After an ice cream and a wander, I remember there's a camping ground another hour up the road, at Tapawera. It proves to be a very small camp - about 8 spots under wonderful old oak trees - in a very small town. The pub is my only option, but puts on a tasty roast lamb dinner so I'm content.

I was quite impressed with Kaiteriteri last time I was there, so have a night booked in the beach front motorcamp - it is very spacious and still far from busy, despite being less than two weeks out from Christmas. The beach has glorious golden sand, which draws me to sit on a bench overlooking the beach and read for a bit.

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Motueka is just down the road, and has a nice variety of places to eat. I may have made an error in ordering my beef jungle curry at ChocDees Thai - I know it is supposed to be hot (no coconut milk to lessen the punch), but wow, I could barely eat this version.

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I do much better at Smoking Barrell - it apparently does BBQ smoked meats, but I was drawn to the chicken and waffle, and think I had the best version ever. There was quite a bit more chicken than waffle, cheese, pickle, coriander and a hint of spice in the sauce, all very delicious.

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The Takaka Hill is one of the more daunting drives, made worse by road works on the Motueka side to repair some pretty large slips. When I came over in Old Jeep towing the caravan, by the time I got to the other side, my brakes were almost on fire. I have even found my report of that trip. This time, my concern was more about going up, as I have new brakes and have learned not to be so reliant on them going down hills. While I had no problems, my Jeep and I both felt like we needed a smoke by the time we made it over. Unfortunately, neither of us had tobacco, so I went off to Wholemeal for a coffee and watched the National Theatre production of Cyrano de Bergerac, which just happened to be showing as I arrived.

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It was a very modern production, no props at all, except for a few chairs. There's other stuff, but the bulk of the play revolves around intellectual Roxanne, beautiful dumbo Christian, and ugly (because of his big nose) but poetic Cyrano. Both men are in love with Roxane, but she only has eyes for Christian. She has standards, however: he must write her letters, but he can't, he's a dumbo. So Cyrano takes on the letter writer role, pours out his heart to her (as Christian) and Roxane falls in love all over again with the writer of the letter. There may be some variation as to how matters end - in this version of the play, Cyrano does eventually convince her that he wrote the letters and puts her to proof that she loves for the heart and mind, even if the person is ugly. The play ends leaving this up in the air.

Posted by NZBarry 11:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Detour to Moana

Caravan Diaries 2020

sunny 22 °C

Given my destination, heading across Arthur's Pass to Lake Brunner is not the most logical path to take, but I have a voucher for a night in the hotel there I need to cash in. Yes, that's right - my third night of a caravan holiday is spent in a hotel.

It is an easy drive across the Canterbury Plains, via a compulsory stop in Sheffield for a pie - steak and cheese, naturally. Arthur's Pass always takes me by surprise, because all the climbing is done well before you actually hit the village. One particular long uphill stretch is not to my Jeep's satisfaction - there is a bit of smoke emission, which is never a good thing. I have a bit of a conundrum in Arthur's Pass - there's the café or across the road a rather welcoming looking place where I could have a quick beer. I compromise and have a ginger beer in the café, as I still have to confront the Otira Gorge.

There have been several signs saying that the Gorge is not recommended for vehicles towing things, because it inclines down very steeply, but I have noticed several cars coming the other way towing caravans as well as a number of tankers. As it happens, I follow a tanker with trailer all the way down so progress is very slow. From the bottom, it is only about half an hour to Moana, which is right on the shores of the lake. I have been here several times already, by train, in my old van Webster, on random trips across to the West Coast and I even had a few nights over Christmas in the motor camp here a few years ago. There is very little to the town - not even a proper shop - but it is my favourite lakeside spot, because Lake Brunner is such a cool lake. I am lucky enough to be at the station when a train comes through.

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The hotel is quite a surprise - it has grown since I last saw it: basically it had just been the bit at the front. Now there are three levels of apartments (one is for sale at $425,000). I remember staying in a skodie old room beside the bar and not being very impressed, but my room this time gives me a view of the lake and is very comfortable. The staff are wonderfully warm but dinner is, um, not great - the fish and chips are fine, but the lamb skewers have very little substance to them.

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Well, now that I have dined, perhaps it is time I showed you the lake? This is the view from the front of the hotel (and, no, I do not skateboard).

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Down on the lake front, it is very peaceful, a couple of families with their kids playing and that's about it. The boats look very tranquil.

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I particularly like this picture, with the late sun caught up in the clouds.

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There is a cafe - the Station House Cafe - which I plan to have my morning coffee at. I am not an early riser: even so, it would have been a half hour wait for the cafe to open, and it was unlikely to have much of a buzz, so I head to Greymouth.

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Posted by NZBarry 11:18 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Caravan Diaries - 2020 Version

Dunedin - Christchurch

sunny 22 °C

My trips away in the caravan always seem to involve an element of awkwardness. One time, my Jeep had trouble starting but both the AA and an auto electrician assured me the battery was fine, so I set off. After a hairy morning in the Winchester camping ground, I decided to ignore the experts and replace the battery - problem solved. Last year, in my newer Jeep, my caravan electric cable and safety chain would not reach the Jeep, meaning some urgent repairs were needed in Oamaru before I could set off. This year, my difficulty took on a different dimension. I had been watching old Top Gear shows - where they have cars at wildly unrealistic prices, at least when the show was first broadcast. Seventeen years later, their 2003 car of the year can be had in what I am assured is good condition for $4,800.

So, after a quick safety check on the caravan in Oamaru and minor repairs, I throw all plans out the window and head to Christchurch to collect this beauty - a 2003 Jaguar SE 3.0. It is a bit weird to buy a car this nice and put it into storage for a month or more, but it's not like it is up to the job of towing my caravan - although some point out it would reflect a certain style to do so.

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I don't really have any plans for my Christchurch sojourn, and do spend rather a long time on various buses and walking, going out to collect my Jeep from near the Jaguar owner's house and then getting back from the storage place to the holiday park near the airport. I do have a couple of nice meals - a very good beef pad kra prao from Kum Pun on Victoria Street, on my first night.

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Next night, I head out to Sumner, which has to be one of my favourite suburbs. The sun is a bit reticent, so the beach is not looking the flashest, but the Village Inn is a very friendly spot. It's quiz night and a few teams are assembling - one wearing Christmas hats and full length aprons making them look like naked women with extremely hairy legs. They were very keen to have no photos taken but I suspect that as the night progressed, it would become hard to maintain anonymity.

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I have a tasty red pilsner from the local Conception Brewery and move across the road to Miss Peppercorn, a Sichuan restaurant for dumplings in a vaguely chilli-based sauce and a braised brisket stew which has a nice chilli element and sichuan peppercorns. There are many items on the menu I like the look of, but this is something I have not had before.

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Out in the streets of Sumner, I like the look of the new library, but it's closed. An old Land Rover catches my eye, as does a fellow who is endlessly circling on a motorised skateboard. Most amusing is the group of firemen who have ditched their fire engine to eat ice creams. Good for them.

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Time to hit the road - going west!

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Posted by NZBarry 10:17 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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