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New Zealand

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Time to hit the road - going west!


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

Transit to Turkey

sunny 22 °C
View Georgian Adventure on NZBarry's travel map.

After a hectic time clearing my section after years of neglect and then getting ready to change offices at work, it is finally time to start my holidays. My flight is out of Wellington but I prefer to avoid the obvious, so have found an interesting way to get there. First, a shuttle to the airport to pick up a free relocation rental car to drive to Christchurch. large_c8a18fe0-017a-11e9-b92b-279d7104a4b7.jpg
Apart from being late, this is lacking in moment – I have made this drive many times. Because I have an early start, I stay in Addington for the night, in the former jail. It is very peaceful, with only a handful of people about. It is when I try to take a photo of my digs that I discover the first thing left behind: the memory card for my camera, so the phone has to suffice.

Two years ago, I was booked on the train to take me from Christchurch to Picton, as a precursor to a spell in Australia. Days before I departed, the Seddon earthquake struck, rendering both road and rail unusable. Although the road was open for my trip last summer, it is only this week that the passenger rail service has been able to resume. That made the train the obvious choice.

The railway line hits the coast somewhat earlier than the road, and is virtually in the water.
I don’t think that the earthquake has made many changes here: most are north of Kaikoura.

I had no idea that the Kaikoura Train Station is no longer in use: instead we make a stop at the Whale Watch office, where I can pick up a card for the camera. The coast is rather beautiful – here is where the road has been re-aligned post quake.

The white rocks are those which were pushed up so that they are now permanently out of the water.
large_IMG_9852.JPGlarge_IMG_9862.JPG 9852

Business is returning to the roadside.

I am surprised at the smoothness of the ride: I can hear the bogies moving about beneath me, but the train has good suspension so I am not affected. The seats are comfy, the cabins are quite well appointed for what I believe are quite old carriages.

For years, I have passed through Picton, been a bit bored with the place, but last summer I spent a few hours here and came to realise how pretty the waterfront is.

I made friends with a couple of ducks, until a young girl came and annoyed them. The same girl played a mean trick on her sister – persuaded her to go hide (in a game of hide and seek) and then ran off to join her parents.

Sadly, many of the cafes closed at 2:30 so I had to make do with some excellent fish and chips: it is going to be many weeks before I can repeat the experience, so it is an appropriate lunch.

Finally, it is time. I dithered over ferry timings and companies, then had a brainwave – what will it cost to fly? Not much more than a ferry, it turned out. Then I dithered some more: do I fly on the day of my flight out of Wellington, or play it safe and fly the day before? The plane is rather small, an 11 seater Cessna caravan.

Things are pretty informal on Sounds Air: we leave as soon as all the passengers are present, 15 minutes early for a 20 minute flight, and remove our own bags from the plane at the other end. One reason for flying was to get a different look at Queen Charlotte Sound – it mean a fairly steep ascent out of Picton airport, which had me on the edge of my seat, but the views made it worth it.

Once in Wellington, I discover a second thing left behind. I had carefully packed all of my socks and unmentionables in a stuff sack: it remains on my kitchen table. Luckily the supermarket across from the YHA can remedy the missing sock problem, but not the other. Thankfully, I have two nephews in town – after brunch they take me off to the Warehouse, where there is a surfeit of unmentionables and I can again travel in a civilised fashion.

The flights are as unremarkable as modern economy flights are: Melbourne for about 30 minutes, then Singapore for a couple of hours. This gives plenty of time for a gin and tonic but when I learn they are $30, I abstain. Tiger and roast duck are adequate substitutes. Food on the plane is actually pretty good – a fish curry is the standout dish. The planes are 777-200’s – I think Singapore Air have upgraded from when I last flew out of Wellington, as the screens and movie offerings are far superior. I binge watch Barry, a comedy about a depressed hitman who finds life in acting (when he is despatched to despatch a fellow in an acting class). One moral seems to be once a hitman always a hitman, as he finds it very difficult to break free. I also watch most of Vanity Fair – up to the end of the war and Becky Sharp’s attempts to re-establish herself at home. It is a long time since I read the book, so I can’t tell how faithful it is, but it is very enjoyable.

I am pleased my flight is into the old Ataturk airport, because it still has good transport links to the city, although I can see why a new one is needed: passengers from many flights, including mine, are bussed to the terminal. But I am processed through the formalities very quickly, n less than 30 minutes. At immigration, I am lined up in front of a young officer: she processes maybe six people before me, and never says a word or show any expression. When it is my turn, she manages to look even more bored: I laugh and she finds a small half smile for me. I count that a success. I grab a Turkcell SIM (at a fairly shocking price, twice what I had expected) but before I leave, I notice a Caffe Nero. When I was in the UK and couldn't find a specialist coffee shop, this was the next best alternative. This version is almost completely different - both in terms of the coffee preparation and the things to eat. It's not good. Time to hit Istanbul.

Posted by NZBarry 13:55 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Off to a Literary Festival

sunny 19 °C

Work finished on Thursday before Christmas and I had a flight out of Auckland late on Boxing Day: I could have done the boring thing and flown up, but I thought I would try my luck with relocating rental vehicles. Several weeks before departure, Transfercar obliged with a Jucy campervan for four days ex Christchurch. I was just about to bite the bullet and get on the bus to Christchurch when they released a bunch of cars needed to be taken from Dunedin to Christchurch. All I knew was that they were Budget cars, but I had the vague hope that I might get something decent to drive: I really lucked out and got an XR6, a car I have been thinking of buying as it can be both a tow car for the caravan and a normal car. It was a nice car to drive, although I found I had to clamber a bit to get between the steering wheel and seat.
Leaving after work meant it was about Timaru that I started to feel the need to eat - although Macs do a great fish and chips, I was sold when I saw the sign for Saikou Teppanyaki & Whisky Bar: obviously, I couldn't sample their whisky but a quiet beer with some gyoza and chicken karaage hit the spot. This place (opposite the old Hydro hotel) looks like a real asset for Timaru - it had quite a decent crowd and a nice feel. I'll be back.
Bed for the night was a pod in the new Jucy Snooze just outside Christchurch airport: I found the pod a wee bit claustrophobic and the mattress thinner than expected but it is great to have this here: it has a wonderful big social space and they deliver guests to the airport and to the Jucy depot, which suited me just fine.

With a ferry to catch and concerns about the state of traffic (given the closure of SH1 and the proximity of Christmas, I didn't dilly dally: a quick coffee at the first place I saw, then a bigger break in Hanmer to wander around (it has more than doubled in size since I was here last) and another coffee break in Murchison.
River near Hanmer

River near Hanmer

I was really surprised at the lack of traffic: I drove for long periods with no-one in front of me or behind me, and maintained a good speed, so that I hit Blenheim at around 5:00 p.m. I don't know this town at all in terms of finding good places to eat, but Tripadvisor came up with Gramado's - it is a Brazillian restaurant just as you come into town from the south. I had two dishes I have never heard of - Feijoada (a black bean stew with chorizo, ham hock etc) and Escondidinho (a kind of shepherd's pie).
Escondidinho @ Gramado's

Escondidinho @ Gramado's

Feijoada @ Gramado's

Feijoada @ Gramado's

I was well in time for the ferry, which is a bit of a pity because it was a tough crossing: so rough that the staff forced sickbags and ice on the passengers and closed the bar! It was also very noisy: the whole ferry boomed as it crashed through the waves. I don't think many people actually got sick - I didn't even feel queasy. We were a bit late so it was around 2:30 a.m. when we hit Wellington: I needed a loo break at Mana and discovered that the Domain there is actually available to self-contained campervans. It was a great place to wake up.
Ngatitoa Domain

Ngatitoa Domain

Once on the North Island, I had a bit more time up my sleeve: even so, I think my brother was a bit shocked when he phoned me quite late in the day, and I had only made it from Paremata to Fielding - a total of 135 kilometres! I basically popped into anywhere I thought might be interesting - so had coffee in a very busy cafe in Paekakariki, went down to the beach at Otaki (it is not a great beach and wandered the streets of Otaki town centre. I was most impressed with an idea I discovered in the Otaki library: to facilitate bookclubs, they have bags of ten or a dozen copies of the same book, along with suggested questions and some background. Across the Kapiti Coast library system, they have quite a decent selection.
Bookclub in a bag @ Otaki Library

Bookclub in a bag @ Otaki Library

It is a long time since I've been in Foxton, so I stopped off there for lunch and a wander - there's a sort of trolley bus museum (really, just half a dozen buses, but they'v set up some wires so they can actually take them somewhere.
The leather seats in the penultimate photo smelled fantastic - I could have just sat in there all day and soaked them up. I liked the signs in the last photo, as I am pretty sure there was no actual conference centre. More impressive was MAVTECH (formerly called the "National Museum of Audio Visual Arts & Sciences Of NZ" - lots of old movie cameras, TVs, radios, cameras, record players... There were a few items in there that I or my family have owned.
In addition, there were a few things I remember really really wanting and never having:
This radio is quite quaint as, like most of its time, it listed all the radio stations around the country on its dial

I'll put the rest of the photos of MAVTECH at the end. Of course, the major feature in Foxton is the windmill, which is still put to regular use to grind wheat into flour.
Nearby there is a collection of murals which were painted for some competition or other - some are better than others. and they've faded a bit.

I carried on up SH1 because I'd heard there's a great new cafe called the Woolshed just south of Sanson, but it was closed so I diverted to Fielding, hoping to see a film in its cool little cinema, but they weren't showing any. This led me to Palmerston North, where I watched United Kingdom - a movie based on a true story in which the future leader of what is now Botswana met and fell in love with an English woman. The romance side of the movie was dealt with pretty quickly: the main story was about the political ramifications for both of them when they married. It was contrary to English political goals to have a white woman have power in Botswana and the people of Botswana felt cheated by not having one of their own marry their leader. I finally hit the road north at about 9:30 and found a quiet spot above Tokaanu to sleep.

Things actually worked out for my two brothers and their families and I to all get together in Tauranga for Christmas dinner: after sleeping that off, I headed off to Auckland to drop the van off and embark on the next leg of the journey - to Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia.


Posted by NZBarry 10:19 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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