Joined June 2017 Message
  • Day50

    All Good Things must come to an End

    November 26, 2021 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    Yesterday we drove through from Kaikoura to Hanmer, taking the inland route. Unlike the drive north, we actually found the right road this time! It was one of the hottest days we’ve had yet, with the temperature reaching 27 degrees by the time we arrived in Hanmer. Earlier in the week we had thought we might take a dip in the hot pools when we got there, but a cold drink in a shady beer garden sounded much more appealing. We spent a jolly hour there meeting up with Joanne and Simon again, who are in Hanmer for a couple of days helping their neighbours clear out their holiday home. We spent the last night of our ‘North of the South’ holiday at the NZMCA park by the Hanmer River bridge.
    This morning we ticked off the Conical Hill walk, a steady 40 minute climb through conifer forest to the top of a hill, from where you get a great view out over Hanmer and the surrounding countryside. Then it was time for a final coffee before we hit the road for Christchurch and a few days catching up with friends and family and getting our Christmas shopping done.
    We’ve had the most magical holiday, and taken the time to explore some really beautiful places – many of which we’d never visited before. We have loved having no fixed schedule, and no real plan other than the next 24 hours. And we’re still talking to each other!!
    Thanks for coming with us on our travels… Can’t wait to do it again.
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    Jo Kidd

    wonderful trip, enjoyed travelling with you. Great catching up last night ❤

  • Day48

    A Walk and a Half - part 2!

    November 24, 2021 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Unfortunately, it appears we should have returned to the upper track via a steep, stepped path about half-way along the coast. Instead, we carried on round, with the track disappearing and the terrain getting progressively rockier and more challenging until we had to do some fairly serious rock climbing around one headland. There are numerous signs reminding you to keep away from seals and nesting birds (of which there were thousands – all screaming) but as we were so busy watching where we were walking, we were often almost on top of them before we realised.
    We had reached a point where it looked like we could go no further, and might have to back-track a good 40 mins to the find the uphill path, when Charlie thought he could find a way through by jumping over a fairly large crevasse, which he duly did. I was heading the same way until up popped the head of a very large seal less than 2 metres in front of me. He had been sleeping between the very rocks Charlie had just jumped over! Meanwhile Charlie started to come back towards me, as he’d found himself between another seal and the water – not a good place to be! Not wanting to aggravate it, I simply pointed down at my feet and mouthed “there’s one right here”! We did manage to find another route past him, and tiptoed quickly past the second one while it was sleeping.
    I kept wanting to stop and take more photos of the incredible landscape, but Charlie (who was getting progressively more anxious) was striding ahead with the camera in his backpack, and he wasn’t stopping for ANYTHING! We finally made it back to the motorhome about 2 hours 15 mins after leaving our lunch stop – weary and blasted by the sun and wind, but blown away by what we had seen, experienced and achieved. We will definitely sleep well tonight!
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  • Day48

    A Walk and a Half! part 1...

    November 24, 2021 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    We started the day with a very pretty woodland walk through the native forest surrounding the campsite, and then headed back into Kaikoura. We decided to attempt the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, from South Bay to Point Kean. According to the author of our ‘Short Walks’ book, it would be an ‘easy’ walk of 1.5 hours return. By now, however, we were wise to his somewhat unreasonable estimation of our fitness level and so we took a packed lunch and a cup of tea with us. And just as well, too!
    The walk took us up to the top of the cliffs overlooking South Bay, and then over farmland to a lookout point over the seal colony at Point Kean, where we stopped for lunch (1 hour 15mins to this point!) The landscape of the peninsula was dramatically changed by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake in 2016, when parts of the sea floor were raised by up to 12 metres in some places. The resulting new foreshore of barren and undulating rock looks like the surface of the moon in places.
    All the way round, we had been checking out the beach from the clifftops, as (according to the book) we could “return along the coastline”. We had thought this meant ALL the way along the coastline, right back to our starting point. So this is what we did.
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  • Day47

    Happy Birthday Charlie!

    November 23, 2021 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Thanks to everyone who called or texted birthday messages today – it was great to hear from you all. Our plan today was to go out for a nice relaxed birthday lunch in Kaikoura, and last night we Googled restaurant options and settled on one with a great-looking seafood menu. Once we got to Kaikoura, we parked at one end of the main street, and walked along to our restaurant which was at the far end of it. To find…
    It was CLOSED!! As were ALL of the other 9 restaurants and bars in the main street, except for the fish and chip shop, so our lovely leisurely lunch turned into blue cod and chips back in the motorhome!! Albeit with a glass of wine / beer.
    We headed back up the road to the north of the town for our overnight stop: a DOC campsite in the Puhi Puhi Valley, up 6km of narrow winding gravel road. But what a gorgeous spot, surrounded by bush, and we had the whole place to ourselves. After the fish and chips we decided on a ‘light’ birthday dinner – a hot smoked salmon platter with a baguette and all the accompaniments, and of course a lovely bottle of bubbly from the No. One estate in Blenheim.
    We had bought a very interesting bottle of barrel-aged gin at a distillery in Takaka (forgot to tell you about the rainy afternoon we spent tasting at a couple of distilleries with Joanne and Simon!) Charlie had been saving it for a special occasion, and… well… this was obviously it!
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    Jennie Pantano

    Happy birthday Charlie!!

    Lani Patterson

    Sorry we missed your birthday Charlie...happy belated birthday

  • Day46

    The Start of our Return

    November 22, 2021 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    With steady rain for the rest of the day yesterday and more forecast for today, we left the Blenheim area this morning and reluctantly turned south, which is effectively the start of our homeward journey. We are SOOO not ready for this holiday to end yet!
    By the time we left the Awatere Valley the skies were clearing, and we set up again at Marfells Beach (which we had visited – and loved – on our way up) in brilliant sunshine. Had a late lunch in the sun and a nice walk along the beach…
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    Jo Kidd

    been lovely following your trip, I'm not ready for you to finish either! 😉

  • Day45

    White's Bay

    November 21, 2021 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

    After a very peaceful and relatively bug-free night tucked in beside the forest, and a cooked breakfast, we decided to tackle one of the numerous walks that head out from the camp. The Black Jack Loop track is a steady uphill climb through the bush, with the occasional glimpse through the trees to the beach below and Cloudy Bay beyond. Once we got to the ridge we were able to look over the other side to Port Underwood and out to Cook Strait, and could see the North Island in the distance.
    The walk took us a little over an hour and a half, and by the time we returned what had started as low cloud was becoming a light drizzle. As we expected, the tents were all packed up and most of the weekenders had gone, so where yesterday afternoon there were about 2-3 dozen cars parked all around us, this afternoon there was only us and a single campervan left!
    Charlie went out with his fishing rod for a couple of hours, but sadly the only thing biting was the sandflies! Apparently the tide was too low this time, and by the time he returned steady rain had set in so he was soaked through and ready for a hot drink.
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  • Day44

    Disappointment Island!

    November 20, 2021 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Well there was great excitement all along the beach last night: heaps of people turned up during the early evening and set up in little groups with their chairs and their chilly-bins, some with fancy-looking cameras on tripods, and a few bonfires were lit. All were awaiting the “big reveal” as the moon rose out of the ocean and the eclipse started. We waited…
    …and waited…
    …and eventually realised that we weren’t going to see a THING! The moon actually rose around the corner, on the other side of a large headland! It was about 2.00 a.m. before we could actually see it above the ridge, and by then the eclipse was all over. Disappointment Island!
    SO, I hear you ask, what were you doing awake at 2.00 a.m.?? Well that’s a whole other story: we were invaded by an infestation of flying insects! Goodness only knows how they were able to get in, as all the windows and vents were closed, but get in they did. And they sounded just like a mosquito as they zizzed past your ears! They looked a bit like large mozzies too, and in fact we did get a few bites, and they had us waking up regularly and reaching for the fly-spray.
    So we decided we definitely wouldn’t stay another night at Rarangi, and this morning we moved on a whole 6km up the road to Whites Bay, where there is a very large DOC campsite and a lovely sheltered sandy beach. Before we left we took a track that climbs up over a set of stone steps to Monkey Bay, a pretty little shingle cove that looks out over Coudy Bay to Cape Campbell. Apparently there is a sea arch that pierces the rock beyond the bay, and although we couldn’t see it, we could hear the booms as the waves hit the opening, and see the water surging into a cave behind us.
    Whites Bay is obviously a favourite with the locals, as the place was HEAVING with day-trippers enjoying the sunshine when we arrived – mostly families who set up their picnics on the beach – but despite the number of people it was surprisingly quiet. The gates to the camp are locked at 9pm, so a lot of the cars were gone by then. Also being Saturday there are families staying in tents, but rain is forecast by lunchtime tomorrow, so that should send them all home!
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    Jennie Pantano

    Amanda you are such a good storyteller!! Glen and I lsughed so hard with your eclipse story. It’s been great fun following the adventures of Amanda and Charlie.

  • Day43

    Up to Rarangi Beach

    November 19, 2021 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Having not been for a decent walk for a few days now we decided to head to the Wither Hills Farm Park on the outskirts of Blenheim, where there are a number of walking tracks. We chose the one named ‘Gentle Annie’ for our climb up to a lookout as this sounded the least arduous, and indeed it was a lovely walk through a forested section of the farm.
    After about 10 minutes, Charlie realised that he’d forgotten to lock the vehicle, so he headed back to the carpark while I meandered slowly on. By the time he had caught up with me again he was pretty hot – the dashboard was showing 26 degrees when we eventually got back to the motorhome! When we reached the lookout we could see all the way from the top of the Wairau Valley to the west, across the roofs of Blenheim to the mountains and out over Cook Strait to the east, where we could also make out the North Island.
    We left Blenheim just after lunch and headed north to Rarangi Beach, where we are parked in another DOC campground, waiting for the ‘mini’ blood moon to rise out of the ocean and begin the first lunar eclipse of its duration in about 800 years.
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  • Day42

    More Wine-tasting in Blenheim

    November 18, 2021 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    This morning we found a laundromat and ticked off a bit of shopping while our clothes were revolving. Then it was off for lunch at Wither Hills, a winery with an impressive restaurant and a commanding view over the surrounding countryside. Of course we were obliged to taste a number of their wines, before deciding which one would accompany our delicious lunch.
    Our second tasting stop was Cloudy Bay – another famous Blenheim winery – which has recently bought the vineyard at Northburn just outside of Cromwell. A ‘must do’ with the Queensberry crew when we get back home!
    We headed back to the lovely peace and quiet of the reserve at Onamalutu, where we dined on a platter of Italian bread, smoked salmon, salami, cheeses, olives, tomatoes and cucumber, washed down with a very nice bottle of Cloudy Bay chardonnay.
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  • Day41


    November 17, 2021 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    It rained overnight and this morning, so we didn’t hang around the lakes for long. After checking out the other DOC camps in the area, including finding the start of the Buller River (which flows all the way to the West Coast) we headed off towards Blenheim down the Wairau Valley. Charlie had hoped to be able to spend a fair bit of the day fishing but – yes, you guessed it – the river was dirty and so the plans were once again shelved.
    Instead we traveled on, passing hundreds of hectares of vineyards, till we found ourselves at Renwick on the outskirts of Blenheim, where there are literally dozens of wineries. We only chose two to visit today: Nautilus Estate and No. 1 Family Estate. This is Daniel le Brun’s winery, the famous Frenchman who was the first to make champagne-style wines in New Zealand. Daniel sold his shares in his previous winery in the mid-1990s, and although you can still buy wines with his name on the label, he has nothing to do with them! We tasted four of his current bubblies, and all were delicious; we are having a case shipped home and have kept a couple of bottles to enjoy on our birthdays.
    Then on to tonight’s stop: another DOC campsite at Onamalutu, about 12km from Blenheim. We are parked in an enormous grassy domain, surrounded by trees and hills, and there are only four other vehicles here. Perfect!
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