French Pass - c'est magnifique!December 16, 2017 in New Zealand
The drive along French Pass was beyond spectacular, with grand mountain vistas beyond a glistening river inlet. The air was so clear that we could see for many miles from our vantage point, and the setting sun gave the scene an orange glow. This clearly was not a very populated place, as access was via a single 60km dirt road teetering on the edge of a mountainside with a metal barrier every so often as a token gesture. It was mostly one lane, not that it mattered as we didn't see a single car until the final few kms. As we advanced along the winding track, we increasingly had the thought that we had gone wrong somewhere (despite it being a single road with no turnoffs), as it seemed unlikely that such an uninhabited area would lead to a campsite. Luckily we continued on; we rounded the headland to discover the road began to descend into a sheltered valley up ahead with a few houses and a small campsite. We parked up and picked a pitch overlooking the small private bay, and waited for the warden to turn up for our fees.
A cyclist who had travelled the pass (impressive as it's not the flattest route) came over and mentioned that our roof rack had broken. Sure enough, the old rusty tradesman’s rack that was bearing the weight of our solar panels was looking much wonkier than we were used to. We had noted when we first got the van that there were some sections where the crossbar met the uprights that had corroded from rust, and hoped that the inevitable failure would occur long after we had sold it on. Unfortunately as things like this often pan out, it instead occurred at the moment where we were least likely to be able to repair it: French Pass is not exactly a bustling metropolis with a wide selection of garages and auto shops. With no other alternative, Hugo put on his engineers hat and got to making a temporary fix… by wrapping it in several layers of duct tape (I hope this isn't what he does at work). I knew the tape we had lugged around since leaving the UK would come in handy at some point! The cyclist came over and offered us some cable ties which we gladly accepted and strapped over the duct tape. With a cautious tug on the framework Hugo decided the repair was complete and we settled in for the evening. After sitting and watching the sea for a while we got out the cooking stuff and prepared some food. Hugo set about putting some garlic into the pan which was a little too hot, causing it to spit and catch fire. This took Hugo, me, and the couple in the van next to us by surprise as Hugo brandished the flaming pan around until it went out. The rest of the meal was cooked with a little more caution, and with good reason. We spotted some smoke in the forest over the bay and the warden later pointed out that this was a bushfire and the fire department planes would probably be putting it out for the rest of the night. She said that a recent bushfire had almost reached the area around the campsite!
Sitting by the van, we noticed a little weka waddling around the campsite. These are similar to kiwi but with pointy tails and shorter beaks. He zoned in on an unguarded table with the cyclist's gear on, and hopped up onto it to investigate. Clearly he had found what he was looking for, as he began shaking a foil sachet of food around. Hugo ran over and chased it away, put the sachet back on the table and came back to his seat. But the weka was resolute in his mission to grab a snack and waddled back a few minutes later, finding the hidden treasure under the jackets and bags. Slightly irate, Hugo ran back over and chased him away, this time putting the sachet in their tent and zipping it up. Fine for now, but it's only a matter of time before wekas figure out zips…
We were off early for our drive back up French Pass, stopping along the way to get some photos of the fantastic scenery and taking the chance to get a family photo of us two and our baby Moa. We even put our Santa hats on for a Christmas card photo! But no time to waste, we had to be in Picton that afternoon for our mailboat cruise!Read more