The South Island Beckons
Taking a town at face value and reaping the consequences...
One custom we have taken to with great enthusiasm is the “Happy Hour”. This can start as early as 2 or 3 in the afternoon and as late as 9 or 10, but usually around 5.30 and invariably longer than an hour. Wherever there is a gathering of motorhomes it is acceptable to drag your chair over, clutching a bottle or glass and some nibbles and you will soon be chatting away like old friends.
We spent a great weekend at a beautiful lakeside camp called Whakamaru (free!). We were invited by friends, met more friends and friends of friends - there were about 12 buses and campervans in a circle with much laughter, kayaking and swimming in the lake, walks and general socialising, especially in the evenings when we were treated to film shows on a large screen brought by one of the party.
Moving on we spent some time around Rotorua – not in the town itself, which is interesting but touristy and certainly the town that many people will have heard of.
there is an all pervading aroma of sulphur (rotten eggs) from the volcanic activity all around. Quite fascinating to be driving through countryside with gently steaming streams and to go and view the bubbling mud ponds and erupting geysers. We stayed with friends (met at Whakamaru) who live at Ngongotaha (Nonguitar), just around Lake Rotarua, who plied us with fresh veggies from the garden and a couple of lovely dinners – including Bill’s own fish and chips. We headed out to Kawerau (Cow a ru) which we were told was a very motor home friendly town, as indeed it proved. We went into the Information Office, paid $25 as a deposit against a key. This allowed us to plug into the electricity supply. When we left we dropped the key back to the Information Office and got our $25 back! How good is that! We also made use of the swimming pool and hot water spa. This is a free facility for residents and tourists alike. We enjoyed getting up, having a hot spa, swim and then use of the showers – wonderful – definitely worth a visit – if only to watch the old ladies with flotation devices around their waists walking and dancing up and down the pool (very little swimming going on). The spa was heated naturally from hot water piped straight from the ground. There were also warning notices not to sleep in tents or awnings where you would be near to the ground because of the gas! I liked the town so much there that I got carried away and booked myself into the local hairdressers for a colour. Big mistake.... Not only that after colouring and washing it I was asked if I would "like it dried off a bit....", I came out looking like Marilyn Monroe (although sadly only the hair, not the face or figure!) Why do we women sit there saying "oh yes, that's lovely" and then go home and weep!!!
Two become three for a while and travel the "Mainland"
At the beginning of February we found ourselves in Manakau near Auckland to pick up our friend Sue who flew into Auckland to spend three weeks with us. Whilst Jeremy worked on Bertie, Sue and I had a day trip into Auckland – this involved an hour long bus ride, then a trip across to Devonport on the ferry and all the way back again – all for $11 (just over £4, can’t be bad!). We did splash out on a couple of lovely Hokey Pokey ice creams and I just had to have a new pair of Crocs......
We travelled down to Lake Taupo and bathed again in hot mineral springs; travelled through the National Park to see Mt Ruapehu (sadly we couldn’t see the summit – too much cloud) and travelled through the very scenic route to Wellington via the Manawatu Gorge and the Rimutaka Pass. Going up the Rimutaka on a beautiful evening, I was concentrating too much on the glorious views and traffic as I drove up and around the dozens of S-bends that I didn't keep an eye on the temperature gauge. As we reached the summit gallons of rusty water cascaded across the road as we pulled into the car park. Luckily there was no lasting damage done.
The ferry crossing from Wellington to Picton was wonderful – reasonably calm seas, hot sunshine, sooty smuts on our clothes from the funnels (well, we would go up on deck to get a good seat before we started moving....). It is a most beautiful sea journey. About an hour to get out of Wellington harbour, then about an hours sea crossing, followed by the most marvellous trip through Queen Charlotte Sound, spotting tiny settlements of houses that look as though the only way to get to them is by boat and watching cloud formations tumble down cliffs before lifting again to show a different view.
We docked at Picton in the South Island - or Mainland as South Island Kiwis call it! The sun was baking hot and for some reason it felt like a different country. New adventures afoot.
We have worked our way around Golden Bay, parts of Abel Tasman and now down the West Coast of the South Island from Westport to Greymouth and I can honestly say that no photograph, no words (not even AWESOME) can begin to describe the beauty of the mountains, the beaches, the gorges and rivers that we have seen.