Trials and Tribulations in the land of the Kiwi

Brixham Kiwi By Brixham Kiwi, 3rd Apr 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Oceania>New Zealand>Central North Island

A pear shaped beginning to our travels but we have fun at the Antarctic Centre

Bertie "not quite finished"...

Well, here we are in the land of the long white cloud - and it certainly was a very cold long white cloud when we arrived last week. Unseasonable blast from the south, bringing snow and hail and a bitingly chilly wind, however things improved over the weekend with hot sunshine and clear blue skies (with snow covered peaks in the background).

We had heard from Steve, the guy who was supposed to be modifying our bus (Bertie) four days before we left U.K. saying he had had problems - that Merv (his most experienced worker) had been very ill, and off sick for several months, however I don't think we were prepared for the sight of poor old Bertie standing festooned in cobwebs inside and out and virtually nothing done to him at all. Luckily Merv came to our rescue and offered us his spare room (better than the blow up bed on a floor at Steve's house...) and he and his wife Pat were great and made us feel at home. Work on Bertie got underway with Jeremy setting off each day with his lunch to work alongside Merv and we hoped to be mobile by the end of November.

In the meantime we made the best of things. We had wheels, in the shape of a borrowed UTE (utility vehicle or pick-up truck), so were able to get out and about. We had quite a lot of sorting out to do which was in our schedule anyway, and there was a reasonable city nearby - Palmerston North where we could get most of what we needed. We had the use of Merv's laptop so were able to pick up emails, but hoped to buy a laptop of our own fairly shortly.

We had a great time when Merv and Pat took us out for the day, starting with a drive up Foxton Beach (a lot of beaches are "roads" in NZ) and then on to a 4x4 rally where mad Kiwi's drive vehicles with huge wheels up vertical mud banks, through mud pools, across mud slides and often toppling from the top of one hill to the bottom, luckily with no injuries that we could see (other than to pride I suspect).

The day was hot and sunny and we ended up in a NZ pub called The Waterford (Irish....) with lovely gardens and Tui singing in the background - certainly beat being in U.K. in November. (Tui's are one of New Zealand's favourite birds, bigger than a blackbird, black with an iridescent sheen to the the feathers and a white ruff under the throat - so also referred to as the parson bird; their "song" has to be heard to believed and varies greatly from bird to bird, consisting of beautiful pure notes interspersed with croaks, gurgles, grunts and groans).

Travels in my UTE

Well, here we are, four weeks after arrival, still stuck in Foxton with poor old Merv and Pat! The good news is that Bertie is coming on with most of the internal work completed. All that remains is the fitting of an extractor fan over the cooker and wiring up the electrics. There is also a drawer to be built under the bus to hold the domestic batteries and then we shall be off – hopefully in about 10 days. The upholsterer arrives today to make sure everything fits, before covering the cushions in fabric.

So what do I do whilst Jeremy is working? Well I have been exploring the immediate Foxton area; there is a huge beach – it runs, I think, for about 30k with the odd river here and there. It is not the prettiest of beaches; grey sand backed by sand dunes, but the sea is glorious – beautiful straight surf waves and I believe it is fairly safe. You have to watch for rip tides and the advice is only to swim where others are swimming – not something that has bothered me yet – although we have had some baking hot days there is quite often a chilly southerly breeze – but then I suppose it is equivalent of May/June at home.

I went with Pat to see Feilding (I don’t know why it is spelt like that... within Feilding is Manfeild Park) which has won “the prettiest town in New Zealand” competition for the past 14 years. I can only think the judges must all live in Feilding as we could find nothing to recommend it and can only paraphrase Peter Sellers – “time has passed Feilding by – and so shall we.....”.

I do like Levin (Le Vin) and Palmerston North, (Palmy) and am very impressed with the quality of things on sale; lots of nice stylish clothes. Also getting better at pronunciation of place names, for instance Takaka in Abel Tasman; You say the ”a” as you would in Apple and all syllables are the same so you get Ta Ka Ka.

I’m getting use to seeing “Way Give” on the roads taking care when seeing “Bridge Lane One” and trying to remember the odd “Melbourne” rule on the roads which is that if you are indicating left and the vehicle coming towards you is indicating right (in other words you are both heading towards the same side road), then the vehicle indicating right has the right of way, you give way; all very confusing and something to do with trams on the roads years ago......! The great thing is that streets generally are very wide with parking bays down both sides. Sometimes there is a charge but quite often it is free – even in the bigger towns and cities and certainly on the coast.

We had a visit from a friend from Exmouth, Debbie who is doing the great OE as they say over here (Overseas Experience) with her friend James – they have been a bit more adventurous than us and gone black water rafting (don’t ask!), swimming with whales and, I believe, bungy jumping.... Without them I would not have seen the delights of OwlCatraz where, as well as the owls (Owlvis Presley, Owlvis John, Owl Capone, Owly McPherson etc) we also saw the world’s “Biggest Cattle Beast”. Actually the world’s biggest cattle beast (Big Red, a South Devon) had gone and died – they must have been fond of him though because his decapitated head was mounted on one wall and his hide was pinned on another. I can’t remember the name of the great pretender but he was pretty big – a Charolais cross.

A bit of R and R in Christchurch

We had a reunion to go to in Christchurch and of course had intended to drive down to Christchurch, which is in the South Island. Due to the unforeseen circumstances of Bertie not being quite ready we had to use other means; we caught the train from Levin – a beautiful journey down the west coast – in part like the trip by Dawlish; we then flew from Wellington to Christchurch. We had a couple of “do’s” which were very enjoyable, plus a talk on Birdie Bowers who was with Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. We then had a visit to the Antarctic Centre where you can experience an Antarctic storm, wrapped in huge jackets; standing in snow, they increased the bitterly cold wind until the temperature was minus 18. Even in the jacket my hands were frozen – what it must be like at minus 109 which was a temperature quoted on the talk I do not know (or want to find out).

Jeremy has bought a Portabote on Trade Me (which is like e-Bay). We haven’t got delivery of it yet, but it is something we wanted. It was either that or a couple of kayaks but I think we will probably have more fun in the Portabote, although I am hoping for an outboard rather than oars.......

Christmas is approaching fast – and it is strange being in the middle of summer. Is isn’t the heat it is the season that I find strange. We shall be in the middle of summer and yet the radio is playing all the old winter favourites – Let it snow, Jack Frost nipping at your nose etc, and there is even an advert showing somebody driving through snow (for tyres) and of course we have Santa and his reindeer and snowflakes and holly for Christmas lights – all very odd. There doesn't seem to be a traditional Christmas dinner and the only turkeys we have seen have been wild ones - perched on fences!


Campervans, Enjoyment, Motorhomes, New Zealand, North Island, South Island, Travel

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author avatar Brixham Kiwi
If I must get old, let me travel

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