Archive for March, 2012

Still here!

March 29, 2012

The silence from this end is due to the fact that we have been in Auckland for the past week as our niece Sarah got married last Saturday.  And what with the wedding, catching up with family and friends and generally  getting a few essential things done like seeing the Accountant and doing a little retail therapy, we have not been up to writing the blog.

However, over the next few days we will get ourselves organised and catch up.  Now we are back in Nelson, and in between getting unpacked and sorting ourselves out, we spent the day picking tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant, chillies, zucchinis et al ready for pickling and bottling over the next day or two.  Gotta love this time of the year.

Sunny Nelson

March 23, 2012

16 March

Day spent in and around Richmond, slowly working our way through the very long shopping and to-do list we had prepared. Another score today, being Motorhome Assn members we get a discount at Noel Leeming Stores. We had headed in there to buy ourselves an Indoor/Outdoor Temperature Gauge which of course required batteries. We bought some rechargeable batteries and instead of $30 a pack, with the discount they came down to $14! Score again.

eveningsky_thumb Sunset at Nelson

17 March

Happy St Patricks Day! Off to the famous Nelson Market this morning, and what a treat, rows and rows of stalls all selling lovely fresh produce.  I had to restrain myself as I knew we only had a few more days until we are away so we did not need a lot.   After wandering around the market for the morning, we met up with friends Kevin & Fay.  More friends from early days in Tokoroa and Putaruru.  Kevin’s parents, George & June live with them in a lovely house in Nelson.  Now this is where more coincidences occur,  whilst they were giving us a tour of their house, it all seemed somewhat familiar.  And sure enough, it turns out they purchased it from Chris, an Altrusa acquaintance.  Small world.

We spent the afternoon with Kevin & Fay, catching up on each others news.

18 March

Anniversary Day for Mike, 40 years married.  We miss you Ann.

19 and 20 March

Spent in and around Richmond and Nelson getting ourselves organised ready to head to Auckland on Wednesday.  Kevin & Faye along with George & June came to our van for dinner.  A lovely evening was spent with them all.

21 March

Fellow motor homer Ian dropped us off at the airport this morning to catch our flight to Auckland for niece Sarah’s wedding this coming weekend.  Also catching up with friends, family and mates in the big smoke, will report in later!

Murchison and Anniversary

March 18, 2012

13 March 2012

30 years!  Yes, its our 30th wedding anniversary.  Wow, I really was a child bride :)  In celebration we went off for a drive to see friends Pat & Sue who are currently Camp Mother and Camp Leader at DOC’s Lake Rotoiti campsite.

We arrived at their camp set up, and after a quick look around settled down for talk and a cuppa, inside, away from the damn ever present sandflies! Whilst chatting, we happened to mention that it was not until we arrived at their camp site that we noticed that we had nearly run out of petrol  Luckily for us, there is petrol available at St Arnaud, just 3kms down the road, so before lunch, Roy and I went off to fill up the tank and also to look around the other bays, camp sites and facilities.

golden oldies 2Golden oldies having a day out at Rotoiti

Lake RotoitiLooking up the lake

motorhomeGreat place to park a motorhome?

Back for lunch where we cracked open a bottle of 1993 Hunters Miru Miru, a bubbly we had had in our cellar for sometime, and very nice it was too.  We seemed to have only been chatting for a short time, when we realised that by now it was around 4pm so time we bade farewell and set off back to the Murchison POP.

rotoiti 2A different view of the lake from West Bay

Buller river Origin of the Buller River flowing out of Lake Rotoiti

We arrived back at the POP to find Margaret and John there, fellow motorhomers we had got to know in Alexandra.  We seem to be doing this, meeting up with the same people at different spots along the way, and its nice to see familiar faces at Happy Hour.

14 March

Today was chill out day and chore day, housework done, laundry attended to with the rest of the day spent  attending to lots of little tasks, interspersed with reading a few more pages of our books.

15 March

Time to move on out of Murchison and on to Nelson, as we fly out of Nelson next Wednesday to Auckland for a week.  An uneventful drive, we arrived at the Richmond A&P Showgrounds/Racecourse where we are to stay until we leave, plus they allow us to leave the van here for a very nominal fee – $10 for the week!  Score.

After setting ourselves up, we unhitched the RAV4 and  headed off down the road to Stoke to the VINZ centre to book the van in for its COF (Certificate of Fitness).  We were met with the most hospitable of receptionists, told to go and pick up the van as they could do it right now.  So back to pack ourselves up, and back off to the VINZ centre with fingers crossed, as we had heard from many other people of their experiences (all bad!), and how expensive it was with costs ranging from $120 through to $163.  The van sailed through the COF, phew, and that will be $98 thank you very much, which included a discount for NZMCA members!  Another score.  Off to buy a Lotto ticket!

NelsonParked at the racecourse

We will  be here in Nelson and the region for the next few weeks exploring as much as we can.

Around and about Karamea

March 14, 2012

Thursday 8 March

We are completely amazed at the number of people who are either camping here, day trippers, or starting/finishing the Heaphy  Track. Watching the sun set last night we were surprised at the number of people on the beach, in fact the greatest number of people we have seen on a West Coast Beach since we have been over here.

sunsetOur first sunset at Kohaihai

Roy was up and off early this morning to walk the zig-zag track overlooking Kohaihai.  As it was a steep climb (and descent) the team member with the dodgy knees caught up on some zzzz’s.

zig zag 2Looking down on the Camp Site from the Zig Zag track

After breakfast, we both headed off to walk the Nikau Walk at the start of the Heaphy track.


riverThe Kohaihai river another tannin stained river on the coast.

This was mainly on flat ground and consisted of a lovely walk through a forest of Nikau’s.  Once we had completed that loop, we made our way further along the track to the Scott’s Beach Lookout, this time up over a gentle gradient to afford us a great views across the estuary and to our parking spot.

scottLooking toward the camp site from Scotts Beach Lookout


skyamazing sunsets and clouds

looking toward Westport

Back to the van, and time to put another loaf of our fantastic sourdough into the oven.  This time a rye sourdough for a bit of a change.

wonky weka  Willy the Wonky Weka with forward and reverse legs!!  Poor fellow had obviously been hurt and his leg has healed incorrectly.  But he is still able to run and is obviously well fed.

Roy headed off to the surf for a bit of fishing however he returned shortly after not having had a bite, although he was bitten – damn sandflies!

Friday 9 March

Packed ourselves picnic lunch as today we were off to the Oparara Caves.  These are 16km inland from the main road halfway between Karamea and Kohaihai.

NikauNikau stand along the road

A very “exciting” road in,  the male member of the party in the passenger seat of the RAV became quieter and quieter as the road twisted, turned, became narrower (affording him a great view over the edge… remember he does suffer from vertigo!),  and became more corrugated and rutted with a few washouts and slips thrown in for good measure.

road signyes, another one of ‘those’ signs

sign 2and tight corners

The 16km trip seemed to take an age, isn’t that always the way? as the return trip was over in a flash.

We headed to the furthest caves, the Box Caves and Crazy Paving Cave.  These are just a short walk from the carpark area.

box canyonoff on walks

cave spider webs 2spider cocoons hanging from the ceiling

crazyCrazy paving flooring

crazy 2more crazy paving

remnant stalastalactites and stalagmites

tightoops, don’t get too close to that edge

From there, we headed off to walk to the Mirror Tarn, we’ll let the picture say it all.

mirror tarn

Then a short drive to the main carpark to view the Oparara Arch.

stream 3Moss covered rocks in a small feeder stream obviously some time since this one has flooded

streamTannin source in streams merging into the river

ext arch 1I thought this was the Aparara arch a limestone arch over the river approximately three metres wide.

ext arch 2Another view of the same arch

gate arch 2In fact these are the dimensions of the arch.


powelliphantaFound this empty shell of a Powelliphanta in the bed of the river.

A spot of lunch then off to Moira’s Arch.  This arch is much larger in entrance than the Oparara arch but much shorter

entrance 2River entrance to the Moira’s arch

entranceRiver exit from the arch

gate 200The access entrance to Moira’s Arch.  This is at right angles to the river and the arch

across Looking across the river within the arch

stala 2Stalactites in the ceiling of the arch

floorThe limestone floor of the arch is pockmarked by drips from the ceiling and is eroded by these and the river which floods the floor from time to time

moa tracks“Moa” tracks on the track over the arch

robinAnd of course the ever present South Island Robin

The quick drive out and off into Karamea in the hope of getting some cell phone reception and some internet.

tomatoTomato growing just outside Karamea.  This is a very large enterprise supplying large quantities of tomatoes throughout the upper South Island

No luck with the phones but we could get some wifi at the Last Resort.  Enough time to have a coffee, check emails, and upload the last blog entry before heading back to the van for dinner.

Saturday 10 March

Left Kohaihai and headed south through Karamea and up over the hill.  Why is it that the return journey seemed to take half as long and was not so hilly or windy??

mirror 2 Lake Hanlon on the road between Karamea and Mokihinui

We ended up at Sedonville, a VERY small settlement inland where we had great parking at the pub, and what is more, access to a washing machine.  Laundry done and put onto the line, then into the pub for a drink and also to hook onto their free wifi! Oh and I think Roy may have just watched a little of the cricket on the tele!!

Woke Sunday morning to steady rain falling, just as well all the washing was done the day before.  So we packed up and hit the road again, through to Westport where we were going to stay for a night but we decided to carry on to Murchison where we knew that the Motorhome Assn has a great parking facility complete with dump station and water.  So back through the Buller Gorge and into Murchison.

murchisonParked at Murchison NZMCA park

dodgson store Dodgson’s Store reminiscent if the store at Oterehua

Now isn’t it funny the people that you meet on your travels.  We met up with Margaret and Ray whom we had preciously met at Lake Dunstan.  Turns out they were originally from Tokoroa and Margaret even used to live in Putaruru and own the dairy at the top of our street!! Margaret was married to Harry Sanson who was a Pool driver at Kinleith.  Happy hour(s) ensued with many tales swapped –  mutual friends and acquaintances must have had burning ears last night!

Monday 12th March

Off this morning back to the Buller Gorge to walk over the swing bridge (the longest in NZ) and yes, I was petrified (note this does not refer to Roy)!! Then off for a bush walk to see some of the sights.

swing 2 The bridge from the main road sign

splitJust shows how much the earth can move.  And not just in a small area, this fault was over a length measured in kilometres.

bullerThe Buller River gradually eroding a limestone outcrop

drainGold mining tailrace built in the late 1800s

wall And rock walls created to direct water races

kahikateaGiant Kahikatea

miner hutMiners hut

endNote the picture at top left showing the level of flood waters in 1998

swing heightThis is the normal level of the river.  The pad to the left of the river is that shown in the photo only about two metres above water level in the flood photo.

swingBridge from the end opposite the main road.

And again, funny who you meet, reading an interpretative signpost as Roy had gone off to do another walk, I was chatting to a fellow walker, and just happened to ask ‘Where are you from?’ the response was ‘Middle of the north island’.  ‘Oh yes?  Whereabouts?’  ‘Tokoroa’ was the reply!  Sure enough someone else we knew from a few years ago, Keith Cotter and his wife Kay.  Turns out it really is a small world as Kay worked with Mum at some stage, and they also used to own the same dairy at the top of our street in Putaruru as Margaret from the previous night had also owned!   We ended up chatting in the carpark for ages until the sandflies got the better of us all.

Northern Westland

March 9, 2012

They say that the journey is more important than the destination, and how true that is.  We have never been ones to get from A to B in the quickest or shorted time, in fact we seem to go from A to B via Aa, Ab, get the drift?  We try to meander our way along  discovering the byways and all those wee places that most people go whizzing by.  Even so, we have missed a number of places and they are now on our “next time” list with a promise to ourselves to take the time now and have less on that list.

We left Slab Hut Creek on Tuesday morning(6 March), stopping off in Reefton to catch up on emails and phone calls before heading off toward Westport.  An uneventful but interesting drive through some lovely country, with the most spectacular through the Buller Gorge.

riverBuller River

Some of the corners narrow to single lane but are controlled by traffic lights like this one:-

buller lights

Whereas others just tell you to slow down, as if we weren’t already!


Then you see signs like this:-

dancing trucksdoes this mean trucks are dancing around the corner?

buller gorgeand sneaking through under the crag.

Westport was always going to be a brief stopping point in which we could fill up with petrol, empty the waste tanks, fill with fresh water and restock the pantry.  That done, we headed off toward a POP north of Stockton, however, we missed the turn off (GPS coordinates were wrong) so ended up continuing on to Mokihinui.  Where, for the first time since last September, we went to a Camp ground.  Well, it is called a camp ground, more like a large field with an ablution block and a few power points. 


We did not need power so parked up and proceeded to settle in.  Roy hopped over the dunes to the river entrance to try for a Kahawai or Salmon (no luck).

7 March

Wednesday morning and off to use the showers, it felt quite wicked to leave the water running the whole time we showered  as we are so used to the ‘navy shower’ technique. However, it was rather nice and we wont knock it.  We also took the opportunity to use the kitchen facilities to wash our dishes so less water going into the waste tanks.  That all done, we headed off toward Karamea.

Now if any of you have driven over the hill to Karamea will know what the road is like, now imagine driving over it in a 10m bus towing a car and you will appreciate the skill required by the driver.


Some corners were a little tight and with the passenger looking down over the side of sheer drops, it is surprising clean underpants were not required by the journeys end!  Meanwhile, the vertigo suffering driver kept his eyes glued to the road whilst taking deep breaths.

We took a tea break in Karamea before deciding to continue on to Kohaihai, the very end of the northern end of the West Coast road and the start/end of the Heaphy Track. 

coastThat’s our destination up ahead in the sea mist.

narrowingBut first we need to go along this road which was already a one lane road, now its narrowing to what, a half lane road?

kohaihaiHere at last, Kohaihai.

So here we are just a few metres from the sand and the ocean and will stay here a few days and explore the region, more specifically the Oparara Limestone Caves. 

parkParking spot.

Mind you, the sandflies here are large, voracious and in huge numbers so we will see how we go.

estuaryEstuary looking down to the sea

Nikaua huge example of a Nikau Palm

bridge heaphySwing bridge at the start of the Heaphy Track

downstreamLooking downstream form the bridge

totemand this fellow looking over the beach.

We have now covered the length of the West Coast accessible by road, from Jackson’s Bay in the south  through to Kohaihai in the north, with a few stops in between.  A beautiful part of NZ which we look forward to returning to again soon,

Greymouth to Reefton

March 6, 2012

The plan was to leave the parking spot in Hokitika with Roy heading off in the van to fill up with petrol and water with Bernice to follow.  Oops, someone left the lights on in the RAV so a quick phone call and Roy returned to jump start the car.  Off this time! 

An uneventful drive through to Greymouth, apart from negotiating the Turamakau Rail/Road Bridge which was under repair….

approachApproaching…how wide are we again??

bridgebreathing in…..we squeezed through with just a whisker to spare on either side.

We headed straight to the Cobden Bridge to the dump station and then parked up.

cobdenParked at Cobden Bridge

grey riverGrey River and bridge

Something unusual along from the parking area and under the road from Greymouth to Westport.  A deep cave going right under the main highway!

cave 1

cave 2

The weather in Greymouth was just that – grey, or gray! And the wind was pretty strong too.  Never mind, we had things to do so this would do for a couple of nights.  The weather did not improve at all, the wind became almost gale force so we hunkered down, attended to what we had to do including Bernice doing a bit of baking.  As it was so windy, we did not want the satellite dish up for too long so after we caught up with the news, we watched a movie.  Pat & Sue had given us a few movies to watch so the first night we watched The Boat that Rocked – hilarious with good music too!  and the following night it was Gran Torino. I am sure that our neighbours must have thought we were mad as we really did laugh out loud throughout both movies.

Enough of Greymouth, work done so we headed off inland toward Reefton.  This was Friday 2 March and we had heard the weather forecast was for a weather bomb to hit.  We figured that inland may be a better deal as it was already pretty windy on the coast.  We headed for a DOC camp at Slab Hut Creek, just 8km out of Reefton.  A wonderful spot, with great level gravel parking spots backing onto the creek.  The whole area is nicely landscaped and it is all rather pleasant.  We waited for the rain and wind to arrive.

slab creekParked up at Slab Hut Creek

creekand the creek only 4 metres from the back of the van.

We woke Saturday morning to clearing skies, although rain had fallen through the night, it was not the deluge we were expecting and there was certainly no wind.  By mid morning, we had glorious sunshine.  This also means the return of the sandflies!

birdand this wee fellow that follows us everywhere, is not shy and will even stand on your feet.  These South Island Robins are very common here and seem to like being around people.

In to Reefton to check out what is there, and to get cell phone reception as there is none at the Creek.  Returned to our van finding Pat & Sue just parking up beside us!!  They had been staying just down the road at Nelson Creek, and told us all about the area so guess where we are off to tomorrow to check it all out. 

Pat was off up the river to check out the gold prospects.  he invited me along and I took the opportunity to try fossicking for gold.

bird 2This wee fellow was very interested in proceedings particularly when a worm or bug turned up.

At the end of the exploration I had found my first gold.  Not enough to buy anything but a start toward the next fortune (yeah right!)

drinksOf course the usual Happy Hour was taken as the sun set.

The weather stayed stunningly clear all day and looks like it will stay that way for some time.   Sunday and off to Nelson Creek to check it all out.  What a stunning wee spot, goodness knows why we stayed in Greymouth, this is much more salubrious place to stay.  Nelson Creek is another gold mining area, and first stop was through this tunnel


which led to a rather long swing bridge.  This is a view from about two thirds the way across.


In the bush there was considerable evidence of mining and miners presence.

 hut  Outlines of the rear of a hut cut into the sandstone.

cuttingA drainage ditch cut into the cliff side.  About forty foot high and two feet wide draining water from a working area  

On the way back to the van we came across this most unusual driveway.


entrance 2An upturned car on each side with intriguing signs.

On return, Roy went off with Pat & Sue to try his hand at gold fossicking in the creek,

 fossick  miner  and yes, he is wearing Waikato sox!!

sluiceSue working the sluice

So now the gold bug has bitten, a few flakes are enough to keep one encouraged.

Many more games of Sequence played, the girls reign supreme although we did allow the fellows to win occasionally.

Monday and another lovely day, so we stay around here and will move off Tuesday 6 March  toward Westport and Karamea.  Due to intermittent internet and phone reception,  communication is also sporadic.

PS.  It is one year ago this week that we purchased the van!  And it still has no name.

Hokitika part 2

March 1, 2012


One of the first things we did once we arrived in Hokitika was a visit to the beach to see the iconic driftwood.  It just so happened that the previous week they had had the annual driftwood sculpture competition on the beach with some of the sculptures still visible.

loch nessLoch Ness?

ride em cowboyGetting into the saddle!

relax by the seasome just relax by the sea.

Then, it finally happened!  Roy caught a trout, not a bad size and we had it smoked and eating it in a very short period of time and yes, it was damn delicious.

first fishFirst trout


mmmmand eaten.

However, the excitement of catching the trout must have been too much as later that evening Roy had a fainting spell…..scaring the bejeezers out of Bernice (as well as Pat & Sue who just happened to be with us sharing some trout).  Phone calls to the local Medical Centre, talked to the nurse who then contacted the Dr, oh, did I mention that this was Sunday evening? Anyway, to cut a long story short, it was just one of those things that happens, a sudden drop in blood pressure, but just in case, a check up the next day and all is well.  Another one of these “age related” things!

We spent a total of 5 nights at the Hokitika Motorhome Assn Park,  over the next few days we went out for a tiki tour of a different part of the Coast.  First was a trip to Ross, a gold mining town where we walked around the old mining settlement.

wheel rossWater wheel relic

Once we had wandered around, we headed back to the carpark where we came across a couple of tourists.  THESE are freedom campers that cause all the problems……

tourist 1 tourist 2

Living and sleeping in a car, then washing your dishes at a campervan dump station. Hmm, wonder if she realised what what just dumped down that drain and then washed out with that hose?  Stepping off soap box….. again!

Off from the township was a beautiful, deserted beach.  We had hoped that some of the gold from the town mining’s may have washed down to the beach and would be lying around waiting for the Vannini’s to pick it up.  Alas, no such luck!

ross beachRoss BeachRossHouse in Ross decorated with number plates and other bits.

We stopped in Ross to pick up some free range eggs from a roadside stall when another vehicle and 5th wheeler pulled up in front of us, it happened to be Pat & Sue whom we had met in Franz and played cards with.  We chatted and caught up on the roadside, Pat & Sue were heading to Hokitika and the POP so we would catch up with  them again later.

Our next call  was to the Ross cemetery which just happened to be on top of a hill affording us great views over Ross, the Coast and the surrounding district.

ross cemeteryLooking north over river ross cemetery 3South West to the seaross cemetery 2West over the sea

Next stop,  Lake Mahinapoua, where there is a DOC camp which we thought may be a good spot to stay at some stage.  There just so happened to be a yachting regatta on over the weekend so the place was quite busy.

yachting Lake KaniereLake Mahinapoua

We got chatting to three women who were sitting watching the yachting.  It turns out that they had grandchildren sailing, and they all were staying at the camp in their campervans.  We have met a number of single women (men as well but not in the same numbers) who are travelling around the country in their motorhomes having a great time. Ages range from 40’s through to well into their 80’s, it is really nice to see them out and about enjoying life.

Next stop was  Manunui Beach, accessed through a short bush walk.

manunui 2Looking south

Manunuilooking north

Another day and another trip, this time to Lake Kaniere, and another DOC camp. 

Lake Kaniere

Further on from the Lake are Dorothy Falls

Dorothy Falls 1 dorothy Falls 2

tanninTannin coloured water, a very common sight on the West Coast.

Another day and this time a trip to Goldsborough

bridge 2 This is part of the old road/rail bridge across the Arahura river.  It has been preserved and mounted alongside the new bridge with a very informative set of information panels.

bridge 3 bridge

Arrived at Goldsborough to find … nothing.  Not a sign of the original town and buildings is to be seen. But there was a very good DOC camp alongside the stream. 

whos looking at who And Wekas taking an interest in the visiting population.

The stream is designated as a Gold fossicking site.  As a result there are a number of holes in the riverbed where people have been trying their luck at prospecting.

fossick hole  Typical hole in the riverbed.

As an aside we shall have to return to this area and stay at the DOC camps as they are in great locations and off the main roads.

On the way back from Goldsborough came across an interesting short walk through the bush along a track that passed through a number of tunnels that had been created to get water to sluicing sites.

tunnelFirst tunnel immediately on the side of the road.  Very narrow with signs of the original pick marks still remaining on the sides of the tunnel.

steps typical bush surrounding the path

tunnel 2 The final tunnel bringing one back to the road  

On the way home found a sign on the side of the main road pointing to Seaview so decided to have a look and hope to get a high view of Hokitika and surrounds. 

Hokitika lighthouse Seaview Lighthouse

Instead of finding a viewpoint we found the site of a major Mental Hospital (closed).  It covered 61 ha (150 acres), much larger than  Cherry Farm north of Dunedin.  In 1955, Seaview peaked with 549 patients.  By 1996, there were 100, and when the facility closed in 2009, it was down to 22.  It must have been fairly well self sufficient as it looked like there were remains of power generation plants, gardens, hospital and school rooms. 

Also, surprisingly, there was a memorial to Maori who had been transported from their home regions in the North Island, from the far North through Central North Island and especially from Taranaki.  These people were forcibly removed and transported to Hokitika as were some to Dunedin.

All through the week, we have returned to the park and our van, Pat & Sue parked up next to us, so many enjoyable evenings were spent playing Sequence and talking.  We all left the POP on Wednesday 29th February with us heading for Greymouth.