Arrived back in Blenheim on 16 Dec – time to stock up and brave the crazy traffic around the town center again. Watching out for the parking wardens – there seemed to be scores of them all over the place marking tyres and poking tickets under wipers.
Stayed a couple of nights – laundry and chores to do. Visited Cherryland again to stock up on more cherrys. Renewed our COF at the VTNZ – all good for another 6 months.
Moved ‘outa’ town and headed for the Lake Grassmere Saltworks then turned left to the DOC Camp at Marfells Beach. What a lovely spot – settled on an ‘elevated’ site overlooking the sea and enjoyed the view. The camp was quite busy and about to get busier as Christmas was getting closer so we only stopped a few nights.
Heading south on SH1 down the east coast but we didn’t get far. Went exploring down a side road to Ward Beach and the wheels stopped again. Drove into a camping area for self-contained vehicles overlooking the bay and ‘that was that’ for another couple of days. The area is owned by the local farmer and OK to stay for a gold coin donation. A bonus that there was full phone/internet reception so I could catch up on getting some posts sorted out for this ‘blog’ site.
The beach consisted of loose shingle and stones which were extremely hard to walk on but good exercise for the legs. The waves dump onto the shore and have polished the stones to a smooth ‘shiniest’. I couldn’t resist looking for and picking up some small ones of different colours (now where am I going to hide them in the motorhome?).
We were entertained by some local commercial fishing boats coming and going. They launched around 5:30am and arrived back mid afternoon each day. The northern end of the bay was sheltered by a reef so they would come in parallel to the beach and drive up onto their huge trailers at some speed and were then hauled out of the water by powerful bulldozers. They sure had it all down to a fine art!
One of our fellow ‘campers’ had a cray pot out on the reef on the other side of the bay and was apparently being rewarded by a ‘catch’ most days.
And one morning a pod of dusky dolphins came visiting and swam in quite close to the shore. Very cool!
Moving on we carried on down the Kaikoura Coast – we never tire of driving this scenic part of SH1. Stopped short of Kaikoura at the DOC Camp at Okiwi Bay. Was a bit hard to find it at first – ended up overshooting and having to do a U-turn for another look. Was easier to spot the entrance on the way back. A number of campers already there. We decided to stay the night. After lunch we were surprised to hear rain on the roof and we got steady drizzle/light rain for the rest of the day and most of the night.
Onward to Kaikoura next day but did a detour inland to look at the Pehi Pehi DOC Camp. A very small camping area on the site of an old schoolhouse. A bit of history to read up on as this area was extensively logged in the early 1900’s and there was quite a community based here.
Retraced our steps back to the main road and finally reached Kaikoura on 23 Dec. We waited here till after Christmas – spending most of our days parked up in the Domain at South Bay and our nights at the NZMCA temporary Park which is located nearby at the local Trotting Club. We were not the only club members using this strategy as the Trotting Club is not a very ‘pretty’ site and looking out over the sea at the Domain is very picturesque and was interesting watching boats coming and going.
Shopped for some Christmas treats at the ‘new’ looking New World (pretty sure it wasn’t there last time we drove through approx a year ago) and walked the main street a couple of times to blend in with the multitudes of tourists around. Called into the Info Centre and overheard the booking agent telling someone that the Whale Watching boats were booked up totally till mid January.
Drove up the hill to the local Lookout – great views over both sides of the Peninsula of the coast, mountains and town area. The mountains would be spectacular in winter with a covering of snow (next time!).
Christmas Day we set off in the morning to walk part of the Peninsula Walkway from South Bay – very scenic coastal views rewarded us and it was a clear perfect day. We intended to go halfway and turn around but in the end we went about three-quarters of the way before U-turning.
With lots of photo stops this took us about 1½ hours return (the total return walk is stated as being 3 hours). The track is pretty easy after the first uphill bit at the beginning, so we could have done the whole walk but Christmas lunch and a chilled wine was calling us back!
Boxing Day we got a lovely surprise when my Brother contacted us to say he and some of the family were driving up from Christchurch to have a picnic lunch with us. Wish I could say it was a perfect day, but it turned out to be overcast and a chilly wind made it too cold to sit outside. Never mind, an enjoyable picnic was had, albeit, inside the motorhome.
Next morning time to move on – and we got as far at the NZMCA Park at Parnassus. A nice big grassy area and plenty of other club members also drove in during the day. We met a nice couple from Kaiapoi who parked next to us and hope to look them up at a later date. We chatted for ages over a coffee and it was late morning before we left the park.
Drove the scenic route around Gore Bay and stopped there for lunch. A Fisheries Officer parked just behind us out of view from the beach and was waiting for some people to return to their car to check their catch. We actually saw quite a few Officers along the coast ‘doing their duty’ to keep people honest on the ‘crays’ being taken.
Along the scenic route we called into the Hurunui River Mouth area. A ‘Council’ camping ground there ($10/site per night). A few groups in tents were well settled in and well spread out on the main level. It is not a very big area but we managed to find a spot and parked up. Next morning we drove out and along the clifftop alongside the seafront – a Walkway starts at the end of the road which leads northwards to the Port Robinson Lighthouse (4.5km one way).
The Hurunui River is tidal with two outlets to the sea and we stopped to watch people fishing along a boulder bank – seems you can only get there by boat and there was a row of runabouts pulled up on one side of the boulders. The river water below us was very clear and quite deep against the cliff base. An unusual spot – different to anything else we have seen.
We returned to the main highway, headed south and turned towards the coast once more to visit Motanau Beach. We spent a night there at another Council Camping Ground ($10/site per night). The camp was alongside the river and it was a short walk to the bay where local boats were launching at the boat ramp. Quite a community of houses there but no shops. There were notices up not to drink the water without boiling first as the river water was currently polluted. Not surprising as the river was not flowing from upstream – it filled up ‘locally’ when the tide came in but it sure didn’t smell very good.
Next night we ended up at Amberley Beach in yet another $10/night Council Camping Ground. This one is he biggest so far having a ‘north’ section (no dogs) and a ‘south’ section (dogs OK). We chose the ‘north’ section…funny that!!
We were camped nearby a group of young people though, who had us cringing as they proceeded to play a vigorous game of beach cricket around us, followed by a ‘footie’ kicking match. Somehow they managed to avoid sending a ball crashing into the sides or windows of our ‘home’ but we must admit to having a laugh or two when the football lodged high up in a nearby tree and was un-retrievable. We noticed the culprit heading off in his car soon after….maybe he felt he’d overstayed his welcome!!
New Years Eve – we moved on continuing to do some exploring – Leithfield Beach, Saltwater Creek (roadside Rest Area) and Waikuku Beach. These two beaches had commercial camping grounds which appeared to be packed out – not our scene anyway, so we headed inland a bit to Rangiora. Bigger town with lots more shops and Repco still had their Boxing Day Sale on, so we bought a new car radio with 60% off to replace our ‘house’ radio that is not up to par.
We then started to look for a ‘quiet’ place to park up for the night and didn’t have to look very far – stopping at the Ashley River Domain just north of the town. Went for a leisurely walk along the riverbank in the afternoon and saw the New Year in a very ‘sedate’ manner – heard the ‘booms’ of fireworks in the distance and toasted the stars overhead before…diving into bed! We had a very peaceful night – no drive-thru’s or wheelies to disturb us…just how we like it.
And so ended an eventful year for us – settling into retirement, selling our house, buying the motorhome and finally setting off on our travels.
Roll on 2016!!!