01 July – Spent a night at Weedons Club Park to the south of the city before setting off towards Banks Peninsular.
Filled with diesel at McKeowns 24hr Fuel Stop on the way to Halswell. Whilst we have Far North Fuel Cards for both Mobil and Caltex we have mostly patronised the McKeowns sites while travelling around the South Island, as their pump prices are consistently the lowest around. Even with our 12c/litre off at Mobil Stations it’s still a better deal in most instances. Today the going price at Mobil was $1.20/ltr and McKeowns was 0.91c/ltr so it was still cheaper. In one place the McKeowns pumps were sited on the forecourt of a Caltex Station, right alongside the Caltex Truck Diesel pump which was still the higher rate. The fuel probably came out of the same underground tank.
From Halswell we joined SH75 and drove through Tai Tapu and on to Motukarara – had a look there at the Waihora Park Camping area. It’s adjacent to the local Racecourse – $10/van/night. Next door is a DOC Native Plant Nursery with a demo garden area to walk around. Picked up a few good walking maps of the district in the shop.
Drove on to the north end of Lake Ellesmere and stopped at Birdlings Flat to look at the views. Continued towards Little River but found a little parking area along the way by Lake Forsyth that is DOC managed, so stopped overnight. The local rooster was also prowling around and keeping an eye on things.
Moved on, following Lake Forsyth upstream and stopped at Little River settlement. Browsed in the Info/Gift Shop located in the old Railway Station and an Art Gallery/Cafe. The place was ‘buzzing’ with people – must be a weekend excursion destination. A popular cycle trail stops/starts here that follows the old railway line back to Motukarara.
We continued on and over the hill to Barrys Bay. It was a winding steep road with a Lookout at the top – great views overlooking the Akaroa Harbour.
Drove downhill into Barrys Bay and then took the side road to French Farm Bay. Stopped along the foreshore for lunch, then decided to stop the night. The camping spots there having just re-opened for self-contained vehicles. A magic spot in the sun overlooking the water.
Next morning we continued along the road which follows the western side to Akaroa Harbour. Called into Tikao Bay where there is a wharf/jetty and houses dotted around the hills overlooking the Bay. Walked along the wharf – water quite ‘gungy’ here at low tide.
Onward to the end of the road at Wainui – another camping spot here but not as nice as French Farm. But a good view of the inlet to Akaroa Harbour and across to the town…magic!
Drove back around Barrys Bay to Duvauchelle – a few shops there but very spread out. Continued on to Akaroa and drove around checking the area out…it’s been a very long time since we were last here. There is an official overnight parking area for Self-Contained Vans at the northern end of the town – found another Bus already parked there so pulled up alongside and settled in.
Walked back through town to find the ‘famous’ Fish & Chip Shop and sat eating our lunch on a bench in the sun, overlooking the Wharf and French Farm Bay.
Walked ‘home’ and browsed in some of the shops along the way.
Going to stay another night in Akaroa – so in the afternoon we walked to visit a local garden that was created by artist Josie Martin. It is known as “The Giants House” and the garden is full of amazing concrete and mosaic sculptures, paths and walkways – all very ‘quirky’ and colourful. (Sorry about all the photos…but I just couldn’t choose between them.
The house itself was built in 1880 of Totara and Kauri and was the first BNZ Bank Manager’s residence. It is beautifully renovated – we could only go as far as the front door though and into the Art Gallery at the back. The Artist still lives there and lets out some of the rooms as a B&B.
It would be nice to go back in spring/summer and see the garden beds in flower. It‘s certainly a fascinating place to visit.
Moved on the next morning and drove up Long Bay Road which climbed steeply out of town and met up with the Summit Road (Tourist Route) that follows the crater rim. Amazing views. Going to check out some of the side roads along the route into the Bays on the north-eastern side of the Peninsular.
Firstly down the steep road into Le Bons Bay – a community of houses along the beach front. Went for a walk along the beach and there was also a nice Domain at the end of the road (but no camping). Was a grey old day and drizzling.
A steep climb back to the Summit Road and onward – passed Ellangowan Scenic Reserve where there was a walkway to a rocky peak (decided to give it a miss).
Continued along the road with unbelievable scenery at every turn…then headed downhill again into Okains Bay. A bigger community there and the renowned Maori & Colonial Museum to visit.
We drove to the beach and went for a walk to view the sea and a big cave overhang in a park area. There is a large informal ‘family style’ camp ground right along the beach front that would be popular in summer – but was deserted this time of the year. I would have liked to stop at the Museum but time was marching on and it is a large complex that a short visit wouldn’t do justice to.
So back up the steep hill again – low gears in the truck getting a good workout today! We spent the night on a layby right on the Summit Road looking down into Akaroa Harbour – million dollar view! It was a very cold night but thankfully no wind…you would definitely not want to camp there if it was blowing hard and risk being tipped over onto your side.
Next detour was down to Little Akaloa. Another very steep winding road down to sea level. Parked up and went for a walk along the bay to a fishing wharf then back to the picnic area along the beach. Got chatting to a Courier Post Driver who was having morning tea with a small group of tourists on a paid tour with him. It would be quite a good way to see these more remote areas if you didn’t have a car.
Back on the Summit Road, heading more eastward now – still following the crater rim. The land jutting into Barrys Bay at the northern end of Akaroa Harbour is Onawe Island or Peninsular (depending on the tide) but it’s more ominously known as “The Plug” – that sits on top of the old volcano mouth!! That’s a bit scary to know!!
It is also a sacred Maori site – up to 1200 people were killed here in 1831 when Te Rauparaha raided and captured the Ngai Tahu Pa that was located there. There is a Walkway along the peninsular that can be completed at low tide. Would have been a lovely day to do it but we were heading in a different direction.
Our next ‘port of call’ was Pigeon Bay – down the hill again then around the Bay a short way to check out the local Domain and camp area. Saw more people about here as a work party was working at the Boating Club. We made some enquiries about the possibility of us driving over a local road to Port Levy – it’s signposted as narrow and not recommended for caravans or motorhomes. The only other option was a long drive back through Little River and Motukarara, up to the western end of Lyttelton Harbour and around to Diamond Harbour.
We did a lot of humming and hawing…and decided to risk it, fingers crossed we didn’t meet anyone. The road itself was amazing, climbing up and around a high bluff, getting narrower and narrower and certainly only a few places where two cars could pass one another. From the top, the road could easily be seen heading downhill and in the far distance we could see a car heading toward us – bugger! We eventually met up and somehow managed to move over enough for the car to squeeze by…but the driver was definitely ‘not amused’. “Piece of cake” says Neville…yeah right…but then he didn’t see the look of pure terror in the driver’s eyes like I did! After all he was on the outer edge of the road looking down the steep drop-off. Reckon he’s still cursing us.
But we arrived in Port Levy safely – where we wanted to be and it only took us around 30-40mins (forgot to time it exactly).
Stopped there at a Domain for lunch but area is ruled out for camping by the Council so headed off over the top of another high point and then down into Purau which is part of Lyttelton Harbour. Passed the rocky peak called “The Monument” along the way – it’s a popular place for rock climbers.
Continued on, following the coast to Diamond Harbour overlooking Lyttelton.
We’d done enough driving for the day so headed for Stoddart Point where we can park over at the Domain. Most of the carparks were full of cars as people catch a Ferry from there across to Lyttelton to go to work. We found a quieter spot where the only people we saw were dog walkers. We have been here before – a few years ago we came over on the Ferry with my ‘rellies’ on a day trip. We did a walk around to refresh our memories.
07 July – Moved on again and followed the winding road around the coast of Lyttelton Harbour – the road was horribly bumpy (earthquake damage again) and we were really glad when we were off it. Headed south back to Motukarara again then thence to Lincoln where there is a Dump station. Also filled up with diesel at the McKeowns Fuel Stop again before going back to the Weedons Club Park for the night. And so we’d completed our ‘full circle’ of the Akaroa Peninsular. It was an interesting trip – we got great weather and great views – though the roads are quite a challenge for a vehicle of our size in places. Glad Neville was driving and not me!
Next day we went to the Boat & RV Show at the Horncastle Arena. The show was mostly boats but there were quite a few RV’s to walk through. We only saw one we liked but nothing we’d swap our motorhome for. All the fancy interiors are very nice but the only one that had any real ‘living’ space for full-time travelling was one that had a ‘drop-down’ bed over the front seating area. Our one purchase was for our satellite dish – a spring-loaded stabilizer fitting that helps steady the dish in windy conditions. Went back to Weedons Park again that night.
09 July – Our heater stopped working during the night – it‘s been giving us trouble for quite a few weeks. Error says the fan is not working (but it is) and it keeps shutting down to avoid overheating. N has been nursing it along for a few weeks but now that we’re back in Christchurch, time to have a proper look at it.
We have been pricing Van Parks around the area and decided to look at a couple in Kaiapoi that look reasonable. We need to plug into power for a while and use our small electric heater to keep warm. Our heater unit also heats our hot water so we’ll need to use the Park‘s showers as well.
Drove firstly to my Brother’s place to pick up our mail, then onward to Kaiapoi. We settled on the Riverlands Holiday Park, who gave us a really good winter/weekly rate. It’s also a pristine camp (the amenities blocks and kitchen areas cleaned and checked twice a day). Showers – no tokens and oodles of hot water. Their laundry is likewise spotless and the washing machines only $2/wash & driers $4. The Park is mostly full of cabins and caravans/annexes for permanent stayers – a lot of them displaced after the earthquakes and like it here so they’ve stayed. There is a little 9-hole ‘hobby’ golf course attached (hire clubs at the office) and it‘s only a short walk over a stopbank and you are at the Waimakariri River (walking/cycling tracks). It’s a bit of a distance to town, but the Park has made a ‘shortcut’ walking track across the local farmers property which only takes 30 mins to the centre of town.
The power sites are spacious and mostly empty – only a large bus and a caravan settled in for any length of time and the occasional ‘neighbour’ stopping by for a couple of nights.
10th – 31st July – Riverlands has been our ‘home’ for the rest of the month. We had intended to travel to the Nelson area and stop in a Van Park for a month or so anyway, before moving off down the West Coast in the Spring. But the weekly rate here is very ‘competitive’ so we decided to stay here instead. The weather has probably been colder with frosts most mornings, but we have been getting beautiful sunny days afterwards, no rain or wind to speak of and we’ve been escaping all the terrible weather that has been effecting others up and down the country.
What have we been doing?
Webasto Heater – Neville disconnected and removed it from under the truck then stripped it apart, checked out all the wiring and connections, cleaned it all up and put it back together. The difficult part was manhandling it back up under the truck and holding it there to be secured again. But we managed in the end thank goodness and once re-connected and tested out…the heater was working again! Woo hoo!
But the other problem was that the water heating part was leaking water from a dump valve that wasn’t shutting properly – only dripping out until we turned our water pump on and then it would hose out. Not a good look even though it was only fresh water, but also a nuisance in that we were having to refill our water tank more often. Unfortunately it wasn’t anything that Neville could fix so we contacted the NZ Distributor and he ordered the parts for us from Webasto in Germany. ETA between 4-6 weeks!!! So we are staying here till they arrive. Worst part is that Neville will have to pull the whole unit out from under the truck again it to fit them – darn it.
We are still ‘mobile’ though so we can still get out and about to visit my family, have a meal out, go shopping for items that we cannot buy locally or groceries we cannot carry back on a 30 min walk (frozens etc). We can also use our Gold Cards to catch buses to Christchurch or Rangiora if we want a change of scenery.
We have also been enjoying having the time to catch up on lots of things, cleaning out all the dust in our outside stowages and airing out everything on the inside ones, checking the solar panels, fitting the new stabilizer onto the satellite dish and so on. Neville has spent hours on his PC backing up our files and photos and I have finally found the time to get this Website up to date (being 3 months behind when we stopped). Once that is done I am looking forward to being able to catch up on reading a backlog of magazines for a change and I’ve got a couple of sewing projects planned.
01–31st August – Still at Riverlands – almost feel like part of the furniture here.
It’s whitebait season again on this side of the coast – there are cars and people lined up along the river bank trying their luck – mostly on the other side from where we go walking though so I don’t know if they are actually catching anything. My mouth waters every time I see them!
Finally got word on 30 Aug that our Heater parts were on the way from Germany and should arrive in NZ around 02 Sept. So that will make it 5 weeks from the time we ordered them.