South Island Meanderings – November 2017 (Part 2) Geraldine-Lake Ellesmere-Kaiapoi-Lake Ellesmere-Winchester-Geraldine-Lake Opuha

06 Nov – Left the Methven and Staveley areas and drove onward towards Geraldine.  Went straight to the DOC Camp at Waihi Gorge.  The last time we were here was in June 2016 and the camp was a white-out with a heavy frost – today it was all green, sunny and warm.

It must be getting closer to summer…a Camp Host was now camped up at the entrance. We went for a walk up the river in the afternoon till we encountered a cliff face…wet feet to go further so we returned ‘home’ and made a cappuccino instead.

Waihi River walk
Downstream from the camp

Drove into Geraldine next morning to visit Hedy and Werner – friends we made while travelling Australia back in 2004. Great to keep in touch.  They have just sold their campervan in Australia that they travelled in over there for the last 15 years.  They now plan to do more travelling in their NZ motorhome so we’ll have to look out for them on NZ’s roads this time.

09 Nov – Geraldine is the furtherest south we are going for the moment so when we drove off we headed in the general direction of Ashburton.  We are slowly heading back to Christchurch to collect our mail and meet up with friends from Adelaide (another couple we met on our travels around in Australia).

Didn’t go far…stopped for the night at the NZMCA Park at Ealing and Neville got the ladder out to clean the coating of dust off our solar panels.

Next morning we left the main highway and headed for the coast following the Rangitata River on the northern side.  There is quite a village of fishing huts and a large camping ground at the end of the road by the river mouth.

Walked around exploring and then drove further up the coast looking for a POP (park over property) near Lowcliffe.  Drove to the farmers house to ‘check-in’ and get directions as to where to park.  We spent the night in a paddock with absolute beach-front views and listening to the waves crashing on the shore – only downer was a cold brisk easterly wind that had us huddling indoors despite being a sunny afternoon.

11 Nov – set off again along the coast (more dusty, dusty roads) and halted at the south side of the Ashburton River at Ashton Beach.  There is a large area on the river flats where Freedom Camping is allowed and it’s also a popular spot for 4WD vehicles – evidenced by the tracks leading everywhere.

We could see lots of birds flying around a long way up the beach near the mouth of the river which is a Protected Conservation Area for nesting seabirds, including endangered Black-billed Gulls and Wrybills.  We didn’t fancy walking there up the shingle beach or along the rutted tracks so we headed out and drove through to Ashburton.

Did a little side trip to Lake Hood on the way to check out the housing and recreational ‘village’ there.

Lake Hood housing

We drove right around the large man-made lake that is spring-fed with fairly clean water that’s OK for swimming still which was a pleasant surprise.   There’s a boating club and a public boatramp and the lake is popular for sailing, water skiing, rowing and canoeing.  All very nice but the housing looked pretty expensive and exlusive…no freedom camping allowed there to spoil their views!

On reaching Ashburton we did some grocery shopping then headed to “Donegal Downs” a local POP (park over property) to stop the night. The owner met us at the gate and showed us where to park up.  A large 5th-wheeler was already there, belonging to a couple who are members of a Facebook Group that I followMotorhome Friends” and they have their own site “Living on the Road”.  Katrina takes beautiful photos that often feature on TV1’s weather program in the evening.   It was nice to meet up with Katrina and Bernie and have a look inside their beautiful spacious ‘home’.

Two other motorhomes arrived before dark.  Everyone was made to feel so welcome by the POP hosts and we were all presented with ½ doz fresh eggs from ‘the girls’ who were very happily scratching around in the next-door paddock.

View towards the river outlet

Next day drive back to the coast at Hakatere which is on the northern side of the Ashburton River.

Ashton Beach by the cliffs across the Estuary

Walked up to a lookout point overlooking the river outlet and the bird nesting site – hundreds of birds coming and going.

Continued up the coast to the South Rakaia Huts – looked around and realised we’ve camped there before.   Then had to go back to SH1 to cross over the Rakaia River on the longest bridge in NZ.

Ended up at the Lakeside Domain on the shore of Lake Ellesmere and spent four nights there.

Then upped-sticks and moved to Coes Ford camp around the other side of the lake.  The Selwyn River was running again as we expected since the flooding.

We walked across the bridge and went for a walk along the other riverbank and really saw how bad the flood wasthe new toilet ‘block’ on that side has been tilted and uplifted with the force of the flood waters and currently unusable.  It’s sure going to take a bit of work to fix that!

Around the camp there was white ‘fluff’ everywhere – falling from the poplar trees.   In places it was so thick it looked like snow covering the ground.

The cabbage trees were also in full flower.

17 Nov – we drove back into Christchurch for a few days so headed back to Riverlands Holiday Park.  We returned so we could meet up with some friends from Adelaide who are on holiday in NZ and are picking up an Apollo Rental Van from Christchurch for 3 weeks touring.  It was also time to do our laundry again and was good to catch up with a few people at Riverlands and collect our mail from my Brother’s place.  Another task was to assemble two new bicycles we picked up from The Warehouse.  After 2 years on the back of the motorhome ‘uncovered’ we’d need to spend a lot of time working on our old bikes to get them running properly again.  Not a job we wanted to tackle so as they were only cheap bikes, was easier to replace them.  An old chap at the camp eagerly took them off our hands…no doubt he will enjoy the ‘project’ and his grandkids will probably benefit.

Our friends arrived on the 20th – I’d booked them into Riverlands too for their first night and we were very late to bed as we caught up on news and views!

We intended to move on the next morning, however, we ended up staying another night as we called into the local Bridgestone to get the treads checked on our rear tyres and they confirmed they would not pass our next COF inspection.  We ‘bit the bullet’ and ordered 4 new tyres – going back the next morning to have them fitted (and saw a large amount of $’s fly out of our bank balance).

We’d said ‘goodbye’ again to our friends – they are heading over to the West Coast and then up to Nelson and Marlborough before looping back to Christchurch.  We were heading south.  They will also be travelling a lot quicker than us with only 3 weeks before they fly back of Oz.

Another purchase before we left Christchurch was to buy a new GPS from Harvey Normans.  The current one was quite a few years old and was doing ‘strange things’ (some days not turning on and having to be re-booted, losing settings and so on).  Better to replace it while we can than have it fail when we are in the middle of no-where.

When we finally got on the road…we drove back to Lake Ellesmere and spent another 3 days at the Lakeside Domain blobbing out.  Interesting that 5 groups of campers were still there since our last visit…on chatting to one of them (an old guy in a very ‘tired looking’ bus) we learned they were all displaced from their permanent sites on a farmers property back at Coes Ford…when the flood was imminent the Council told them to evacuate and allowed them to camp here instead on a temporary basis.  They were hoping to move back again in a few weeks.

25 Jan – we drove to Ealing and spend a night at the NZMCA Park there.   Spent a pleasant afternoon chatting to people in a group of vans from Timaru who were on a weekend ‘away’.

Next stop was a Free Camp at the Winchester River Domain.  We’d driven past there on another occasion but the grounds were so wet it was unwise to stop…this time it was bone dry and we had the pick of places.  Went for a walk to the river for a looksee…it’s the same river that passes through the Waihi Gorge DOC Camp west of Geraldine.

28 Jan – drove on to Geraldine, our friends there were not home so didn’t get to catch up again.  But we hit the shops and filled up our pantry and fridge again.  We’d decided to stay at Peskis, a private CAP on the road towards Fairlie.  What a lovely place to stay, the owners so friendly and they have set up a great area for visiting motorhomes to park on.  Power points if required, a cassette dump point, shower/bathroom and a little shed full of books/information and even a washing machine.  Non-powered the price is $5 night p/p.  Very good value.

River view walk at Peskis

Stopped for two nights, did a load of washing, went for a walk to the river where there is a swimming hole to cool off in and chatted to ‘neighbours’ beside us…one of whom was Chris Miller and his wife Fiona.  Chris belongs to the same Motorhome Group that Neville belongs to and he also posts Blogs regularly on his website “Bugger it, we are off”.  He was also the one who put us on to Netspeed for our Broadband service which has saved us a lot of money over the last 18 months or so.  Was good to catch up and meet at last.

Leaving there we continued along the road towards Fairlie.  Turned right before the town to drive to Lake Opuha…our next camping spot.   The lake level was a lot higher than our last time there and we chose the camp at the northern end which is a larger area and a lot flatter than the southern camp. 

The weather was hot and sunny during the day but the hills around us were attracting large black clouds that gave us flashes of lightning and booms of thunder on the second evening.  We got a few drops of rain…which made the hordes of sandflies in the area really bad.

I braved going outside to take a photo of the clouds as they were forming and the sandflies were so thick they were continually visible in the viewfinder so I had to hold the camera in one hand and wave the other hand in front to shoo them off, then quickly take the shot before they came back!

Oops, I think the smudge, middle left of photo is actually a sandfly that I missed!

Later as the sun was going down the light over the lake was almost surreal making the area look completely different.

And that was the end of November – tomorrow we will head off again towards Tekapo.  The last time we were there it was pretty cold and we were parked amid snow at the NZMCA Park.

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