Carol & Gary's NZ adventure travel blog

Our set up at Aviemore Dam

The spillway at Aviemore

Poppy and Logan having a swim at Aviemore

Looking over the spillway, you can see our car and van in...

Sunset over the Dam

Getting some air on the jumping pillows at Timaru Top Ten Park

That was a lot of fun!

The New Brighton Pier, Christchurch

Seagull on the pier

The Banks Peninsula at Christchurch


It’s Monday, a fine, sunny, warm day and our second last day of work! There are only four of us working, Gary is working Riena and I am working with Mel. It is a crazy busy day. We end up working until about 4.30pm. I went over to make a booking for some beauty work in the Day Spa tomorrow. We returned our “Exit Interview” paper work to the office and Gary and I headed into town to return our DVD’s and drop into Tango’s to say goodbye to Erico. Erico is so busy with stacks of customers buying ice cream and we don’t get a chance to say goodbye to her. We send her a message via Facebook. After we get back Josh drops in to say hi and we head off for our last wallow in the heated spa and pool. I am going to really miss these pools.

Tuesday is another repeat of Monday weather wise, but it is our last day of work, yay! There are six of us on today and I am working my last day with Riena and Gary is with Alfredo. Alfredo the Chilean is such a funny bloke. Gary has been calling him a Mexican relentlessly and in his broken english he says “I am NOT a Mexican, I am Chilean”. It is a big joke now. Anyway, Alfredo says what time are you leaving Wed morning and we said 9am. We thought he was going to say something sincere, but he threw his hands up in the air and starts punching it! It was hilarious. He is starting to get some of his own back on Gary! We finished early today at 2.30pm which is excellent. We get our washing done (as the uniforms have to be returned) and go into town to do a final check at the Post Office and to buy some much needed toilet chemical. Cassette toilets are a whole other story there that I won’t bore you with all the smelly details. I headed off to my beauty appointment and feel heaps better after all that is done. My legs were that hairy they actually feel lighter as I walk back to the van I could feel the wind blowing through them early in the day! The disadvantages of not have a tub is I can’t shave my legs in our shower. After tea we headed over to Anthony and Liz’s place to see their bus set up and their absolutely stunning house that sits on the bank of the Clutha River at Albert Town. We hadn’t met Liz before and she is lovely. We had a great night. They told us about a heap of free camp spots on the way to Timaru, so we are going to stop at one on Wednesday night. Oh well, off to bed for our last night in Wanaka.

Wednesday is a gorgeous day and a great day for hooking up the van and heading off. We say our goodbyes to our work buddies and drive out of Wanaka at 9.20am to Phil Collins “Another Day in Paradise” playing. It is a lovely day and we are a bit sad about leaving Wanaka but very happy about our trip back to Australia and our future NZ adventures after we return. The car struggles quite a bit while heading up the Lindis Pass, the temperature gauge starts to get a bit hot so we pull over and let it return to normal. We take off again and the car is doing 30km/hour with the foot flat on the floor and it is starting to get a bit hot again. It is just a long long pull without any break, just as we are starting to think the worst we come over the crest and the end of the pass and the set up goes sailing down the mountain, thankfully the gauge returns to normal and we continue on. We are heading for the Aviemore Dam for the night. We pass through Omarama and then the Benmore Dam (which is just massive and full). All the dams are overflowing at present due to the rain and snow melt. We arrive at the Aviemore Dam which has a spillway and hydro electric set up operating and find our way to Fishermans Bend and the campsite. This is a Council controlled campsite that doesn’t have any power or much in the way of water. There is a toilet block. Camp fees are $12/night and payment is by way of an honour system, once filling out the paper work and placing the money in the box a ticket is to be displayed in the vehicle. We probably could have got away without paying for night, but $12 is the cheapest camping by far. We find a spot away from anyone else and leave the van hooked to the car. This is the first time since we have bought the van that we are camping without any power. We got in to the van (with the instruction booklet) and learn how to operate the gas fridge and the gas hot water. We get it going, then we can smell a burning smell and a slight panic sets in, but after further investigation we find it is just the plastic and “new” smells coming from the rear of the fridge. We can’t for the life of us get the TV to go, so Gary phones the dealer in Melbourne and the problem is sorted. We have TV, but the reception isn’t so good. Gary and I are amazed how quickly and easy it is to set up for “free” camping. This has been a great experiment for us as there are heaps and heaps of Department of Conservation and Council run camping grounds around the country that are all around the $12/night range. We figure if we can stay in some of these a couple of times a week at least it will help save some cash. Gary went off fishing while I slept away part of the afternoon. Gary came back empty handed so we went for a walk right up the spillway and up the hill to the calm side of the dam. Logan and Poppy are really hot, it is a really warm day and Logan is down the embankment as quick as a flash and swimming around by the time we scamper down the bank. He just keeps on swimming and laying on the rocks, Poppy jumps in as well, but she isn’t as confident in the water as he is. Gary picks Logie up and throws him out into the deeper water and he happily swims back in again. The dogs are ready to continue on with the walk and we head up over the wall and look down on the spillway and the hydro pipes. The updraft coming off the spillway is incredible and both our T shirts are blowing upwards and our hats blew off! We headed back and cooked our tea and went fishing again later in the night. We didn’t catch anything then either. It is now daylight until 10pm and there is still some soft light at 10.30pm. We went to bed listening to the water crashing over the spillway.

We awoke on Thursday early after a great night’s sleep. Gary went fishing at 5.30am, but again came back empty handed. We ended up laying in for a while and got up and got breakfast, turned off the gas and drove off. That was a really great experience and one we look forward to doing again. We are on the road around 9.20am and we are headed for Timaru. It is a gorgeous day and we have a lovely drive, it is only 140km to Timaru and the road is relatively flat. We arrive at Timaru and check in at the Top 10 park. It is $32/night, which is the dearest park we have stayed at so far. It is pretty full, but very quiet and the facilities are clean. While setting up our van, a bloke came over and introduced himself as Bob and I could hear him asking Gary all the old questions regarding the car and caravan and importing. This is the first time in ages that anyone has come up and spoken to us in a van park. Judy his wife came over and they were a wealth of information. They gave us heaps of information about camp sites at the top of the South Island and the best way to go and also that the Lewis Pass that we need to cross isn’t anywhere near as bad as the Lindis Pass, so that is a relief. We may even catch up with them up the top of the South as they are heading up that way when we should be up there. Gary and I end up going shopping and get some gear that we needed and couldn’t get in Wanaka. We both have a sleep in the afternoon and I have got to say we are enjoying these afternoon naps again. I don’t know how we found the time to work! We heard on the news that a Dutch couple has been held up at knifepoint and the female was raped in Tuatpapere. They are travelling in a Hi ace type car with only a zippered tent like door on the back of it, so it is not secure. The poor people, Tuatpapere is a tiny town that we drove through after leaving Invercargill. We walked over to Russell’s house and caught up with him and Lea before we went out to Monteiths for dinner. It was a yummy dinner and a nice night out.

Friday is very warm and we laze around and have a tidy up and get the car and van a bit more organized. It is almost lunch time before we shower and decide what we are going to do today. Included in the site fees is a free round of golf at the Highfield Golf Course which is right next door to the van park. Gary goes off to organize his voucher and I get us some lunch together. I dropped Gary at the course and went back to get a few more things from the shops. We have invited Russell and Lea over for tea and I am cooking roast pork with vegetables. After I get home I have a nap and awake when Gary gets back. Gary had a great round of golf and carded 82 for 18 holes. He even got a round of applause from an old guy who was sitting on his verandah watching him play. Gary had just sunk a 15 foot put to make par! Gary said it was a strange golf course and for the first time ever he had to tee off over the top of another green. It would be very scary putting on that hole and some hacker shooting right over the top of your head! Gary said the ground was so dry and hard he couldn’t get the tee into it. He tried to dig a mound with the head of his club but the club just bounced off the ground! We put Logan and Poppy in the car and drove down to the beach for a look. The beach was packed with heaps of people in the water. We walked out to about our ankles and that was enough for me. Logan and Poppy were enjoying it until a tsunami type wave came in and swamped us all. Poor Poppy was floating with her lead stretched out as far as it would go frantically trying to swim and touch bottom. We ended up getting our shorts soaked and our jandals started to float away. It was pretty funny stuff. When we got home we dragged over a picnic table to our site and Gary, Logan, Poppy and I sat out there while tea was cooking. The evening was lovely until a southerly change came through. I ended up with jeans and a jumper on! Everyone enjoyed their meal it has been ages since we have had a roast. We headed inside and got out the playing cards. We played poker and blackjack and it was a lot of fun. We said our goodbyes to Lea and told Russell we would see him in the morning. This is the last time we will be in Timaru on this trip anyway. We heard from Luiz this afternoon and he told us his working visa has been declined and he has one month to leave New Zealand and fly back to Brazil. We are quite shocked by this news. He had made an honest mistake in working a second job without a visa for that job. At least he can go back home and spend some time with his daughters they all miss each other so much. We fueled up the Cruiser this arvo and paid the cheapest ever for diesel, with our discount voucher it was down to 99.9 cents/litre!

Saturday is a fine but cooler day and we are up and packing up the van for our trip to Christchurch. We leave the van park around 10am and head off to Russell’s house to say goodbye. We ended up leaving Timaru at 10.30am. It is a nice flat drive up to Christchurch but Gary was having troubles every now and then with the cross winds that were blowing and moving the van. We arrived in Christchurch around 12.30 and got the van set up and had some lunch. We are staying at the Riccarton Park Holiday Park. It is $30/night for a van site. The facilities and the park are very run down. Ordinarily we wouldn’t have stayed here, but it is close to all the shops and places we have to go to this time. The guy in the office at the van park is from the Gold Coast so he was chatting away to us. He absolutely loved Logan and Poppy. We ended up watching some TV and sleeping most of the afternoon away. Later in the evening we take the dogs for walk around the local area so we can get our bearings. We are really close to an area of shops that includes a couple of supermarkets and the Westpac branch where our NZ bank manager is is right around the corner. The guy from the office bought out his Bichon Friese, Bentley and showed off his little man. I thought he was a little man until I tried to pick him up, Christ he must weigh 12kg and he is only the size of Logan. We had an early night and watched Catch Me if You can on TV.

Sunday is a fine day and Gary and I are up and walking to the Riccarton Park Markets. They say these markets are the biggest in NZ. We set off just after nine to walk what we thought would be about 15 minutes. Well after walking for about one hour we arrived. The place is packed. The markets are pretty good, but still attract the usual suspects that you find at most outdoor markets. I am sure you know what I mean. We bought a couple of small things but the thing that intrigued as the most was Raspberries. We have never tried fresh Raspberries in our lives. They are delicious and are so delicate. Our walk home was a bit shorter as we decided to wing it with a different route home. After some lunch we took Logan and Poppy and went for a drive around the Brighton Beach areas of Christchurch. We stopped and walked along the New Brighton Pier (unfortunately dogs aren’t allowed on the pier) and watched the kids surfing and the guys fishing off the pier. We took a drive around past the city area and checked out where the Casino is and where our motel for Tuesday night is. A pretty decent thunderstorm is rolling in and we just get home in time for it to start coming down. We rest of our afternoon is pretty lazy.



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