Carol & Gary's NZ adventure travel blog

The pools at Hanmer Spring

Hanmer Springs

Hanmer Springs

The seals at Kaikoura

Seals at Kaikoura

Whale jaw bones in the Memorial Garden, Kaikoura

Main beach at Kaikoura

The mother load of seagulls

Swingbridge at Hokitika Gorge

The Hokitika Gorge

The Gorge

Me at the Gorge

View of the swingbridge at the Gorge

The fishing spot near the Gorge

Gary fishing near the Hokitika Gorge


On Monday we are awake before 8am so we haven’t had enough sleep at all. I am tired again as soon as I get out of bed. We watch a bit of the news and have a coffee before checking out and going to Bunny Lodge to collect Logan and Poppy. The EFTPOS machine at Bunny Lodge isn’t co-operating so we have a bit of a wait before they bring out Logan and Poppy. When they finally come out I don’t know who is happiest to be seeing each other. They are so excited and we are quickly back in the car and we are off to pick up the caravan. Poppy has lost a bit of weight (which was expected) and they are a bit on the bugle. We caught up with the service guy at the Jayco dealership and found other than a couple of minor things that everything is in order with the van. The best news of all is he has sold us “the” toilet chemical to use. We are pretty excited about this. We hooked up the van and towed it to the North South Van Park. This is the first park we ever stayed in in NZ. We have a great site and get the van set up. A small van parked in the site next to us and I watched the oldest couple get out. They would have to be the oldest travelling couple I have ever seen in any van park. Then I saw the wheel chair come out of the van and I noticed the lady had had a stroke and used a walking stick to help her get about. You have to take your hat off to them, firstly to believe they can continue travelling and secondly to have the will to do so. We head out again to give the car a wash and vacuum and get some grocery shopping done. We have to buy some of the basics again as the fridge was turned off while we were away. The maximum temperature today was 16 degrees and I wore jeans and a cardy again! A bit of a contrast to Mackay. We end up having an early tea and head for bed for an early night. We are both buggered. Pity our early night didn’t turn out that way, I had a cat nap and then found myself wide awake. I think we turned the TV off around 10.30pm and Gary went to sleep, but I lay there for ages wide awake. My body clock doesn’t know which time it is running on. Logan and Poppy don’t have any worries with getting to sleep, they are out cold.

On Tuesday the 7am flight out of Christchurch airport wakes us up and we lay in bed for a bit. We get up and moving as we have an appointment with our NZ bank manager, Richie. We have to meet Richie in the main branch in the city, that is all ok, but the parking situation is terrible. We eventually find a park in a 10 minute area, leave Logan and Poppy in the car and hope we don’t get a ticket. Richie tells us while we have been in Australia the NZ Reserve Bank has cut interest rates by another 1.5%, this is pretty devastating for our situation, great if you have a loan, but not so good for us. We need to think through carefully what we are to do and pull the belt in a bit tighter. Funnily we started keeping a budget for every cent we spend only yesterday. This will be a very interesting exercise. Gary checked out a fishing shop, but the fly fishing rod he is wanting to get may have to wait a bit. We called in to pick up a couple of more grocery items we forgot and headed back for lunch and a nap. We caught an Oprah progamme from November last year that had Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman (or Huge, as I call him) on it promoting the movie “Australia”. Money couldn’t buy the promotion of the movie and the promotion of Australia which included Huge being filmed showing everyone Sydney and the Harbour! Late in the afternoon we drove to the Waimakariri River and Gary had a fish, Logan and Poppy had a swim and I sat down and read a book. Gary didn’t catch anything but we did have a lovely afternoon. I checked in at the van park office as the lady was forward booking our next two nights at Kaikoura for us. She said we are booked in for a beach side site (we are excited), then we proceeded to have a chat regarding the usual questions that are asked of us. I crumbed and cooked us Red Cod for tea and it was delicious. I once again watched the old couple and he was doing all of the cooking and washing up duties and then helping his wife with her clothing and assisting her in and out of the van. Off to bed and once again the getting to sleep problems have kicked in. Gary drifts off, but I lay there for ages and eventually get up for a drink and a head ache tablet. Finally I drift off.

On Wednesday morning we are woken by the rain and then the 7am plane. I got up and took Logan and Poppy out for the toilet while Gary drifts back to sleep. I hopped back into bed and watched a bit of Breakfast before thankfully drifting back to sleep until about 8.45am. Gary is up and getting our poached eggs and ham ready for breakfast. I am back to being spoiled again! The weather is pretty crappy. I didn’t think rain was forecast, but anyway what can you do. We pack up the van, hook up and leave Christchurch for the last time. We are away just after 10am and headed for Kaikoura which is about 170km north of Christchurch. It drizzles rain for most of the trip. I am starting to think the rain follows us. We didn’t see the sun for the last five days we were in Mackay. We arrive at the Peteka Beach Van park and check in to our beach side site. We are 20 metres from the high tide mark, it’s just a pity that the rain has now set in. We have some lunch and a bit of a nap then head out later in the afternoon to have a look around Kaikoura. Our van park is approximately 6km from the township. We came across this subdivision called Ocean Ridge and it is pretty awesome there are some blocks up on hills and flatter blocks, it is right across the road from the beach and even on this wet and cold day you can see the potential here. We drove around and had a look at the old heritage parts of Kaikoura before finding the peninsula where the walk around it starts. Also here is a seal colony, they are as close as 2 metres from the carpark lazing around so we got a heap of photos. We walked around the shoreline and found another seal lazing around obviously quite relaxed with all the people taking photos of him. By now the rain is pelting down and it is freezing cold. We headed back to the warmth of the van. Gary bought some ocean fishing tackle and went down to the beach to try his luck. He was back fairly quickly as it was too rough, windy, wet and cold. We are both again unable to get to sleep until late in the night and when I do I am awoken by really vivid not so nice dreams.

Thankfully we have slept in till about 8am and the day seems to be mainly fine. Gary cooked our breakfast and we mucked around in the van until mid morning before going off and doing a bit more exploring. We again wandered around the township and the main beach and walked through the Garden of Memories which is a war memorial that included archways made from whale jaw bones. Kaikoura was originally a whaling town and there is still a lot of history around the town pertaining to its past. Thankfully the sun in now out and the day is lovely. We took a drive around looking at some of the awesome real estate that is perched on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. We headed up to the lookout where we could also see the other side of the peninsula which is called South Bay. We got a brochure on the Kaikoura Seafood BBQ and drove off to find it for some lunch. The queue of people and the dining area umbrellas gave away the location pretty early on. The prices are very reasonable unless you are buying lobster. Gary had some Seafood Chowder and he went back for seconds. I had some garlic scallops and it was so delicious. If you are ever in Kaikoura having lunch here is a must! We went back to the van to get a few things done. We took a walk along our beach and ended up near the road bridge. Logan and Poppy had a huge time running along the beach. Poppy was in her element stalking seagulls and running up and scaring flocks of them away, the best part for her was they landed near her and she could run up and chase them away all over again! Later in the afternoon we left the dogs behind and drove to South Bay to do some of the peninsula walk. This is a beautiful walk and we are looking straight out on the ocean. It was such a windy day, but we watched the guys out in their boats checking out their cray pots. We eventually looked down on another seal colony. There are plenty of people out and enjoying the lovely day. When we got back to the carpark there was a celebration getting underway for Waitangi Day which is tomorrow. We spent some time on the beach fishing it was such a lovely afternoon, but all we caught was seaweed. We again had a late night as sleep didn’t come easily.

Friday morning, Waitangi Day and a Public Holiday in NZ is a stunner. We ate our breakfast outside looking at the ocean. It was heavenly. We are packed up and leave the van park at 9am. We are heading for Hanmer Springs via the Alpine Pacific Scenic Route. We will have travelled almost ¾ of the scenic route, it heads back to Christchurch so we will miss this part of it. We head in from Kaikoura towards Mount Lyford and it is quite a climb up a range and the car is feeling it, it slowly starts to heat up again, but we reach almost to the top and pull over slightly to let the traffic pass and just idle up to the top, once we head down the other side the engine temperature returns to normal. Gary is doing a hell of a job driving through here, it is a terribly windy road and very slow going in many parts. There is hardly any traffic to worry about as there is bugger all out here. The scenery and countryside is totally different again. It is extremely dry and brown (not what you are used to seeing in NZ). There have been some terrible landslips through here, there are temporary road signs and patch up jobs done along many parts of the highway. I would say this area would have been cut off completely due to the damage. We remember just after we arrived in NZ in August that there was flooding and the State Highway 1 was completely cut just before Kaikoura for a while due to landslips. We have only travelled 126km from Kaikoura to Hanmer Springs, but it took us about just over 2 hours. We arrive at Hanmer and cross the Waiau Bridge which is a long way off the river so much so people bungy jump off here. We find our way to the Alpine Advenuture Tourist Park. We are paying $26/night here which is a great price. We have a lovely spot with shade, grass and plenty of room around the van. I really love sites like this where you are not jam packed in. We got set up and I got some washing done and hung out. We got talking to our kiwi neighbours who are from Christchurch and just up for the long weekend. They are really nice people and of course the topics covered our set up and the cricket. We are hoping that the Aussies will beat the kiwis today in the cricket. We did a drive around the town and set off looking for a way down to the river to do a bit of fishing. After driving around for some time we couldn’t find any access down so we gave it away and took Logan and Poppy back to the van. Gary and I headed into the thermal pools and spas. We paid our $14 each entry and went in. I was quite disappointed as it wasn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting to see earth and some natural looking pools, this basically was just a water park. My initial disappointment disappeared when I saw the waterslide. We headed over for a bit of fun then saw the $6 each sign to go on the waterslide. Well we gave that a miss and went to sit in the pools with everyone else. There were three sulphur pools that had temperatures of 40 and 41 degrees and some rock pools that had temps of 36 degrees. There was also some other basic swimming pools. We could smell the sulphur, we could smell the chlorine, but the worst smell of all was the smell of disappointment. We headed back to the van for tea and as it turns out another late night.

We wake on Saturday morning to a picture perfect day. Gary is on the internet to see that Australia lost again to NZ in the cricket. After breakfast we set about packing up the van to move on. While we are packing up and getting the dogs organised the kiwis from the next camp came over to let us know about the cricket score. It was pretty funny stuff. We said our goodbyes and headed off. We are heading to the Marble Creek Department of Conservation roadside camp. We have a great drive and once we get to the Lewis Pass the scenery changes to Beech forests and mountains. The Beech forests crowd the highway making it such a beautiful drive. Marble Creek is 6.5km south of Springs Junction. We arrive at the camp site to find they don’t take dogs. Ok, plan B is to drive on to Reefton which is another 40 odd kms away. I quickly do my research and find only one caravan park and one Department of Conservation camp here. As we don’t have mobile signal we will just have to wait until we get into town to see if we can stay here. Reefton is a very small town that was built on the gold mining days and I think they still mine some gold around here, but it is now a coal mining town. It is a sweet place and the annual AMP show is on in town today. Gary drove around and found the house where his Aunty and Cousin used to live. Gary had been here once about 30 odd years ago. We checked out the Department of Conservation and the caravan park, but neither of them take dogs. Oh well, Plan C we are heading to Greymouth. We stopped at a picnic area on the way out of Reefton and had some lunch and I phoned ahead to book a beachside site at Greymouth. It was a bit of a shame as we would have liked to have a little look around Reefton and have caught up with Wayne who we met on our flight back from Australia, but the situation is out of our hands. As we are leaving Reefton we see a coal train. Not really the thing you would think you would see in NZ, especially on the West Coast. The countryside on the Westcoast particularly the closer we get to the coast is stunning. It is very tropical with lots of palm trees. Some of the flat landscape reminds us of Mackay (it was the same when we were at Haast). We make our way to the South Beach Motor Camp and check in. It is $25/night (we may yet get a discount) and is 200 metres away from the beach. This motor camp is excellent value for money, the facilities are clean and it even has a free hot spa. We set up our site and took the dogs for a walk over to the beach. They had a great time running around. It is funny that yesterday morning we had breakfast on the East Coast and tonight we will be having dinner on the West Coast. Tonight will be the first time in our lives that we will see the sun set over the ocean to the West. Well it would have been but it started drizzling around 8pm and it was already pretty dark. I was looking at the road map and it is 334km from Kaikoura to Greymouth and they say to allow 7 hours travelling time. You can see why when you start to travel some of the steep and windy roads here.

Sunday is a glorious morning and finally sleep came to us easily last night. We are up and away early as we are going to Hokitika for a look around. Hokitika is about ½ hour drive south of Greymouth. It is a nice drive completely parallel to the ocean. We cross two horrendous rail/road bridges that are well beyond their used by date. My god, I was glad to get us across them in one piece. Sleepy Hokitika is just getting going by the time we arrive at 9.30am. We have a look through the town and end up at the mouth of the river. We stop and have a wander around and take some photos. Gary decides to have a fish and Logan, Poppy and I sit and watch. One of the local blokes comes up and starts chatting to Gary and ends up talking this that and the other for a while. Another lady and another bloke come up and have a chat to Logan and Poppy. Gary ended up hooking something which was very exciting as I am dying for some ocean fish. Poor Gary dragged in an eel (yuck). One of the kids fishing on the rock near us yelled out “Look Daddy, yummy eel”, what!! we were nearly dry retching just looking at it flopping around and Gary had to get it off the hook. In the end an eel with a permanent eye injury was returned to the wild. We drove out to the Hokitika Gorge which is about 20 minutes east of the town. It is a lovely drive through to the Gorge, the area is all dairy farms with large paddocks and plenty of gorgeous jersey cows battering their big brown eyes. The Gorge area is in the foothills of a large mountain range and it is very lush and rainforest like. We drive into the Gorge carpark which is really tiny, it only accommodates about 8 cars at one time. The walk to the Gorge via the swingbridge is only 10 mintues. Once we get on the bridge we can see the spectacular blue water and the whitish granite rocks. We are blown away and think this is one of the most beautiful spots we have seen in NZ. We walked around and just took in the beauty of the area and took a heap of photos. What a great spot. We drove down the road and drove off into the forest on a rough track and parked the car when we couldn’t go any further (thank god for 4WD’s). We walked down to the river and Gary had a fish while Poppy and Logan swam and I sat under the trees. It was so amazingly relaxing. We drove into town and grabbed some lunch and went back to the mouth of the river as the tip of the day was to fish the tide out. Gary fished and fished, he hooked up a large fish of some sort that broke his line he was quite disappointed. Later in the afternoon we drove back to Greymouth and did our weekly grocery shop. We got talking to the lady that served us and she told us that she used to own the South Beach Motor Camp and her and her hubby did all the set up for the caravan sites. I had to check in the with office at the van park to enquire about whether we do get a discount (as we are members of the Top Tourist parks in Australia and they have an reciprocal agreement with Kiwi parks) and we do get a discount, so our two night stay came down to $45 total which is the cheapest site ever. Gary and I heard on the news that 25 people have been killed in the Victorian bushfires. We are so saddened and shocked to hear that. As usual, we don’t get much Australian news here but we have seen a few short news grabs. I guess we are so shocked as it really was the first time we realized how terribly serious this disaster is and the newsreaders say the death toll will probably rise as some areas are still inaccessible. Aside from the terrible news about the fires we had a really lovely day.



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