|We ended up staying two nights in Hanmer Springs so after sending our last entry we took a long walk up to a look out and on our return were joined by a lovely young woman whose family owns a holiday home here. After that walk we were ready to soak in the hot springs again. Shortly after soaking for a few minutes they announced that 100 young school kids would be joining us! We were surprised at how quiet they were and they weren’t allowed to be in a few of the pools, so we were ok.
From Hanmer Springs we took a short cut from the small country town of Culverden. The drive was beautiful, through rolling hills and with little traffic, so it was a pleasant trip. When we met the coast highway we headed south for a short distance to see Gore Bay, recommended by Marcia and Ryan. We agreed with their opinion of the beautiful beach, took a walk and had dinner by the sea. We then headed north to the NZMCA property at Parnassus where we spent the night. It used to be a school so there is still a building and playground area. Two couples were there who had also been at Hanmer Springs and they invited us to play a game (first time we’ve played a game in NZ!). The next morning we headed toward Kaikoura, stopping along the way to admire the beautiful ocean scenery. We spent two nights at the Racecourse in South Bay on the Kaikoura Peninsula. One night we walked to the Coast Guard dock where we had heard there were blue penguins, but we must have been too late because we didn’t see any. Those little guys are so cute, we wanted to see them one more time! Phil and Sally were also staying at the Racecourse so we enjoyed visiting with them, too. They were excited about going on a whale watching tour and encouraged us to go with them, so we did. Thankfully the ocean was only a little rough and we had a wonderful tour. We were able to see a humpback whale, a sperm whale and hundreds of dolphins. The next afternoon and the following day all tours were canceled because of the weather, so we were definitely lucky! One our way out of Kaikoura we decided to drive down to the seal colony and as we were leaving a couple of RVs who were parked on a piece of property beckoned us to stop. Our zebra striped RV is so recognizable, it has provided so much pleasure in our meeting people! So of course we pulled over. Turns out the one couple, John and Toni had seen us visiting Mike and Wendy when we were with Bill and Nan. They invited us to stay with them for the night. We asked where we could get reasonably priced crayfish (it is very expensive to order in a restaurant, like $84-100 for a whole one). We had heard they were less expensive at road side kiosks and we had just stopped at one by the seal colony and they were about $69, depending on the weight, for a takeaway one, still very expensive for us. John said just a minute, went into his RV and came out with a container full. Told us to get our own container and ended up giving us the entire contents---enough for two generous sized meals. What a special treat!! He said he could get lots more, so not to worry. He and his wife have lived in their large RV for ten years and work along the way—he is in construction work and she works in hotels. The other couple, Jocelyn and Laza, also are full timers and we spent the remainder of the evening visiting with them since John and Toni had another commitment. As we left Kaikoura the next morning we stopped at the Old Convent that I had seen mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide. Fortunately one woman was there, but unfortunately about to leave so we only able to get only a brief account of the place. We had thought it was a bed and breakfast but is now the home of Creation Care Study Program. She said most of the residents are students from Canada, England and the US—she is the only Kiwi. They are involved in ecology and environmental issues and were currently in Samoa. I imagine the Sisters would have been happy to know that their place was being used for an educational and creative use. We drove slowly up the coast--- we do love the ocean! We had circled a few places others had recommended where we might spend the night freedom camping, but rejected a couple because they were too near the main highway. Marcia and Ryan told us to be and stop at The Store in Kerkerengu for coffee and someone also suggested we stay there. Since the area for freedom camping was a little removed from the highway we did spend the night. Walking on the beach was a little difficult because of the rocks, but the view was great. We ended up visiting with our neighbor and heard about her life and Palestinian heritage. And of course we had that recommended cup of coffee—flat white!
Our next stop at Ward Beach was highly recommended by Jan and Jeremy from the UK and who should be there by Phil and Sally! Herb, the owner of the property only asks for a donation for a site looking out over the ocean. It’s wonderful that people are so generous in allowing NZMCA members the use of such great properties. We were fortunate in meeting Herb as he joined us for social hour. Eric thought he might have a job because Herb’s neighbor has an electric windmill with a problem, but unfortunately the neighbor wasn’t home. We stayed a second night since there was a possibility he would return and it was such a beautiful place that we didn’t mind, but still no neighbor. The next day we only drove a few miles to a DOC camp at Marfells Beach. It had another wonderful beach view, very near the water even better than Ward Beach, with practically brand new flush toilets and an outside sink for washing clothes or dishes (and cold showers, untested by us!). Wish we could have stayed another night but about 11 am the wind came up and it is not very well protected there, so at least it made leaving a little easier. So on to Blenheim!
Many NZMCA members stay at the Racecourse in Blenheim, so we also did. A nice feature is its proximity to town so we could walk there easily. Rain was predicted for the following day so we decided to see if Lynn in Nelson was available for a class on encaustic art. I had seen her advertisement in a tourist magazine last December. Unfortunately I saw it after we left Nelson shortly after arriving on the South Island. I sent her an email a short awhile back saying I was sorry to miss her but did she know of anyone else teaching a similar class. She didn’t and encouraged us to drive over from Blenheim. It’s a two drive over so we hesitated but with the iffy weather and an extra day (we thought our ferry left on the 17th, but we checked and it is the 18th) we decided to do it. And what a wonderful experience. When we arrived at Nelson we stopped at a gas station to use the toilets and when we walked back to the RV we noticed that our exhaust pile was dragging on the concrete. What a shock that was! It must have just happened because we didn’t hear any noise and no one called our attention to it. Eric disconnected it, we asked a couple of locals for suggestions and with only a couple of inquiries and stops we were able to make arrangements for Magoos to at least look at our problem. So Eric dropped me off at Lynn’s Ascot Gallery for my class and went off to get our RV repaired. Lynn learned encaustic art when she was in England ten years ago and is now teaching classes to anyone interested in addition to owning a small motel with her husband Stephan. It is an ancient art form using pigmented wax blocks and a special painting iron to apply the wax and a stylus tool for adding finer details. I basically came for her $25 one hour class but ended up staying longer since I enjoyed it and Eric had not yet returned with our RV. I’m looking forward to making contact with others in the US who also do this art form. Eric finally returned with our fixed—a little pricey but nonetheless now working RV so we spent the evening at a parking lot open to RVers and returned to Lynn’s the next morning to get some of the special art paper and we ended visiting for a couple hours with Stephan and Lynn. They are such nice people and are leading such an interesting life!
We have returned to Blenheim and went to the Farmer’s Market that turned out to be really nice. This town is relatively small so you can tell everyone seems to meet at the Farmer’s Market each week end. I also saw another old Convent mentioned in the Lonely Planet, so had to check it out, too. No one was “home” but the place was absolutely beautiful. The convent was restored and the large yard impeccable. There was a small Angelican church on the property, so am surmising that the convent was an Angelican one. Our next adventure will be in White’s Bay, a DOC camp that is supposed to be another beautiful beach site. Our ferry leaves on the 18th. The library is closing shortly, so must close for now. We’ll be writing again from the North Island! We’re going to miss the South Island a lot!