The long white cloud

Friday, February 24, 2006

A fishy tale

From Napier up to the beautiful Te Urewera National park, which has some absolutely stunning scenery and we have both decided to come back here for maybe a holiday or a long weekend. We stayed in a quaint fisherman’s cottage at Lake Waikaremona motor camp. Probably the best camp we have stayed in in terms of location. The cottage was no more than 5 metres from the lake, and there was fishing and swimming to be had. So we had some. Figuring that it was a good omen to be staying in a fisherman’s cottage, I decided to splash out on a 2 day fresh water fishing license ($36). I have never had much luck with trout fishing - you really need fly fishing gear, no honest – and it didn’t change here. Still, the lake was a stunning place in which to spend valentines, and we quaffed the bottle of Mudhouse pinot noir that we picked up on our drunken wine tour around Blenheim. The wine must have been pretty good as we promised ourselves that we would have an early morning dip in the lake the next day (7am), which was fun at the time but meant that we needed about 3 cups of tea in order to thaw ourselves out.

Up to Gisborne, a lovely city and definitely a candidate place for settling down in (as Auckland is starting to seem very cityish and very expensive).

Up to Ohope, and tried my hand at fishing again. Met a lovely old gentleman from Bolton , I quickly realized he was a member of the "honorary blokes club" and we fished together for several hours like we were long lost buddies. At the end of the night we both went our separate ways. Life is funny.

Now the gaffer and I have not been all that "good" on this trip. We have both noticed that we may be putting on a few extra pounds. Like greedy little hobbits we have been having “second breakfasts” when we have a break during the driving. This extra timber had me slightly concerned when we decided to hire some belly boards to do a bit of "body surfing". As it turns out the surf shop did a one-size-fits-all board and so we decided to give it a go. And what fun it was ! I would definitely recommend this if you have not tried it. It’s fairly easy to get on a wave and travel a short distance, but if you hit the wave just right then the it is very fast and very thrilling.

Back up to Auckland now and we are heading back up to the Bay of Islands where we intend to meet up with Marie and Paresh from the UK (Marie is a midwife who works at St Helier hospital with Lisa in the UK).

I had forgotten how spectacular the top 10 holiday park is at Russell. The view from our cabin is amazing, blue skies, tropical trees and the sea in the distance.

The four of us decided to hire a boat for the day and take it out into the bay. We caught the ferry from Russel to Paihia early in the morning to pick the boat up. None of us has any boating experience (unless pedalos at Skegness Butlins counts ?) and so we all listened intently to the briefing, hoping that if any important – and potentially life saving - piece of info was being conveyed, then maybe one of us would remember it. The weather was absolutely beautiful and we headed straight out of the bay to Robertson Island. We had a brief stay at the island where we had a quick swim and also managed to beach the boat. With a bit of huffing and puffing though we managed to get her back into deeper water. The rest of the day was spent fishing and three very impressive (OK legal sized) snapper were taken from the depths (see piccie). Although the gaffer didn’t manage a keeper, she would like it on record that she did catch the prettiest one (foul-hooked it actually, but what the heck !). By the end of the afternoon the weather had got much worse and my Paihia bomb had started to wear off, and so I was quite pleased when we unanimously agreed to head back. At the campsite Marie gave myself and Paresh a crash course in fish filleting and we skinned and cooked the three snapper, which we ate with some store bought chips and washed down with Speights and Chardonnay.

Does it get any better than this ?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Icebergs to earthquakes

Spent a few hours at the Antartic centre at Christchurch, pretty standard stuff , and much as you would expect , but the "Antartic storm" is worth a mention. Basically it meant standing in a room wearing artic clothing ( thoughtfully provided) while the room gets very cold and windy for about 60 seconds (temp drops to about -20). Brrrrilliant. Also did the Christchurch to Greymouth Transalpine express (return), allegedly one of the top 10 train trips of all time. It was admittedly very scenic, but - if I may don my best curmudgeonly trousers for a moment - as the trip is 4 hours each way , I would recommend catching a plane back from Greymouth rather than do the same train journey again. For train aficionados - of which there were many on this trip - the return journey was just as good and apparently fascinating as the identical outward one.

From Christchurch up to Kaikoura. A beautiful drive and the weather is glorious again. Kaikoura is a very scenic coastal town, framed by the impressive Seaward Kaikoura range (nb not to be confused with the imaginatively named "Inward Kaikoura" range, which lies behind this range , and is more inland and less sea-facing). The town is famous for its aquatic wildlife, which due to the unique geography of the area, exists in abundance. The beach slopes out gradually to ameters0 metres and then fairly quickly drops off to an impressive 800+ meters. This mixing of warm and cold waters means an abundance of nutrients, and the inevitable food chain that starts with krill and ends with whales. The town is very famous for whales, seals, dolphins etc and the whole tourist industry is geared around viewing them and in some cases getting in the water with these creatures.

Scoffed some of the famous kaikoura crayfish, which although tasty (where's me curmudgeonly trousers gone ?), I would still recommend crab, which has a similar flavour but is much cheaper (in season the crayfish can be nearly $100 per kg)

Visited the Seal colony, and had the usual photo opportunities (see piccies link). There is an outside chance of seeing whales from the shore here, in fact the last time we were here (Jan 2000) we saw a school of orca attack a bunch of seals and one was successfully taken ( the screams that day were really quite unpleasant)

Drove up to Blenheim, which resides in the heart of the Marloborough wine region. The gaffer twisted my arm to take her on a wine tour (suggested fishing, but to no avail..), and so we spent a few hours ambling around the wineries (there are over 50 to choose from). During the first few tastings, I listened in on conversations involving wine people who were obviously in-the-know, in order to try and understand the wines a little better. I gave up after a while. With airy hand gestures they each described the wine, and to the untrained ear, the constant stream of incongruous adjectives appeared to be like a strange version of "Mornington Crescent".

Today is the last full day on the South Island, tomorrow we catch the ferry from Picton back to windy Wellington.

From Wellington and up to Hastings and Napier. These two towns are currently commemorating the 75 anniversary of the earthquake that struck in 1931. The earthquake decimated the towns and left hundreds dead, however a stunning architectural legacy grew from the ashes. Both towns were quickly reconstructed in the fashionable style of the day, Art Deco. This has resulted in two of the finest Art Deco styled towns in the world, and everywhere you look there are beautiful examples of this style, ranging from public toilets up to large banks and municipal buildings.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Something tells me we're not in Kansas anymore

In the deep south now, and the place definitely has a unique character all of it’s own. The other day we saw a man walking his sheep down the high street, and today we saw an old microwave oven that somebody had simply stuck on the top of a post and was using as a mailbox. To date no kids playing banjos or men in checked shirts talking about “purdy mouths..”.

There are billboard beer ads everywhere, showing beefy looking men wearing cowboy hats and riding tough looking horses. The ads tell you in no uncertain terms that these ‘Southern men’ drink a certain brand of beer, and that only this manly brand can satisfy their heroic thirst. Slowly, they are starting to unsettle me. I am starting to question the validity of my own thirst. Is it a real thirst ? A real man’s thirst ? Or is the fact that I drink that limp-wristed European stuff proof that I have nothing but a foppish girl’s thirst ?

And it’s starting to happen, slowly I am developing a thirst for this beer. Damn those oh so clever ad men....

Driving down the Southern scenic highway and the weather has taken a turn for the worst, we cannot complain though as we have been v. lucky so far. Stopped off at the appropriately named porpoise bay where despite the fact it was blowing a gale and sheeting rain there was still people swimming in the sea. Why ? because the bay is home to a pod of Hector’s dolphins, and these cute and inquisitive creatures will come right up to you if you are in the water. It is well to note though that touching or petting these wonderful creatures is an offence, and although they didn’t realize it , the two fully-clothed tree-huggers that were in the rainy surf today were being closely monitored by a bloke from the DOC.

Drove down to Owaka and have found a real gem of a campsite (Newhaven holiday park). We have just walked down to the beach where we saw several huge sealions basking on the windy beach (see piccie)

Took a hike in the ‘Catlins’ region today. A largely forested area which has some spectacular trails. The place was feared by the Maori as they believed it was inhabited by yeti creatures called Maeroero, similar to the North American Sasquatch. Lots of beautiful trout filled pools along the Catlin river, lucky for them though, didn’t have my rod.

Up to Dunedin now, and the weather just keeps getting worse (although to be fair you don’t go to Dunedin for the weather). Visited penguin place and saw the world’s rarest penguins, yellow-eyed penguins. The people there have built a quite impressive maze of covered trenches and hides that allow you to get very close to the penguins. Also took in a trip to the Cadbury’s factory, a good excuse to get out of the rain and see how chocolate is made. Er..except that we didn’t really get to see very much. The factory is pretty old and unbelievably still uses piped steam in order to run the machinery, the steam supply was broken today and so no chocolate was being made.

A massive drive today. From Dunedin all the way to Akaroa on the beautiful Banks peninsular, a volcanic outcrop southeast of Christchurch. We didn’t have anything booked and decided to book on arrival. Bad move. This weekend is Waitangi day, and the place was heaving, not a single bed in the whole town !! Drove back crestfallen to Christchurch.