So, this last week has been full of activity, so full we did not have time to update the blog! Here is a short synopsis.
Thursday May 27- Tam’s mom and her husband Joel arrived after 24 hours of transit from Atlanta. We took them around the farm, introduced them to the ponies and ‘paca. Then Tam got to open a bunch more birthday presents. Later that evening we introduced them to Hell Pizza.
Friday May 28- We drove up to the Lindale Farm center in Paraparaumu by means of the very picturesque (and windy and cliff-filled) Paekakariki Hill Road. Fun was had shopping and feeding the various critters, including hordes of greedy chooks and ducks.
Saturday May 29- We drove up over the Rimutaka Hill Road to the Wairarapa. Driving to escape the clouds and rain on the Wellington side. We visited Paretai Alpacas, a small operation, but with a really nifty kitset barn. We really want a barn, and are looking for inspiration. We had lunch, then dropped by the Paua Shell factory for more gift shopping (Carol had promised souveniers back to most of her many co-workers). Then we drove out across the eastern hills to Castle Point. Wow! Really cool. Looking out over the pacific ocean, plus tremendous wind-and-water carved features (and plenty of howling wind! and cliffs to fall or be blown off of- into a raging sea no less!). Tam and I are looking forward to some future day-trip out there to hike some of the cliffs along the sea. The drive back was about 2.5 hours, and we got home about 9 PM. Sunday we were leaving for the south island, but before we could go we needed to get the new fence around the home-paddock ready for the horses to be moved. This involved fencing by moonlight, a new sport that I think everyone should try.
Sunday May 30- We caught the 9:30 ferry (the Arahura of the Interislander line) to Picton on the south island. The trip was about 3 hours. Then we grabbed food and hopped on another boat- a small catamaran of the Cougar line as it made the rounds of the various bays of Queen Charlotte sound, dropping off/picking-up passengers and small cargoes. Many of the places in the bays are only boat-accessible. Coming in May has certain advantages- the weather is colder, but the places are empty. Like blowing tumbleweeds empty. I think in 12 months we may have to return to many of these places to have a longer vacation (plus many give cheaper winter rates!) After the trip we drove over to Nelson (about 2 hours).
Monday May 31- At the suggestion of Gerry, the nice man running the B&B, we hiked up the hill behind Nelson to the “geographic center of NZ”. (Convenient that it is on top of a lovely hill with great views… but I will be generous and allow a slight fudging of the data for such purposes). The hike took a bit longer than anticipated, and by lunch we were a bit worn out. A few art&craft galleries was all the afternoon activity we could muster.
Tuesday June 1- The arts and crafts death-march. Ahem… I mean we looked at lots of nice little galleries throughout Nelson. Tam and I commissioned an order for new dinner plates. Then we went down to the World of Wearable Art. Tam and I both wished we could magically teleport Maura down right then and there to see the wild and wonderful costumes. Have to love component lists llike “Silk, cotton, fiberglass”. WOW started in 1987 as a little art/fashion show, now it is a major event attracting thousands and running over 3 days (with lots of categories). The stuff ran the range from beautiful to wacky to overwhelming. We just wish they had a good book of photos! What books they had were totally inadequate. The moment they put out such a book we will buy two copies, one for us and one to mail north! After WOW we drove up to Takaka over the Takaka hill road. As Hill-roads go it was easy. Nice and wide. Only rarely did death seem immenent. It did provide impressive views, as did the look-out at the top. At the top the wind was… primal. Like if you opened your mouth it would cause your cheeks to flap primal. Made the outlook viewing platform quivver- which was fun as it was set at the top of a cliff. (The wind was rushing up the cliff, one step back and it was nearly calm). The B&B for the night was in Collingwood, the northnermost “real” settlement on the South Island. That night we walked on the beach by (very bright) moon-light. Fun!
Wednesday June 2- We drove way up to the top of the Island, Farewell Spit. Again everything was empty (and many shops and cafes closed) due to the off-saeson. We hiked across the DoC-run farm to Fossil-point, a wonderful beach with raging surf from the Tasman. Beautiful rocks and plants. Tam and I found a cave system that connects to the beach. We could only crawly 20-30 meters in before we would need light, helmets and knee-pads. Have to put that on the “come-back-to” list. The fenced-off sections of native bush were all stunningly beautiful. Later in the afternoon we went down to Takaka and walked through the Labyrinth Rocks. These are a cool Karst-limestone formation that some fellow purchased and turned into a little walk/theme-park. We had a good stoll through the twighlight passages, with massive birdsong filling the air. I hope of the pictures came out.
Thursday June 3- On our way south we dropped by Abel Tasman National park, making our way around the coast to the north. We took a lovely little walk up to a waterfall (Wainui falls). It had a fun swing-bridge for Carol and Joel, so they could get the real NZ experience! Then it was time for a moderately lengthy drive south, past Nelson/Motueka down to the Nelson Lakes National park. We spent the night in the Tophouse B&B. Tophouse deserves multiple mentions. It is a 116 year old place made of mud and straw- still with the original roofing iron. It is a place with lots of “history”. By history I mean in 1897 a fellow who was in love with the governess of the children went drunken-wacko, murdered two people with a shotgun (while out “hare shooting”), and tried to kill the governess and the wife of the tetgraph master (who he killed earlier). The wife was sending desperate telegraph messages. Very creepy ones to read along the lines of “my husband went out- I heard a shot. Now there is a man with a gun outside trying to get in!” Then he cut the telegraph lines. A party sent to investigate arrived the next morning, just in time to hear the last shot. The killer had taken his own life (messily) on the front porch. You cans till see the damage the shot caused to the roof. Sleep well! 🙂
Friday June 4- A rainy day. We drove west to the coast and went to Punakaiki, home of the Pancake Rocks. These are a weird geological formation, nobody quite knows how they formed. They were used as background in one scene of Walking with Dinosaurs. Really, really cool. A “must see” fr anyone touring the South Island, IMHO. We were doubly lucky in that we got a 20-minute window in the rain, and managed to see the rocks unhampered. Plus the storm had driven up the surf, which made the rocks much mroe impressive. Afterwards we drove down to Greymouth. We stayed at a B&B with Mary, a 10-pound-pom who came to NZ 42 years before. She married a fisherman, and lived for many years at a disused whaling station in the Marlborough Sounds. What a life! What a place to raise four kids!
Saturday June 5- We drove south to Hokitika (for all the greenstone you can eat). Then further south to Ross to see the old gold mine they are now converting into a big (and reeeeaaaaly deep) lake. The mine owners would like to move the town (pop 320) to mine where it was. They offered to build a new town. But some people didn’t want to leave. For now the owner is starting a new mine a bit further south. And on weekends he occasionally takes out his Tank to play with. It was all he wanted for his 50th birthday, and his wife got him one. Apprently they have lots of fun knocking down houses that need demolishing. It is quite the crowd-drawing spectacle, apparently.
Sunday morning before the train we drove up to Blackball, a coal-mining town inland. This is the area where the Labor Party was born about 100 years ago. We saw the site of the worst mining disaster in NZ (65 killed). We discovered later that if you want, you can walk around the old mine under the town. Bring gumboots and a flashlight. Maybe next time. The TransAlpine train to Christchurch was fun. There was fresh snow in the mountains, which made it all extra-scenic. We passed the Jackson Inn whose propriator back 100 years ago used to welcome stagecoaches and trains with his bagpipes. Pipes that had been carried onto the battlefield at Colluden! Those pipes are now in the national museum. In Christchurch we split up, with Tam and I off to the airport for the flight home. Due to the perky 200 kph tail wind the flight back to Wellington only took 26 minutes! (normally 45).