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Hamner Springs to Christchurch

2 Mar

28th February 2013

Last night was not great in terms of sleep …. Graham counted 35 sandfly bites on one foot … itchy!!


If one person cannot sleep, the moving around certainly keeps the other awake … it is a very small camper!

Not a big camper!

We continued on from Murchison via Springs Junction to Hamner Springs. This is a town that has an extended tourist season due to the skiing in the winter and the thermal baths and spas throughout the year. It is a lovely little town with a nice feel. The main street has a wide grassy area in the centre maybe 50 m wide with rows of old oak trees. Lots of picnic tables and shady parking. The pools themselves are great, with lots of pools of different temperatures and some really smelling strongly of sulphur. There are also separate pools for the kids with water slides. A great family destination, with lovely mountain scenery all around.

Hanmer Springs

After spending the late afternoon early evening in the pool we headed south out of the town to find a place to camp. We found a bridge with river access about 25km south of Hamner on the Waiau River where we could camp right by the water, well off the main road. Graham spent the last 30 minutes of light fishing, but needless to say he caught nothing!

1st March 2013

In the morning another fisherman came by and offered to take Graham out and fish the rivers at the top of the Nelson lakes next time he comes ….. he also pointed out some things should be done differently to catch fish in NZ …. handy but maybe a bit late for this trip …..

River scene

The scenery is really pretty on the road towards Christchurch and the weather still sunny and warm. As we dropped down onto the the east coast the temperatures dropped and the wind increased. Still nice, but jumper weather.

As we approached the centre of Christchurch we started to realise the scale of the damage to the city caused by the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 . We could hardly recognise it from our last visit in 2009. It is really sad to see whole areas of the city closed off with Barriers. The Red zone.


Big areas stand empty where the big buildings have been demolished. Most casualties were in the TV building that totally collapsed at around lunchtime on 22nd February 2011. It is almost exactly 2 years since the big earthquake and since then there have been literally thousands of tremors.

Second anniversary

Some of the inner city shops have started to reopen housed in temporary buildings and containers.


Even the banks are in converted containers.

Bank in a container

In the afternoon we also walked around the botanical gardens, which are intact except for some of the council owned buildings which have not been repaired or tested for structural integrity yet …. there is a massive backlog.

Botanical gardens Christchurch

Building repair backlog

That night we stayed in an old motor camp, right next to the Christchurch raceway. It is handy as a stopping off point to visit Will, the vicar who married us many years ago, and his wife  Farrabee. They are living in a motel while waiting for their house to be repaired after the quake. It has been so tough for people living in Christchurch.

2nd March 2013

We met up with Will and Farrabee in their motel and headed off for lunch. It was lovely to see them both again as they are great fun and very kind. They took us to see some of the damage at a place called Sumner. Here there are lots of houses built on the hills overlooking the sea. Some of these cliffs collapsed during the quakes leaving houses hanging on the edge.






Again containers have been used to provide protection to the road and traffic. There are hundreds of them.

Containers to shield road from rocks

We then went down to watch the surfers and paddle boarders at Sumner beach. It looks to be a great surf beach, with long breaks.

Thanks for a nice day Will and Farrabee it was great to see you both again!


On the way back we stopped in at a couple of shops. What other nationality would advertise clothes with this poster?! Still the sheep looks happy ….. its even smiling!! Hope the road isn’t too bumpy ……


Today we are posting the old  laptop  to Tom in Kaitaia and so will struggle to update from now on. May have to wait until we are home …. Probably the last post for a while …

Abel Tasman to Murchison

27 Feb

26th February 2013


Just before leaving Abel Tasman Marjool decided that she should try out the mangle …. Amazing what some people do for fun!


Good old mangle


On the way back to Takaka we stopped at a little place called the Grove, which was a short walk through some unusual rock formations, leading to a huge split in the rock that you can walk through to an observation platform. Worth a small detour.

We then then turned onto the Motueka Valley Highway. The scenery is stunning and there is lots of nice places to fish. On the way through you can see Kiwis and Hops being grown.

Hop plantation


The fishing spots are great but you need waders or at least some way of stopping the sandflies eating you alive. As soon as you get down to the water they swarm on you. I had long trousers but bare feet, and once engrossed in the fishing, failed to notice the black swarm on my feet. A day later it was so itchy that I could not sleep ….. very silly!!


Fly fishing


I could see the fish taking from the surface and dropped the flies on their noses, but whichever ones I tried, they ignored them and took the real thing instead! I then tried spinning and saw some huge fish follow the spinner in …. but never a take!! I think I am just no good at this!! Next time I will get a guide for a day or two ….

The problem of keeping travel companions occupied while fishing is also a challenge …. particularly with the sandflies … you can’t just sit on the bank with a book … you’d be eaten! Marjool set new trends in order to stop getting bitten.


Swingbridge near Murchison


The second time I put my line in the water a ranger arrived to check my fishing licence. Don’t be tempted to fish without one.


Licence check


We camped along the Motueka River in one of the picnic areas where free camping was allowed. If you don’t mind washing in cold water there are lots of free places to camp.

27th February 2013

Continued along the river to Howard Junction and then turned onto Route 6 towards Murchison.  Lots of old house on the way.


Needs a little attention


Nice old cottage


Just past Murchison there is a long swingbridge (New Zealands longest).


NZ longest swingbridge


Marjool on swingbridge


You walk along a fault line from the big quake that they had here in 1929 and there are some old rusty vehicles left from when some quarrying was done on the site.


Next camper conversion


We camped back in Murchison in a campsite that had great swimming in the Buller river.


River at Murchison campground


Swimming in the Buller


Now carry on towards Christchurch where the weather is still looking good!


Perfect temperatures




Cape Kidnappers – Gannet sanctuary

24 Feb

22nd February 2013

In the morning there was much rushing around with trailer loading, picnic preparation (thanks Clara and Marjool) before we could head down to the beach.

Once there we unloaded the quad and strapped the picnic to the front. A dog cushion was loaded for comfort (they didn’t mind as they were coming too!).

Preparation for gannet run

The normal way to see the gannets is on one of the operations that take visitors along the beach on trailers pulled by tractors.

Gannet colony trip

Once we were all loaded up …. Graham, Marjool, Tom, Eddie and Jessie on the Quad, and Denise Steve and Clara on the bikes, we set off along the beach.

Brookes on quad bike

Quad and bikes on Cape Kidknappers

The beach was great for the bikes. Often you had to wait for the waves to recede before you could drive around them. Great fun.

Beach great for bikers

Graham on motorbike

At one point we squeezed through a narrow hole in the rock. First the bikes and then the quad.

Tight fit

Tight squeeze

Clara and bike

Clara did a good job even though she is more at home on horses!

So we were all through and directly under a small colony of gannets.

We all got through

The gannets were lovely.

Gannet against the sky

Mother and baby Gannet

Two meter wing span

It’s hard to believe but the information board said that the wingspan can be up  to 200 cm!

Jess was interested in the birds, but sat calmly on the quad. Very well behaved!

Jessie the dog

We then continued on to the main colony, parking the bikes and walking up over the hill. There are thousands of gannets there and the colony is steadily expanding. That is good news for the gannets and must mean that fish stocks are healthy.

After driving back along the beach we went to the Clearview winery for tasting and snacks.

Wine tasting at Clearview

Winetasting gives you an appetite!

Then it was home for a BBQ. In between, we managed to change the oil in the Mitsubishi and go for a ride up to Mt Mata in Steve’s old ford pickup … 1929 I think.

Tom was also keen have a go at riding a pony, it’s not every day you are offered a lesson from one of the Swiss national equestrian team! Amie, Steve and Denise’s daughter also represents New Zealand.

Tom enjoying riding lesson

Oil change on the Chariot

Ford pick up 1929

The BBQ was great and topped off a brilliant and interesting day …. Thank you!!

Marjool and Denise

No early alarm tomorrow, though I am sure that with a tiny bit of encouragement Steve would have us up early again tomorrow for another adventure before we leave!

Stratford to Turangi via Tongariro National Park

24 Feb

19th February 2013

Camped in a small campsite in Stratford last night and then travelled along the Forgotten World highway to Taumaranui and then on to Tongariro National Park. It is a beautiful drive and would be really good fun on a motorbike.

Just before Taumaranui you pass the Whanganui River, which looked a great place for a kayak trip … but no time! We drove down along the river on a side road to find a lunch spot, and Graham got distracted while letting someone past on the road and dropped one wheel into a soft, grass covered gully … during the drought, it must have been the only mud for miles. It was so deep that the car sunk until it stopped on the chassis …. very embarrassing …. !!

How embarrassing - stuck in the mud!

Pulled out by a mule

All the way from the UK to Malaysia through Russia and Mongolia without ever needing a tow, and we get stuck in a major drought on a dusty back road! Oh well …

You can see the volcanoes of Tongariro from quite a distance as you drive towards them.

Tongariro National Park

You may recognise the volcano on the right as it featured as Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings. Its real name is Mt Ngauruhoe. One of the standard post cards of the mountain includes a Kiwi sign just in case there is any doubt which country you are in.

Mt Doom with Kiwi sign

One of the classic walks in the area is the Tongariro crossing, however it is another one or two day walk and we could not face it so soon after Mt Taranaki … lazy!! That meant that we had to drive around taking as many volcano views as possible …. mostly with Kiwi signs … here is another one!

Tongariro view and another Kiwi sign

Another reason for not doing the walk was that Marjool had already done it during her very first backpacking trip …. in winter, equipped with only a woolly jumper, trainers and supplies in a carrier bag (water and chocolate) with her friend Shirl. Lucky they survived!

Volcano warning

A quick stop in the visitors centre at Tongariro and a look at the ‘what to do in an eruption’ confirmed that it was better not to do the walk.

I quote ” Shelter from any flying rocks behind boulders etc. If there is no shelter, watch the flying rocks and move to avoid being hit”. Scary!

We drove on towards the south side of Taupo lake and found a really nice Scenic Reserve outside Turangi that allowed free camping and pitched up for the night. Graham played in the water with the black swans while Marjool cooked the dinner.

Jumping out of Taupo

Taupo nice place to cook!

Free camping at Taupo scenic reserve

Late tomorrow we are picking up Tom in Taupo as he is coming to pick up the car.

20th February 2013

In the morning we gave an Austrian girl a lift who had been camping at the same spot. She was heading for work at Rotorua and Taupo was a good place to pick up a lift for the last leg of the journey. We dropped her off at what we thought would be a good spot to get a lift.

Dropping off after a lift

We then went and found a cabin on a campsite so that we could unpack the car completely and re pack everything in our backpacks. Graham also went to Repco (the big car spares place) to buy some engine coolant, oil filter and some spare belts for the car. The coolant had been replaced with water at some point and it was starting to show signs of corrosion in the header tank …. boring!

The campsite lent us a hose and we washed the car …… looked as new as a 17 year old car can!

Tom arrived from his long bus ride from Kaitaia at 1.00 am.

21st February 2013

After a slow start we packed everything and checked out of the campsite. A short drive from there was Huka Falls which we had heard was worth a visit.

Tom picking up the car Huka falls

We then drove to Napier on route five to visit some friends in the nearby town of Hastings, Steve and Denise. We had met them through the Troopytracks website as they are planning a trip through Mongolia and were interested in our vehicle and the route. We met them in England when they were visiting for the Olympics. Lovely people!

They were busy working when we arrived and so we relaxed in their back porch. The house is a much renovated old colonial house and is beautiful!

Steve and Denise's great house

Relaxing on the back porch

A beer with Eddie

We then took a drive up Mt Mata, a peak near their house with great views over the farmland and wineries.

The next morning Steve and Denise were taking us on a drive along the beach on motorbikes and a quad to see the gannet colonies at Cape Kidnappers. Timing was important as you can only get there at low tide. You need to be back before it rises or you are cut off by the cliffs. Only downside was that we had to set the alarm at 5.30am to be all prepared and loaded up for 6.45am to catch the tide. It would be worth it though!

Mt Taranaki

21 Feb

18th February 2013

Got up in the pitch dark this morning and quickly packed up the car so that we could get an early start. We had a quick breakfast in the car park and loaded the small rucksacks with 5 litres of water and some sandwiches.


Early start


There is a sign at the bottom showing the different walks. We were hoping to do the summit walk.


A long way to go


The mountain looked good in the morning light, but the top looked a long way off.


Clear sky over Taranaki


The first part of the walk runs along a 4×4 track which winds around the mountain. It then turns into a steep concrete track that runs up to a communications mast. It is used to get maintenance vehicles up. This is all steep but relatively easy. It takes around 1 hr 45 mins to get here. The path runs past a hut to a very rocky area which is a bit of a scramble.


Not an easy climb


At the top of this section, steps had been built out of timber. The steps went on and on but were easy climbing.


Many steps


At the top of these steps was a long long scree slope, one step forward and slide half a step back. The scree was small round stones and rolled under your feet. We did not take pictures on this bit as getting up was a bit of a struggle.

At the top of the scree we moved onto a rocky stretch that was part walk part climb. We stopped here for lunch.


Looking down at the clouds


After lunch we continued up the rocky section. The cloud had come in and so it was quite cool …. not great for the views though.


Almost climbing


Eventually after much puffing, blowing and stopping we walked into the crater!


Walking on ice


As you walked on towards the edge of the rim, you could see the sea.


Snow in the crater


The crater was as far as we went. You can go up on to the edge of the rim which is the true summit, but it is only about 50m higher and our guide book said respect the locals wishes and do not go to the top ….. we were happy with this as we were worn out!!


Mt Taranaki crater


The way down was also really tiring as it was hard to stay upright on the scree. By the time we got back we were pretty well exhausted …. Not an easy way to spend almost 9 hrs …. but satisfying.

We were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, but talked to a 72 year old man on the mountain who had climbed it 9 days in a row! His record was 18 days on the trot and only stopped then due to a change in the weather.

We have not checked yet, but were told in the visitor centre that someone had once gone up and down the mountain in 1hr 48 mins ….. surely not!!

We should sleep well tonight.

Waiiti Beach

19 Feb

16th and 17th  February 2013

The beds were far too comfortable to leave when Lew got up at 6.00 am to fish …. we finally got up at 8.00am both mornings! Then enjoyed a slow breakfast looking at the view.

View from the bach

The beaches on the west coast all seem to be black sand beaches, strange for us and they get really hot in the sun.

Pebbles in the wave

Black sandcastle


Sand castle team


At low tide you can look along the cliffs towards New Plymouth and Mt Taranaki.

Cliffs and Taranaki

The mountain looks different all the time, the cloud comes and goes rapidly, changing the view.

Evening cliffs and Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

A bit more playing on the beach and it was time to start packing up … over all too soon.

View of bach from the beach


Never too old for sand castles


Thanks Adrienne Lew Ollie and Bella for a great weekend!

That night we camped in a DOC picnic area just below the Mt Taranaki visitor centre. We had decided to climb it the next day …. though it does look steep!


DOC picnic area


Alarm set for 5.30 am!

Camping near Lake Taupo – On to Waiiti Beach

19 Feb

14 February 2013

The drive from Matamata to Taupo took us most of the day with several stops. Lunch usually involves setting up our dining spot with plastic storage boxes and chairs, and then boiling the kettle on the Trangia stove. Like a couple of old people parked by the side of the road at home!

Standard lunch stop

As we arrived at Taupo we stopped at the top of hill above the town. Here you can see the lake and the three active volcanoes at Tongariro national park in the background.

Lake Taupo and Tongariro

We had heard of a nice free camping area on the river just outside Taupo called Reids Farm. We set up there for the night with the tent less than 2 meters from the river.

Free camping near Lake Taupo

Although a busy spot Graham thought that it was worth trying to catch dinner. He got a bite almost straight away, but not quite big enough to feed two hungry campers!

Not all NZ trout are huge!

Despite his best efforts we had to cook a pasta dish instead!

Fishing at Reid's Farm

Tomorrow we are heading to the west coast to meet the family who had planned to drive through China with us in 2011. Them in Landy and us in Troopy!

15th February 2013

In the morning we went into Taupo town to catch up with a few e mails and when parking, noticed that the rear tyre was low. The route across to New Plymouth takes you through some remote areas and so decided to play it safe and get it repaired straight away, rather than just pump it up and monitor it. The route we took was:

Route 1 to Turangi, 41 to Taumarunui and then from Mangaparo we took the 40 to Ahititi. Part of this was unsealed but in good condition.

Along the way we met a farmer moving part of his 3500 Romsey flock.

New Zealand Romsey sheep

Once at Ahititi we joined the route 3 and the found our way to Waiiti Beach where we were meeting our friends.

The Treadway family

It was a lovely spot and they had invited us to stay in the bach (cabin) in real beds! A great treat after a couple of weeks in a small tent with carry mats.  In the picture below you can just see the bach in the trees, near centre.


Waiiti beach and bach on the cliff


Bach at Waiiti beach

Lew set up the BBQ as soon as we arrived and treated us to meat of every description, washed down with beer and wine …. thank you both for your hospitality!!

Tomorrow we are planning to do very little.

Cathedral Cove and Hobbiton

14 Feb

13th February 2013

Woke up to another sunny day. The beach behind the campsite was really nice, making the campsite a good option for a longer stay.

Hahei Beach

On the beach we saw a nice David Brown tractor, normally more at home on the rolling green hills of England, it looked like it had been put here using photoshop! It made us think of our friend Phil Harvey from home, who collects David Brown tractors!

David Brown on beach duty

After breakfast we set off on the short walk to Cathedral Cove.

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove arch

View from arch

Leaving the Coromandel Peninsula we passed another old building, this time the old tavern and hotel. Place to go for a good time in the late 1800’s!

Star and Garter Hotel

We carried on in a south westerly direction to a town called Matamata, which has become a tourist destination due to being discovered by Peter Jackson (director of Lord  of the Rings and the Hobbit). He found a sheep ranch of 1250 acres, run by the Alexander family that had an area that closely resembled Middle Earth as described by Tolkien. Here The Shire was created. There are now over 40 Hobbit holes and the Green Dragon pub. Tours are run to the site for Hobbit enthusiasts.

Four Hobbit houses

Green Dragon Pub

Inside Green Dragon pub

Commununal gardens

Hobbit front door

Hobbit house yellow door

Another Hobbit house

The whole thing was really well done, and it looked like such a great place to live.

Hobbiton water mill

We had booked into a campsite that had some hot springs about 6km from town. Tomorrow we head down to Taupo area.

Coromandel Peninsula

13 Feb

12th February 2013

Drove out of the valley on the dirt road, back onto 25 and followed it along the coast road. Fantastic route with great views.

Coast road views

More coast road views

Sea birds

Sea bird 2

As you turn to the East at the top of 25, the views are even more spectacular!

Colours look unreal!

Views round every corner


We then drove on to Hot Water Beach where hot water is supposed to seep through the sand. Must be getting close …..


Must be getting close


Take care where you stand …. some water is 65 deg C! The idea is to dig between the hot and cold water so it mixes, just like running a bath!


Hot Water Beach


Great fun!

We found a campsite in Hahei which was right on the beach.

Waipapa to Coromandel Peninsula

13 Feb

10th February 2013

Had an off day today …. both have really heavy colds, Graham’s started in Cambodia and he’s been left with a sore throat. He then generously passed it on to me and now I’m feeling rough. Shame as a lovely day …. wasted doing washing etc Still, I’ve learnt to spit like a bloke!

11th February 2013

On the way out of the Bay of Islands we passed the wharf where you pick up boat trips. We wondered what the queue for the phone box was all about. It was backpackers using the free wifi at the phonebox. It is a trial system. New Zealand does not have much in the way of free wifi, usually you have to pay, even in campsites.

Free wifi hard to come by

We carried on from Bay of Islands to Whangarei to look up a lady we met on the flight to Auckland. She is not in the first flush of youth, but is planning to sail back to the UK via the Pacific Islands, Panama and the Carribean. It is going to take her a year, and she is looking for a more mature crew. So if you are between 50  and 85 and fancy this trip on a well prepared 52 foot catamaran let us know and we will put you in touch. She has four double rooms and is leaving in May ….. go on, you know you want to!! Contact us and we will pass on your details.

More mature crew wanted

The town is a nice place to wander around, and was typically New Zealand.

Typical NZ street scene

On the outside of the town there are also lots of traditional colonial style houses, that are well preserved.

Another traditional NZ house

Traditional New Zealand home

We carried on south and passed through Auckland again on our way to the Coromandel Peninsula, passing through Thames into a pretty valley called Kauaeranga Valley. There are lots of great swimming holes and several DOC campsites. Still not busy as slightly out of the main summer season. A little bit drier than normal as NZ has been experiencing a drought this summer.

Typically empty DOC site

The mornings are starting to be cold and damp (like September camping at home). The weather has been amazing though, most days clear blue!


Valley walk


Tomorrow we will continue up the Coromandel Peninsula basically following route 25.