Saturday, 15 December 2012

Round the world travel: New Zealand - South Island

Where we were

The wilder, quieter, virtually uninhabited half of New Zealand.  We probably, on reflection, didn't quite have enough time to fully do both islands justice, but we gave it a good go.  I blame everyone I met in every hostel that banged on about Franz Josef.  I also thank them profusely, because it was even more beautiful than the North.  I really wouldn't have thought that to be possible, but i was incorrect.

We found out during a dinner time chat with some construction workers that they have a huuuuge labour shortage.  So if you're out of work and willing to move, you could do a lot, lot worse than building houses in stunning wilderness.  Social butterfy, city lovers need not apply...

Where we stayed

Still in our little orange van (the 'snugglebus' as Greg manfully christened it).  This week and a bit's campsites included the riverside Blenheim Top 10 (good facilities, if a little characterless), the weird, hippyish, but ultimately charming Hangdog Camp (honesty boxes, eco credentials and revolutionary rhetoric toilet door grafitti), the beautiful community run Okarito Campsite (lagoon views and stone BBQs).

Worst of the bunch, the scary Deliverence-ville camp in Reefton where we were instructed to park on the local football field and a man shouted at me for soaking my white tee shirt in the sink while I cooked dinner, an act akin to his "taking a shit on his kitchen table" apparently.

Best, though, was another DOC site near Picton and along the Queen Charlotte Track, Momorangi Bay.  Though it was a half hour down the most nauseatingly twisty road in the land (and in NZ that's really saying something), it was green, leafy and private, well, apart from the ducks.  You could choose to camp back towards the forest or on the beachfront (we chose forest; less mossies).  It had a great kitchen and hot showers, but best of all things it had its own glowworm dell!  Just two minutes from the back of the campsite is a path of nature's fairylights. Magic.

What I read

More Robin Hobb.  Are you sensing a theme here? Obsessed.

What we listened to

The second half of Bill Bryson's 'A Walk In The Woods'.  Still hilarious.

Some intensely frustrating debates Christopher Hitchen's had on various american news shows when promoting his atheist treatise.  I'm still so sad he died.  What a great man.

New Zealand radio's answer to Kerrang.fm.  It was rooted firmly around the early noughties and full of those songs you only pretend not to like, but totally know all the words to.  I'm on the outside, I'm looking in...

What we ate

Camp kitchen served more porridge with a muesli alternative upon the devastating reveal that Greg doesn't like porridge.  Ach!  Also, noodles and noodles and a very tasty barley boo stew as per my Nanny Ginger's recipe.  I came over a bit Samwise Gamgee about our lack of seasoning.  We did at least have po-tat-oes.

An amazing lamb and vegetable pie, like everything you think a pie should be, but so infrequently is, at Two Rivers Cafe en route from Arthur's Pass.

A yummy woodfired pizza at the bohemian Dangerous Kitchen in the equally bohemian town of Takaka.  We were some of the few patrons wearing shoes and not wearing a wizard cloak.  I felt massively left out.

A gorgeous platter of meats and cheeses in the mediterranean style garden at Wairou River winery.  All washed down with one of their gorgeous Pinot Grigios.

A smoked kipper and quinoa salad that was far, far better than I would ever have thought such a dish could be.  Greg's pan fired halibut and potato lumps were also darn tasty.  A huge knickerbocker glory to share was the figurative and literal cherry on top of a great meal at Jester House, a must-see artist decorated restaurant and gallery off the main highway.  The brightly painted tudor style house and gorgeous cottage-style gardens lie just over a tiny fjord and have their own tame eels to pet in case you get bored of lazing in the sunshine.  We didn't.

What we did

Rented bicycles and took a wine tour of Blenheim and Renwick.  Sooooo much easier on the way there. Sooooo much wobblier on the way back. Ahem... We got to try the famous Cloudy Bay Sauvingnon Blanc and discovered why it's so very hard to get hold of (Answ   er: It's delicious), sipped several different Pinot Grigios, bought a few to send home and I finally discovered a white wine I really like - Gewurztraminer.  Now I just need to learn to say it when tipsy, or sober tbh.

Got rained out of Kaikoura where we had planned to watch some whales.  Que cera cera.

Kayaked in the Marlborough Sounds.  It was my first experience of kayaking, but Greg's done it lots.  It was pretty darn beautiful out on the water and we found a little beach to eat our sandwiches on and rest our tired arms for a bit.  The way back was a little tougher into the wind, but we got our teamwork on and made it back safely.  I can't wait to go again back home, though it won't be near as nice scenery-wise.

Took a helicopter ride onto Franz Josef and hiked the glacier.  It was seriously brilliant.  With crampons firmly in place, the ice was reasonably easy to walk on as we followed our charming and funny guide up pick axe hewn steps, through narrow crevasses and even into ice holes for photos.  It felt completely remote and otherworldly standing on the blue tinged ice with the rest of the vallley obcured by rolling grey clouds.  Magic.

Warmed up at the hot spring spa afterwards.  The private tubs are set in forest dells of their own, so you're outside, but totally private.  I felt like an elf princess. 

Had our breath taken from the top of the Hawkes LOOKOUT ('For what?') (Sorry)

Filled our water bottles from the secret hidden tap by the i-site in Takaka at a tip from a tres eccentric gentleman in dungarees clutching a huge glass bottle who accosted us in the carpark.

Tramped to Devil's Punchbowl falls at Arthur's Pass, one of the highest alpine towns in the country. They were so high and so powerful I gaped in wonder till an annoying teenage couple arrived and ruined our moment.

Annoyingly, all the very excellent photos are on the real camera and we lack the technology right now to get them off it and on here. Till then, here are what little I took with my iPhone:

Nice spot for breakfast

Hippy market in Takaka. Everyone needs more tiedye, right?

Whimsy and sun shine at Jester House

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