Sunday, 12 April 2009

Day 689 - Wellington (North Island)

First of all, Happy Easter to you all. Secondly, I have good news for you, I think this is going to be a fairly short entry, you will only need half a cup of coffee!

The main reason for being in Hanmer Springs was for the thermal pools. I went there with Christine in the evening after she had spent some time there during the afternoon on her own. They also had a water slide there with nobody using it. I decided to have a go, I had never been down one before, but Christine said she would wait in the water just in case I needed any assistance. I have to admit it was good fun, apart from being dumped in the water at the end of it. In fact it was so good that I had another run down. We then went into the thermal pools starting off at one that was at 33 degrees, then changing to others that were a degree or two warmer until we went into the hottest at 41 degrees. All very nice and relaxing, until a coach load of kids arrived!

It seemed to be raining all night whilst we were in Hanmer Springs, it was still raining pretty hard in the morning, the weather had really closed in and there was no sign of the mountains. We had a long leisurely breakfast deciding whether to go or stay another day. The temperature had dropped dramatically too, if we went and got wet we would also get very cold. Before we had made a decision the clouds cleared revealing the mountains behind, but now they were covered in a layer of snow. Eventually we decided to make a move, though we didn’t get away until gone 11am. The route was pretty easy going, the road winding its way through the valleys, I think we even had a slight tail wind. As we rode along the weather just seemed to get better and better, we had made the right decision. Having passed through Rotherham, which incidentally is slightly smaller than the one at home, I think I remember seeing a couple of houses, we reached the village of Waiau. We stopped for a short break, I could hardly believe that we had already covered 47k, we had been flying along. From there we took the back road towards Kaikoura which went past the ski resort of Mt Lyford and that only meant one thing, it was going uphill, complete with a full load of water for the night. As the afternoon wore on the weather started to deteriorate, it even started to drizzle. We passed some lovely looking sheltered pine trees and Christine suggested camping in amongst them for the night, though I persuaded her to carry on a little longer. Typically, the further we went the less chance there seemed to be of anywhere to camp until we eventually found a track heading steeply downhill to a gate. Just inside the gate was a lovely place to camp but just in view of the road, not that there was going to any traffic overnight. The track then went through a stream and into the woods. I really didn’t fancy getting across the stream, but Christine wanted to be out of view of the road. With a parting shot of “Watch this experienced around New Zealand cyclist cross this stream” she set off. Just a few seconds later the experienced around New Zealand cyclist was shouting out “Oh S-H-I-T!!!” as the bike sank into the mud the other side, stopping her dead and resulting in a foot completely underwater, not the most desirable of things when it is cold and already getting colder. “…..and don’t say a fucking word” she added. As if I would, it was more than my life was worth! Having checked out the camping possibilities on the other side she convinced me it was worth it, so I changed into flip-flops and paddled across, though I to sank in the mud losing a flip-flop in the process, though after a bit of squishing around in the mud I managed to retrieve it. There was a short climb up a track, though it turned out to be a really sticky clay surface, most of which stuck to the tyres stopping the wheels from turning. Christine apologised for taking us across the river, though I had agreed pretty easily to it, so it wasn’t really her fault. Thankfully by the time we had set up camp it had stopped raining and we were able to cook outside, though with the dropping temperature we were soon getting pretty cold.

It rained pretty well all night, though having got the ground sheet sorted out it remained nice and dry inside, though still somewhat cold. When I looked outside the tent I could hardly believe my eyes, we had camped well below the snowline, but the snowline had come down to meet us. It was still snowing and settling quickly. The last couple of days had started with bad weather, so thinking there might be some pattern to the weather we decided to delay the start as long as possible, thankfully it was to pay off. Over breakfast Christine told me “You have to promise one thing, that you go a little slower down the hills in these conditions”, bless her. By 10am it was beginning to clear up, most of the snow had already thawed. The worst part of the day lay just ahead of us, getting back to the road. Having retraced our way back down the track made even tackier by the night’s rain, I was once again standing in flip-flops in the stream and passing the bikes and gear across. Once the worst of the mud was cleared off the bikes, it was just a case of hauling the bikes back up the steep hill to rejoin the road. We eventually started cycling at around 11:30, the weather seemed to be getting worse again as we made our way slowly down the roller coaster of a road. At times the road dipped sharply into valleys then climbed sharply back out again. As we started to drop towards another river crossing Christine was just behind me, by the time I had climbed out the other side she was nowhere to be seen, even though I could see a long way back. I assumed she had stopped for a snack, after all, if she is awake she is generally hungry. I waited and eventually she came into view and within a few of minutes she arrived saying “Either you are deaf or you are a complete arsehole” she said “Oh, that’s a tough one, being as I don’t know what you are talking about, it could go either way” I replied. It turned out that she had a coming together with the road whilst making a sharp turn, thankfully at slow speed, so no damage done. Interestingly, when she fails to turn up I assume she has stopped to tuck in to a little more food, though when I don’t turn up she assumes I have had an accident. Just before we reached Kaikoura we rejoined the main road. That came as a bit of a shock, the first real main road that we have been on since just after Dunedin. Kaikoura was as splendid as I remembered it from my last visit, the view across the sea to the snow covered range of mountains is something very special (photo). Finding somewhere to camp was once again challenging, though this time as we were in farmland, though we eventually found an unused field tucked away down a little gravel road. As day turned to night the sky cleared, giving a lovely cold, crisp evening with a wonderful full moon,. Due to the cold and a late finish we ended up cooking in the tent.

The following day started as the previous one had ended, clear skies giving a crisp morning with not a cloud in the sky. We were 3 km away from the sea yet we could still here the waves. I could understand why when we saw them, they were big and in abundance. Ahead of us lay the busy but fantastically beautiful road up the east coast to Blenheim (photo). To start with the road hugged the coastline, the snow covered mountains as a backdrop and the lovely smell of the sea. We stopped at Opau Point where Christine could hardly believe her eyes “You will have to pinch me” she said as she was seeing seals in the wild for the very first time. The colony here is literally right beside the main road. The road remained fantastic for the rest of the day but changed from mountains to rolling hills then changing dramatically again in the Marlborough Wine Region. Here the road headed inland and at Seddon we decided that we needed to find a place to camp for the night. Finding a place wasn’t easy, though a woman in a vehicle with a trailer asked us if we needed a lift to Blenheim where there would be a campsite. We thanked her but declined the offer. We took a little road away from the main road and eventually had to call in at a farm to ask permission to camp. At the first place we tried the doors were all open but there didn’t seem to be anybody there, though thankfully at the second one we tried they were happy for us to camp in a sheep paddock, a lovely little campsite overlooking the vineyards and the mountains, the only downside being the sheep poo everywhere. As we prepared dinner the woman from the house came over and brought us a bottle of white wine and 2 glasses. They work in the wine industry and gave us a bottle of wine that they produced themselves, it was delicious and went down very well, a really nice gesture. It was another lovely crystal clear night, though this time much warmer.

We made an earlier start in the morning, though not before we had taken back the glasses and given them our prized large bar of chocolate, about the only thing that we could give to them but an ideal gift as it was Easter. The run to Blenheim was easy going once we had crossed the Weld Pass. In town Christine was once again obsessed about going into the info office “I want to check the times of the ferries” she said “What for?” I asked “Once we get to Picton we get on the next ferry, what do we need the times for?” She had done the right thing though, apparently tickets bought at info offices were $20 cheaper than buying them at the terminal. From Blenheim to Picton was easy going, or should have been if we had not been into a head wind that had been building up. Still, we made it with a good half an hour to spare. After a nice calm crossing we went in search of a motel, though we cycled around for ages before we could even found one. Finding a place to stay in the middle of the Easter weekend was going to be challenge, though the second place had room, though more expensive than elsewhere we had been in New Zealand. We took it, we could search a heck of a lot longer and find nothing. Once unpacked Christine volunteered to go to the supermarket and do the shopping, then when she came back she cooked up a wonderful 3 course dinner, and what’s more she even enjoyed doing it. I am spoilt rotten!

And so to Easter Sunday, a day of no Easter eggs, they were too expensive! It’s been a gloriously warm day just wandering around the city, the snow of a few days back seems far off now. Most of the time has been spent around the harbour front and the Te Papa Museum, a museum of all things New Zealand (photo). We went along to have a look at the St Paul’s Cathedral, it’s remarkably modern, Art Deco in style and it rather reminded me of Guildford Cathedral. From there is was just a short walk to another church, Old St Paul’s and a bigger contrast would be almost impossible to achieve. This one was wooden, much smaller and a really delightful and cosy church, it had a real charm about it. I then went back to the cathedral and joined the ringers for ringing prior to the evening service. They have a massive ringing chamber complete with a lift to it, and a bunch of very good ringers to ring them, though tonight I was their weakest link. We rang for an hour, never ringing the same thing twice, all good ringing on fantastic bells. The only thing wrong was that if I had joined them this morning I would also have been able to ring at Old St Paul’s. If I had know it was such a beautiful little church I would have made a bit more effort….never mind.


dad said...

Why am I always the first to comment? Anyway once again some excellent pictures (wait til you see mine taken at the weekend). But, if that was a short posting, heaven help us the next time you send one.

Lorna said...

Happy Easter to you both! New Zealand sounds wonderful and it's like you're on a permanent holiday - lucky you - and you're fast approaching 2 years... :-)

Caff said...

Happy Easter to you both - even though it is nearly over for you.I can't believe you have both gone without chocolate all weekend!
I'm afraid ours hasn't been so glorious - grey, wet and cold with barely a glimpse of blue sky in 3 days. Still it's better than being at work!
I liked the picture of the beehive and your other pictures and descriptions of Wellington and the north part of South Island means I get to re-live my memories from the comfort of my sofa! :-)

Tony said...

Sorry about lack of comments from me, still reading with great interest, brilliant stuff! (And I guess I'm not alone in having your "clouds hanging around" photo as a Desktop.) Thanks.