Camper Van adventures

Abel Tasman National Park

‘Abel Tasman National Park is a wilderness reserve at the north end of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s known for the Abel Tasman Coast Track, a long trail winding over beaches and across ridges between Marahau in the south and Wainui in the north.’

We stayed in Kaiteriteri a small town just below the park for 3 nights from the 21st of February. The campground was right by the beach.

On Friday we took a boat which dropped us off in Bark Bay in the middle of the Abel Tasman Coastal path, the sun was shining, the rain and storm forgotten.

We walked along the path to Anchorage Bay through beautiful coastal forest, past past pretty beaches and waterfalls.

After a refreshing swim at Anchorage Bay beach at the end of our walk the boat picked us up from there and returned is to our Camp ground and our ducks.What a perfect day!

Camper Van adventures

Maruia Springs, Murchison and storm damage

From Christchurch we drove inland in pouring rain and increasing wind. We stopped at Hamner Springs a well known hot spring Spa town to find that other tourist and camper vans had the same idea. This small town was packed with tourists. So we drove on and found Maruia Hot Springs which had recently come under new management and had a relatively sheltered campsite attached. The hot water pools were beautiful surrounded by natural stones and because of the wind and rain the sandflies stayed away, normally the only fly in the ointment of this stunning place!

We met one of the owners with his three children in the pools and the 8 year old son told us proudly how he and his dad go hot spring hunting.

As the storm was brewing we soaked in comfort in the springs. The night however was very wet and our camper van shook in the storm. The next morning calm had returned as did the sandflies and their ghastly bites, so we soon made our way through the centre of the South Island via Murchison to Abel Tasman National Park.

Murchison (title picture) is a small town which had it’s heyday during the gold rush in 1840 and served as a frontier settlement supplying towns and mining villages with goods and beer. By the beginning of the 20th century it had 3 hotels and 3 large stables for horses. Unfortunately much of Murchison was destroyed in a very large earthquake ( 7.2 ) in 1929.

Now it functions as a stopover for tourists with antique and curiosity shops

Like so many places in NZ it offers extreme sports like canyoning and skydiving. All over NZ you get this mix of older tourists like us and young gap year students.

After a healthy typical NZ meat pie for lunch and buying some local smoked pork for dinner we continued our journey through the beautiful landscape

until we came to a road block on the major road we were meant to take to get to the coast. Thankfully a farmer who a had just driven from the opposite direction told us that we would probably get through the bits of road which had been affected by mudslides in the storm. Tony managed the partially swept away road with ease in our camper.

But it was a reminder of how nature affects the daily lives of New Zealander’s.

When we finally got to our campground in Kaiteriteri on the coast just below Abel Tasman National Park, the supermarket was closed because of the road closures and we could not swim as there had been a sewage overflow due to the storm. A natural pond had formed next to our campground and attracted a whole family of ducks

Camper Van adventures

Christchurch

On Monday we continued to Christchurch to visit Emma, Sebastian’s friend who used to be a chef with him on the super yacht.

Emma’s parents live in a beautiful house in a suburb of Christchurch. Emma was home on leave from the boat. We parked the Camper van and Emma took us on a tour around Christchurch, which had been devastated by a major earthquake 7 years ago almost to the day. ( title picture an installation of chairs for every person who died)

Whilst some people believe the reconstruction of the city has been rather slow I felt the town planners and architects were putting a lot of effort into designing a new city centre with nice public spaces. There is even an Anthony Gormley statue.

The cathedral is still a pile of rubble but a decision has been taken to rebuild it.

In the meantime the city has a cardboard cathedral.

Emma cooked a fabulous dinner for her parents and us and we spent the night in a proper double bed, what a luxury.

The next morning the long awaited rain and ‘cyclone’ downgraded to a storm hit! We thought it is time for some hot springs.

Camper Van adventures

Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo

Sophie had recommended the lakes which have an amazing blue turquoise colour.

On the way we saw these Clay Cliffs made of layers of gravel and silt formed by glaciers more than a million years ago.

Lake Pukaki our next stop allows a wonderful view of Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in NZ( title picture) . I had also seen the lake from the plane on the way from Auckland to Queenstown.

We freedom camped right next to lake Pukaki, great fun, except we were almost blown away by the strong winds.

The next morning the weather had turned.

Mount Cook was hidden behind clouds and Lake Tekapo looked more grey than blue.

Of note is the little church situated on the shore called the Church of the Good Shepard, built as a memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie Country.

So many tourists,

MacKenzie country is named after James MacKenzie who was caught having apparently stolen a thousand sheep in 1855. He became a folk hero after escaping a few times and eventually being pardoned.

Here is a statue to the sheep rustler and his collie dog.

The area is known for its delicious hot smoked salmon.

Christchurch in the next blog.

Camper van adventures

Lake Wanaka

On Saturday morning Feb17th we picked up our Maui Ultimata self contained Mercedes Camper Van from Queenstown. It is 7m long and 2.8m high but not very wide. Tony drives and I navigate. This combination works well, I love looking out of the window, choosing the music, taking photos and reading out snippets of information and Tony doesn’t mind the driving. Our first stop was a wonderful Saturday morning farmers market right next to this amazing mountain range called The Remarkables in Queenstown.

It has been really nice to be able to buy and then prepare meals with fresh fruit and veg, the most delicious lamb, cheese, muesli, macadamia paste and Manuka Honey. We have hardly eaten in restaurants since starting our camper van journey. Admittedly our van has a fridge, stove and barbecue, quite luxurious. We even have our own little toilet and shower, very handy in the middle of the night!

I forgot my handbag in the supermarket toilet on the first day and when I rushed back, it had been handed in with money and phone- phew!

Our first stop was Lake Wanaka (title picture) yet another stunning lake overlooking mountains and a cute town which was buzzing with people as they had their annual triathlon that weekend.

Our camping space overlooked the lake and we met Tatjana, an Eben relative who is travelling around NZ at the same time as us.

We shared our first ‘campground dinner’ with her, having bought local green beans, potatoes and a rack of lamb at the farmers market earlier that day.

Tatjana’s aunt (Tatjana’s mother’s sister) is buried in Wanaka. She was a mountaineer and died age 27 trying to climb Mount Aspiring in 1972. Apart from Tatjana’s niece nobody of the family had ever been to the grave. It was particularly important for Tatjana to see the grave as she remembers the policeman coming to the door and telling her grandmother that her daughter had died. It was a terrible shock for the whole family particularly as the grandmother had already lost her home, 2 husbands and her brother in the 2nd world war.

It felt nice to be there with Tatjana on Sunday morning.

Our next stop was Cardrona whiskey distillery which does not yet sell whiskey as the caskets need to age another 8 years, but we bought some rather spicy gin, which has an interesting taste. On the way is a bra fence- nobody knows who has started it, it now supports breast cancer charities.

more in the next blog

The Classic

Milford and Routeburn tracks (part three)

After our well deserved rest in Te Anau we were picked up by bus on the 14th of February in blazing sunshine to begin the Routeburn track. This time we were a group of 29 people, mainly New Zealanders, Americans and Australians. Thankfully for Megan we were joined by some young people this time.

The Routeburn track crosses the mountains between the Hollyford and Dart valleys at the base of the southern Alps of NZ. The mountains are wild covered with tarns, grasslands and beautiful alpine flowers.

On the first day we walked up to Key Summit, here we are with our walking friends

The landscape has been created by glaciers see below

We stopped at Howden Hut and lake, which Tony remembered from his trip around xmas 1970/71

The remainder of the day was one damn fine view after another.

Snow capped mountains, waterfalls, ferns and mosses!

What better than to finish up a beautiful day of walking with a swim in the blue glacial lake Mackenzie which happened to lie right next to our lodgings for the night.

The weather changes fast in the mountains and the next day we awoke to drizzle which quickly turned into heavy rain, almost hail. Below a picture of Lake Mackenzie the next morning.

Not so much fun as we were walking along Hollyford Mountain face up to Harris Saddle and our lunch shelter. My phone was almost blown away taking a picture of Lake Harris and the little spontaneous waterfalls following a downpour (below).

As so often the weather improved after lunch and we were able to see the Routeburn river valley.

To my delight there were even NZ alpine edelweiss blossoming.

We finished the day just below the Routeburn waterfalls in a delightful Ultimate hike lodge, with yet another 3 course meal and a little river burbling underneath the lodge. The evening was spent playing boardgames with the youngsters and our guide who was a veterinary student from Sydney.

We awoke to this view from our bedroom window next morning

Mount Aspiring National Park is stunning and these final pictures of our walk speak for themselves.

The Routeburn valley

The Dart River valley

Above a typical NZ ginormous red Beech tree

At the end of the Track

We were picked up by a bus and taken via Glenorchy back to Queenstown.

That evening Sebastian’s friend Emma had organised for us to eat at Matakauri Lodge near Queenstown, where she had worked as a pastry chef in the past. It was wonderful to celebrate with a swanky meal at the end of our two walks.

On Saturday morning we picked up our camper-van. More of that in the next blog.