Thursday 15 March 2018

Part 2: Staying with the Averys - Being tourists

 While staying with Leonie and Paul, we did a few touristy things for which the West Coast is renowned. If you haven't already travelled and looked at this part of the country, it is time you did! The Coast doesn't have the same serene beauty as do Wanaka and Queenstown (outside of the town of course) but it is wild and amazingly scenic. It's the juxtaposition of the mountains, then the hills, the narrow coastal plain, and then the sea: it is magical, and the people who live here are too. They are hardy, self reliant and fiercely loyal to their part of NZ, and rightly so.

So, the touristy things:

  1. We drove up to Denniston and Burnett's Face to the former coal mining area. 
    Up at Burnett's Face, looking over to the ranges. Quite a brooding place with the clouds.

    We didn't tell Leonie, but David had to borrow one of Paul's new hi-viz jackets that was left in the Landcruiser we were using - he'd left his own raincoat on the floor inside the front door at the house. He did try to make that my fault, but no way, Jose!
    A memorial to some of the miners who had lived up there and died after the mines closed.

    At the old school, now an information centre and small museum, there was a vast array of rusting equipment/machinery/mining accoutrements that had been gathered up. Even though it is decaying, it still gives an indication of the amount of technology that was in play in the mining industry, even way back then.

    What an impressive job DOC and the local councils have done on restoration of the area and in setting up the interp. (That is what us DOC-ers call it, by the way. As you've no doubt guessed, it is short for interpretation.) The people who lived and worked there were particularly hardy - it was a rugged and lonely place in the ranges, with all of the weather that the geography would dictate - high in the hills (which would qualify as mountains in the UK as being over 2000 feet high), close to the sea, with the next landfall Australia.    
    This is what NZ used to be like - and some West Coast people still operate this way ...
    I did walk on to this platform but couldn't stay out there. It looks steeply down the former incline.
    We were already about 2000 feet above sea level - but look at the range in the background ...

    An example of the pylons and buckets that brought the coal down the hills from the mine down to the Incline.
    Picnic lunch at the information area at Denniston

    The view from the front window back down the coast as we drove back down to sea level.
      There used to be two schools in the area, and one of them was the highest school in the country. If I remember correctly, one piece of the interp quoted the school inspector back in the 1870s saying he wouldn't be returning until there was a proper road up there - he'd had to travel in a wagon on the incline both up and down. A bloody scary prospect! The work in and around the mines and the conditions were dangerous. If you want more info, check out this
  2. From the main road further on from the Denniston turnoff, we saw the railhead for the Stockton Mine which still operates. 
    Stockton railhead

    The cable car with the buckets of coal from the mine back in the hills.
      There is a cable car system that brings the coal from the mine entrance out to the plant at the coast - it was that that caught my eye at Ngakawau. So we went over to find out what it was. It is a large operation that I think used to belong to Solid Energy but is now owned by Bathurst - I have a feeling they are an Australian firm, dammit!
  3. As Mohikinui was not much further on, we headed there next and at the lovely pub/cafe, we had a late lunch (well, the picnic of crudites and hummus at Denniston was yummy, but a toasted sandwich and chips had a certain attraction ...) It has a lovely campsite and several baches. Access to the beach is a bit difficult right now as I think the locals have formed a stopbank of rocks and gravel between the sea and the dirt and grassed stopbank - I need to check, but I think it was done as a defence against the two recent cyclones.
    The double row of stopbanks, complete with my lovely husband.

    Then it was back to the Averys' place for more wine and food ...

Part 1: Staying with the Averys

I am falling behind with blogging - as tends to happen when there is lots happening! So as quickly as I can, before we pack up and move to another location within Hokitika (yes we were there from Thursday evening to Wednesday lunchtime), I will endeavour to get these next three posts on line up to the point where we left Westport. There is a lot to cover, so here goes:
I think this is a beautiful art deco building - it's in the middle of Westport and looks wonderful at night, esp against a clear sky, eh?
We stayed four nights with Leonie and Paul - mainly Leonie as Paul was away working in Motueka.
This is the bridge over the stream that flooded in Cyclone Gita. Paul was most impressed with the guy who did the dry stone walling.

David and Leonie in the kitchen. I think David is preparing carrots judging by the green and clear bag by his right hand. Good heavens, we cluttered the place up with our muesli, our fruit and gherkins and stuff ..

Leonie took great care of us with her inimitable hospitality and kindness. She arranged for me to go to the optometrist in Westport as I was suffering with what is known as dry eye, but is in fact wet and watery. It's where the tear ducts get blocked and the oily substance of the tears cannot get through, and just the watery stuff remains. The watery stuff seems to be a bit acidic - or at least it feels that way, and the creases in the corner of my eyes (the crow's feet, OK!!!) got inflamed and were sore. Noel the optometrist did a thorough check of my eyes, put yellow dye in them, checked again, and gave me a sample of some drops that did help**. I also bought a wheat bag to warm and place over my eyes to loosen the blocked tear ducts - what a lovely feeling!

[**When we got to Hokitika I had to find an alternative - after a couple of days the sample eyedrops stopped working and the crow's feet were getting sore again. I am now fully recovered having purchased and used two sets of drops: one with an antibiotic effect and the other as a tear stimulator.]

The other personal care service Leonie enacted was sending me to her hair salon. I had realised that my haircut in Blenheim was a bit uneven, so it needed remedying - esp as I was planning a visit to my old work office at Hokitika Dept of Conservation. I couldn't turn up there looking unkempt, now could I? Tracey did a good job and I know Michelle, my hairdresser at home, will be impressed.
Mel on Paul's couch in the lounge while Leonie and her granddaughter play at the table.

As well as attending to hair and eye care, we also did cooking things:
  1. Day One we blobbed - after all, we have been setting a cracking pace: taking 9 days to travel about 350kms is hard work, you know. I did cook dinner for us all though - cottage pie.
  2. I made a big pot of braised steak and onions (plus veges) for Paul and the others to take away for one night's dinner
  3. On Day Two, as Paul doesn't like curry and was working away, I made a chicken and vege curry. 
  4. On our last morning before we left, I made cheese scones for lunch.
And because we were on the West Coast, and because that was part of the reason for being down here, we did some tourist things - more in Part 2: Staying with the Averys.

    Friday 9 March 2018

    Yay, the West Coast!

    I think it was last Saturday, a week since we left home, that we headed from Nelson/Stoke area down to Murchison after brekkie with Ann and Chris. In that week, we had travelled all of 250kms, from Picton to Blenheim and back and then on to Murchison. Talk about laid back travellers - if we went any slower, we would meet ourselves coming back!

    The drive to Murchison was taken at corresponding speed, but I am a very considerate motorhome driver in that I pull over at every opportunity to let other drivers pass. It makes sense to do so, otherwise they'll get right up close trying to chivvy me along and that is uncomfortable and annoying for me and for them. I am considering getting a sign made for the back panel which says: "Fear not: I will pull over to let you pass as soon as I can."

    We stayed in the NZMCA site in Murchison - nothing fancy, and no electricity but at $3 per person it was worth it. Next time we will stay at the Riverside Motorcamp a wee bit north of town - it has absolutely wonderful reviews on the NZMCA app, so has to be tried.

    David decided he would make dinner in Murchison as I have cooked all other meals, apart from 50% of the fruit, yoghurt and muesli breakfasts. So he made moresies, an old McDonald family favourite. We had to phone his sister Ginny in Brisbane to get the recipe (cheese, bacon, onion, egg mixed and grilled on toasted bread), and then my privilege was to sit outside in the shade (it was too hot in the sun, sorry, Irene) and read my kindle with a glass of chardonnay in hand.

    Moresies - yummy!

    We headed off in the morning for Westport where we needed to be by about noon - we had arranged to meet Paul (of Paul and Leonie fame: we met Leonie in Reefton this time last year, and they came to stay on the boat with us a few months later - a very firm friendship has been struck up). Paul had to deliver something further up the Coast that arvo, so sticking to time was important.

    That meant very little stopping on the way, but that drive was amazing! The Upper Buller Gorge is full of wonderful views of the river down below and strong heavy rock that had been cut away to form the road. Such a huge undertaking way back when the road was first built sensibly following the course of the river - because at least that would lead to the sea ... Of course it does depend which end they started from, doesn't it?
    The Buller River down below the road.

    A poor photo from the moving vehicle, but you get the idea (will take a better one on the way back). In vain did David try to convince me that a swing bridge would be stronger. Paul backed me up in discussion later and said he regularly drives 20T vehicles over that one way bridge and it is solidly built - hence it hasn't been replaced.

    This is the Blackwater River, with a pretty impressive sweep.

    There we are - well, David is - I was on the bridge taking the photos

    We arrived in Westport just after noon, and were welcomed to Chez Avery by Paul who informed us that Leonie was expecting us to stay in the house rather than in the motorhome. On viewing what we declared to be the West Wing we instantly decided that we could cope with the luxury of a large beautifully appointed bedroom with ensuite and a separate bathroom and toilet. We declared to Paul that we were moving in permanently! That impression was strengthened when Paul casually said that we should use one of his Toyota Landcruisers while we were with them - that was very generous and made a big difference to our sightseeing.
    Their lovely home that Leonie designed. They were hit hard by Cyclones Fehi and Gita, with a tidal surge coming up the estuary and on to their property. Leonie's garden was hammered by salt water. Stoically she says now has the opportunity to redesign it. As she fully expects that more storms will come (I blame Trump), she is going to lift the level of the gardens.

    Out at dinner, David and Paul

    and Leonie and me.

    As it was we stayed four nights and are returning to take up residence again on our way back through to Picton via Nelson.

    Suffice it to say, the Averys are wonderful people.

    Wednesday 7 March 2018

    Nelson and environs

    From Momorangi we headed out on the remaining half of the winding and beautiful Queen Charlotte road to Havelock in lovely sunshine.

    The jetty at Momorangi early in the morning that we left

    The hills behind Momorangi from the jetty.

    We think the village across the arm in the distance is Anakiwa, but we weren't sure, even when we drove the road. The kids on the jetty were on a school camp, run in the DOC building. These kids were on the fishing rotation. Others were on bush walks and kayaking.

    We were aiming for Nelson but first we had to empty the waste water tank and the toilet cassette - we have a spare cassette but of course it is stored deep within the garage at the rear of the motorhome, so it is awkward to extract. (Note to self: must reposition spare cassette.) The dump station in Havelock is in the Mobil Service Station, and it seemed callous to just use the facilities without buying anything, so I filled up with diesel (only $6 worth as I had filled up in Blenheim a few days before) and bought some chocolate - well, you never know when the soothing power of chocolate will be required, now do you?

    As is the way with boaters, so it is with motorhomers and caravanners: there was a couple there at the two sided dumpstation, and chat ensued over the smelly waste. They were just returning to Picton and the North Island, and we were making our way south and west - but ever so slowly ...

    The road between Havelock and Nelson is not particularly long but it is high and winding and pretty spectacular. Much of it is covered in beautiful native bush, but there are disturbing amounts of pinus radiata for felling, and some areas that have already been clear-felled of pine and look very ugly.

    At the top of the Hope Saddle we took a little side road up to the DOC viewing area - ranges and bush as far as the eye could see. (It is called the bush here in NZ, not woods as in the UK which always seem to me to be quite open and light filled on the ground, as there is little or low undergrowth in UK woods, whereas here the trees grow close together and the bush floor is filled with suple jack and dense ferns.)  The road up there was a bit spooky though. In the recent storms, I think its surface has been scoured. But worse is that it slopes downwards to the side of the road that falls away into the bush ... A bit scary sitting high up in a high vehicle - but that is probably my inexperience talking.
    You can see the scouring of the parking area surface - note that I still park as prescribed by DOC: reversed in for easy egress in a hurry.

    We were over 600 metres above sea level, and the mountains in the distance were even higher.

    We had arranged to stop for the night in the parking area of a pub in Richmond called The Honest Lawyer. It seemed pretty reasonable a price - no fee but spend $20 in the bar/restaurant. So we thought we'd have lunch there. If we'd stopped at the ciabatta and dips, I would have said it was a good place, but the chicken burger was their undoing. Suffice it to say it went to the seagulls who were not averse to eating their under-cooked and soggy-crusted cousin.

    A couple of phone calls later, we had made social arrangements that were several decades overdue. So the gas was turned off and off we went to visit Barry and Lorraine in Atawhai. David and Barry were fellow inmates of Weir House when 1st and 2nd year students at Victoria University in Wellington back in the late 60s. They had not seen each other since university days. Neither of us had met Lorraine. She is the consummate hostess - dinner was whipped up with us contributing the fresh chicken for spatchcocking and roasting, and Lorraine made a curried pasta salad (have recipe, will make) and an apricot shortcake for dessert (have recipe, will make).

    Barry and Lorraine at breakfast. They were B&B hosts for about 17 years and loved it.
    We stayed the night parked up on their street - the food and the surroundings were better than The Honest Lawyer by a factor of n where n is a very very large number.

    Then we were due to visit Chris and Ann for lunch in Stoke. We lost touch with them some years ago but decided that a re-connection was due. So we also called Salvi. (Chris, Salvi, Syd, Graeme and David had flatted together in Wellington during David's student days. The first four were known as 'the boys' when David and I were first together, and we spent a lot of weekends with them visiting us in Wanganui and then in Johnsonville when they had mostly moved back to Nelson. Syd is now in Sydney and Graeme is in Wanganui - they will both be tracked down ...)
    Salvi, Chris and David - none of them have changed much, just greyer and some slight loss of hair. There was much hilarity as old memories were raked up, some not fit for public consumption, a few because they would be a bad example to younger viewers and some because they were too funny to tell...

    Ann and Chris, with the travellers. David is in charge of my selfie stick as I cannot operate it ...

    We had intended to head to Murchison that afternoon, but lunch morphed into afternoon tea and then into nibbles and wine in the evening, and we spent the night parked in their street - freedom camping in suburbia is wonderful! But even better is catching up with old friends and renewing the friendship.

    We have tried to encourage Chris to come to Waikanae for a weekend/mid-week visit with Ann before we head to the UK, but he is holding out for some reason.

    So Murchison waited another day for us. It was as we were driving there that we realised how isolated Nelson is by road - a range of mountains to the east towards Blenheim and the ridge of mountains to the southwest. Thankfully they have a very busy airport and they can always swim out if necessary ...