Thursday, April 17, 2014

South Island - Pohara & Takaka Bliss.

South Island

Pohara & Takaka Bliss.

After a smooth sailing across "The Straight" I headed home to pick up my darling wife and off we headed over the Takaka hill to park up somewhere. No stops & grinding up the hill was a test for this VW 6 berth Apollo. I knew where to go, as I've played tennis out at Pohara and swam between games and thought this a place to try!

This is what we woke up to!

At 7am, I walked about 100m, across the road, turned left and walked west. For one hour I pottered about, took photos, drew in the sand, watched the sunrise, juggled, and sang. This was total bliss and I recognised it too!

Fantail shaped scollop shell.

Clever blue Penguins, they can cycle too!

I returned to the camper, gee, 8.30am very mild and sunny, so I went for a swim.

My standard porridge breakfast followed by our own free range scrambled eggs. Followed by more photography, sitting in the sun waving to passing cars, it was a tough life, but somebody had to do it.
Classic old school NZ preparing for some Bowls on a mean machine. 
Public toilets mural by Chris Findlayson, clean, with paper and even a TAP!
After playing with the awning, and pretending to be RV'ers....we decided to check out the market day in Takaka township.
Takaka for those who don't know is "laidbackville" Full of creative colourful people and kids (young and old) of the alternative variety.
I live over the Nelson side but have friends "over the hill" and sort of fit in without being a GB'er.
Testing my future out, I donned on my clown nose, me clown hat and jacket, me clown jugglling balls and off I swaggered. I felt totally at home, free and loose, the weather also conducive, I had nearly all day to play, my wife chose to wander separately, perfect freedom with only a cell phone link away. 3 hours went in the blink of an eye...more photo's tell of my focus, though not the childlike fun I had.
My friend and jeweller with some of his work below.

Nice work mate ...... another Japanophile.
 All the work below is by Golden Bay artist Chris Finlayson, he has had quite an impact in the Nelson region, a good musician too!
This one is a community project, list bot right of the contributors.  

This little beauty sells "Out there Interplanetary Coffee"
Perhaps I should rename this blog "The Chris Finlayson Blog"
A Gallery Exhibition featuring Golden Bay Artists, the theme... Doors and Doorways, had me adding my mark (public participation) with the supplied pencils.
They had no rubbers, so I left all those nasty smudge marks in.
Eventually I got "The Call" and after buying lunch from Nytaya our thai friend at the market, and extra gifts from next doors stall from Colletta.
I'll definitely be a returning customer one day 

Only in Golden Bay would you see a truck like this.....IMHO
We cruised out heading over the hill, which seemed a much easier drive, after my wife had read the manual on the vehicle, advising me how to drive an automatic. Funny that! 

Only hiccup was loosing the top cutlery drawer, coming out and scattering its contents at the drivers feet.
Getting home I left the now showery weather and made a start towards Christchurch, parking up near the Owen River Pub, off the road but in view of passing traffic, with the occasional honk on the horn from hoons.

I had planned to check out the Maruia Springs Japanese bathhouse, I had visited long ago and had heard that real Nihongins are now running it! Yes the Noren curtain on the entrance and the kimono style clothing of the reception staff with little neat name badges all brought more Japanese flavour, an old 1955 Austin A30 in the foyer, a bit odd, was also Japanese in it's oddity!

The outside pools were too cold for me with the weather change in the 10 - 15 degree range so off I headed to the Onsen, Ofuro, his and hers separate bathhouses, nice to see a sign saying in accordance with Japanese tradition, it is not necessary to wear togs. The Japanese system is to sit on the low stools, in this case plastic, looking like cedar wood, soap up wash yourself clean, no soap and head for the large bath.  I was the only and probably first person of the day, more photos...the stools all alined up on the tiles exactly the same way.....till I came along.....I shifted them around and took more photos...then shifted em back before I left. 

Its a feat to have beautiful feet.

Somethings a bit fishy!

A nice relaxing break from the Motorhome stop was Culverdon for tucker and to stretch my legs, the Gallery was worth the visit, talking to the local owner before my cell phone stopped that conversation (blasted phones), the weather now a chilly 10 deg.
Arriving in Chch for the 3pm delivery time and the Apollo Chch depot is huge. It took some time to pack up my gear and sweep out & make sure of nothing left behind. I hadn't emptied the Tanks (water & sewage) and was therefore told to visit the motor camp just down the road, which I did...first time I've paid $3 per deposit to visit the loo! Back to Apollo for final payments and checks, they use a mirror on a long pole to check for damages on the roof, which they won't need for my thai friends (from my previous blog, its pretty obvious) though that could change at any time!

I walked down the road to another camper place at Airpark Canterbury to relocate a  previously arranged two berth Camper to Nelson, this was fresh from a dropoff so not clean and rougher in condition and was glad my wife had stayed at home.
I motored through Christchurch towards my sisters red zoned home in Shirley, driving down the still broken bumpy roads, allot of road works, still the vibe of bleak tough times, my sisters house was no different, I knocked on their door, no reply, I rang my sister to find they had moved out of town near Lincoln, there settlement had come through (they were in the first 10% of people paid out) and within 2 days had found and bought a nice place out in the country. What a relief for them to be moving on from the last 3 years of Earthquake City stresses.
Heading home now on the return road to Nelson less than 24 hours ago was easy and famliar.
Before heading home I handed in my soprano sax to our local repair man and drove my wife home from work.

All in all a good intro to motorhoming, I think 7.7m is too big for us, the table heights were far to high (at shovel it in height) or the cushions too low.
To be able to switch on and off the gas from inside, a better system than the loose curtains for blackout and heating. This Appollo's electric gadgets, ie toaster, microwave (not that I'd ever use it) and heater, was all powered off 240vts so an inverter is pretty much a must have!
Reading lights with switches near reading and bed areas would also be a nicety.
I found the Luton is not great for "Grey Power" people.
Blog improvements is to take more photos of the transitions of a trip, information reminders, and general views along the way with every day happenings on the road thereby connecting the trip from go to woe.

So If you've read this far (even if your like me, just looks at the photos) thanks for your interest and patience.

Stay safe & dry this coming Easter break & beyond.

Jimu & Christine.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lo-cation, Re-location, Va-cation.....Kiwi Style.

Auckland from the Harbour bridge.

It’s quite some time since I’ve blogged the last one was 2 years ago in Bali, allot of water has gone under my bridge since then!

We’ve decided to sell up, and move from where I’ve lived for 37 years, down size into a smaller place in town somewhere, still in this area. However part of the master plan is to also buy a campervan/motorhome and periodically travel (when we both retire & get the pension) I will be clowning where ever I can and intend to visit rural schools, etc around NZ. Which brings me to the reason for restarting the travel bog, I have recently relocated a 6 Berth VW Apollo camper from Auckland to Christchurch, so I flew up to Auckland to start this journey and will also relocate another camper (different company) a 2 Berth Toyota Hi Ace from Christchurch to Nelson to get home.The idea is to check out what it’s like to drive these "Big Rigs” and to figure out the combinations of configurations, to get ready to buy the right set up for us.

So this blog will be a ramble of thoughts photo’s and ideas as I gain some experience in the motorhome world.
Being a inveterate traveller myself of the lone backpacker variety, me old backpack is threadbare and worn out, so time to upgrade to one with wheels.

Flying up to Auckland the Royals Arrival day in NZ through Wellington, fog slowed flights but eventually Wellingtons famous wind came to the rescue. I had arranged to meet another fellow clown Andrew for a chat & he turned up with this brand new (91klms on the clock) Mistubishi Outlander, plug in electric 4 wheel drive, the first in NZ, so a few photo's, as you can see he's on line!

When I hit any big smoke this what I do!
Take photo's
And Busk

Catching public transport is new for this rural bod, so I took a few more photo's

 Apollo had said they have a courtesy car pick up from the airport, till I actually got to the airport then said no courtesy car for relocations, black mark #1… fare five minutes down the road minimum charge $20 black mark #2….I felt sorry for the taxi drivers, I walked to the head of the Que. about 20 cars waiting, the taxi driver told me he’s been waiting 4 hours for this first ride of the day.
At Apollo after paperwork and extra charges, I’d booked 5 days at $1 and three extra days at $75 some time ago and as I’d now got another relocation which overlapped, I expected to drop of a day early, & save $75, but no, it was booked and un-refundable, so black mark#4.
I watched the video and remember them saying " Your Apollo Camper is equipped with two batteries, so even if you have a flat battery, you will still be able to start the vehicle". (ahem...see later)

  Here we are starting the trip out near the airport,

 I was well aware that any new experience like driving a new/different vehicle the first few hours/days is the danger period. So I drove out towards the supermarket to load up supplies and into Auckland peak traffic. 

Heading south and getting dark, I couldn’t figure out how the lights switched on so I stopped at the State Highway 1 BP service station, the first one I’ve seen with a dedicated Campervan area. Another Apollo camper pulled up alongside, some fellow travellers Thai people, who were the previous hirers from the Auckland depot called Wiwat & Rabbit….(pronounced Labbit….the Thai’s have that asian language thing about not being able to roll their R’s) needed some help with their 2 berth vehicle.
Fresh off the plane ready to start their holiday, after a chat it was obvious to me they needed some friendly help to get going in NZ as they really didn’t speak very good english and had no idea where to go and what to do, so I said follow me!!!!!!
He was very good at following however, (even mistakes) and I went west off State Highway 1 at Mercer. I found a good park-up place off a minor road ending day 1 of my Motorhome experience.

Day 2 after my morning stroll I return for breakfast and unable to light the Gas (I found out later I needed to switch on the range hood to get spark power to the stove) I had a cold breakie. I was extremely carefull in making sure everything was switched off last thing at night, but when I went to start the engine, I had a flat battery so out came the cell phone and 0800 AA man came to my rescue. After a fancy test of the battery, including print out (it was faulty) and new battery installed we were ready to go. Very impressive pull out tray for replacement in his vehicle.

The Thai couple took this opportunity to also get some help with their 2 berth Camper, they couldn’t get the table off, above the bed area at the back, so AA Hamish the super friendly, burly Kiwi, gave it a good pull and the whole top came off (short screws). As we were only 50 kms from the pick up point, I suggested they go back to the depot and get it fixed or a different Camper as you really need a table on your 16 day tour of NZ! 
But no they really wanted to follow me and anyway 'We no need table” No R’s so I understood it perfectly! I asked how had they slept last night, she said “We put bed on top of table”

I had not been down the west side of the North Island before and had pencilled in Raglan, New Plymouth, Whanganui on route to visit and my new found motorhome friends were willing to follow me all the way to Wellington.
Raglan was a great find, similar feel (for me) to Takaka, with an extra Maori flavour, I made the mistake of going into a Maori roadside gallery with a sharp turn in, and a narrow gateway, I got thru safely, but the thai’s scrapped their vehicle on the gatepost….blast, I said!, but they said “We got in” By now they were going to follow me onto the ferry, so I tried to get them also booked, but found they were not taking bookings (on the Inter Islander) due to the other ferry hitting the wharf last week and out of commission till sunday, so we all continued towards Wellington.

Our second nights freedom spot came about after New Plymouth going down the Surf Highway, I turned left towards Mt Taranaki or Mt Egmont and found a beautifull little narrow road heading up to the mountain, till I had to go left again and finally with no nice obvious spots for two large camper vans,  we were back on the Surf Highway, so I asked in a service station and was told about Corbett Park, which turned out to be right next to the sea, and it filled the bill for freedom.

Totally new to Whanganui I choose to follow the tourist info centre signs, which took us (two large campers) through the centre of town bang on 12 noon on a friday, but hay the visitor centre was fab, right next to the river complete with bird call in the toilets and hot water!
I needed a sugar fix…this was the result in this beautiful old building (1906 and already strengthened for earthquakes) now a cafe.

Black sandy beaches were also new to me & my thai companions, and now I see their camera for the first time!

My Brother lives in Wellington and I’d been visiting a few weeks ago and had bought a torch (actually for Motorhoming) which had stopped working after 30 seconds use on night 1, so I thought, as I was going through Otaki, where I’d bought it, I would revisit the Hunting and Fishing Shop (huge purchase of $8.99) hoping to get it fixed. “No problem" she said….”What colour do you want... the same colour". This is an impressive shop, and great chat to the old fella (well he was older than me) who said “We shot that Zebra last week up the valley”..”Oh" I said…”But no Elephants?” what followed was a humourus exchange and wander around the shop,  "George, the Bison”…head,..... and the Deer head shot by an 11 year old boy last year, The Zebra skin you could buy for $2700, the Wilderbeast skin on the floor to the guns room, the wild pigs heads next to the Swandrys, they certainly looked “Wild” and all this repartee, lost on my companions.

I recommend Otaki Village neat little town with great council sculptures, seating etc, well worth a look see!
My brother lives in Wellington and with his local knowledge tried to find a freedom camping spots for two in deepest darkest Khandallah & found the perfect spot…..except the only road out was so narrow (and no yellow lines) if two cars parked on opposite side of the street, no 7.7M Apollo would pass. After much thought and exploration we parked at Tepapa, not freedom, but cheaper and safer and better access for the Ferry and Motorways North. 

I took my thai friends for a quick walking tour around Wellington City centre and is my custom I threw my Soprano over my shoulder for a blast in the Wellington Train Station entrance building...the sound in here is amazing, the photo's below are of a previous visit.

 But this is what I found when I unrolled my instrument!
Even you can see this is unplayable! 
I  made out a North Island itinery for Mr Wiwat and wife nicknamed Labbit. pronounced in thai/english “Labbit” (I know I've repeated this, but I like it) and wished them well on their next 10 day adventure…I hope they make it…the Picton ferry did appear to have space on deck where I was. These steers defiantly looking for greener pastures were much photographed by tourist passengers as was I.

First time I've not had complaints about long tones!
I was a stand in fog horn for the Ferry.
Reverse gear coming into Picton Wharf.

Well that was my first foray (5 days long) into Motorhoming, I learnt several things, and have a greater understanding of what it's like to be a foreign tourist with a motorhome, & wow there are allot of them about and one needs to be very very careful traveling the highways and byways of New Zealand.

The next blog, soon as I  can, will be Picton to Chch and Nelson return?

Kai te pai!
Kia ora and stay safe!

Jimu & Christine
PS please excuse spelling and any grammatical errors...I'm Scottish and the wife (el  Moderator) doesn't know I'm posting this......ah well she will soon!