Monday, July 31, 2017

Road to Hanmer Springs

We drove through fresh parts of NZ today, as stunning as all the rest. Hanmer Springs is a small town with thermal pools. More on that after a soak...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Kairaki Beach + To Hanmer Springs

We walked for six miles today, along the apparently endless Kairaki Beach near our campground. The Waimakariri River below flows into the ocean here.

It's a beautiful shoreline too, a protected area with a thick swatch of pines and gently rolling dunes.

Here's the route we'll take tomorrow (click here to view map if reading in email) from Kairaki to Hanmer Springs. Note Kaikoura north of our current location and then Blenheim farther to the north. That would be the ideal route for getting back to the top of the South Island (not having to go west across the mountains via Murchison), but the road between Kaikoura and Blenheim is closed for repairs due to extreme damage from the 7.8 earthquake last November.

Here's just one example of what the massive quake did to the roads and why they say repairs might be finished by this Christmas. The economy of Kaikoura is suffering as a result.
All truck traffic that formerly breezed down from Blenheim south to Christchurch (and vice versa) now must take the tortuous route (adding hundreds of miles to the trip) that we'll be taking, across Lewis Pass and through Murchison and north from there. When we visited Murchison, there was real concern over what all that traffic was doing to their roads, which were never built to take the beating being caused by all the extra trucks and cars.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Temuka to Tairaki (With Mountains)

It's still jaw-dropping to leave a quiet sheep-and-dairy town like Temuka, head north and see the snow-covered Southern Alps looming in the west.

Big drive (for us) today, skirting Christchurch and the glorious Banks Peninsula, which we've decided to re-visit on our next trip. Out of the quiet roads of NZ's south and onto the construction-wrenched bypass around Christchurch, this navigator's nerves were jangled.

We can hear the roar of the waves at this new campground. Tomorrow we'll investigate. (To view map if reading in email click here.)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Are You Really Lost in Temuka?

Art and I were standing in the sunshine on the main street reading a map of Temuka given to us at the campground. A couple of people walked up laughing nicely and said: are you really lost in Temuka? We laughed too.

With a population of 4000, this dairy and sheep farming town is small, but has a surprisingly well-equipped main street. We're spending a couple of days camping here as we head north.

Breakfast: Whitestone cheese, apples, mushrooms, greens

We were checking the map for the New World grocery store, because we never miss a chance to buy food. Here's a store feature you don't see everywhere. The box has a spritzer so it's always raining on those mussels. Kudos to those who can figure out in their head how much the mussels cost per pound.

When I approach a fish counter I always order by number of pieces, as in "four pieces of sole." 600 grams OK?, the clerk is bound to ask as she weighs it out, and I just nod and smile.

Out in the grocery hallway is the notice board. You can grasp a bit of a town's nature from what's posted. These guys look like they might be having more fun than the kids...and I guess that's the point.

I have never heard of a comedy hypnotist. Does he put you in a trance and make you laugh at his jokes?

I liked the drawing accompanying this notice.

We walked to the Temuka Pottery shop, producing since the 1930s.

The clerk in the shop was truly excited about a new purchase: an Anglican church she and her contractor husband plan to live in/add on to, the altar to be turned into a dining table for 12 (ha--we laughed. Heresy?). Our kind of living space.

Adjoining the pottery shop is the 100% Homemade Cafe, where Art decided on chowder in a bread bowl. Virtually everyone we speak to asks us where we're from, how long we're staying, and whether we're enjoying NZ.

It was a brilliant blue, warm sunny day after a frost last night. We will see you down the road...

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

New Zealand's ambitious plan to save birds: Kill every rat

Via The Telegraph...
New Zealand has set itself an environmental goal so ambitious it's been compared to putting a man on the moon: ridding the entire nation of every last rat, opossum and stoat.
Workers assemble resetting rat traps at the Goodnature factory in Wellington, New Zealand  
Credit: AP

The idea is to give a second chance to the distinctive birds that once ruled this South Pacific nation. When New Zealand split away from the supercontinent Gondwanaland 85 million years ago, predatory mammals hadn't evolved. That allowed birds to thrive. Some gave up flight altogether to strut about the forest floor.

Then humans arrived, bringing predators with them. Rats stowed away on ships. Settlers introduced opossums for the fur trade and weasel-like stoats to control rabbits. The pests destroyed forest habitats and feasted on the birds and their eggs. More than 40 species of birds died out and many others remain threatened, including the iconic kiwi...more here

Victorian Precinct in Oamaru


Oamaru is a quite the little NZ town. First, and we insist most important, it's home to Whitestone Cheese Co. This Moeraki Bay Blue is genius.

I sprinkled some on our beet-cauliflower-onion saute this morning for extra umami.

Oamaru is also home to a fantastic steampunk museum, which we toured in 2015, laughing happily all the way.

Next to our campground there's even a steampunk playground.

But the real treasure here might be the Victorian Precinct, where elegant warehouses, hotels, and commercial offices from the 1870s exist out of time, now protected by a trust. Built of locally quarried limestone, they house more than 50 businesses, many of them artists and artisans.

There's a working wool store and galleries and artist studios, a textile cooperative and pubs, cafes, and a boutique brewery.

 Here's a perfect lock-up for Art

 The studio of Donna Demente and oh how I wish she'd been open.

In a local crafts shop, a mash-up painting/photograph of the Victorian Precinct.

This hotel has an inviting pub there at the corner.

The precinct houses four second-hand book shops (and a book bindery), not all open today. Here's Slightly Foxed Secondhand Books and what a welcoming sit-down-and-read vibe it has.

Tidy shelves include many classics. Maybe I'll return for that John Steinbeck tomorrow.

This engaging gentleman was minding the shop today. He's lived a huge life, circumnavigating the globe in his boat and sailing the US Great Lakes and the waterways of Europe and South America. NZ authorities are now giving him hassle because they say he's too old to sail the Southern Ocean. (Oamaru is 45 degrees south, the latitude that defines the theoretical halfway point between the equator and the South Pole, roughly the start of the Southern Ocean. )

I wouldn't bet against him! He was reading this in the quiet of the store.

Art reads non-fiction, these days about NZ sheep stations

I read principally fiction (though much non-fiction online)

I've never read Joanna Trollope. This piece makes me think she's a nimble writer.

Much of the architecture here is attributed to Thomas Forrester (1838-1907):
While still in full time employment with the Harbour Board, for almost three decades from 1872 and in partnership with John Lemon, Forrester designed an impressive portfolio of ornately decorated buildings and family homes, contributing more than any other person to the distinctive architecture of Oamaru.

Sign outside a local cafe

Monday, July 24, 2017

To Oamaru

We drove north today to Oamaru, short on kilometers but long on views of the Otago Coast once we turned onto the Beach Road.

The receding waters of this week's record rains were apparent in a few spots, this one minor. In some places workers were still shoveling clumps of earth and grasses off the roadway.

Great swaths of the Pacific meet farms on this coast. Someone told us that in NZ you're never more than 100 km away from water and I believe it.

We're staying here, at a campground right on the harbor.

 A walk on the esplanade this afternoon.

 Late afternoon light on the harbor. Sleep well, campers...