Our first adventure; Part 1 Christchurch to Kaikoura

So, we flew to Christchurch and met ‘Vera’. Although I had bought her just a few weeks ago, I have to confess, I was a little worried that I might have been sold a pup! It all happened so quickly.

Nigel: There’s a camper van in CHCH, see if you can arrange to view.

Anne: OK.  Contacts vendors, they bring it to my hotel, I look around it. Test drive it around Christchurch on roads I don’t know, scared to go too far in case I get lost! Decide the vendors sound legit, WoF and history seems ok, bit tatty, but engine seems fine, drives ok. Deal done! Money transferred. 24 hours later, they deliver it to work. We are the owners of a 25 yr old Toyota Hiace camper van!

Now what? Well, I won’t go into the details of driving the wrong way up a one way three lane street, nor the narrow missing of a huge boulder rolling down the hill and landing on the other side of the garage where we parked the van for safekeeping for a few weeks.

We’ll start the story as we head north with our new acquisition.

Part 1: Christchurch to Kaikoura (the naming of names)

Camper vans have to have names. Don’t they? So my friends say, anyway. And my Dad always named his cars. Kevin, who looked after the van, whose own car even more narrowly missed being hit by aforementioned large boulder, has two very tiny, very cute dogs. One of whom is Vera. Seems to fit! Nigel isn’t sure…

Pandas also need names. Not entirely sure what panda’s history is but he (she?) came with the van.  On the way north we stopped for coffee with the rellies. They had a tour of the van and when William asked what Panda’s name was, we asked him to do the naming honours. Pete it was. Pete the Panda.

Panda soft toy looking out of a white campervan
Pete the Panda

Apart from the coffee detour we also had a whiskey detour. Who would have imagined a whisky distillery in the middle of suburban Kaiapoi? We didn’t, but it would have been rude not to have called in! And even ruder not to have bought any!

The Kaikoura coast really has been decimated. In 2016, it was the centre of a magnitude 7.8 earthquake which pretty much cut the place off.  Subsequent ‘weather events’ have undone some of the remedial work that was done on the roads and when we drove north, it had just been re-opened, albeit with a curfew.  Access was only in daylight hours, – 7 am to 7pm.  The landslides and the damage to the road and coastline are incredible and progress is slow with lots of the road operating one way only with traffic lights or Stop Go signs.  It has been difficult to imagine what the road looked like from the constant news articles, and I think that it is worse than we ever thought.

mountain landscape in the background, repairs being made to a road, cranes and diggers working on the road. Bottom right hand corner is the reflection in the wing mirror of the car of the photographer taking the photo.
Roadworks

We stopped at Kaikoura itself for a break and a wander along the seal colony. It is 13 years since I was last there and so memories are a little hazy.  But we saw plenty of seals basking like large slugs in the sunshine. However, there is evidence of the earthquake apart from the obvious shift of the level of the coastline. In one section of the trail, we noticed skeletons of young seabirds, in situ, seemingly in nests. It was quite eerie. We have struggled to find any documentation specifically and it may well be that these are victims of a weather event subsequent to the earthquake.

skeleton still with feathers of a seabird nestled in the remains of a nest in the white pebbles on the beach
Young seabird skeleton: Kaikoura
man wearing a red tee short and shorts walking across the rocky beach area at the coast. Mountains in the background with wisps of cloud in front of them.
Nigel at Kaikoura

folded white rock whic looks like it is waves. A single windswept tree stands on the horizon on a hill

As 7pm drew close, we needed to make it off the road. The NZ Campervan Association manual told us that there were several possible overnight campsites along the road. Unfortunately, it didn’t tell us that they were no longer available because of the damage to the road. Maybe because the NZ campervan association is almost entirely analogue and so can’t easily update. However, eyes peeled we scanned the coastline and soon saw the telltale white of another van parked up close to the beach. The railway track was now conveniently on our left and so we easily pulled off, followed our noses and found a sweet spot right on the beach. We nudged Vera backwards so that we could open the tailgate and have a view of the ocean. Set for the night.

Sunset, fire, sleep, sunrise. Magic. #campervanlife

panorama of the sunset over a beach.

fire on the beach with a glass and a bottle of whisky in the foreground
Fire and Kaiapoi whisky – sweet combination

sunrising over the ocean, turbulent waves in the forground

 

 

 

 

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World Cup 2011

Gus cheering!

Well, three long, long terms are over and we are ready for the break!  Our strange term dates this year are entirely due to the Rugby World Cup which is now coming to a climax.  The Final will be played on the penultimate day of the school Spring holidays, the last day being Labour Day – a national holiday in NZ so it will double either as a day of mourning here or a day of celebration!  The injury smitten All Blacks are still in it, England have gone home in disgrace their tails between their legs, the Welsh dragon is still roaring and hoping to smite its Gallic cousins, and the Aussies – well they have hung on in there but everyone is hoping that they will be gone by Monday!  We will be glued to the TV screen tonight and tomorrow and the Kiwis will either be crying in their beer on Monday morning or clinging to the dream.  This little island at the bottom of the world is rugby mad and everyone wants a Welsh victory tonight so that they can avoid their nemesis, the French in the final.  But what of the Welsh…?

We went to watch two of their games in Hamilton, the first was against Samoa and the second against Fiji.  Samoa put up quite a fight and it was an exciting match to watch.  We had standing space in the Green Zone – the cheapest tickets, but having kids means you can get to the front, so we were right on the try line in the corner so saw plenty of action.  The atmosphere in the stadium was fantastic – a sea of colour – red, green, blue, yellow, and a cacophony of noise with the famed, but not always tuneful, singing of the Welsh and the enthusiastic chanting of the Samoans.  We are not naturally inclined to support the Welsh (apologies to our good Welsh friends and acquaintances) as we have Scottish, Irish and English blood, and even a splash or two of French somewhere back on my maternal side, coursing through our veins.  However, in the absence of any of these teams we found ourselves proudly singing along with the Welsh and chanting “Wales, Wales, Wales!”  We sang (well laa’d) Land of My Fathers (as we don’t know the words) as loudly as the best of them – it was quite a moving experience!  The Samoans performed their Haka which was equally impressive and certainly stilled the stadium for a few moments.  End to end stuff, it would have kept us on the edges of our seats if we had had any, but we had plenty of opportunities for cheering and singing “Delilah”!  No one seems to know why, but this World Cup we have the toreador’s “Ole” every time any points are scored –  it certainly adds to the noise and everybody joins in!

The atmosphere at the stadium at the match against Fiji was just as good although the match was more one-sided.  I think most of the crowd would have liked to have seen Fiji score a try as they worked so hard for it and were so close to the line several times.  However, the Welsh kept them at bay with some great defending.  In the end it was pretty much a whitewash – Wales certainly look good for the Final!

We also went to see the ABs play   Japan– that was a definite whitewash – but it was early on in the tournament and everyone just wanted to see the ABs off to a good start.  There was a 2 minute silence at the beginning of the match to remember the devastation of the earthquakes suffered by both nations – for a short time the two teams joined in those sad memories.  Then the battle lines were drawn as New Zealand performed their Haka and the Japanese stood resolute.  Japan fought hard but they were no match for the mighty ABs and despite the whole crowd cheering Japan on every time they got close to the try line they failed to score until close to the end of the game.  The crowd really did go wild!

Fijian Haka