114. Blenheim

Finally we were off again, heading for Blenheim and another homesit for Robyn and her adorable little cat Kassia. We were delighted to find the Domett Station cafe open, it has been closed the last two times we’ve been past and we feared permanent closure, but the same wonderful chef is still there. Note to self: do not travel that way on Tuesdays, it’s not open that day!

We also spotted the latest colour/flavour in marshmallows for baby dinosaurs – black. Liquorice or squid ink? Who knows?! Dave did start to question the unwrapped bales of hay that we saw occasionally – what are THEY in grandchild-speak?

We settled in at a POP in outer Blenheim, next to friends Graeme and Barb who were the reason we’d left Christchurch earlier than planned. Dave went on a bike ride or two with them. IMG_6492IMG_6494IMG_6495

On Sunday we all enjoyed a delicious salmon salad at the Hunter Winery Garden Restaurant, the first winery restaurant in Marlborough (1984). Hunter’s Wines in Marlborough is one of the pioneers of the Marlborough wine industry. Established over 30 years ago. Jane Hunter is the most acclaimed and awarded woman in NZ’s wine industry, with an impressive set of accolades.


Car parking is under some elevated vines, probably remnants of an  early vineyard before growing methods changed. The huge grape clusters were just starting to go through veraison (changing colour). According to Wikipedia, “As the grapes ripen, the concentration of phenolic compounds like anthocyanins replaces the green color of chlorophyll in the grape berries…. during veraison which may last from 30–70 days depending on the climate and other factors, the grapes go through several changes which impact their sugar, acid, tannin and mineral composition.”




Later when I took Penny for a walk along the road near where we are camped, right next to one of the St. Clair vineyards, the same abundance was visible but the grapes there were all still green.


Opposite St Clair vineyard is a memorial commemorating the first crossing by air of the Cook Strait, in 1920.


While at the Hunter Winery we were admiring the work of the artist in residence, Clarry Neame, when we learned there’d been another big quake in Christchurch – 5.7. I hope it does not mean we will have to get our house checked again before the renters move in.

On the way home Dave surprised me by saying we might as well pop into the chocolate factory on the way ….. enough said!!

This POP is popular …. here is one of the long-term residents, “Old ‘n Dazed”. Someone lives in it but it hasn’t been on the road for some time. T5 is in the distance. Although lots of caravans and motorhomes have rather twee names, occasionally a clever one is spotted. I always forget to note it down though!

IMG_6524We shift to Robyn’s driveway tomorrow and start ten days of  home sitting.

113. Geraldine to Christchurch

We stayed at Peski’s for four  days, making sorties into Geraldine when the weather wasn’t too bad. We regretfully gave the 1882 Cafe a miss (“next time”) but did go to view an amazing recreation of the Bayeux Tapestry. Made from million tiny pieces of spring steel, the teeth of patterning discs from an industrial knitting machine, stuck to heavy duty sticky tape, polished with black boot polish – yes really – and then hand painted with the teeniest paintbrush, one tiny tile at a time, it is a real labour of love. Created by Michael Linton, it took 20 years plus a further five years for Michael and his daughter to research, design and create the ‘final section’ of the mosaic. Only eight colours of paint were used, as in the original tapestry, and the whole mosaic measures 42 metres.  www.1066.co.nz

We bought an interactive DVD-ROM which describes the Bayeaux Tapestry in detail, plus it has many other features including lots of mind-bending puzzles. Have you ever really checked out all the figures and animals in the top and bottom borders, not to mention the main figures which tell the story? All are described minutely on the DVD-ROM. Here is a small sample, I hope I’m not breaching copyright posting this very small section – see the website for a photo of the whole. The central figure is Earl Harold of Wessex. Harold was King of England from January 1066 until his fall at the Battle of Senlac on October 14 1066. He is mounted on a palfrey, which is also  described in detail.

Tapestry Sc13

Back at Peski’s, Penny told us there was a dog in the mobile home which had recently arrived and set up near us. But it wasn’t just a dog – it was two glorious German short-haired pointers. what’s more they were dripping wet, not so much from the rain but from having a swim in the nearby creek! They reminded me so strongly of an old friend’s dogs which took me for a walk (not vice versa) in Melbourne some years ago. A great reminder that it was more than time to get in touch with my old friend again (which I did, and we’ve exchanged several emails since and REALLY caught up on news of our respective families).

It was time to get back to Christchurch and do some gardening in preparation for yet another Open Home as we try to sell our home of five years. We stopped for coffee at Ashburton. For years we always stopped at the Blue Cafe at Tinwald but it has now closed. However the large Robert Harris cafe near the Christchurch end of the main street has proved very good, with wonderful pastries and usually space to park, even T5.

Back home we parked in our old driveway, the tenants have gone and the house is empty, so we could use the shower and also store some gardening equipment in the garage temporarily. There was quite a bit of gardening to do, all the rain had certainly had effect. It was very nice to be back in my garden for a while, I have missed it very much while on the road. A neighbour popped over to check out who were were, a gesture we appreciated.

Since writing the above we have decided to withdraw the house from the market, put the tenants back in for nine months while we take off to explore Australia, then after that we will move back in for several years while we do some renovations.

It was very pleasant catching up with old friends and renewing acquaintances with the neighbourhood. We were just in time to bid the long-time local chemists goodbye as they are retiring. Penny and I had a pleasant walk visiting our old haunts, how some of the trees have grown.

112. Hayes’ at Oturehua and back to Geraldine.

We decided to return to Geraldine via the coast road through the Catlins rather than through Balclutha, not stopping until we were nearing Invercargill and spotted a sign saying Lignite Pit Cafe. What?! It turned out to be a cafe/camping ground/gardens complex built on the site of an old lignite open-cut mine.


IMG_6156IMG_6155Although the cafe was not officially opened at that time we were warmly welcomed and coffee prepared.


IMG_6157While Dave chatted with the owner I wandered around taking photos (what else) and admiring a very thick locally produced book which detailed all the local families and activities over the past hundred years, obviously a labour of love as well as a work of art. It made me wish one of my ancestors had come from that area!

IMG_6161 IMG_6162And so off again heading north and bypassing Invercargill, hopefully but as it turned out in vain leaving the threat of bad weather behind us. We got as far as Ranfurly, mostly in the rain, then just a little further on reached the famed Hayes’ Engineering Works & Homestead at Oturehua where we had camped last year. I did not see over the Heritage-listed Homestead and Works at that time so this time determined to do so. My camera chose that time to run out of battery power and I realised too late I’d forgotten to recharge my spare battery. So most of the photos below were taken by Dave, some at my direction. The cafe people very kindly allowed me to recharge both batteries in the cafe; we did not need any excuse to return repeatedly to the place, the food there is really delicious.



There was only one camper van staying overnight like us and it was home to a lovely Foxy-Jack Russell cross girl called Chewy. I could not get over how Chewy was a sort of hybrid of Penny and  those of Mac the Jack Russell who we looked after in Tauranga last year; she displayed marked traits of both. It was uncanny.
IMG_6411 There is a lovely atmosphere at Hayes’. There are very few restrictions and one can wander around the old factory and office at will. Ernest Hayes was skilled at the lathe, anvil and carpenter’s bench, and all are still there … he made tools for fencing, shearers and for pest control, and made more than 400 windmills. The workbenches were littered with wooden patterns (moulds) from which steel parts were cast (mostly in Dunedin) then returned to Hayes’ for assembly. The factory ran from 1902 to well after 1950.

Hayes Eng works 2

Hayes Eng works 5

Hayes Eng works 4

Hayes Eng works 11

Hayes Eng works 10

Hayes Eng works 9

Hayes Eng works 7

There were several local volunteers trying to get the clutch on an old electric motor which drove the main shaft to the whole factory to work again. The charming waitress at the cafe lived on a farm nearby. The cafe itself is a recreation of the original sun dried brick cottage in which the Hayes family lived for many years. Mrs Hannah Hayes “… was arguably NZ’s first ravelling saleswoman, in full skirt and on a bicycle, rode into the far-off Mackenzie Country with a catalogue and order book in hand while her 12 year old daughter looked after her eight younger siblings.” Eight!

A couple of visiting cars caught Dave’s attention:

@ Hayes Eng works @ Hayes Eng works 1 @ Hayes Eng works 3

The Homestead was full of quirky things reflecting on the owner-builder being an innovative engineer. It was built from sun-dried bricks stored under tussock during WW1. An electricity system brought power generated by the peloton wheel which also supplied nearby homes – this was years before the national grid was switched on. When the Hayes switched off the power for the night it was lights out for all the other homes too.

Hayes Eng works 12

On the morning of our departure I could not resist a last visit the Hayes’ cafe and bought two cake slices to enjoy later. Also a tiny pot of Arnica ointment  – I tried the Tester yesterday and was pleased with the result.

We stayed at Hayes’ for several nights, making a day trip to St. Bathan’s to see the Blue Lake which was definitely not blue on that grey day.

St Bathans 2 Approaching the Lake from above, we were horrified to see two grown men helping two very young boys to scramble up the last few metres to safety. The cliff is extremely crumbly, signs warn of the danger, so it was the height of irresponsibility of those men (father and son) …..  Dave said something suitable to them and one responded “It was steeper than we thought” (!).

St Bathans 5 St Bathans 4Leaving Hayes’, our route was decided by a coin toss. Left would lead us back to Ranfurly, Mosgiel and up the coast; right to Alexandra, Cromwell and thence to Tekapo. Right won.

We stopped for a coffee at a cafe and I spotted this sign:


I have always loved the drive from Alexandra to Cromwell  along the river, particularly when the autumn colours are at their finest. But it was only high summer (??), so all the poplar trees were green and the craggy slopes which line the Clutha river a dull brown-grey. It’s still a lovely drive.




IMG_6426 We didn’t stop in Cromwell but continued to the Lindis Pass, again looking different to usual, actually more green thanks to the rain. The northern approach to the highest point of the Pass had far more lupins than I remembered, but pale counterparts of those near Tekapo – or was it just the overcast sky? Later as we passed Tekapo it was difficult to see any lupins at all, they had just about finished.



One notable feature of that day – no more classic cars on the road! Ever since we left Christchurch we saw literally hundreds of old cars ranging from polished Classic to very old Vintage chugging along; they’d been in a huge rally all around Otago. It was wonderful to see so many cherished old vehicles and we didn’t mind (much) being stuck behind some of them for miles. My right arm became quite sore from being frequently elbowed by Dave as he drove along: “There’s another one!” There were several at Hayes’ for close-up admiring.




Lake Pukeko was at its turquoise bluest, but with a strong wind at the headquarters, Mt. Cook remained invisible. I never tire of the views of this fabulous lake. One essential – you must have polaroids to appreciate it fully.


There’s a new feature outside the Pukeko Information Centre:




IMG_6447We decided to keep going as far as Peski’s at Geraldine. I wrote about this place a few (?) blogs back. It is a lovely restful place offering power, showers, chooks for all our veggie scraps, and a washing machine; also home-made jams and pickles and if we were lucky other treats straight from the garden. The perfect place to hole up while the rain pelted down. It even has a dump point for our grey and black water tanks.

111. Clutha 2 – The Tuapeka Punt

On one of the finer days we drove north through Balclutha towards Lawrence, trying to keep to the back roads, and a little past the bridge to Clydevale came to the Tuapeka punt on the Clutha river at Tuapeka Mouth, the only punt of its kind in the southern hemisphere. It looked fascinating. It uses the flow of the river to cross from one side to the other, with one man operating a fairly complicated looking set of ropes and one large wheel. IMG_6306IMG_6315



IMG_6309 (1)A sign advised us that the punt only operated between the hours of 8-10am and 4-6pm river level permitting. As it was then about 11 am we determined to continue to Lawrence then return via the road on the other side of the river, cross over on the punt and continue ‘home’ to T5.


The punt was officially opened on 22 February 1896, with 336 passengers and 255 horses being carried in the first month of its operation. The mind boggles. Tuapeka Mouth was an inland port for about 30 years until 1939 for paddle wheel steamers to and from Balclutha.

We continued on to Lawrence through beautiful sheep country with views of distant misty hills (it rained lightly almost the whole day)…


… and just outside Lawrence stopped to admire the site of the old Chinese Camp, founded in 1867 when Chinese were forbidden to live and work within the town’s boundary. With time the camp expanded to have about 100 people. The hotel, still standing, was said to be one of the best wayside hotels in Otago. The owner was a Chinese man Sam Chew Lain, who married a Scottish woman, and it chiefly catered for a European clientele. A Chinese ghost is said to have been known to successive hotel occupants.


Lawrence is chock full of cafes and semi-antique shops (“don’t call us junk!”) and full of lovely old buildings with olde worlde gardens.


The original gold-rush town, it was the home to school teacher John J. Woods who composed NZ’s national anthem. There’s a sort of statue of him, and several other town notables, in the main street. There’s an interesting little local museum, worth a visit. I spotted a whole banana-crate sized box full of local family histories, some obviously prepared many years ago. i wonder if any have been digitised and/or a catalogue prepared.




After lunch we went on a little further to Gabriel’s Gully, site of NZ’s famous gold rush. there are many walking and cycling tracks in the vicinity, and a lovely lake.



IMG_6342it was a little difficult, looking out over the green valley, to imagine it as it was in the gold rush heyday. Within a few months of the first discovery, thousands of mining holes chequered the valley as far as the eye can see.




But we couldn’t wait to get back to the punt! We arrived just before 4 pm and soon saw the ferryman arrive and methodically get everything under way. We were the only passengers, just as well really, also no way could we have done it with T5 in tow. I will let the photos hopefully tell the story. The ferryman was kept busy the whole time, everything was done manually.




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110. Clutha – Nuggets & Cannibals


After a few days behind a motel in Invercargill we hitched up T5 again and took the old coach road inland and east to Owaka via Mataura and Clinton (the Five Horse town – which I described in detail in a much earlier blog, so we didn’t stop to take photos this time). Not far from Owaka we settled in at the Hillview Camp Site, surrounded by grassy hills.


Nugget Point and its famous lighthouse were minutes away. I last walked the track to this lighthouse in 2000 clad in full bike riding gear including borrowed boots too large for me…. so it was a far easier scramble this time (!). It’s quite a long track winding along the top of the cliff cliff with incredible drops straight down to the sea where seals could just be spotted lazing around near  the rocks at the foot of the cliffs.



There were many more seals in the rock pools among “The Nuggets” which extend out to sea but we did not see any yellow-eyed penguins which are also feature of the area. The Point is also said to be the home of many other seabirds including gannets and spoonbills.


The views from the viewing platform beside the lighthouse are breathtaking. A little beach way below the lighthouse keeper’s house may have been his children’s playground, but how to get down there? The house can just be seen in the upper right hand corner. The lighthouse was built in 1869 and is 76 metres (250 feet) above the water. It was automated in 1989.

IMG_6280IMG_6281IMG_6282IMG_6284We also visited Kaka Point itself, a small tourist village offering “excellent swimming and surfing” – when the sun in shining(!). Even though it was mid January the beach was practically deserted. Road signs cautioned drivers to watch for penguins and fur seals crossing but we didn’t see any.

Cannibal Bay was our next stop on yet another grey cloudy day, beautiful and deserted at the end of a long narrow gravel road which twisted and turned around a headland while offering tantalising glimpses of the sea far away. A lone tree on the cliffside above the beach shows the force of the wind. A couple of oystercatchers kept the seagulls company on the rocks.





I am nearly up to date now – only two more blogs to catch up on!! We are currently back in Christchurch ….




109. The Catlins – Invercargill 

We made several day trips to Invercargill, then after leaving Niagara spent two nights behind an Invercargill motel which offered showers and a washing machine and also a rather mediocre restaurant which we tried once as the menu sounded good (!).

Our first visit was on a rainy day, so after making sure the Gibb family paintings were still on display …..



….. we paid our customary visit to Henry the Tuatara and his quite active offspring at the Museum, spotted an interesting display of old keys, and did some shopping.




Returning to T5 at Niagara via Fortrose, we visited the old wooden lighthouse at Waipapa Point, the scene of NZ’s worst civilian maritime disaster in 1881 when the SS Tararua sank with the loss of 131 lives.



The site of the well-sheltered lighthouse keeper’s house is just discernible among a thicket of huge old trees.


We briefly turned off the main road to investigate a sign which said “shipwreck” in the Fortress Estuary. Not too much to see there.


Somewhere along the way we also spotted Dead Horse Road. Maybe the name is not so uncommon after all, Nic and Mick!

IMG_6005Some days later, with T5 ensconced in Invercargill we ventured further afield to Riverton for lunch. It seemed much further away than either of us remembered! – actually about 36 km. Lunch was in an old building where Mrs. Clark’s Cafe has been going for over 100 years. Highly recommended.


The wind is obviously rather strong in that area, as well as the Catlins. Witness the trees at the cemetery outside Riverton with their lopsided wind-sheared tops. It was when returning from that trip that spotted the latest fashion colour in hay bale covers. Marshmallows for baby dinosaurs?


IMG_6213We stopped at Hayes’ Engineering shop on the way back from Riverton. Besides an amazingly comprehensive stock of motorcycle parts etc plus old motorcycles and some cars, it had the best stock of gourmet kitchenware that I have ever seen. I wandered around for at least half an hour, a luxury I seldom enjoy on my own but this time Dave was engrossed with the motorcycles and the contents of Burt Munro’s shed(s) –  “Offerings to the God of Speed”. Unfortunately caravans are not the best place to keep a stock of gourmet kitchenware so I contented myself with a two-ended teflon scrapper which I badly needed.






Indeed I was quite surprised at the number of big new shops in the area to the west of the old main shopping area. A new Farmers, Briscoes etc.

While in Invercargill Dave also paid a visit to Richardson’s Transport Museum. Here’s his report:

While we were in Invercargill I took the opportunity to go through Bill Richardson’s Transport Museum, Nancy decided to stay “home” and do some research. The museum was originally for trucks but has expanded to include a range of Fords, the so-called “Letter” cars as well as several other makes including some Citroens and VW Kombis.

The museum covers 15,000 sq/m of floor area and has an amazing selection of cars, trucks and other memorabilia. Most of the vehicles in the Museum have been restored but there are quite a few that have come in off the street and just been cleaned before display, the quality of the restorations is amazing. 

I managed to spend three hours checking out the displays and probably missed half of what was there. The Fords included the range of letter cars  that were built before the model T as well as examples that were built into the 1930s.  All beautifully restored and in working order. 

The trucks included some that I had never heard of before from English, Continental, Japanese and American manufacturers. If you are ever in Invercargill with some time to spare then I can recommend some time spent here.

Truck Museum 1Truck Museum 2Truck Museum 5

Truck Museum 6Truck Museum 7Truck Museum 8A visit to Invercargill would not be complete without paying my respects to Great Grandfather Frederick Wentworth Wade (1838-1912) and his second wife Ada (Macloskey) (1858-1931) and also for the first time Ada’s sister Constance (Macloskey) Tothill (1862-1897) (I had not known until recently that she was buried in the same cemetery). GGFather Wade’s first wife Adela Macloskey died aged 26 on a visit to Melbourne with my grandmother aged 6 months, the youngest of six children all under 10; and Constance died aged 34 when her six children were also under ten years of age. The similarities do not stop there. Adela’s husband remarried two years later, to her niece Ada Macloskey; and Constance’s husband George Compton Tothill remarried one year after Constance’s death, to his cousin Henrietta Tothill.


When I first visited Great Grandfather in 2000 there was a large cross with ‘ADA’ on top of the plinth. But on my second visit about 2007, the cross had vanished. I enquired of the cemetery people and they did a search but could not locate it; however on this visit I spotted it lying face downwards in a nearby gravesite.


Here’s Dave holding it in place, and also standing near Constance’s grave with Ada and Frederick’s in the foreground. (His name is misspelled and we noticed a similar error on several other graves!)



At least “my” graves didn’t have a huge tree growing in it. I wonder if there was more than one sarcophagus in the enclosure initially.



Frederick and Ada’s daughter Fonna left a large bequest to St. John’s Invercargill, part of which was used to beautify the grounds. St. John’s is an imposing old church and in the rounds are some enormous old trees which Frederick would have known. I’ve got goosebumps ….


108. The Catlins – Whitebaiting and some Falls.

I started typing this blog sitting in the ute waiting for the ferryman … no, I’m not about to hop off the twig, we are at the small vehicular punt at Tuapeka Mouth on the Clutha River between Balclutha and Lawrence. It’s drizzling slightly but otherwise lovely and warm, quite a change to the last few days when a very cold wind kept the temperature down.
Tuapeka Mouth Ferry 1

We spent over a week in the Catlins, it’s going to take several blogs to describe it all. Yet we only saw a small part of the whole, mainly due to the weather.

When we left Oamaru we drove via Balclutha and Owaka to the eastern part of the Catlins where Dave thought the newish NZMCA camp of Niagara Falls was situated. Actually it is much closer to Waikawa so T5 thundered along the narrow never-ending coastal road in unremitting but thankfully mainly light rain for what seemed like hours, past many enticing vistas not worth stopping for in that weather. We finally reached the camp and set up T5 for the next few days. This was a very convenient place from which to explore the Catlins free from the encumbrance of towing a weighty caravan on the narrow twisty roads. A huge cabbage tree guarded the camp site.


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IMG_6139.jpgNiagara Falls in NZ, named by a surveyor with an obvious sense of humour, are a little different in size to their North American counterpart. The river was the early settlers’ river-highway and many built their houses along the banks. They took their wool by punt from Niagara Falls to be loaded onto ships at Waikawa. The Maori name for the falls is Mangai Piri referring to the manner in which migrating lamprey eels wriggle up the falls in a mass, using their suckers to hang onto the rocks.



Driving in to Invercargill for the day, the number of ‘permanent’ white-baiting huts along the banks of the Mataura river was amazing. Some were actually on the other side of the road from the river and were even equipped with TV receivers. The main road goes over the Titiroa Stream where there are even more permanent huts. Obviously the sound of traffic does not scare off the whitebait (!).





Many of the roads in the Catlins are lined by toitoi and giant flax, the latter at this time of year all sporting huge red-brown flower spikes. Flax is also used for shelter belts instead off the more usual clipped hedges.


The grass everywhere was a brilliant green, unless it had already been harvested in which case the golden fields were often dotted with pale green ‘dinosaur eggs’, mostly stacked in neat rows with gaps between them, in contrast to the tightly packed caterpillar rows of other parts of NZ.




Near Riverton one day we spotted the latest fashion colour in marshmallows (the big ones used to feed the baby dinosaurs when they hatch …. as a friend was informed by her grandchildren).



IMG_6386On a day when the weather was more promising than usual, we headed back east on the main Kaka Point road, stopping off to visit McLean Falls some way before Papatowai. Named after Alexander McLean, grandson of an early Fencible recruit from Ireland who arrived in NZ in 1848. He was a farmer of considerable ability, never married, churned his own butter and made his own bread. He was also very artistic. he was very hospitable and always made visitors welcome, hence his name became attached to the Falls.


IMG_6051The track to the Falls would through beautiful bush (a blurred photo can give atmosphere, right?) to the lower part of the falls called the Chute, then upwards via a very narrow slippery track on which only Dave and Penny ventured.


Here’s Dave’s photo of the Falls proper:

McLean Falls 1

Further on still heading east we decided to give Lake Wilkie a miss, also Cathedral Cove which we have both seen on earlier visits to the Catlins and anyway the tide was wrong for a visit. Instead we stopped off at the Purakaunui Falls. Not large but very beautiful.


Purakaunui Falls 1


We only went a little further that day, to Owaka for lunch and then a visit to the famed museum. A well-labelled display of early tools caught my eye. Do YOU know what a rabbiting adze looks like?



The shipping section had many artifacts from wrecks, of course, but it also had some interesting information such as about Captain Catlin (1792-1856) and Tommy Chasland (1797-1869), ”The best whaler in New Zealand ….  who spent a lifetime on sealing and whaling ships as well as several shore-based whaling stations. His strength and legendary telescopic vision was a useful attribute for a sealer and whaler. “


We drove back via Catlins Lake which is not really a lake but a saltwater tidal estuary, with old jetty piles from the 1870s ….




… and Florence Hill lookout from which one can view Chasland’s Mistake where en route from Port Chalmers (Dunedin) to Melbourne on 4 Dec 1876, the SS Otago was wrecked. All passengers and crew survived. The area overlooked by Florence Hill is considered a special place as it is the only place left on the east coast of  the south island where native forest fully covers a catchment from hilltops to sea. Ancient forest with trees over 1000 years old grow right down to the seashore, and large unmodified estuary wetlands line the Tautuku river.


Back to a nice dry T5 – we’d had enough of the rain for a while.