222. Road Trip to Twizel

A few days ago we drove to Twizel, collected a caravan which had been brought up from Queenstown, and towed it back to the caravan workshop in Christchurch. I went along for the ride and decided to do a photographic diary. Most of the photos were shot through the tinted windscreen and telegraph poles had an annoying habit of intruding at the wrong moment!

Farm Barn cafe map

After an early breakfast and giving Oscar the cat his insulin, we left home just as it was getting light, on a cold grey drizzly morning.


It was too dark to photograph the proposed quarry site (which we and many neighbours are protesting about) as intended. The lights of the ‘inland port’ complex a little further down Jones Road loomed out of the mist.


The mist was as thick as ever as we approached the 1.8 km long Rakaia Bridge, but the salmon still leapt at our approach (!)



The Ashburton River was similarly gloomy ….


After Ashburton we turned inland, off the highway. Almost immediately the mountains came into view beyond  the green Darfield plains. It also looked as if the weather was lightening, but there was still much fog and mist around.



The Rangitata River near the Mt. Peel turnoff had plenty of colour (BOTHER those wires) …P1020158


A fog bow welcomed us to Geraldine. (Should have cleaned the windscreen…)


Geraldine to Fairlie and beyond is one of my favourite drives.




The temperature continued to drop after we left Geraldine. It was 8 deg C when we left home, increased to 12 before Geraldine, then steadily dropped again.

As we approached the Farm Barn cafe at the top of the hill before Fairlie, the weather cleared again. Time for coffee (and photos in all directions). There’s some new decor in the cafe.



Downhill again to Fairlie, where it was clear …





…. and to Burke’s Pass, where it was not. Also rather cold!





Approaching Tekapo it became very foggy again. It’s the first time in all the times I’ve been past (or on!) the Lake that the entire Lake was invisible. The new pedestrian bridge made for some nice shots; as we were not towing a caravan at that stage, and were making good time, we could stop and take proper photos for once.


Despite the weather the car park around the little Church of the Good Shepherd was obviously packed. I felt for the tourists, unable to see the Lake at all.


Hungry?  Here’s an apple tree.


On to lake Pukaki. the mist was slightly less heavy and the outlines of the shore were visible, but none of the wonderful blue colour.


Not far to Twizel now. A sudden brilliant beam of sunlight illuminated two trees ahead. could we get closer in time? Alas, no.


The caravan we were to collect was waiting for us at Twizel. There was time to inspect the  Ulysses tree – it’s doing well, lots of tight buds on the branches.P1020225


We had lunch at the Musterer’s Hut at Twizel – in the distance to the left of the red ute (ours) and caravan 2 photos back – a quirky place, designed and decorated to look like a rough and ready hut but actually cosy and warm with double glazed windows, corrugated iron ceiling hiding good insulation, two roaring  fires – and great food. Highly recommended.

The weather hadn’t improved as we set off on our return. But there was a lightening of the sky on  the horizon…


What’s that in the gap in the clouds?












A bit of blue sky over one of the canals. But we couldn’t stop with a huge caravan in tow.


By the time we got back to Lake Pukaki the weather had closed in again.


Mt. Cook – Aoraki is somewhere in the mist about where the little bush is pointing.


And then it cleared yet again, on the plateau en route back to Tekapo.


The Lake was there after all (!)

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Still lots of mist as we headed back towards Fairlie.


We stopped at the Dog Kennel Corner to let Penny out for a run. And a few good photos for a change.




Looking back towards Tekapo


The weather continued to be reasonable the rest of the afternoon.

The view from the Farm Barn Cafe on the hilltop was vastly different this time. But we didn’t stop.


Although we soon had to, and wait about 15 minutes while some repair work and/or tree lopping was done on the hillside beside the road, just out of sight around this bend.


Sun getting lower, temperature dropping ….. by the time we approached Geraldine it was all grey again and starting to drizzle so I stopped taking photos.


We reached Christchurch  in good time to deliver the caravan to the workshop, then a fast trip home to light the fire, feed the animals and give Oscar his injection, and finally feed ourselves.  Dave drove about 570 km in about 8 hrs with a lunchstop, two coffee breaks and refuelling.

221. Home via Moeraki

We weren’t planning to head home via the coast but the weather reports and local knowledge (aka a farmer from Gore, a Johnston of course) advised us against tackling the inland passes. The ute of course could do it easily on its own, snow chains and all, but towing a heavy caravan was another thing altogether. So the coast road it was. Invercargill – upper Catlins – Balclutha – Dunedin. Snowy mountains loomed around, showing us how wise that decision had been. The weather changed all the time – sunny one moment, raining the next.





Where to stop for the night? We were not in a hurry, our homesitters having advised us that everyone was happy.  We’ve been to Moeraki many times, photographed the boulders, even had dinner at the famous Fleur’s. But it’s always different. So we decided to spend the night at the Moeraki caravan park on the hill overlooking the port, where we’ve been before, and have a look at the boulders in the early morning light.

En route there was an awesome cloudscape.


I was a little too late to get some good sunset photos, distracted not only by the cold wind but by the hundreds of rabbits scampering around in the dusk. What would have happened if Penny the foxie had been with us?




Next morning it was cold and blowing strongly. High tide was at about 8 am so we decided we would make a leisurely exit from the caravan park and have morning coffee at the Moeraki Boulders cafe.

Here’s the view as we were leaving the park next morning.


After a first quick look from the cafe deck ….


…. and an invigorating coffee and ginger slice near the roaring fire, while admiring the views ….


…. it was down the private pathway to the beach. The pathway costs $2 per person but I think it is justified, it must be costly to maintain and it provided such a convenient route – and boot scrubbers on our return.

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The beach is very dark clingy mud/sand at the high tide mark and there  was only a narrow space between it and the surging tide. I was pleased with my new Lumix camera, it took wonderful photos even shooting straight into the sun.

The boulders were still there (!!!!!!)  Well of course they were.



New ones are being calved off regularly. Here’s one at beach level and another a bit higher off the cliff. Dave climbed up to take his photos but I preferred to stay at beach level. You can see we were well rugged up!




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Anyone who has been there knows it is impossible to stop taking photos.


Moeraki Boulders02Moeraki Boulders01Finally tearing ourselves away we set off again, heading for Geraldine.  Our GPSr took us down some back roads with mountains in the distance. A pity there were so many poles and overhead wires to spoil the photos.





There is a wonderful cafe at a winery somewhere south of Geraldine, we couldn’t remember exactly where and also wondered if it would be open at this time of year. So we decided to stop at Peski’s for the night and make enquiries at the Information Centre in town.

Peski’s is a well-known private property providing parking for caravans and motorhomes. The new owners made us welcome, helped by little Tui the  “ferocious” little poodle cross who belonged to the previous owners and has stayed on to help welcome people, as she’s been doing for years. It is very difficult to get a photo of her keeping still! A quick trip to town confirmed that the winery was closed so we consoled ourselves with a visit to the Barkers shop, coming away laden with jams, chutneys and a huge bottle of salted caramel sauce.


Next day, an easy trip home with lunch at “Nosh” in the Ashburton Mills village – highly recommended. I couldn’t resist the lure of the wool shop next door; Dave occasionally deserves a medal for patience and he earned one that time.





220. Clan Johnston/e of NZ AGM

This was the first time the AGM has been held in the deep south. The local committee did a wonderful job; preparations started long ago even before we attended the Clan Gathering there last year. Quite a few people came from the North Island but naturally there were several family groups from Invercargill and surrounds.

The Ascot Park Hotel was the venue, diagonally across the road from where we were parked. But our initial intention to stroll over was thwarted by the weather. Just inside the lobby was a magnificent Arrol-Johnston motorcar circa 1927 (note numberplate), owned by an Invercargill resident. It set the tone for the whole proceedings. Dave can be seen at the back right with a red cap.




When I googled Arrol-Johnston I discovered that Shackleton was given a car specially built for his Nimrod Antarctic expedition of 1907-1908. “These were the pioneer days of the motor car, it wasn’t terribly successful” . There’s a whole website about it at https://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/History/first-car-in-antarctica-shackleton.php which makes fascinating reading. Sadly what happened to the car is unknown.


We had a whole large room to ourselves. Tables along the walls were covered with local Johnston/e family histories and memorabilia. A rather magnificent family tree stretched almost across the room. Judging from the number of local family trees, almost the entire early population must have consisted of Johnston/es!




There was, of course, a special cake …


The AGM passed without incident. As is happening elsewhere in NZ and also Australia, it is becoming difficult to attract more younger members, but hopefully the Clan will survive. Afterwards, members were invited to give a short talk about their families. With a little persuasion Dave was enticed to the rostrum and talked about his GGGrand Father James Johnstone who built the immigration barracks in Christchurch. Soon after his talk  he was approached by one of the other members who said his GGrand Mother was born in the barracks. In NZ there never seems to be more than a few degrees of separation   between people!!P1010753

After the AGM, lunch was announced. The back wall of the room suddenly folded back to reveal a long buffet table with hot and cold food, the roasts presided over by a chef and assistants. Simple but very good food.

There were various activities planned for the afternoon. Dave and I had opted to go digging – yes, really! – at a place called “Dig This” – NZ’s first heavy equipment playground. https://www.transportworld.co.nz/dig-this/  It’s always been my ambition to operate a bulldozer/excavator but unfortunately the weather once again put a stopper to this idea. Instead Dave went off to a hitherto undiscovered motorbike museum and I retired to our cosy caravan to read and knit. Others went to the main Museum, Art Gallery etc all of which I have visited more than once before.

That evening was the Clan dinner, with entertainment. We got all dressed up in our Scottish finery. It started with the ceremonial Address to the Haggis. Dave was wearing his Bruce kilt, not Johnston, but was still invited to carry the precious whisky and crystal glasses on a silver tray. What an honour. Knowing that the contents had to be knocked off in one gulp, he was careful pouring – then told to add more, not once but twice. He said afterwards it seemed a shame to waste such glorious stuff instead of sipping it quietly!  (Photos by a Clan member).


After dinner there was an interesting address given by a local man, a blueberry grower, who was once many other things and whose interests include blacksmithing. He had a special claymore (Scottish two-handed fighting sword) made specially for him according to his height, and afterwards was surrounded by curious Johnston clansmen all eager to give it a heft or two.  He talked about iron and steel and tempering the latter …. it was a very interesting talk. I know it was interesting because the dear man gave me his notes afterwards.



A Mystery Tour and Lunch was planned for the next day. It still went ahead, although  not much could be seen through the rain. We headed for Riverton via back roads, with some interesting comment along the way.




Lunch was at a cafe overlooking Riverton and was wonderful. I wonder what the cafe people though when they realised they had a table for 26 almost all with the surname Johnston!!