340 steps, got that? Three hundred and forty (Farewell NZ).

Thurs 23rd Feb

We spent last night on a patch of gravel near the River Grey at Greymouth. Greymouth is situated at the mouth of the river Grey (the department for the naming of towns must have sweated buckets). This little patch of land is one of hundreds around NZ that it’s okay to camp on providing you have a self containment sticker in your window. This means that you have a loo on board (a tiny little box cassette thing that hasn’t seen the light of day since we collected the van) and that you have a waste tank for dirty water to drain into. Having said that nearly everyone pees in the hedge and chucks the washing up water around the back of the van. But if you haven’t got the sticker and you get caught it’s a two hundred dollar fine (just over £120). Some of these sites have toilets. This one doesn’t, but it does have fresh water and rubbish bins, and it costs you nothing. You get all sorts of campers and caravans pull up at these places. There was a converted bus close to us. Some of these folks sell their houses when they retire and take to the road.

We’ve encountered loads of “one lane” bridges on this trip. As the name implies, the bridge has only one lane, and as such vehicles from one direction or the other are given priority. You will always find skid marks on the side where the traffic has to give way. The one way bridge we encountered at Greymouth was like no other. Not only did you share the one lane with traffic coming in the opposite direction, you also shared it with trains. 
We were both knackered after our kayaking and slept like logs (only one game of scrabble). Today our shoulders are feeling better than we’d anticipated and we woke feeling pretty good (aching knees, bumps from sandfly bites etc – feeling good is relative).

Today is our last full day in NZ, although we hope to return at some point. We fly back to Melbourne from Christchurch on Friday evening.

We didn’t have breakfast straight away when we woke, the scenery wasn’t that great where we were so we drove about half an hour down the road toward Christchurch and pulled up on the banks of Lake Brunner. Look at the photos, you can see the attraction.


We still had a few clothes to dry from our Kayaking trip



One of us went swimming in there.


After a wander around and the damp clothes had dried off we got back on the road toward Christchurch. This meant crossing the Southern Alps again via Arthur’s Pass, so named because many years ago Arthur Dobson found a way through the mountains after getting a few tips from some local Maoris. Arthur has also got a town named after him and as you aprouch it coming from west to east you can see a fantastic waterfall called the Devil’s Punchbowl (no idea why). We pulled into the car park and set off on the path up toward the waterfall. It’s quite a climb. Steps have been installed to get you up the steeper sections. One of us felt the need to count every one and there were three hundred and forty. 

Kip found us a place to park up with the help of her magic ap. We were about thirty minutes drive from Christchurch in a car park overlooking Governors Bay. As we were returning the van to Road Runner Rentals in Christchurch the following day it made sense to be close by.

We shared the spot with a couple of lads from France and a family who looked like they were from Japan. 

The French lads (Nicholas and Kevin) were parked close by and Kip packed up a carrier bag of stuff we’d got left over (veg, milk, pickle etc). They were really nice lads, who’d arrived in NZ about a week ago, bought a van in Christchurch and were planning on picking up some work and staying for a year or so. They’d previously spent two years working and traveling around Australia and had just spent seven months doing the same thing around Asia. Kevin was a nice guitar player, he’d got a beaten up old nylon strung guitar that sounded great.




Kevin and guitar overlooking Governors Bay.

 

Later on that night we were sat in the van and a young girl from the Japanese family came and knocked on the door. She’d was holding two cans of beans and an ancient can opener. Old gits to the rescue, a quick lesson on how to open a can without slashing your wrists and she was heading off back to her family who welcomed her with open arms. The hunter gatherer returns saving them from imminent starvation. Just don’t light any matches before opening the van doors in the morning. 

We got up in the morning, waved goodbye to the French lads, gave the others a wide berth and drove into Christchurch. We’d got the day to wander as we were flying out at 8pm and didn’t need to get the van back until 4pm. It was a beautiful day and we parked up close to the Cathedral area. The city was buzzing. There’s reconstruction work going on all around following last years earthquake, this was on top of the “big shake” (as a friend put it) of 2011. A lot of buildings were boarded up awaiting reconstruction or demolition. There were loads of shipping containers stacked high alongside many of them which we guess would be secure storage for the contents of the evacuated buildings. We very much got a sense of “shit happens, let’s get our heads down and get on with it”. There were banks, shops, restaurant, bars etc operating out of Portakabins, mobile kiosks, hastily erected sheds and containers. 



.

These sculptures were created as a tribute to the everyday men and women who carry on regardless.


We also saw some very nice Muriels. We 



And a great quote from Joni Mitchell 

We flew back to Melbourne that night. With good health and good fortune we hope to get to New Zealand again. It’s been a blast.

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