It rained during the night and we are both awake early so we decide to get a move on and try driving in the dark, in the rain in NZ!!! On the road at 5:20 a.m. No problem!!! Just slow!!! We had planned a fairly long day on the road to get across to the east side of the island. We're like jet setters - one night on the Tasman Sea, the next on the Pacific!
Reefton is the first way point. We stop briefly to check out the map and see if it's a good idea to continue or not, i.e., if there are twists and turns ahead, Mary may pull rank and insist that we pull over until the rain stops or the sun comes up, or both!!! According to the info board in Reefton, it is called the City of Light. Apparently it was the first city in the southern hemisphere to generate its own electricity. The road ahead looks okay so we are good to go! Mary always hesitates a bit when she sees signs that announce the "road is open". Fortunately, because of the hour, we have the road pretty much to ourselves. The sky is starting to lighten up, which is good because we are into the more scenic part of the trip ... and what's this? A patch of blue sky ahead! As we head into the lowlands, we are out of the rainforest and into very dry looking scrub.
Just like in Canada, there is the usual road construction to deal with and it seems this may affect our timing a bit as we sit and idle for slightly more than 5 minutes to get our turn on the one open lane.
As we twist around yet another turn with a mountain on one side and a very deep valley on the other (Mary's) side, Mary notices that the guard rail has been replaced by a chicken wire fence. Not much stopping power. Perhaps it is there for placebo effect (Editor's comment - it isn't working!!!!)?
Flash! 9:05 - An ostrich .. in a pen, but an ostrich! Just outside of Rotherham. Since the fuel gauge is down to one quarter (the last station we passed was closed) and we still have over a hundred kilometers to go and Jeff is not into taking these kinds of chances, we search for fuel in Rotherham. On a side street we find it. The pump is locked and there is a sign saying no credit cards accepted. Fortunately, we find someone to unlock the pump, we have cash and we also take the opportunity to query the woman about road conditions. We do not want to repeat our experience with the Crown Range road which is shown on the map in the same colour as the two road options we are considering. She says the high road is actually shorter with more scenery and the low road goes through farmland and both should be fine with our vehicle. Another look at the map to confirm. High road goes up to 1000 metres in altitude, low road only goes up to 200 metres. Low road it is! And what a good choice! Gently rolling hills dotted with a bit of fall colour, beautiful green fields and pastures. In no time at all we reach the state highway on the east coast. The sign says 55km to Kaikura and it is only 10 a.m.!
Now this is a highway! Jeff is practically snoring at the wheel. In fact, I think he's about to mimic the locals and drive with his chin in his hand! Mary is cheering - briefly. Then the twists and turns begin - 24 km of them. Mary suggests that she might have to give Jeff a timeout!!! There are 18-wheelers on this road WITH full trailers to boot!!! EEK!
At 10:20 we spot the Pacific! The next stretch of highway takes us through a couple of tunnels (straight!!) and there are a lot more, and longer, tunnels for the train which travels right beside the road. By 11:00 we're all settled in to site B18 at the Peketa Beach Holiday Park. It is a superb site right on the ocean front! As usual, we check out all the facilities and find there is no internet so this update will have to wait. Since it's been a LONG time since we ate out, we decide to head into town and have lunch.
Lunch was served on the patio of the CrayPot (as in crayfish) Restaurant. Jeff ordered the Mussel chowder and Mary the scallops pan-seared in a spicey crème-fraiche sauce over rice. As luck would have it, the waitress returns to say they are out of the mussel chowder (seems strange at 12:15) so option two is seafood chowder. Both dishes were great and we left feeling like we had better get some exercise. We head to the point. No sooner are we parked than two young ladies ask if we have a "plaster" - oh yes, bandaid. Indeed we do! Jeff patches up the finger of one of the students from the University of Christchurch. She's here doing research on limpets and their distribution. (AJ - I learned my lesson after our experience shooting pictures of you at the Jock River and now keep a supply in my camera bag!! - j) Once the kindly Canadian act is done (we feel like Constable Benton Fraser!!) we stroll along the beach where we see some resting seals and other marine life. When we notice the once dry rocks that we traversed begin to disappear under the incoming tide, we decide to make our way back to the safety of the shore.
After that, it's back to camp, some time sunning and strolling along the beach at our doorstep, martinis while we read our books and a light supper. This is definitely the life of the spoiled!!! As we sit here watching the spectacular full moon come up, we're trying to think how we could liquidate all our assets in Barrhaven and become beach bums in New Zealand. Shirley could continue renting out rooms in our house and providing parking spaces! We're certain we could clean the loos with the best of them and for sure we could set up an Internet/Wine café!!
Tomorrow will be a short driving day. All we need to do is get to Picton, the departure point for our Saturday ferry over to Wellington on the North Island. Given that it is Good Friday here, that is probably a good thing. Keep those web messages coming!