Looking southwest from Paraparaumu Beach




Karapiro to Picton

Picton to Woodend


Christchurch to Ashburton

Ashburton to Fairlie

Fairlie to Awamoko

Awamoko to Middlemarch

Middlemarch to Clyde

Clyde to Invercargill

Invercargill to Bluff

Bluff to Te Anau

Te Anau to Arrowtown

Arrowtown to Wanaka (Twice)

Wanaka to MacKenzie Country

MacKenzie Country and Twizel

Twizel to Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier to Hokitika

Hokitika to Reefton via Karamea

Reefton to Twizel

Twizel to Takaka

Takaka to Picton

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Raspberry CafePurple Peak SunsetSRFCMozzieRakaia BridgeSwampyMore pesky birdLake Hood

Christchurch to Ashburton - 28/01/2012 to 1/02/2012

The sun shone on at Tai Tapu on Saturday morning so we went to the Raspberry Café about 500 metres from our campsite; unfortunately many Cantabrians thought likewise. The café is an old villa set in cottage gardens and surrounded by a berry farm. The main draw card is their cakes served as desserts, covered in cream or yogurt and fresh berry fruits. All 30 tables are patrolled by a look-alike lotto dog and if each table turns over three times a day for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea that would be 90 tables feeding him scraps. We got several hopeful visits but nothing was being spared off our plates.

After visiting friends and collecting more earthquake stories we headed over the hill to Akaroa, a French settlement about 80kms from Christchurch, on Banks Peninsula. Like Kaikoura it offers so many activities e.g. swimming with dolphins, yachting, fishing, hiking or just plain sea cruising to see the wildlife. Unlike Kaikoura the bay is sheltered, sunnier, more up-market and French-themed. Although we have both been there before, we picked up a guide on what to do in Akaroa; the most interesting suggestion was calorie collecting, qu'est-ce que c'est?

Our calorie collection over 24 hours consisted of: Barry Bay cheese, Akaroa salmon, salmon eggs benedict, traditional South Island cheese rolls, creamy fudge samplers, battered fresh fish, and cherries. We would have had a pain au chocolat but the French bakery appears to have become a greasy breakfast joint.

Akaroa is normally popular with the Christchurch locals but since the earthquake it gets a lot of cruise ships going there instead of to Lyttelton. Therefore prices have shot up and the casual cafés have become more formal restaurants. As we arrived late in the afternoon we headed out of town to Purple Peak Retreat, a campsite 650 metres up in the hills. Spectacular views but I am not sure the bus liked the hike.

Unfortunately the next morning we woke to low, moist cloud, which put a dampener on my thoughts of swimming with dolphins. The giant mosaic house wanted $20 each to see the garden. The lighthouse keeper not showing up led us to filling in time inspecting bushes for geocaches, as you do. The rail-trail didn’t have a lot of appeal. The only consolation was we found Swampy the Pukeko (soft toy, not real), our new travelling companion.

After visiting Dan Carter’s childhood rugby grounds in Southbridge we parked up at Lake Ellesmere with one other bus and one lot of tenters. They must be crazy; you should see the size of the mosquitoes (photo attached)!

We headed for the hills passing through Rakaia - home of the big salmon and Methven - the South Island's equivalent of Ohakune and just as dead as in the summer. While our laundry was going around in circles I saw there were lots of geocaches up the Rakaia Gorge and they were visited by our nemesis Rosmar – former Westlake Rowing parents. Actually nemesis is a bit of an over statement considering at the time of posting this they had found 6580 and we had found 350. We parked high above the river with spectacular views of the ice blue water teeming with Salmon, who yet again live to see another day. Unfortunately we weren’t to follow in Rosmar’s foot-steps as we couldn’t get an internet connection. I tried to recall where some of the caches were in relation to landmarks but our search was hampered by tourists who had toileted in the bush.

With 120km winds predicted for the gorge, no internet, very little life within 15kms and nothing on TV we walked some distance up the road to the Mount Hutt Lodge bar/restaurant where we found a piece of salmon and venison with our name on it, plus a large mastercard bill; coincidently it also had our name on it. The lodge owners were interesting people and they would make ideal NZMCA members.

The publican told us that we should head for the coast, given the strong norwesters forecasted. So after a night of gale force winds shaking the bus we headed back to Methven to go to the coast out from Ashburton. However with the ability to get the internet and not to be outdone by Rosmar we pointed the bus inland and did 7 geocaches taking in one-horse towns like Mt Alford, Staveley and Mt Somers. Each of these wee towns has heaps of history for coal, sand and limestone mining, plus forests, rivers and mountains for outdoor activities. But with further gale force winds setting in (should have listened to the publican) we parked up at Mt Somers and headed straight to the safety of the pub. This time we were smarter and parked within 50 metres of it.

Typical of inland South Island, temperatures were soaring and there was no wind. We went off to visit some old mines and found a stone cottage fitted out with memorabilia of the old mining days. The cottage is unattended and not within sight of neighbouring farming properties, so it was quite surprising to find that only the plaque from the front wall of the cottage had gone missing.

Needing a rowing fix we headed off to Lake Hood, just south of Ashburton. Lake Hood is a $40 million housing development (currently under construction) set around a man made lake with canals linking the houses to the lake for water skiing, sailing and rowing etc. Now the new home to some Canterbury rowing clubs, it also holds regattas on its international 2000 metre rowing course. It would be interesting to watch a race where you start on the bank at one end of the lake and finish on the bank at the other end. Both ends are narrow and only allow room for the boats actually in the race. Like most NZ rowing lakes the wind is quite prevalent and was definitely preventing any activity on the lake today.

We drove back through Ashburton, which is a large rural township established to support the surrounding farming community. It now appears to be expanding to accommodate relocating Cantabrians, who can live here semi shake-free and still travel to Christchurch for work in less than hour. We however drove out to the coast (finally took the publicans advice) and parked up at Hakatere Beach. Again, no internet or cellphone, unless of course you stood on the picnic table up the hill, which one does to find out the location of the two geocaches.

Next page...


Lake HoodEntrance to Lake Hood
Limestone Cottage Limestone Cottage near Mt Somers
Pesky PukekoA bad example of native wildlife
Rakaia BridgeRakaia Bridge
MozziesWe only saw one mosquito
SRFCSouthbridge RFC Fanzone
Purple PeakFrom our campsite at Purple Peak
Raspberry CafeRaspberry Cafe, Tai Tapu