Cape Kidnappers

I woke up at 6 and got up. Sue slept for a while longer. I could see the lights on in the kitchen — Robyn was up too. She had a 7am golfing date with her sister. I read the news on my computer.

After breakfast we frittered away a few hours. Another nice day here. At around 11 Sue made lunch for us. Then we got in the car and headed out to Cape Kidnappers, a half-hour drive around the coast from here. I had called the exclusive golf course yesterday (one of the top courses in New Zealand) and asked if they would let a ‘couple of Canadian tourists visit the clubhouse and perhaps even check out a few fairways and holes just to get same photos’. The guy on the phone had suggested that today was less busy than Wednesday, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

We got to the entry gate at the bottom of the hill. I buzzed the pro shop. A guy (I thought it sounded like the same guy I talked to yesterday) answered, asked how many of us were in the car, and then opened the electronic gate for us and advised us to ‘drive carefully’. We soon appreciated his suggestion: the narrow paved road wound back and forth, up and down, for the next 8 kilometres. It took us 15-20 minutes to drive the ‘driveway’ up to the exclusive lodge and clubhouse at the top of the hill.

We parked the car and went into the pro shop. The lounge down the hall looked full, busy, lots of well-dressed people sitting at the bar and around coffee tables, eating and drinking. Fancy.

We went into the pro shop and waited until the two people behind the counter were finished dealing with ‘customers’. Then I approached one of them, a girl, and asked if we might ‘take a look around’, maybe go out on one or two of the fairways if they weren’t occupied and maybe take a few photos. Oh no, that is not allowed. I tried again. But the answer was a very clear and firm no. The owner did not permit that; it was part of the ‘exclusivity’ of the course. When Sue asked if maybe we could just have a beer or coffee in the lounge, she got the same answer. Food was part of the golf package, and no, we could not go in there and just buy a beer. (The ‘package’ was $480 per person for a round of golf — and we were not here for that!) We explained that we had called yesterday and had been led to believe otherwise. Even the guy who let us in via the electronic gate knew why we were coming up, and hadn’t said we wouldn’t be allowed to have a look. All in vain. Okay, let’s go.

I DID take a few photos on our way back to the car — but the photos I had come here to get were quite a way out towards the sea; there’d be no way for me to get my own version of one of those classic ‘cover of a golf magazine’ shots from the driveway.

As we drove back down the winding road we ‘shook the dust off our sandals’ and assuaged our frustrations by saying some very nasty things about ‘that useless golf course’. It made us feel a little better.

We put “Hawke’s Bay Golf Club” into our phone’s GPS. Half an hour later we were once again (and maybe for the last time — the forecast is for some rainy days ahead) teeing off at ‘our’ course. And even though we played a couple of the holes twice (and marked down the better of the scores for each), the final scorecard was not something I would want to mark down for posterity in this journal. All I can say is that so far our clubs have managed to withstand some serious ‘ground-pounding’ after dribbling a golf ball a little farther down the fairway and there is a good chance that we’ll come home with the same number of clubs as we came here with. They may not be accurate, but they are strong.

We drove the half-hour drive back to Ahuriri, the little neighbourhood where our apartment is, and stopped at The Frying Dutchman to pick up an order of fish and chips for our supper. We took it back to our place and ate it outside on the patio. Graeme stopped by for a little visit; he wanted to know about our trip up to Cape Kidnappers — and was almost as disappointed as we’d been about how that turned out. We sat and read for about an hour until the sun set and our eyes were too tired to read more.

We watched the CBC National — had to see how our Mr Trudeau did with his first visit to the Donald. Looks like he did okay; most of the people here in New Zealand seem to have a good impression of him. We started another Netflix series but even though it was barely ten o’clock, we turned it off after half an hour — we were just too tired and couldn’t stay awake any longer.

Technical difficulties

Right after breakfast we were visited by the TV installer guy at our gate. He was delivering a new TV which Graeme bought — and we were about to have our TV replaced by Graeme’s old TV. After hooking up and setting up the new TV the guy came to our apartment and hooked up the old TV and digital set top box in our apartment. We hadn’t watched our TV for quite a while — it seemed to only get TV reception intermittently. After the installer left we sat outside and read our books. When at one point I went back in to check on our ‘new’ TV, all I got was “Check your satellite signal”. Hmmm… Graeme won’t like this.

After lunch we went for a walk into town. I’d tried calling Sue’s phone with my phone and vice versa and determined that our phones were not working either. So we took a walk into town, via a ‘new’ route over one of the hills behind our place, to the Spark phone store in downtown Napier. As we walked along the shore we could see a big cruise ship docked at the port. Once we got into downtown we saw how the small town was transformed when it got inundated by thousands of tourists. The streets were filled with buskers and entertainers and ‘painted statue’ people, all there to entertain and get tips from the crowds of cruise passengers. It was hard to walk along the sidewalk because of all the tourists. And the lineups at some of the trinkets and souvenir shops went all around the inside of the store and out the front door.

At the Spark mobile phone store I was hoping that our phone problems would be remedied and we might get an extra few weeks of coverage thrown in for my inconvenience. But first I had to make sure that our phones were NOT working — just in case. So I called Sue — without success. And she phoned me — same result. Good. At least the problem is still there. But when we got to the counter and the Spark guy tried dialling our numbers, our phones worked! What? Apparently I had been using the phone’s address book to dial Sue — and her address card had her suspended Canadian home phone number as the first number listed. So the trick is to delete our old phone numbers from the contact list! I felt a bit foolish for making such a stupid mistake.

We walked around a bit more and then headed back home, this time via the beach and port route. As we passed the port we saw that busses were still taking cruise passengers from the ship into town.

Back at the apartment we FaceTimed with Max and his parents. Then Graeme came by for an after-work drink and to check on the TV. He wasn’t happy to learn that our TV was on the blink again. After a bit of trial and error we discovered that OUR TV worked only when their living room TV was on. When they turned theirs off, ours stopped working. Some more diagnostics and I figured it must be the cable splitter — but by now it was after 5 o’clock and the shop would be closed. So I offered to see if I could ‘fix’ it tomorrow.

We’ve booked a B&B in Wellington for Saturday and Sunday night. That leaves us 3 nights here in Napier. Sue was making supper, using up the stuff we had in our fridge. Her pot of pasta sauce was probably too much for the two of us — so she invited Graeme and Robin to join us. We took our stuff out to their outdoor table and enjoyed a great supper together.

After supper we sat and visited. An English couple is staying in the B&B and after they returned from their dinner out, they joined us for a cup of tea and some visiting. Then, at around 10, we all went to our respective rooms. We had planned to make use of that ‘new’ TV and watch a movie, but by now it was too late and we were too tired. We watched the local news for the first time in a long time, and then went to bed.

Now we can all watch TV

Today I had a project. Graeme and Robyn’s new TV wasn’t working, and their old TV which was now in our room wasn’t working either. And I knew I could fix it. I was convinced that the jumble of cables in the electrical box in the utility room held the answer. It took me a couple of hours, but after quite a bit of trial and error I determined that it was a TV-splitter issue. While at home this would have been an easy fix, here I needed to find a place where I could buy a new splitter and assorted cables and fittings. So after lunch, Sue and I headed into town for that. And the first place we went to turned out to be closed — building for lease! So much for ‘googling’ for an electrical supply store. It took a few more stops before we finally found a shop that had what I was looking for. Back to the apartment. Graeme and Robyn were both gone, so we had the door open between our place and theirs and Sue would holler “It’s working” or “It’s off now” while I tried various configurations in the utility room. I quite enjoyed myself — it felt like I was at home, “fixing something”. And when I finally had THEIR living room TV and OUR TV working fine, I embarked on one more project. There was a TV jack in the Dickies’ bedroom — why not make use of it and hook up the old TV from our apartment? But first I needed to find the correct cable and hook it up to the 3-way splitter I’d bought and installed downstairs. That required yet one more trip into town to pick up some more cabling and connectors.

Project complete, Sue and I were about an hour into watching “Arrival”, yet another Oscar pick for Best Picture, on our ‘new’ TV when Graeme knocked on our door. He’d just come home from work and wanted an update on the TV situation. He was very pleased. I asked him how HIS day at work had gone — he’s been working very hard, and from time-to-time he’s given us little updates on his project. Today he asked us if we’d be interested in visiting his workplace. It had been raining for much of the afternoon, so we got in our car and drove the short drive down to Dickey Boats.

Dickey Boats is a custom-boat company started by Graeme’s son Jason. They build beautiful big aluminium cruising boats. (You can check out what they do on their website.) Graeme has been working hard on the interior of a 65-foot boat built for cruising around the world. The boat needs to be ready to go to the paint booth next Thursday, so he’s been under a lot of pressure to get it done.


Above: My photos of boats ‘in progress’ in the factory. Below: Brochure photos of completed boats.

The Dickey Boat company is run by Graeme’s son Jason and his wife Tristan. They have about 60 employees. The boats they make sell for something in the million dollar price range. There were 8 or 9 boats in various states of completion in the factory. Graeme actually retired from his work in a furniture business about 8 years ago, but has been ‘helping out’ his son for the past couple of years as the boat business expanded. It’s grown so fast, so quickly, and they’ve had trouble finding enough qualified employees. They need welders, carpenters, mechanics, draftsmen, upholsterers, etc. Graeme and Robyn have often mentioned to us that their son Jason is working much too hard, too many hours, and they’re a bit worried about that.

When we got back from the factory tour, Robyn was home too. We ‘celebrated’ my success with the TV hookups with a happy hour in their dining room. Then Sue and I went back to our apartment and watched the last hour of the movie we’d started earlier. Let’s just say that neither of us would vote for “Arrival” as Best Picture! Boring! So boring it was no problem falling asleep by ten o’clock.

It rains on our parade

It rained all night and it rained all day. What a shame! People come to Napier from far and wide for the Art Deco Festival which started Wednesday and runs until Sunday night. The hotels and B&Bs are all booked up. Robin and Graeme’s B&B guests booked their room in early October. Tents and booths and displays have been going up on Marine Parade since the beginning of the week. The town has been preparing for this for the last couple of weeks — trimming all the hedges and flowers along the main street, fixing up the roads, making everything just-so. Everyone in town is dressed in their ’30s garb. The streets are busy with lovely old cars. The movie theatres are playing old 1930 films. Today there was supposed to be an annual air show, where old airplanes and biplanes entertain crowds out on Marine Parade, the main street along the beach in Napier. But…

It’s raining cats and dogs in Napier today. And the forecast is for more of the same for most of the weekend. We’re told that it NEVER rains on Art Deco Weekend. So, while the rain is badly needed, THIS is not the weekend for it. When Graeme came home from work he stopped by for a drink and then hurried upstairs to shower and change into his Art Deco clothes. And while Robyn worked a shift at the little movie theatre across the road, Graeme offered to walk with us into town to see the air show. Amazingly, the rain had stopped at around 5:30pm and the sun was making its first appearance of the day in the sky out to the west.

We’d walked about a mile down the walk towards town when we passed Graeme’s brother’s home. That’s when we learned that the air show had been cancelled! It was too bad — but who could have guessed that the rain would stop and the sun come out just in time for the evening events? Graeme was VERY disappointed. We decided to walk back the other way — back past our place and go to the harbour where there would be the ‘official’ opening ceremonies on a big ‘Maori’ ship and a traditional Maori show. But when we got there there was nothing! Cancelled, too. Well, if we’d known that…

What to do? We decided to head back into the town centre. (We certainly were getting our walk in!) When we passed Graeme’s brother’s place he offered to give us a ride into town. The main street, Marine Parade, had been closed to traffic at either end, and there wasn’t any parking available on the side streets. He dropped us off and we would take the bus back later.

A big jazz orchestra was playing at ‘the shell’ — a large outdoor permanent concert stage on the parade. The streets were filled with men in suspenders and bowler hats, women in flapper dresses and fancy feathered hats, even children all dressed up and enjoying the party. According to Graeme, not NEARLY as many people as they usually have, but impressive all the same.

The main street had old cars parked along both sides. Graeme said that many of the cars ‘do the circuit’ — where their proud owners have the cars shipped here from Europe and America just to show them off at these kinds of events.

We watched the big band play as old and young people did the Charleston in the concert shell. Then Robyn showed up, having finished her shift at the theatre, and we all had ice creams and strolled around some of the side streets.

And then it was time to go home. Robyn had brought the car and parked about a mile from the town centre. We drove home and had one last glass of wine with the Dickeys. We’d had a lovely evening. We’ve had a lovely five weeks in Napier. We’ll say goodbye tomorrow and then head down to Wellington for a few days before crossing the channel over to the South Island.

We’re in Wellington

The Dickeys and the NikkelsAll morning Sue cleaned our apartment in Napier. It was raining off and on — too bad for Graeme who was busy on the beach, burying ‘treasure’ for the kids to dig up as part of Napier’s Art Deco Festival. He and Robyn came around in mid-morning and asked their new B&B guests to take a photo of the four of us. 

kids digging for treasureIt was nearly noon when we were all packed up and ready to go. We ate the leftover pizza from last night for a quick lunch. We walked across the road to the beach and had a look at the kids digging in the sand — not many kids there, but at least (for the moment) it wasn’t raining. Then we got into the car, punched the Wellington B&B address into Google, and set off. It was supposed to take 4:15 to get to Wellington. And it was raining for most of the trip.

At around 2 hours into the drive, making pretty good time with not too much other traffic on the road, we stopped at a cafe in a little town and had a coffee. Then drove the rest of the way. We turned off the #2 highway and wound our way up a narrow side street to our B&B on the side of the hill. We checked in. Nice view from the window — we can see the big sports stadium just across the trees, and the port too, with the Interislander Ferry terminal just below us. There was a big Carnival ship in port too. 

Our host told gave us directions to an area about half-an-hour’s walk down the hill from our place where we would find lots of restaurants and pubs. So, after a bit of unpacking, and after we’d booked our Interislander ferry for Monday morning, down into town we went. We took our rain jackets along, but only had some light sprinkles on our way back home at around 8pm. We found a pub in town and ordered a couple of lamb shanks for dinner. They were nearly as good as the ones we had with the Dickeys back in Napier. 

Back in our room, we sat around and used our phones as hotspots so Sue could look for a B&B for Monday night when we cross to the South Island and so I could write and post my journal. Although the B&B write-up advertised free wifi, there was no connection to the internet on their wifi! So, lucky for us, we have tons of data on our phone plans (which will expire at the end of February) so we used that. The other disappointment with our B&B is that the photos showed a lovely big flat-screen TV — but now we find that there is no TV reception! What they DO have is a small library of DVDs for us to watch. Oh well, maybe we’ll go see a movie in town tomorrow (if it rains all day again).

And that’s what we did on Saturday.

A Day in Wellington

Woke up and the sun was shining. There were some darker clouds hanging around, but mostly it was sunny and warm today. One of the first things we did was book a B&B for the next two nights in the town of Nelson, about 2 hours from where the ferry will drop us off tomorrow.

After breakfast (cereal and yogurt) in our B&B we drove our car back down the long narrow street and headed into town. We went right through the town centre and found a rare parking spot right near the Te Papa Museum, one of the top attractions in Wellington. There was a big fruit and vegetable Sunday market on the parking lot, and it seemed to have attracted quite a few shoppers. We left that for later and walked over to the Te Papa Museum. 

At the Te Papa Museum

For being such a major famous attraction, we were surprised to learn that the museum had free general admission. We went in and spent just over an hour looking at some of the exhibits. The included a big display honouring New Zealand’s military efforts in WWI; a section devoted to the unique birds, animals, and sea creatures of New Zealand; a section about earthquakes and volcanoes, and a section on Pre-historic animals in New Zealand. Pretty impressive displays and the exhibits were organized in such a way that it was easy to go through at your own pace.

Walking on the Wellington Waterfront.
After the museum we walked back to the car, and checked out that Sunday Market. Although we were tempted to order lunch from one of the many interesting food vendors, we slowly wound our way along the waterfront behind the museum and listened to buskers and watched other people. 

We finally stopped for our lunch at a craft brew pub right on the harbour. We met a couple from Seattle who were just on their way UP to the north island after spending a number of weeks hiking and kayaking and exploring the south island. 

We meandered around a bit and then got back into the car and drove to the other end of the downtown area. Parked the car and went to see a movie, “Moonlight”. We thought it was okay, but not as good as “Manchester by the Sea”. We’ve only got one more ‘Best Picture’ movie to see and then we’ll be all set to cheer on the Oscars.

City to Sea Bridge

After the movie we went for a long walk down Cuba Street, all the way down to the waterfront area. We walked over the famous “City to Sea Bridge” with its wooden sculptures adorning the top. 

We found our way back to the car and headed for home. We made a pit stop for another bottle of wine at a grocery store along the way. We sat around in our room, reading the Fodor’s travel guide chapters about the South Island. 

At around 7pm we walked back to the area where we went yesterday for supper — about a half hour walk one way — and ended up at an Indian restaurant where we ordered a couple of  ‘extra spicy’ dishes. It was nearly dark when we walked back up the hill to our B&B.

We heard the ferry blast a couple of warnings before setting sail for the South Island. Tomorrow we’ll need to get up early enough to be packed and at the Ferry Terminal before 8am.

Nelson, Day 1

We woke up at around 6am, even before our 6:30 alarm. Sue made sandwiches and got busy packing. Rudy turned over a few more times in bed and then doddled around until it was time to leave. We were supposed to be at the ferry terminal at 8 o’clock, an hour before departure. We did that. And drove onto the ferry and had nearly front-row seats in the ferry before it dutifully departed at 9 o’clock. Sue read and played scrabble for the 3.5 hour ride. I snoozed a bit more and then listened to some itunes and walked around the boat a bit. We’d been warned about how little fun it is to be on the open seas in rough weather, but today’s crossing was smooth as glass.

We drove off the ferry into Picton, the first town on the South Island right at 12:30. From there it was a pleasant (although much to ‘curvy’ for Sue over the mountain pass) 2-hour drive to Nelson. We found our AirBnB place no problem. The sun was shining and it was quite warm — too warm for jeans. We introduced ourselves to Jon and Sarah, our hosts for the next 2 nights, and checked in.

Sue and I went for a walk around the town centre for at least an hour, checking out possible restaurants for tonight’s supper. We eventually found our way back home and got into the car and drove up to the Waahi Taakaro Golf Course, about 10-15 minutes drive from our place. It was time for ‘twilight’ golf, so for $18 each Sue and I golfed a very pleasant 9 holes. Lots of elevations and much lusher and greener than any of the previous golf courses. Of course, you can’t have everything — so we had some aggravations from some tiny sand flies on the course — we’d been warned to expect them on the south island, but these buggers weren’t too bad. It was quite a warm afternoon so we were thankful for the big shady trees that lined the fairways — and made it manageable to golf here.

After golf we drove back to our place and had a bit of a refresher. After showers we headed back into town and then down to the waterfront to the Boat Shed Cafe, a place our host Jon had recommended. We were very luck to get a table without reservations. We ordered the green-lipped mussels (Nelson is famous for these) and Salmon Carpaccio. A fine ‘New Zealand’ taste experience.

After dinner we drove back home and settled into our (warm) room, with a bit of ‘internetting’ and taking care of business, etc, before calling it a night.

Nelson, Day 2

Woke up and the first thing on the agenda was figuring out WHERE we are going tomorrow and WHERE we are staying tomorrow night. We had pretty much decided that we’d just drive right on down to Christchurch (about 8 hour drive). There were really no places to stay in between and nothing here in Nelson looked all that inviting either.

We had breakfast out on the deck and then Jon and Sarah joined us out there to give us THEIR opinions of the cities down in the southern half of the South Island (not very good!) They gave us quite a few tips and suggestions. The lived in Christchurch until 2 years ago. Christchurch had a major earthquake 6 years ago — one of the biggest insurance claims ever — and their house had some major damage and needed to be rebuilt. When their frustration with the insurance companies dragged on for four years they decided to take a cash settlement and move up to Nelson.

When it was time for lunch we went back to our room and Sue got on the phone to expedia to book us a night in the Ashley Hotel in Greymouth, a small old gold-mining town on the West coast, about 4.5 hours from here. We think we’ll tackle a trip down the West Coast first, then come up on the East side, from Christchurch on back up to Nelson. Well, booking on the phone with expedia is no simple little thing, it turns out. It was WAY past lunch when finally we hung up the phone.

We went to McD’s for lunch — Sue had her muffin and cappuccino and I had cheeseburger and fries. We sat there and discussed things a bit. Then we got in the car and went to the i-Site Tourist Info place to ask about possibilities for long-term (1 or 2 weeks) stays in the region. Sorry, but all the accommodations are booked — it would be hard to find anything that is remotely like what we think we’re looking for.

Next we drove a few miles out of town to a ‘property management’ company, hoping that perhaps they might have something for us. (We’d been given the recommendation by Chris and Angela, B&B hosts where we stayed in Rotorua quite a few weeks ago.) But the address for the ‘office’ led us to what looked to be a residential home up in the hills behind the city of Nelson. Not going there.

It was around 3pm when we drove along the coast back the other way and found the Nelson Golf Course. It wasn’t quite time for the 4 o’clock “twilight rates” to kick in, so we went next door to the new Motel complex to enquire about long term rates. They were already booked for many of our dates, but we DID manage to put something on hold for us should we be back in this part of the country by the beginning of March.

Then we got out our clubs and walked the links-style golf course that is between the sea and a small airport for 18 holes of golf. Very much fun. Sue enjoyed it much more than yesterday’s course because the sea breeze made it more comfortable in the hot sun, and because there were no sand flies to bug us on this course, and because she managed to make at least three longer-than-20-yard (oops, that should be 20-foot!) putts in the first nine holes! THAT is some good golf!

It was 7:30 by the time we finished golfing. We went back into the town of Nelson and found a ‘Mexican’-style restaurant. Very good food, very good service, lots of people eating here. Actually, many of the ‘ethnic’ restaurants on this street were quite busy on this Tuesday night. It’s a nice little town; if it wasn’t so booked up we’d probably be happy to stay here for a couple of weeks.

Back at our B&B, Jon and Sarah were sitting in front of one of their big TV screens when we got home just before 9. They greeted us, but soon headed off to bed. Another long hard evening of TV watching, I guess. Sue and I sat out on the deck for a little while, checking our devices. Then we too went off to our bedroom. While Sue scouted out what comes after Greymouth tomorrow night, I wrote my journal. And then we too were off to bed.


After breakfast we said goodbye to our hosts, Jon and Sarah, in Nelson. We drove down towards the west coast of the South Island. Since the earthquake last November made the east coast main highway down to Christchurch impassable, traffic is now re-routed through Nelson and down the west side. That made traffic for the first half of our drive today busier than normal. Still, it was a very lovely relaxed drive. The weather was great, and the road was good, too. 

At around 1pm we had a lunch break in Westport — Sue and I shared a Subway sandwich, much to Sue’s chagrin. That left a 1-hour drive to our hotel in Greymouth without stops. But we made stops. 

One of several fenced-in deer herds. This one was huge, but by the time I stopped the car and got near enough to take a photo, the deer were spooked.

The drive along the coast here was spectacular. The vegetation is lush and green and even ‘tropical’ — lots of palm trees and those ferns that New Zealand is famous for. The roads are in good condition, but whenever you come to a bridge, and that is fairly regularly, you need to watch the sign to see if your lane has the right of way — and if you don’t, you’ll need to wait until oncoming traffic has crossed the single-lane bridge, and then it’s our turn. Simple, but it works. Lots of things about New Zealand are ‘practical’ like that. I’m now convinced that traffic circles work, and that they are a MUCH more efficient way of dealing with intersections than what we have at home.

Back to the drive. Our best stop enroute today was at Paparos National Park, also known as ‘Pancake Rocks’. We parked the car and followed the walkway built for visitors out to the seaside. There were ‘viewpoints’ along the way, each offering a great photo opportunity. So I took photos. Again, this is such a typical ‘kiwi’ thing — they love their natural environment here. Walks, hikes (or ‘tramps’ as they’re called here), cycling, mountain biking, surfing, fishing and hunting, camping and especially camper vans — New Zealand promotes outdoor physical activity and New Zealanders love to travel, abroad, but also within their own country. And the government has focussed on making things accessible, like the pathway around these pancake rocks, but also with bike and hiking paths throughout the country. Anyway, here are lots of photos of the pancake rocks (so-called because the layers of shale you see might suggest a pile of thin pancakes).

We arrived in Greymouth at around 4pm and checked into our hotel. The hotel and our hotel room appeared to have undergone recent renovations, and we were quite pleased with our booking. We unpacked, poured ourselves a drink, and unwound a bit. At around 7pm we walked over to the hotel restaurant. We had a fine supper meal, during which we got a return phone call from the mother-in-law of Sue’s nephew Scott. We don’t really know Kayla’s parents, but they just finished a 4-day glacier hike in Franz Josef Park (where we’re heading tomorrow), and Sue had emailed them yesterday to see if we might meet for coffee in Greymouth today. Kayla’s mom suggested that we join them for a hike here tomorrow, but we’d just booked a place in Franz Josef and were planning to leave here early tomorrow so a phone call would have to suffice. 

Back in our room Sue got finally got her CNN fix. And I tried to upload my humungous photo gallery. I guess everyone else in this hotel is downloading movies and ‘the pipe’ is a bit slow right now. Oh well, at least we can watch a bit of Trump on TV!

Franz Josef Glacier

Sue repacked our 2 suitcases this morning — the big one stays in the trunk, the smaller one has what we need for the next 3 days and comes in with us every night. She made two ‘pots’ of coffee in our motel room french press and that was it for ‘breakfast’. We hit the road at around 9 o’clock. Since our drive down to the Franz Josef Glacier is just following highway #6 down the west coast I decided NOT to use google maps on my phone as the GPS; and instead I tried Maps.ME, a ‘free’ app that uses downloaded map data and so doesn’t need to have access to live data. It doesn’t have traffic updates, but it’s free, and I really don’t need traffic updates today. Well, it was like we had a new passenger in the car with us. We immediately noticed the new ‘voice’ of Maps.ME. She sounded a little grumpy, and although the app worked very well, it took us a while to get used to her saying, “In 900 metres, keep straight.” and then in 900 metres, even though there was no roundabout or intersection, she’d say, “Keep straight.” Hmmm… not really a choice, so I guess we’ll ‘keep straight’!

The drive down to Franz Josef was beautiful and uneventful. It IS amazing the diverse range of geography we see in such a short time. Plains, desert, tropical jungle, snow-covered majestic mountains, beaches, rocky shorelines, swampy ‘everglades’, etc. Like the lady from Brandon that we met in that honey shop many weeks ago said, New Zealand is very like Canada, but with all the regions of Canada ‘squished together’.

We pulled into Franz Joseph at around 1pm. Lunch time. We checked into our hostel and headed to the nearby ‘Four Square’ grocery store to buy a sandwich and a pastry. We sat on at a street-side table and had lunch. The hostel ‘manager’ had told us not to buy the $75 walking tour; just drive the 4kms to the big car park at the beginning of the trail and follow the signs along the path. So that’s what we did.

We didn’t expect to be able to get right up to the glacier — but very close. And once again, the paths and the parking and the facilities and signage were typically New Zealand ‘top-notch’. A 45-minute walk should get us near to the glacier. I ‘knipst’ a few photos of the pathway and signs and the glacier along the way. When we got to the end we were a bit disappointed that the path ahead was now closed: apparently a big rock slide had blocked the path ahead. Oh well, if that’s how it is, that’s how it is. We turned around and headed back to the car. And then back to our hostel.

We asked if we could cancel our booking — we still had most of a beautiful afternoon ahead of us, and we thought perhaps we could shorten tomorrow’s drive down to Queenstown a bit by getting a head start today. Unfortunately the guy at the front desk said he couldn’t do that. Okay. Then we’ll check into our room (private double with ensuite — none of that ’12 bunks sharing a bathroom’ business for old farts like us) and read until it’s time for supper.

While I don’t think we’re quite ready to ‘hostel’ our way around like we did a dozen years ago, it was quite interesting watching the goings-on at the hostel all day. Not too many fat Brits and Americans (or ‘hippos’, as we’ve come to call them) stay in hostels. But lots of attractive young lads and lasses do. They come in carrying HUMUNGOUS backpacks, wearing cute little tank tops, very short shorts, and big hiking boots, and carrying grocery bags. And they gather at the outdoor picnic tables and play cards and laugh a lot and look at their phones. And at 6 o’clock sharp, the whole lot of them hurry over to the big shared kitchen where they will enjoy the ‘free soup’ the hostel advertises. And did I say they are gorgeous?

We walked the one block to the main street and turned left. First restaurant was full, but they sent us to check out the upstairs. Just then a super long limo pulled up and about 10 very rowdy young hooligans climbed out and entered the restaurant. We went next door — there was a little Chinese ‘Take-Away’ there. Hey, we can do that. We ordered our food and while it was being cooked we walked down the street to the Four Square to buy another bottle of wine and a six-pack. By the time we were back at the take-away our ‘beeper’ told us the food was ready. We took our bags back to the hostel and ‘made a party’ on the deck in front of our room. Supper! Super! By now all the rooms on the second floor of our building were booked — all doubles with ensuite, i.e. old people’s rooms. And in front of each patio door, sitting at their little round tables just like we were, elderly (in age, but surely not in spirit) couples, having their dinner and sipping their drinks while the sun went down and the mist rolled in. While down below us in the big lounges, the music was thumping and the young ‘uns were eating and enjoying themselves. 

By 9:00 pm the little no-see-ums and mosquitoes chased us into our room, where we sat on our bed and looked for studio apartments to rent in Christchurch on AirBnB. Always a fun and satisfying experience 😉