New Zealand trip 2009 – Part 6

Previous installment is here.

These notes were written by Eric and amended by Jean. Eric took most of the photos and Jean took others. All photos were selected, cropped, and inserted into this file by Jean. Factual information was taken from various sources including tourist brochures; we do not guarantee its accuracy.

Photo album from this part of the trip (more photos than shown on this page) starts here. Thumbnails to be added to this page later.

Wednesday 18 February: Karamea to Collingwood

We needed an early start. The drive today took us from Karamea on the west coast to Collingwood, also almost on the west coast. You know, Collingwood, that place that was 82 kilometres away if you walked for three days. However if you prefer to drive, it will take about 400 kilometres, and you just about reach the middle of the island trying to get there. Plus you seem to encounter most mountain ranges that are available. We were not looking forward to all this driving.

We left Karamea at 8 a.m., after a continental breakfast at The Last Resort. Our host there still did not know why the power had been out the previous evening. It took us until 9 a.m. to reach Mokihinui Bridge, our turnoff to Rough and Tumble Lodge. There are an extraordinary number of twists and turns in that road. Around 26 kilometres of travelling closer to 50 kph than the very fictional 100 kph speed limit. Eric was also trying not to throw Jean around the car to the same extent as when we first drove the road.

We stopped at Waimangaroa for a comfort stop at 9:30 a.m. and again at Westport for refuelling. We left Westport close to ten.

Route 6. Logging trucks were the most interesting item after the usual set of majestic mountain ranges, vivid green forests, and river beds that actually contained rivers. We saw two logging trucks at 11 a.m., when coming to the end of 7 kilometres of winding road.

Earlier we drove under a cliff. Not a tunnel, an overhang where the cliff was actually cut away for the road, and the entire massive side of the cliff formed a roof for the road. Sure hope the bolts in the thing keep right on working.

Murchison was the main town we could reach around lunch time, at 11:38. Jean took over the driving here. We collected some sandwiches for a later stop. There were fir plantations all along the road. We made our lunch stop at a picnic table 7 kilometres before Glenhope. Alas, the mosquitos were out in force by the riverside.

At Kuhatu (12:56 p.m.) we turned off from Route 6 towards Collingwood, on the Motueka Valley Highway following the river along the valley floor through to Mokueka. Jean turned the driving over to Eric again at 1:30 p.m. We reached Motueka around 1:50 p.m.

We were 82 kilometres from our destination. Alas, this was also one of the steepest and most winding roads we had encountered. Tremendous views of the valley floor far below. Most places on the road lacked stopping points. Those lookouts where you could stop required a long hike to a viewing place. It took until nearly 3 p.m. to reach Takaka, but now on a less winding road. We did not complete the drive to Collingwood until 3:20 p.m. Google estimated 5.5 hours for the whole trip. It took us over seven hours.

We have to go back through Moueka on our way to the midday ferry on Friday. It will obviously take us more than an hour and a half just for this short starting section. Then we still have nearly 200 kilometres more to go. Another early start indeed will be needed.

Rum! In Collingwood, we had to do some shopping for breakfast supplies, plus orange juice for Jean and Coke for me for our forthcoming libation. We visited Farewell Spit Eco Tour offices, opposite our hotel, to check details of their tour. We also ordered the $10 boxed lunch, since we did not want to cope with organising our own lunch for what seems a seven-hour tour.

The main street is short, and everything in it conveniently to hand. We broke out the rum on arrival back at our room. Jean then collapsed into the only satisfactory bed (out of four) in our two-level motel room at the Collingwood Beachcomber Motel at Golden Bay. Jean thought the steep stairs to the Queen bed in the loft were likely to have her risk a fall in the night. The second single bed downstairs was sagging too much for our old backs, so Eric picked the single bed upstairs, being less likely to have problems with stairs.

Eric went out and checked the town. There is a most interesting little museum right opposite the motel. Also a collection of photographs and descriptions of the history of Collingwood. It was named for a contemporary of Lord Horatio Nelson, as Collingwood was his second in charge, and brought the battle to a winning conclusion, after Nelson was killed.

We had an unsatisfactory dinner in the nearby pub, which seemed the major place open. Slow service, relative to the meals demanded. Jean was not impressed by her Fisherman’s Basket. Eric’s roast lamb was pedestrian. The Montana Pinot Noir was fine. If we had not had so many wonderful meals elsewhere on this trip, perhaps we would not be so critical. We think we will make do with something else for dinner tomorrow.

We were back at the hotel by 8 p.m. Guess what? Jean was soon collapsed again. Ever mindful of his duties, Eric stayed up to write up this account of our drive.

Thursday 19 February: Farewell Spit Tour

Eric did not sleep well and got up feeling unwell. He reluctantly decided he would not be able to take our scheduled tour to Farewell Spit. Luckily Jean was feeling cheerful and fit to go.

Onetahua is the Maori name for Farewell Spit. Farewell Spit is at the northernmost point of the South Island of New Zealand. The spit is 35 kilometres long. The Farewell Spit Nature reserve is a bird sanctuary and wetland. Vehicle access is available only to supervised tours.

Farewell Spit Eco Tours were our tour company. They were formerly the mail delivery to the lighthouse. Their office in Tasman Street, Collingwood includes some interesting historical relicts of the lighthouse. There is a very nicely restored brass lighthouse mechanism, showing the intricate but large gearing system. They also had a piece of the Fresnel lens reflector originally used by the lighthouse.

The tour time is tide dependent, but around 6 to 7 hours. From the gate of the reserve, you visit Fossil Point, to view New Zealand fur seals. There are fossils among the rocks, and sea life in rock pools nearby.

The lighthouse is another 30 kilometres of sand dunes and panoramic ocean views away. Tours have around 45 minutes at the lighthouse. They climb to the lighthouse. You can view the Maori pouwhenua, placed by the local iwi.

In addition, the tour visits Cape Farewell, the most northern point on the South Island. This is outside the actual spit.

There are light refreshments (muffins, hot drink) at the lighthouse keepers cottage. Lunch needs to be ordered the day before (if tides permit a lunch stay on the spit), or take your own.

Jean thoroughly enjoyed the trip and the beautiful weather.

Friday 20 February: Collingwood to Picton & Inter Island Ferry

We were up before 5:15 a.m. (when the alarm was due). Eric got soaked by rain while packing the car, despite merely having to put four bags in the boot. We had our own breakfast supplies, so we were away by 6:15 a.m. The delay was partly hoping for rain to ease. Unlikely, since it had rained continuous since 2:45 a.m.

It was dark when we packed the car. It was dark when we left. Google said we faced a three hour trip. Locals at Collingwood said it was four and a half hours. In the rain, we simply did not know. Plus we were headed for one of the most horrible twisty hill roads I have ever seen. Luckily by the time we reached the hill, the sky had lightened just a little. That helped. So did being able to follow a local bus part of the way, which about doubled the speed Eric could otherwise attempt on the hill.

One hour into the trip we had covered 59 kilometres. Just before 8 a.m. we were able to refuel at Riwaka. This was shortly before Motueka, the first town we expected to encounter.

Two hours into the trip, we had covered 104 kilometres and reached Ruby Bay. Four hours, and we had reached Renwick, 239 kilometres from our starting point. We knew by then we would actually be early at the Inter Island ferry and the Nationwide car rental return at Picton. That was because we had allowed six hours for a three hour trip.

We refuelled the hire car before returning it. Asked at the garage where the Nationwide car place was. Garage guy said he did not know, and we should try the ferry terminal. As we pulled out of the garage, there was the car rental place two doors down. So much for local knowledge.

Car place checked the fuel. Not full, they said. But we just filled it two doors back. The car rental guy and Eric drove back and managed to fit just another 4 litres) in the tank. The tank shut the gas pump down within a few seconds of being inserted, which is what probably happened to the (very new) attendant at the garage. We got more in only by withdrawing the nozzle to defeat the auto shut off. Rental guy flags the car as having a fuel filler problem, at my request. We had problems with the fuel input at every garage.

The Inter Island Ferry is enormous. It was loading buses and freight trucks and semi trailers. Plus cars and motor bikes. Travel advice: avoid their meat pies. We were early, but Jean had managed to get us transferred to one ferry earlier than originally scheduled.

A grey day, with grey sky, and grey seas. We sat inside in relatively comfortable seats near the bar and ignored the world outside. We were amused to hear the insail movies included The Day the Earth Stood Still.

There was another hire car awaiting us at the Wellington ferry terminal. A Nissan Bluebird. It seemed more comfortable than the first Nissan. Figures, doesn’t it? Since we will hardly use it, but have no other practical way to get to our next destination a few hours away.

Our motel was 83 by the Sea. Helpful person at the desk checked us in. The pre-paid did not show up as being pre-paid, but was in their computer system. The current managers were locums for motels, which was an interesting occupation.

Eric managed to get the laundry done. Alas, although the drying took some time, it left some things still damp. Damp was to be a factor in this North Island stay at the end of our trip. Jean got onto the internet using Viola.

The motel recommended Pearl, a few doors away, for fish and chips. We overdid it with fish each, a serve of chips, a few potato fritters, and a pineapple fritter each. Just managed to eat most of it. It was good food.

Voila did not work this time for Eric. Jean was able to connect, but neither his computer nor his iPhone could get access; just got the Voila login page again. Probably it is checking and refusing to allow anything except the first connection for the login, a common setup. The previous example of something similar to Voila we encountered had a separate login for each room. This was Zenbu. It did not care how many different computers you used, however only one could use the connection at any time.

Continued in Part 7.

Page last updated 7 July 2009.