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  • Writer's pictureClaire

17/03/24 Blenheim to Hanmer Springs

Oh my gods it’s bloody freezing! Although it’s warm enough under the duvet any night time toilet runs are not a pleasant experience! The sunrise made up for that, pretty pinks and purples peeping through the arches of the bridge. Si went and made a hot drink in the kitchen and bought it back to me and I made the executive decision that we were going shopping for thermal socks and a cwtchy blankie and some winter weight clothing.! 

Although it’s beautifully warm through the day the nights do get chilly and the further South we go the colder it will be. A trip to a Kmart In Blenheim which is open from 0800 to midnight every day, kitted us out with some of what we needed. Whilst we were there we went for a cuppa in the cafe that was next door. Si had the most enormous sausage roll! I mean gigantic! 

After the essential stop off we hit the road and headed for our first destination Kaikōura a few hours away. To get there we travelled through the Marlborough Wine region, either side of the road were acres and acres of grape vines brilliant green against the barren hillsides. The area looks to be pretty arid, and very little grows on the mountains, their pale gold coloured sparse grass covering accentuated by the brilliant blue skies overhead. It looks to be really rocky, and the only thing growing with any success were the grapes. The mountains may green up a bit over the winter, but now they’re like a Star Wars movie set, which is something I didn’t expect. 

The roads were pretty windy and hilly to boot, the phone signal dropping out frequently. It’s very safe as it’s a main highway and as such pretty busy. The roads are not too bad, and less potholes in them than we have at home, which doesn’t take much doing really does it?  

The route took us along the coast and through marine reserve. The coastline is stark, black sand  and rocks. We were lucky enough to see seals on the rocks and managed to get some photos of them. People are advised to keep their distance from them, and not to get between them and the ocean because they don’t like to feel cornered.  As we rounded a bend in the road, there on the beach were 3 black sheep with horns, just watching the world go by. Such a random place for them to be, I was expecting seals not sheeps! We also had to pass through some tunnels cut out of the cliffs, and on the one stretch there were wire nets suspended to catch any falling rocks from falling on the cars. We arrived in Kaikoura in good time, the weather had gone from brilliant blue skies and sunshine to grey dull skies, and the threat of rain. As we approached the town a convoy of vintage cars came towards us, perhaps put for a Sunday drive! 

Kaikōura region was Māori and a moa-hunter settlement about 800 to 1000 years ago. Moa hunters hunted birds. The name Kaikōura comes from ‘kai’ (food/eat) and ‘kōura’ (crayfish). James Cook sailed past the peninsula in 1770, but didn’t land. His journal states that 57 Māori in four double-hulled canoes came towards the Endeavour, but ‘would not be prevail’d upon to put along side’.  I think that was because he about shit himself at the sight of the Māori people in their canoes! 

In 1842 Europeans established a whaling station there, and in 1859 a dodgy land deal diddled the locals out of most of their land. The town remained a whaling centre until 1922, and after that it was  farming and fishing that sustained the community.  The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the Kaikōura region just after midnight on 14 November 2016 was one of the largest and longest quakes to strike the country since European settlement. There were only two deaths there, but the damage done to the landscape was massive. Huge gashes were torn through farmland, new lakes were formed literally overnight when rivers were dammed, and incredibly, sections of the coastline were lifted by 8m, with parts of NZ’s South Island shifting more than 5m closer to the North Island. Insane! 

The town has some quirky little shops, and caters for the tourist with offerings of New Zealand souvenirs, whale tours and trips both by sea and buy plane. One company even offers an 80% refund on the cost of the trip if no whales are seen. I like their confidence.  We didn’t do a trip, but if we had it would have been by plane, the ocean was looking pretty rough to my now experienced sailors eyes.  No thanks.  Whilst in town I managed to locate some more winter type clothing in the form of a down filled body warmer in pink. In the same shop was a snood for Si, a thin cotton jersey one to keep his bonce warm!! I may have also purchased a pair of pink mirrored sunglasses there too… 

Purchases safely secured in a little bag we wandered up the street to a farmers market that was selling everything you could imagine and most importantl, tea. We sat outside as the chairs had sheepskins in them and they looked cosy. They were a bit of a let down to be honest, but they amused me.  

Loading our purchases into Ismene, we drove out of Kaikoura towards Hanmer Springs in the mountains. We were directed off the main highway and suddenly we were on gravel road which frankly wasn’t a great deal of fun. We turned around and took the slightly longer route, which was probably a good deal safer. The route took us again through rolling hills, and pale gold fields, over single lane bridges with turquoise blue water bubbling over the stones. Our arrival in Hanmer Springs was early afternoon and as it was St Patrick’s day we had the urge to drink Guinness. The one pub was having a karaoke and the songs were just being murdered! We moved swiftly along!  

Hanmer Springs has a Swiss alps type feel to it, lots of chalets up in the mountains, and several boutique shops selling some really nice stuff.  We stopped to photograph Bob sat on the table in front of the Mumbles fish and chip shop so he wouldn’t feel so homesick and also stuck him in a hole advertising pies. The day was still warm, and the tree lined avenue offered shade for the parked cars. Very popular was the Hanmer Springs hot pools, we didn’t go in as I know of some really good ones on the North Island. We popped into the supermarket for some supplies and continued on to our campsite, Alpine campground. 

A few minutes drive from the town centre, it was really peaceful, nestled in the base of the mountains, surrounded by trees, birds singing, and the sound of silence. The chap at check in was super helpful, and we landed a spot under a massive pine tree. The facilities were basic but clean and the site was spotlessly clean. The camp kitchen was kitted with everything we needed and there was the offer of dvd to borrow from reception if we got bored! 

We opted to put the bed up early and then sat outside Ismene to eat our tea. Around 1800hours the temperature dropped significantly so I decided it was bedtime which meant I could snuggle under the duvet! Si went to get me a hot drink from the kitchen to warm my belly ready for bed, he’s a good egg!! 

Bright stars sprinkled the clear skies above us and the moon lit the way once it got dark. There was a notice on the bathroom door telling us to keep the door shut after dark to stop massive bugs from getting in. They were mahoosive! Other than the threat of giant insects, we were quite content with our little abode. 

Much love


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