Tuesday 10 December 2013

Family Surprise

You’re never going to believe what today had in store for us, New Zealand is a very small place indeed, well I already knew that but still….. 

We left Tairei Mouth late morning with heading for somewhere near the top of the Catlins. The Catlins, for those that don’t know, is an area on the southern east of the South Island that is well known for its isolated beauty, windswept rugged coastline & incredible wild life; seals, sea lions, penguins & seabirds amongst others. There are also amazing rock formations, caves, petrified forest, historic lighthouses & shipwrecks. This is where the Southern Ocean sweeps up from the Antarctic and pounds the coastline, it can be cold & bleak but it’s always beautiful. 

We aren’t going to be “doing” the Catlins just yet though, the coastline is about 160kms long and it would be just as easy for us to follow the road around to Invercargill but we don’t want to pre-empt the visit, we will be back for a few weeks to gradually take our time to explore the area once we have spent time with the family in Invercargill. But, we thought we might just have a couple of days as a taster at the top of the area before we head across country & down to Invercargill where we are expected this weekend. 

So there were two or three areas that we thought we could stop at & we narrowed it down to Surat Bay where there was a campground we liked the look of & it was also very close to a sea lion colony.

But before we got there & after leaving Tairei Mouth, we stopped once again in Waihola (Lake Waihola, the place we both decided against staying at) where the other day I had seen a small shop selling fresh fish. The shop was obviously very popular as there was a steady stream of people calling in buying fresh fish or ordering fish & chips for lunch. This shop had blue cod, lots of blue cod. Imagine that those up there in the North Island, you could have blue cod as your fish of choice with your fish & chips! Blue cod that only appears in the supermarket or fish monger in Tauranga about twice a year! And then as piddling little fillets with a giant sized price tag!
We’re making up for lost time, we’ve certainly had our fill of blue cod lately, at Fleurs Place, at the Moeraki Pub, as fillets I've bought at the supermarket (twice) and now today where I bought enough for dinner tonight & two packages to go in the freezer. I also bought some sole fillets, one of David’s favourite fish & my favourite when it’s been filleted! We also decided we’d have fish & chips for lunch, the smell always does that when you’re hungry. This time we chose trumpeter & brill fillets to go with the chips, two more new fish for us to try. And then we took our fish & chip bundle down to the lake front reserve to eat! Today the lake wasn’t quite so dismal although a cold wind was blowing. 

Back on the road we passed another historic cottage; this Sod Cottage built in the 1860s I’m not too sure what or if there is a difference between cob cottages & sod cottages. I’ll have to google that, they do look similar though. This cottage was used as a store & with another across the road, it became a stop off point for gold field travellers.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, well uneventful until the windscreen sprung a crack, a crack that is fast running horizontally across the screen. We did hear a stone hit it earlier today but it didn’t seem to be too loud or big but it must have hit the edge & started the break. We now have to wait until we get to Invercargill before we can get it replaced but at least they’ll have it all ready & waiting for us after David gave them a call. Let’s hope the crack doesn’t run too much further.

We arrived at the campground to find that no one was about but as has been the case a few times lately, a note on the door indicates for visitors to go ahead & locate a site & the owners will be down later to sort us out. This was an empty campground, nobody at all around, nobody in the cabins, no other vans parked up, totally deserted. That was until we rounded the corner to see this!

And no that’s not us already parked up, that’s another Ultima, exactly the same as ours and the only other vehicle parked on site. What a coincidence, we have yet to meet the owner but apparently he is from Gore so he’s not too far from home.

We choose the best site in the whole campground, the only one to overlook the river estuary and just big enough for us to back the fifth-wheeler in and have a great view up the estuary and out to sea. It also overlooks a stream outlet & a public walkway that leads to the beach & the sealions. Perfect!

The bird life  around the campsite is amazing, plenty of native birds that are very close including this hefty kereru (wood pigeon) feeding on a bush just a few feet away from our door.

We were set up in no time at all and I took a walk out to the beach which is actually quite a walk away. With no sealions in view & it getting cold & late I turned around and headed for home once I reached this sign post for an old ship wreck. From afar it looked like a hangmans noose! We’ll walk out to the point tomorrow and possibly into the next bay & hopefully locate some sealions then.

When I rounded the last bend before the camp site I saw that another motorhome had arrived while I’d been away.

And as I walked up the path from the beach & passed it the door flew open and out popped my sister-in-law Jackie (David’s sister)!! What a lovely surprise. Wouldn’t you know it, here in the middle of nowhere with a population of about twenty,  Jackie & Bob arrive & we hear that this is one of their favourite places to stay.

Jackie & Bob live in Papamoa in the North Island and also have family that live in Invercargill (pure coincidence), they are regular visitors to the South Island and spend many months travelling in their motorhome. We knew they were down here for Christmas too but they were travelling down the west side of the island while we came down the east coast. As it’s turned out they crossed over Cook Strait in the afternoon of the day that we crossed & they’re also due at their family next Saturday the 15th.

They thought they’d fill in the last few days by coming over to the Catlins to their favourite campground, not just their favourite campground but their favourite site with the magnificent view overlooking the water.

When they checked in, the owner(who had returned) said to them “I’m sorry the site you usually have is already taken, just an hour or so ago too”. Imagine their surprise when they rounded the corner to see that it was us in their site! Jackie said they shouldn’t have stopped in Gore for lunch!

This is the second time we have stumbled across Jackie & Bob, we also met them at Long Bay in the Coromandel earlier in the year. I’m sure this won’t be the last time we see them either, they’re down South for a few months so we’re bound to cross paths again (other than at Christmas of course).
Just for you Jackie, sunset out the back window! :)

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