Saturday, 8 February 2014

Hillview Camp Site, Ahuriri Flats, Catlins

Since leaving the DOC camp beside the Catlins River, we have been parked up down the back paddock of the Hillview Camp for the last six nights, thoroughly relaxing & enjoying ourselves in this superb South Otago weather! It has been great to see for a change, that the North Island has had wet weather while we've been sunbaking down here in the south of the South Island. Waitangi Day was a pearler!

Hillview is located on the main road through to Kaka Point & the Nugget Point Lighthouse so is very handy for us to explore the top of the Catlins. Although we have been taking it a little more easy this time, chilling for most of the day and then heading our late afternoon for a quick tour.

Hillview hosts, Kevin & Sue are a wonderful down-to-earth couple who make everyone that arrives down their drive very welcome, and, without fail, every night a few dozen young travelling foreign tourists arrive in their sleeper vans & tents having heard through various means; travel websites & word of mouth, that the Hillview is the place to stay in the Catlins.

Early morning fog settles on the hill behind the camp.
The $5 pp a night & free internet (even though it's rather slow once everyone arrives) are obvious attractions; shower, power & phone/battery charges are extra. It's also the jovial & loud banter that Kevin engages them all in from the moment of arrival that must make them feel very comfortable and I have no doubt this is why Hillview Camp tops the Rankers & Tripadvisor ratings. Last night a French couple arrived while we were having drinks on the back deck to exclaim in broken English that they had been waiting 5 weeks for this moment. Pizzas & fish & chips are also on offer & in hot demand; there are no shops or take-aways out in the countryside.

Not long after we set up camp, we were ushered into the vegetable patch & then onto the tunnel house to gather produce. Kevin is as wacky as they come, a larger-than-life affable Pom, he has the same corny sense of humour that David has and they have had some great sessions winding each other up. One afternoon Kevin even carted David off down to the Owaka Pub for an hour (along with two Austrians that had arrived early), something David hasn't done for many years. David has also been helping out with filling the water tank (& wouldn't you know it, it's a Devan tank) from a supply down the road. A good few days of rain are needed at the moment to cope with the constant demand from the campers.

Not long after I had gathered the vegetables, Kevin gave us a shout across the paddock to come up to the house for a BBQ with friends; paua fritters & venison were on the menu. We didn't need to think about the invite for too long and we had a very enjoyable evening. Especially as the other guy was English too!

For my overseas readers, paua is NZ abalone, a highly sort after shellfish that has a large black muscular foot inside a beautiful shell with irridescent shades of blue, green, purple and pink. Once shucked, & to cook the foot, it must either be minced for fritters or thinly sliced & quickly cooked otherwise it can be very tough. It's an acquired taste but if you like seafood you're bound to love paua. We were given the leftover fritters to take home (Leftover? Who has leftover paua fritters!)

Each morning the camp empties out and we have the place to ourselves until the evening influx start to arrive.

Most campers set up in the top paddock to be close to the toilets & showers but a few position themselves around the outskirts of our paddock. There have been a few cold dewy mornings & the odd cool evening breeze this past week & we feel for them all tucked up in their "tin-cans" & tents when they have to get up and on the go before 10am while we're tucked up in our van with the heater running.

The family also have a menagerie of  animals on their small lifestyle block; pet sheep, horses, cattle, cats, chooks & ducks that are all ready to greet you. The campers, especially children & foreigners are keen to take photos and say hello to the animals. Kevin also has a few too many projects on the go, including this partly converted bus which one day may be backpackers accommodation. For the time being it remains a one horse power bus!

This morning I did something I haven't done for many years, saddled Scooter up and had a ride around the paddock. It was great to know I still haven't lost my skills, especially when she decided to do a bit of pig rooting, and I realised she was an ex-trotter, their trotting gait is definitely uncomfortable to ride to.

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