Sunday, 3 August 2014

Blenheim, Havelock & Beyond

We stopped over in Blenheim for two nights after leaving Ward, staying at the Blenheim Racecourse which is another LCP (Low Cost Parking- $5 night) option available to NZMCA members. It’s a very popular parking spot as it’s just a short drive to Picton to catch the ferry, & it’s close to Blenheim’s city centre & has potable water, washing machines & toilets available if required.

It is rather an odd place to park at though, there are quite a few spots to park up; on the grass or the hard as long as you keep away from buildings. Well that was a bit hard as the grass was boggy and there were so many buildings about and 6 or 7 other vans already parked up on the hard under the trees and tucked into various alcoves and corners. We backed in beside an unused building making sure we weren’t in the way of any doors, which was later OKed by the caretaker. Making the racecourse available to members like this is a nice little earner for them, they only have two race days a year and not much else happening on the grounds although some of the buildings have been leased out. It's a win win situation for all.

Initially we thought we’d stop off in Nelson on our way over to Kaiteriteri but in the end we decided we’d drive all the way, we were ready to settle down & set up camp for more than a couple of days. Usually we only drive 50-80km between camps, sometimes much less. This was going to be about 180km through some narrow & winding roads so we left bright and early on another stunning winter’s day. We really have been very lucky with the weather since heading north to escape the cold down south (back at the beginning of June). Sure we’ve had a bit of rain here & there, some snow flurries & plenty of cold frosts but we’ve managed to either be ahead of or behind the major rain, wind & snow storms that have ravaged other parts of the country.

We stopped in Havelock for lunch, lunch that I was hoping to have at the famous Mussel Boys restaurant, the one that has huge Green Lipped mussels walking over the roof and down the fence line, the one that serves New Zealand's Green Lipped mussels in every which way imaginable. I wanted to compare them with my own “famous with friends & family” recipe. But alas it was shut and not just shut for the day but shut for the winter! It's not due to open until September.

What kind of business can run like that? It was a beautiful day and while I was taking photos at least four hire campervans & motorhomes stopped to have a look. I know that some restaurants shut for a couple of weeks or more over winter to give staff their holidays but to shut for the whole of winter seems to be a bit crazy. Especially as it’s not an out of the way place on a summer tourist route, this is a main highway between popular destinations. Oh well, another thing to add to the growing list of things to do “when we come back round again”.

Next door to the Mussel Pot was this outdoor & marine shop with an awesome paint job on the building’s facia.

Havelock’s main street is quite short, a little more than a blink & you’ll miss it kind of place but still quite short when your driver is on a mission to get to the next camping site in a reasonably quick time. So when the co-pilot (& tour director) shouts out “stop for lunch” we’re very nearly round the end corner and gone. But somehow my ever patient driver manages to pull the rig up in time to turn right and, all the while muttering under his breath, we head down towards the marina whose carpark we then have to drive through to get out the other end and back onto the main street.

And there also happens to be, just up the road from the marina, Havelock’s churches. How convenient. One in particular, the Catholic Sacred Heart Church looked very familiar.

It must have had the same architect as the Catholic St Peters Chanels Church in Ward which is on the east coast in South Marlborough and where we’d come from a few days ago.

Although I shot the Ward church back in November when we passed it on our way south. Unfortunately the Ward church had been damaged in the August 2013 Seddon Earthquake and was fenced off with danger tape. Coincidentally the Ward church will receive a service of decommissioning in it’s grounds today (Sunday 3 August) as it’s formally shut for demolition. Such a shame, another little piece of history gone.

The rest of the trip was uneventful and we made good time passing along the waterfront through Nelson without stopping (another, "we will return") and continuing on around Tasman Bay heading for Kaiteriteri. This part of the South Island is new to us both although it feels and looks a lot like Hawkes Bay as we pass through hectares & hectares of orchards and vineyards along the way.

We finally arrive at our winter paradise, the sun is shining, the water is a brilliant blue, the sea is a millpond, there’s not a breath of wind, there’s hardly anybody about and we have a prime site overlooking a golden sand beach. This could well be Fiji except for one thing. The temperature, it’s a reasonably chilly 10 degrees celsius outside. Oh well, we can’t complain, six out of seven ain’t that bad.

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