Friday, 31 October 2014

Accidental Attendees- Nelson Lakes

I am still chuckling at the predicament we got ourselves into yesterday.

Hitched up & ready to leave- the day dawned sunny & warm after two stormy days
We left Whatamango in the morning, stopping in Blenheim for a short break, before continuing on down the Wairau River valley, 100kms inland on what is virtually a straight road all the way to Nelson Lakes. And what a pleasure that was, after nearly six weeks there were no twists and turns for miles, we could sit back and relax and enjoy the scenery as it flashed past. It was great to see mountains & snow again too.

For well over half the distance the river flats are covered in established vineyards with many new blocks being added towards the end, where it seemed there was a bit of a dilemma for farmers as to whether they run with vineyards or dairy conversions, both lucrative options at the moment.

There are two DOC camps at Lake Rotoiti, the more well known and popular of the Nelson Lakes; Kerr Bay Camp & West Bay Camp. I had read that the larger of the two, West Bay, was closed for most of the year opening in December for the summer season but I did wonder if it was just the facilities that were closed and perhaps the sites were available for self-contained RVs.

First, we drove down to the lake front and into Kerr Bay camp. It was small with hard stand sites & power available if required. These sites would be a problem for us with trees meeting over the top of the site. This would mean no satellite reception for TV, not an issue for a night or two but definitely not ideal for a week or two. There was a large grass area (for tents) and a couple of sites nearby that we’d probably be able to squeeze ourselves into but we decided to check out the West Bay Camp first.

The road to West Bay Camp
West Bay is a couple of kilometres up the road, it also has a small boat ramp like Kerr which will be great for David to launch the dinghy from. West Bay Camp has two separate camping sites and the whole area is surrounded by Beech trees, each individual site is set back into the bush. The first camping area, Jetty Campground, had a locked gate at the entrance so we continued on along the gravel road that ran along the lake front to see if the second section might be open. As we got to the entrance, a car & caravan ahead of us pulled into the driveway and ahead of them we could see at least half a dozen other motorhomes and buses parked up.

Great! This site is open. We waited in line until the caravan ahead of us backed into their site, I walked down the track to choose the best site for us as it was quite narrow and the sites relatively small and then we pulled through and set up camp.

David did an expert job at backing into the small space & over the the bumps and slope of the track and site. We called out a hello to the people in the caravan as they were setting up and I spoke to a few ladies that were gathered by the ablution block when I checked the DOC signboard. The board said to select a site and then go back to the DOC headquarters near Kerr Bay to register and pay.

Once we were happy with our set up, we drove back down the road and around to Kerr Bay again, stopping in at the office where I told them we were parked up at West Bay Camp.

‘Oh, you’re with the rally group then?’ said the woman behind the counter.

‘Rally group?’ I said, as it suddenly dawned on me why there were so many RVs gathered together on a overcast Thursday afternoon out in the middle of the mountains. I had thought that perhaps they were here because there was a long weekend coming up for Marlborough (Anniversary Day). Even though Nelson Lakes is in the Tasman area it’s not too far to come for Marlborough people.

Bloody hell I thought, now what to do. What a couple of idiots we are, tagging on the back end of a rally. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I found out that it was the Nelson/Tasman Area rally before we drove back to the site. Of course we could attend the rally if we wanted, we are members of NZMCA, and guests can attend rallies if they are in the area. But we’re not rally people (even though we have attended a couple in the past) and we certainly didn't want to start our Nelson Lakes experience by being part of one.

We snuck back into the van keeping out of sight and debated what to do. It really was quite funny, I kept laughing which wasn't pleasing David too much. It was quite embarrassing too, no wonder everyone was so friendly. They must have been thinking who the heck are those people and why haven’t they introduced themselves. David wanted to make a run for it, I thought perhaps we could just stay the night and sneak out early or go and tell them we had an emergency and had to leave suddenly. The problem was that to get out you have to pass through all the vans (and congregating people) that had parked in a circle at the entrance way.

We started packing up and David said he’d go and apologize and explain that we had just followed the caravan in thinking the site was open. I said I’d hide inside the van as we drove out. He suggested I walk out the gate and he'd pick me up down the road. I was worried he'd have no one to guide him around the trees. How silly can you be!

To cut a long story short, David returned to say what a lovely group of people (of course) they were and that they really wanted us to stay. They had a great programme organised with talks from DOC and walks in the area and that most of the group would be arriving today for the weekend events. And anyway they’d just put up the canopies (canap├ęs?) & ‘Happy Hour’ was about to start …..

And if this truck had arrived before us it would have been very clear what was happening, and of course today there are signs outside the gate letting everyone know where the rally is.

So that is how we became accidental attendees of the Nelson/Tasman Rally. And thinking about it, after spending 12 weeks in the Nelson/Tasman area I’d class ourselves as honorary members anyway!

DOC West Bay Campground, Lake Rotoiti


  1. Good roll with the punches is usually the best option....come on's more people to talk too!

    1. You know David too well Jimu & of course you're right, it was the best option, we were just being silly! We had a lovely time and met more nice people.


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