Saturday 5 September 2015

Beer & Skittles

I thought I better do another update on our whereabouts. I am steadily getting through the Maniototo posts with just a couple more to do. Actually I think three, one of them will be a two part-er. But just as I am about to catch up we move on to a new spot and do some more exploring! So if I don’t keep up with these short ‘here we are’ posts I’ll be forever coming up the rear.

Originally we were heading from Marfells Beach to Momorangi in the Marlborough Sounds for a couple of weeks of rest and relaxation (and fishing) but we had to make a detour and carry on over the big hill to Nelson to do some urgent maintenance on the 5th-Wheeler.

And as you can see it’s not all beer & skittles when you’re on the road- here we are parked up for the night in an overgrown empty lot with a shipping container and an old caravan for company and whole lot of dog sh*t;- David wanted you to know that after stepping in a few piles! The company who were doing the maintenance use the empty section and suggested we stay here so they could get an early start the next morning.

They offered the section again the next night but we decided to re-locate to the familiar and friendly Richmond Racecourse site where we’ve stayed a few times before. They were quite busy with a few permanents (max. allowed 3 months) and other full-timers passing through. We parked across a couple of sites and stayed hitched so we could pull out early the next morning.  It was a lovely surprise to be greeted by Shirley & Graham; they have been running the camp since the new year. We met them way down south in Manapouri last year when we were both staying at a great campground and where I took a helicopter ride to take photos of the campground.

We pulled out early the next morning and hauled ourselves back over the Rai Saddle and down into the Marlborough Sounds pulling into the DOC Momorangi Campground with enough of the day left to sit outside and enjoy the warm sunshine. That was after setting up the table and chairs for the first time this season and we also had our first taste of pesky sandflies for the season, or more to the point, they had their first taste of us. Summer is on its way!

I spoke to soon. We stayed at Momorangi for 7 days and had rain for 5 of them. It was heavy and steady for a couple of days and on and off for the rest. My hunter-gatherer decided he is a fair weather fisherman so the Takacat inflatable didn’t see the light of day & stayed tightly packed in the back of the ute. The weather, along with the fact that the blue cod fishery is out of bounds for 3 months sealed the fishing fate.

After Momorangi we headed into Blenheim to do a few chores, stopping at our regular stop, the Blenheim Racecourse. Another not so ‘beer & skittles’ park over, the grass areas were very boggy and rather than venture into our favourite spot between the grandstands and avoiding parking outside the Ballet School (where we had little girls swinging on the ramp bars just below our kitchen window and Mums parking their cars beside our front door) we backed in beside the tote office. Keeping well clear of doorway where the tractor is stored. Tractor? Too late. 7am the next morning the door is scrapped open across the gravel to stop right beside my bedroom window. The tractor roars & revs for about a minute before it bursts out the door on a mission. To be repeated again the following morning.

Chores done we were out of there and on our way to the DOC campground at Whites Bay. Whites Bay is located north east of Blenheim on the coast, at the bottom of the Marlborough Sounds but on the outside of the Sounds- if that makes sense.

If you headed north out of Picton on the Port Underwood Road, Whites Bay is towards the end, just over the hill is the beach settlement of Rarangi and the Wairau Plains. We came in from the Rarangi end- a steep and winding 6kms. No towing (not that, that stopped us on Queen Charlotte Drive into Momorangi) or large motohomes & vehicles are allowed further on past the bay on the Port Underwood road.

Whites Bay is a small sheltered bay (except for easterlies) that is obviously quite popular in the summer- there’s a surf club headquarters near the beach front and plenty of camp sites although all the top areas are closed off for the winter.

Across the bay is Cape Campbell and Marfells Beach. Whites Bay is named after Black Jack White, an American Black who deserted his whaling ship in 1828 and lived with Maori in the bay.

In 1866 the first of many telegraph cables between the North & South Islands was brought ashore at Whites Bay. The telegraphist's building that had been prefabricated in Australia was floated ashore and sits, preserved, in the middle of the DOC camp. 

Tonight while I was doing the dishes I heard the familiar sound of a couple of possums challenging each other just outside the van- it’s a weird noise and so loud that if you didn’t know what was making it you’d be quite worried and perhaps think a herd of cattle beast were about to rampage through the camp. David went out with his head torch on to locate them, he found them both close by. Well he found one and I heard the other one rustling about in the leaves at ground level. Beside me. Me without the head torch- that gave me a bit of a fright until it ran up the tree. David shone his torch on it while I shot it….with the camera  Cute eh?

Today we explored the Port Underwood Road (I’ll do a post on it later), initially we were just going to drive the road along the coast and turn around before it headed inland across to Picton but in the end we drove the whole loop- 80kms with about 50 of them on a narrow, gravel, very winding road, climbing up and over high ridges and down into tiny bays and then back up again.

There's a side road up one of the Sound arms with a monument towards the end that I had set my sights on seeing but when we got to the turnoff I had second thoughts. 14kms there and 14kms back on a similar or probably worse road just to see a monument- my head said “Don’t be silly”, the wanderlust in me said ‘Go for it”. This time my head won. David was pleased.

That got me thinking.....and so, I'm going to dedicate this post to my number one fan. A person who reads every blog post word for word and at least twice and probably 3-4 times and then asks when the next one will be posted. This person is the one who gave me the genes for my wanderlust and thirst for exploring the back-roads and byways, an extra special man who always took the long way home, despite the pleas from his wife and the whining kids in the back seat of the car.  Happy Fathers Day to my darling Dad xx



  1. Nice, I know the Richmond racecourse well, I bike past when going to the Mens shed (down the back before the stables)
    Whites Bay, exact same spot where we last parked, wot good taste you have!
    It's a great place.
    Surpised you didn't twig re the tractor shed, prob just struck it unlucky.

    1. There's a men's shed there? Don't tell the motorhomers parked up, the wives won't be able to get them out of there! I bet it wasn't as boggy at Whites Bay as we had. We made a few marks in the grass, but at least the swallows were happy for the mud :)
      Yes I'm surprised we didn't twig either, but by the time we did we were all set up so we decided to live with it. That'll be another spot to put on our 'don't park' list!


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