Friday 12 July 2019

A Fairlie Big Bang- Part 1


We left Weedons, south of Christchurch, and headed west towards Darfield, we'd decided to take the scenic route to MacKenzie Country. SH77 runs along the foot of the mountains that form the backdrop to the vast Canterbury Plains. 

We've spent quite a bit of time exploring along this road previously, today we just enjoyed the open road with very little traffic. Mt Hutt, with very little snow for this time of the year, filled the view ahead of us for quite some distance as we passed through Glentunnel, Windwhistle and dropped down into the Rakaia Gorge before popping back up onto the straight roads past Methven, Staveley, Mt Somers & Mayfield.

Just past Staveley we stopped for lunch at a very wet Bowyers Stream rest area...

.... this is also a free camping area but it's often boggy or flooded during winter. 

Back on the road and there we were crusin' along at 90kph on a gloriously sunny day without a care in the world when there was an almighty huge boom followed by 'whack, whack, whack', the rig wobbled a bit and a large cloud of blue smoke poured out behind us. David quickly brought the rig to a halt, I jumped out to check and saw that we'd had a blow-out on the back left hand side of the 5th-wheeler. 

There was nowhere to pull off the road on our side of the road but luckily there was a wide grass berm on the other side. David carefully drove the rig over to it. 

Yes, that's definitely a blow out, there'll be no repairing that tyre! Our first (and hopefully last) blow-out to add to the two punctures on the ute & one on the van in over 88,000kms and 7 years on the road. The ground underneath was soft and it took several stages to jack it up, block, release, jack, add another block, release, jack.... Eventually there were enough blocks under the axle to get the wheel off and the spare back on. And in case you're wondering these aren't retreads, they were new tyres 3.5 years ago.

At least 100 vehicles passed us while we were changing the wheel,  many of them work vehicles and farm utes with burly young men in them, yet not one person stopped to offer help or check that we were ok. It didn't matter because David had it under control (with some help from yours truly) and if we had needed help I would have flagged someone down but it did surprise me that not one person stopped. I know any motorhomer passing would have checked on us but unusually not one of the vehicles passing was a motorhome. 

Ninety minutes and a few nasty scratches from the protruding wire later and David had it changed and we were back on the road. 

We were very pleased to see Carters Tyre Service as we rolled into Fairlie township just before dusk on a Friday afternoon. David popped over to see them Saturday morning and they were able to order a replacement tyre and would have it for us on Tuesday morning which we were very pleased about. As it happened, we were intending to stop in Fairlie- the gateway to MacKenzie Country- for a night or two anyway, a couple more nights wasn't going to be a problem.

Fairlie Holiday Park is part of the NZMCA (NZ Motor Caravan Association) new CampSaver winter camping initiative where members can stay at participating campgrounds for $20 a night, this includes power. This has to be a win/win situation; members get cheaper camping sites and in return camping grounds get some winter turnover. Hopefully camping grounds will find that it's worth their while being involved, I know that during our week long stay at Fairlie there were two to four other members staying each night that usually wouldn't have come to a campground.

We thoroughly enjoyed our extended stay, we had a relatively sunny spot in an area that didn't see many other campers; most preferring to park on the hard on the otherside of the small stream that ran through the campground. 

With heavy frosts every day, temperatures at -5c to -8c overnight and hovering around zero for most of the day, with the occasional morning of fog, and bitterly cold temperatures all day, everyday, we began to wonder if we'd made the right decision to come south again for winter. 

We wondered if we were getting soft in our old age; 18 months has passed since we were last down here. Or maybe we'd acclimatized to the brilliant 6 months of warm sunshine we'd had up north over the long hot summer. All I can say is thank God for out diesel heaters, they certainly earnt their keep keeping us toasty warm inside, and also for the luxury of being plugged into the grid. The electric blanket kept the chill away overnight.

But we did have frozen water pipes three days running which didn't defrost until early afternoon. I think we've only had frozen pipes for 3 days in total over the whole of winter previously. We always turn the water off and open the taps at night so no damage is done but it's frustrating when you don't have water when you want it. And even colder when you've got to visit the campground showers instead of your own one in a warm van.

We were a bit perplexed about how cold is was until we read about a very unusual weather system at play. The severe cold temps were caused by very high air pressure which went as high as 1036hpa, this was well above the average for June and nearly a record. If it had been summer it would have been a very hot week. The highest air pressure ever recorded in New Zealand was 1045.9 in Wellington in 1889. Since then the closest near record was 1040hpa recorded in 2010. Little did I know it but this weather system was also hard at work mixing up a hoar frost in Twizel. A hoar frost that I am determined to photograph this winter and one of the main reasons we are in the South Island.

Over the weekend David decided that we really should replace all four tyres on the 5th-wheeler; the remaining three had a fair bit of tread on them but he wanted to keep the tyres uniform & consistent. So on Monday morning he called over to Carters again and ordered the other three tyres. Unfortunately two of them had to come down from the North Island and wouldn't be here until Wednesday morning (which actually wasn't too bad a service) That was ok by us, we were happy to wait. We had power. And we had pies to sample! 

Fairlie Bakehouse is well known for it's tasty pies, 'Bakers not Manufacturers' is their tag line. Ask on-line where the best pie is in New Zealand and you're not only bound to start a riot but everyone thinks they know who bakes the best. Fairlie Bakehouse is consistently up there at the top of the list with one or two others. And especially their signature pie (actually they have a few)- Pork Belly with Apple Sauce & Crackling. And yes, that is a piece of crunchy crackling on top of the pastry. 

In summary, let's just say the Pork Belly wasn't our favourite, it came a close third behind the Venison & Cranberry and the Salmon & Bacon Pie (an odd combination but it works). Although the traditional mince & cheese was pretty tasty too....then again, the butter chicken or creamy free range chicken.....

Suffice to say we were all 'pie-ed' out by the time we left Fairlie. And I don't even like pies!! 

While in Fairlie we spent most of our time in doors keeping warm, catching up on computer work (and sampling pies!) We did try to walk some of them off by taking the riverside track beside the camping ground but found it to be rather muddy and not too inspiring with bare willows, overgrown blackberry and old mans beard covering everything in sight. The walk was over 6kms long to the end and then you could walk back along the main road to the town. 

After a couple of kilometres we turned around and walked back the way we came although we did loop through the Domain on the other side of the campground and found a frozen ice skating rink which doesn't look like it's been very well loved in recent years.

In fact the last time the ice was thick enough to skate on was 2015 and that was three years after the previous time.  The rink needs a constant -10c to keep a solid base, which, with the temperatures we'd been having, explains why it was quite firm at the moment. The stuff you can see on the surface is  weeds of some sort that were growing in the base of the pond and are now stuck in the ice. 

To be continued... Part 2


  1. Great article Shellie. Our favourite area. Stunning pics as always. Pie shop tops with us as well but have to say I'd still go for the pork and apple. Partner is with you on salmon and bacon ��. Stayed at camp many times and they stored our van for a time....lovely couple. Itching to go back after reading your blog. Thank you ��

    1. Thanks for your comments Sharon, much appreciated. We loved our stay at the campground and the hosts were very accommodating too. We did explore a little bit around the area as you'll see in the next blog.

  2. Enjoyed reading your blog Shellie, even though I didn't envy that tyre change. But it was worth reading for the pie experience alone. We have heard so much about those famous Fairlie pies, it is time we headed that way to get over the mouth watering that has been going on far too long. Best wishes to both you and David for continuing safe travels from Irene and me.

    1. Hi Mark & Irene, hope you are both well and enjoying your new motorhome (I think I picked that up in one of the forums). Yes, you'll have to get down here & sample those pies, they are very delicious. But wait for spring, the cold is no fun. Safe travels.

  3. So good to hear your blowout was so well handled by David. Touching wood, we've been fortunate enough to avoid one, but sure have had our share of darn good punctures. We love the Mackenzie country. When we were working, it was our haven for fishing and relaxing. Our mouths are salivating thinking about Fairly pies. My fav is the Venison and Cranberry, followed by the pork - and I'm not a big pork eater. The apple seems to tone down the richness of the meat. Hubby loves the salmon and bacon. We are looking forward to tasting them again. Thanks for sharing your travels, good and bad. The realities of life on the road. We're relaxing in the Queensland sun, before returning in November- hoping the weather will be kind to us. We're floating our MH from Brisbane to Lyttelton, hoping that will all happen smoothly as it's our home too.Looking forward to part 2. Hope your lucky with your hoar frost.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the blog, MacKenzie is second only to Central for me, I love the wide open vistas, I can't get enough of the mountains, tussock & beautiful turquoise lakes & canals. It's a photographers paradise. Sounds like you're having a lovely winter in the sun and warmth, and how exciting to be shipping your MH home. Safe travels (and sailing).

  4. Ooo look at those pies... we've a night in Fairlie planned next year so definitely need to sample one or two of those :) ... puncture repair sorted. your man's a hero! well done :)

    1. Thanks Tim, yes I'll definitely keep my hero on, he certainly earnt his pies. And yes you will have to sample the pies also....then the decision will be, which one?

  5. Yummy my mouth is watering i can understand why you sampled a number. Thanks for the great blog sounds like a great place to visit and stay, but for us probably in warmer weather.

    1. Thanks for your comments Gill, much appreciated. And yes I think our next stay in Fairlie will also be in the summer, that was one very cold week.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a message, I love reading them! All comments are personally moderated by me and I will post and answer them as soon as possible, Shellie