Celia drove to Hanmer yesterday, which not only relieved me of the stress of it but also gave me a much greater chance to see the incredible mountains, streams, rivers and forests - all in abundance! What a trip that is! We're still of a mind that the road from Blenheim to Nelson was the most difficult because of the unending twisting and steep decline from its peak (it may be better going the other way) and it was a pleasure to drive on this road because only in a few places were there difficult corners; for the most part it was navigable and not especially steep - even for me as a passenger (when you drive most of the time, you miss the security of not having a brake on your side of the car...) Scenery wise it would take the cake, I think. The Kaikoura Coast was lovely and wild, and that had held pride of place till now I think, but yesterday's road via the Lewis Pass has now surpassed it. The way the mountains loom up ahead of you, as though you could reach out and touch them, is phenomenal, and you feel almost swamped by their massiveness. But besides these, there were the wonderful natural forests at every hand, and streams and rivers. There seemed to be two Rough Creeks (rough, I guess, in the sense that the rocks are strewn every which way, and the water tumbles down between them with great gusto), but perhaps it's only one that turns up in two different places.
We were really glad to be out if the Murchison camp: the last straw was Celia discovering she'd have pay two dollars to take a shower, a real imposition in this place where, with all the kayaking that goes on, hot showers are an essential. The place really niggled us in a number of ways: in spite of the fact that the cabin had a kettle and toaster (and toast rack!) - and a wonky four-legged stool - and an abundance of drawers and shelves, and a porch!, it was badly laid out, with poor use made of the space. The double bed was built in, and you wouldn't have wanted to be over six feet tall, since it was foreshortened by having cupboards on one end. The lounge area we used was dark and uninviting, though we did spend some time there watching TV, and reading (because there was nowhere to sit in the cabin - the wonky stool was iffy to sit on). And the kitchen we used, as I noted yesterday, was distinctly lacking in cutlery and crockery. Sometimes a place just doesn't appeal because the weather's not good, or you're not in the right mood, and both of those could have applied to this camp, but in general the price was high for what was there, compared to some of the other camps we stayed in. However, it's a bit of a lottery this camping business, whether you use a tent or a cabin. You never quite know what the owners will think are adequate facilities.
The curious thing is that the cabin in Hanmer, which had a double bed and four bunks in it, and nothing else, was far more comfortable than the one in Murchison. The kitchen just across the drive was well stocked with cutlery and crockery and pots and pans and everything has its place, with labels all over, and friendly signage. (Compare the signage in Geraldine, for instance, where you felt as though you were being treated like a naughty child.) The lounge next to the kitchen has couches and armchairs that aren't falling apart, and several tables, and plenty of seating. Just a totally different atmosphere. The place itself is utterly clean and tidy, very well-maintained, and run by a youth trust which has obviously put a huge amount of work into it over many years. (They even had it closed down on them for a year in 1993 when the Department of Health discovered some form of contamination on the site and shut it on the spot, disrupting bookings and people staying here and staff working here.). The current manager, (I think that's her role), is a delightful young Canadian, whose husband also works there - he's a Kiwi - and they couldn't do enough for you.
The only other guests in our end of the complex were a French couple with their two children, a boy of eight and a girl of five and a bit. The kids were bilingual, switching back and forth from French to English without blinking an eye, and the parents spoke good English too. They've settled in NZ and are contract dairy farmers currently working near Reefton. They've moved around a bit in their four years here having been in Oamaru and Takaka - possibly other places too. We talked a lot with them, and the kids played on the iPad and he iPhone and chattered away. The boyis learning hip hop and wants to be a hip hop star, of course!
We went into the village in the afternoon and walked round a bit. There was a sale of tools on in a hall, great stuff, all new, and brought in from the UK. Rolson is the brand name, one we'd never heard of. (The guy selling the tools imports them himself and travels around town selling them.) Celia bought a pair of knee pads, though I'm sure she was tempted to buy one of everything! We also walked around the now mostly unused hospital area (one is used for community gatherings); seems an awful shame to have all these wonderful buildings sitting empty. The nurses' home is reminiscent of the one at the old sanatorium at Waipiata: sunny rooms with their own built in wardrobes and drawers.
Home again, after a long drive, all the way from ChCh. Went back through Glentunnel and the Rakaia Gorge – it rained a great deal of the time and didn’t come right till Timaru, where we stopped for about three quarters of an hour. Got stuck behind a very slow and wide truck that was transporting some large piece of machinery. Tried to overtake it by detouring through Morven, but weren't quite quick enough and found ourselves behind it again when we got back onto the main road. Finally passed it in Oamaru, stopped at the long beach before Shag Point and found ourselves behind it again! Very tired when we got home. There's been a lot of driving on this trip, probably getting up to 1800 kms by the time we take in all the detours and running back and forth within cities, like Christchurch and Nelson. Still, that's not as bad as the trip that one of the people I play Scrabble with online did recently: 6000 miles in two weeks. Crikey! They can hardly have ever been out of the car...