Yep, I’m zigzagging up the country. Today was a long haul – leaving beautiful Akaroa with the mists still clinging and the cloud low over the harbour.
I’m going to have to be frugal in what I post because I’m not on wifi and power, and want to keep some juice in the device for other things. Yes, I’m freedom camping for the first time. Tightly wedged in with a line of others at Reefton. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I set off up the hill from Akaroa and wound the tight corners and slopes of the Banks Peninsula until I swooped down upon the delightful collection of shops and cafe/gallery that is Little River. There I was meeting my good friend Megan, who had traveled over from Christchurch to have brekky with me and view the gallery. Lovely to see her!
At close to 11am I climbed up in to my cab and she popped a couple of pictures and waved me off. Then it was a steady drive across the flat Canterbury plains, westward and into the Southern Alps again.
I was thrilled to see snow-capped peaks again – silly really. They are like the backbone of the South Island, so of course, never that far away. This time, at the advice of my much more traveled brother, I was going to try out Arthur’s Pass today, and Lewis Pass tomorrow, instead of going straight up the east coast from Christchurch.
Deeper and deeper into the rolling folds of mountains the road took me, on quite wide swathes of valleys and fast traffic. I was immediately feeling happy to be among mountains again, even those in the foreground just highly textured and coloured without snow. Although the flat plains preceding them are all cultivated and the throbbing heart of agriculture I love the remote wild regions best.
I stopped many times to get a better shot, and was glad to see there were plenty of safe places to do that on Arthur’s Pass. At Arthur’s Pass township, which is tiny, there is a ranger’s station and info centre about the local wildlife and especially the Kea. I did not see one but took a photo of the sculpture in its honour. The rangers said they usually come out in morning and evening rather than middle of the day. Sadly, I passed a dead one on the single lane bridge some time later.
Finally, I passed a sign saying ‘Welcome to the West Coast’ and knew I had gone through to the other side. There was an old pub that had a Gollum creature on it, and various allusions to the gold mining trade. I stopped at a siding to make a late lunch and boil my kettle, enjoying the last snow capped peak before hitting the coastal areas.
Now I had about 1.5 hours before reaching Reefton, a small historic mining town on the West Coast, known especially for being the first town in New Zealand to have electric lighting. (Ironically enough, it’s the first camp situation I am in in the South Island, where I will be on battery power). Beside me the river is flower musically behind my van. I got the last spot in this freedom camping site. I backed in, said hi to my neighbours, and set off in to town to take a look. At the pub I stopped for a cider, before coming back to settle in.
Further down the river there are some public toilets, but that is all. Alfie will have to provide my toast and tea and run my lights tonight. I do love the sound of the water behind my open doors right now. That’s it – I’m pretty tired after all that driving, so I’ll call it a day.