Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Week 34 - Baton Valley, part 2

A road trip through the National Parks and forests led us to Richmond, a bigger town than Tapawera and complete with shopping centre…which already led us to believe that this wasn’t going to be our kind of place. Though Richmond is quaint, with the mountains on onesie and the coast on the other it was just a little too busy for us so we swiftly turned around and headed back to Wakefield. A polar opposite to the Wakefield of Yorkshire, this Wakefield has so many of its original buildings you could be convinced you’re walking around a museum. One of my favourite past times in NZ is finding the towns like this and aimlessly walking around the sites and appreciating the old architecture, you often find that the people in these smaller towns are real friendly too, so friendly in fact that you can’t get away once you start talking. Take the nice ladies who ran the tea shop for example, we now know where they live, how they came to run the business, when they got the building renovated and what they did at the weekend. But for as much information as you’re given, as many questions are asked back, it goes beyond civil politeness and becomes a friendly interest, which I certainly don’t mind when there’s coffee and cake involved. We also met a couple from York, who guessed where we were from with one spoken word. Mary and John have been living in NZ since 1988 but both grew up in York where most of their family now live, one daughter even teaches at the University of York, they kindly gave us tips on how to move out here and where to visit on our travels. Like many cafes we have visited this one also reminded me of those in the Lake District, with homely decor, freshly made cakes and stacks of mismatched goods being sold from cabinets, window ledges and anywhere else they can find space to put stuff, none of it makes any sense to sell but because it’s local they find room for it anyway….and I just love these kinds of places! 
One of the best things about staying with people who own their own land is seeing what they do with it, like maybe building a tribal fire pit which can be used to create one of the best evenings we’ve had so far. Richard and Fiona kindly took us and 3 other guests down to the river to enjoy an evening meal and a night of poetry around the huge fire, with tractor seats and toasted marshmallows. Everyone had a great time, despite the sandflies whose bites are worse than the mosquitos in Asia and that’s saying something. We got some great tips for travelling America from Brent and Laura and chatted about Tahiti with Dany. I’m especially thankful to Laura as I think Kyle is finally excited to see what America has to offer, though I don’t think we’ll follow the advise of getting a car for 500 bucks, it sure won’t get us far!

We were starting to feel like we hadn’t seen much of the National Park around us, so we were over the moon when Richard suggested taking the buggies up Stoney Creek and then climbing to the top of Richard’s knob (Fiona’s nickname for the final ascent). Kyle obviously drove our buggy and followed Richard’s lead up the mountain. I’m pretty chicken shit when it comes to heights so some of the sharper turns and narrow paths had me clinging on for dear life, though I did feel much better once we were closer to the top and fenced in by the thick forest and fog, it was here where we stopped first to have a look at some of the local plants and trees….all of which were lush vivid greens and well maintained. The main tree of interest was the Mati, red pine tree, which is beautiful and as Richard said, it would look amazing in your garden but just won’t grow there, gutted. As the journey carried on we went across rocky terrain and by some mountain goats, through what looked like a huge patch of Christmas trees (which Kyle took great pleasure driving into so that they hit me in the face), and up into denser fog. When we arrived at the top Richard took us to another guest cabin, The Alpine Hut, which on a clear day has great views of Nelson and the beach, unfortunately for us it was raining so we couldn’t see a thing, but Richard painted a pretty good picture and I can imagine that staying up there in the peace and quiet would be a real treat.

As we walked on from the hut to the bottom of Richard’s knob I could tell from looking, that there was no way anyone was getting me to the top. The “path” was a tiny trail in amongst the grass, a perfect slippery slope for me to fall back down and as we were already 700 metres above sea level I was good where I was, so whilst the boys continued on up the mountain I found myself a comfy little rock perch and inconveniently dropped my sunglasses in some sheep poo as I sat down…gutted! Richard breezed up to the top, making it look ever so easy with his hands in his pockets, whilst for Kyle it was more of a use your feet and hands situation. During their descent the fog got thicker and the rain heavier, so it was a mad dash to the hut for a brew and a biscuit before making our way back down the mountain. Despite the rain and being hit in the face by trees it was a brilliant day and fantastic to see some views out over the valley. Plus following all that fresh air and rain it gave us the perfect excuse to cozy up and watch The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, again, buzzing! 

An evening spent sharing stories of families, pets and hometowns with Dany joining the family unit was very enjoyable. A bottle of bubbly toasted a final meal together and an invite to Tahiti topped my night, I’ve got everything crossed that Kyle books that flight.

You know you’re getting pretty close to a family when you can laugh at walking in on one other mid poo, wash each others hair over the bath whilst someones mid shave and another one’s walking around in knickers, AND just help yourself to cakes out of the snack cupboard, which is exactly how we are now with Fiona and Richard. It’s been great to have this opportunity for almost 2 weeks, we’ve fully enjoyed being in the fresh air, going on horse treks and exploring the mountains.

A rainy final day at Baton Run left plenty of time for washing, packing and planning. The South Island is so big, I’m not so sure we’ll fit everything into 13 days, but we’re sure as hell going to try.  We’re sad to say goodbye, I’ll miss waking up to the birds tweeting, falling asleep in silence, the peace, the quiet and of course our new friends. I’ve learnt that you can live without cellphone coverage, as long as you have a little wifi, and that sometimes it is good to take time out away from it all, though I still think that I’m a town (not city) girl at heart. But it’s time to get back out in the car and start road tripping the South Island. Tomorrow we’ll head out early to Westport on a hunt for seals and beaches, we’ll continue on in search of forests and glaciers, looking for treks and wildlife, meeting new people and sharing cultures….it’s going to be a good one.


Love Carrie xxx