Zesty Mumma's Words

A life lived without passion is a life half lived

Archive for the tag “Travel On A Shoe String”

Gorgeous Gorges, Flat Rocks and lots and Lots of Water – the Trip to the West Coast NZ


Motueka Valley Road, sounds magical doesn’t it, well it was. This is the route we chose to take from Motueka and eventually met highway 6 which took us to the West Coast. Don’t be deceived, despite the fact that I say we travelled on Highway 6, it is as unlikely a highway as ever there was. Mostly single lane each way  but  there are sections  that you will never forget. At the Buller Gorge the road actually cuts in under a cliff (it’s not a tunnel) and winds around a couple of corners like this. No joke, it is only wide enough for one car and you can’t see if anything is coming. There is no warning signal, you just have to keep honking your horn and hope if anyone coming in the opposite direction hears it. You feel like your in one of those reality TV shows “The Worlds Deadliest Roads”.

We had given a young German backpacker a lift earlier in the day but he only lasted in the car about fifteen minutes before informing us that he had decided he wanted to hike down to the river. I’m sure it wasn’t my driving that freaked him out but I’d hate to have seen how quickly he would have tried to get out of the car if he’d been with us when we went around the gorge.

The river side park where  we stopped for lunch was charming and I went for a swim in a mountain stream. It is amazing how many people stopped to stare, it seemed amazing to them that anyone would want go swimming. Before leaving Claire went to use the toilet, she undid her jeans and pulled them down, then lifted the lid to sit down. The moment she lifted the lid hundreds of wasps flew out of the bowl. Poor Claire she had to try and get out the door, while trying to pull  her jeans as she went and fell out the door followed by a swarm of angry wasps at the same time.


The South Island’s West Coast is unique  due to the fact the Mountains run like a crooked spine  it’s full length. Being the west the sun doesn’t rise till later in the morning and the sky is covered in clouds ninety percent of the time. All I can say is it is a very moist environment.  We decided to stay at Punakaiki for the night.  We hadn’t booked anywhere so we took our chances. Arriving at the Punakaiki Caravan Park we paid for a cabin. which was $65 a night but it was awful. There wasn’t any linen, bare thin mattress, a peeling chipboard  bench and it smelt like it had been closed up for eternity. Needless to say we got our money back and went 1 km up the road to the Punakaiki Beach Backpackers, booked the last room (which was the same price) and was knocked out by the cleanliness of the place. Situated right on the beach and a nice walk up to the Pancake Rocks it was awesome. Clean white sheets, spotless well equipped communal backpacker kitchen and stunning views for about the same price. I would suggest you book though we were just lucky and got the last room, there were still travellers arriving after us that couldn’t be accommodated.


view from the verandah of the backpacker

We walked up to the rocks after  unloading a bit of gear and will tell you that this wasn’t a place I had honestly wanted to visit. You know, ho hum, rocks by the beach, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The rock formations are amazing and the NZ national park have done a terrific job of making the area accessible for every type of traveller. Lucky for Claire there enviro toilets do not come with complementary stinging things.

Which brings me back to sandflies. The west coast is rife with them and again make sure you have your insect repellant.

It was late when we arrived back and the accommodation so we just cooked a simple meal. I had bought a few pack of vacuum packed indian style veggie dishes a few days before. These are so yummy and they only cost  a few dollars NZ. Mixed with a pack of pre cooked brown rice and served with natural yoghurt it was a great meal and it only cost in total about $3 each. The other nice thing about backpackers accommodation, they usually have a few herbs in the garden that you can add to your meal.


* Make sure you arrive by at least 4.00pm as you want to enjoy Punakaiki cause you will probably head south first thing in the morning.

* As I mentioned in this story I went to an Indian Shop (Actually in Wellington before we left for the ferry) and  bought packets of vegetable dishes in vacuum pack. They were so cheap and no nasties like preservatives in them.  Have something quick to prepare is really important when you are getting back late, your tired and there are no shops around. This particular location is a little isolated so this rule definitely applied here.



Get Your Priorities Right – The Renovation Nightmare

Renovating a house can be a long and arduous project, as I’m sure anyone who has viewed the endless list of reality television shows will agree . A list of priorities is a necessity, however this is generally the point at which partners no longer see eye to eye. Men and women just can’t seem to place the same level of importance on the same bit of needed repair.

My husband feels that building a monolithic stone barbeque, which every bloke that comes to our house gazes at longingly, is of vital importance. Their eyes glaze over with appreciation, and say in hushed voices,” Ah, mate what a beauty”.

My priorities run a little more toward esthetics of the home. Personally though, considering that the bathroom is under the house and we have no internal stairs, I’d be happy with a light so I could see where I was going in the middle of the night.

It is a hazardous trip at the best of times. Two dogs, a cat and numerous green tree frogs being just some of the obstacles you have to navigate. However at one o’clock in the morning, when you are busting to go to the toilet, it can be out right dangerous.

As I stumbled down the stairs the deep sleep I had woken from still held me in its clutches and I was oblivious to my surroundings. I had almost made it to the bottom when my foot landed on something I had never felt before. Cool and smooth its coils rolled over the side of my foot. My heart stopped beating and I instantly leapt into the air, dancing and screaming as I hit the ground. In a second it was gone. I ran hysterically up the stairs to my sleeping husband to seek protection. After a few beers the night before he was not in any mood to wake up before time, but I tried anyway.

“Craig, Craig” I said, “I’ve just trodden on a snake”.
“Mmm, Mmm ” says he.
“Craig, Craig” I said, “I don’t know if I’ve been bitten by a snake”.
“Mmm, Mmm” says he.

We continued this routine for the next ten minutes, during which time my imagination raced and I perceived every speck on my foot as a fang mark. Finally, my voice found its way to the darkest reaches of his brain.

“Do you feel sick” Craig asked.
I thought seriously, my heart was jumping out of my throat, sweat was rolling down my brow, but no I didn’t feel sick.
Being the strength of our family and having the ability to make executive decisions, based on all available information, before closing his eyes and drifting back to sleep he said, “Lie down for a while and see what happens”.

For some unfathomable reason I listen to him.
As sleep finally came upon me my last thought was. “If anything happens I could be dead”.

The Road to Nelson – the home of Sid and Night Swimmers!

What I didn’t tell you last week was that I was travelling with my friend Claire.

I used to think, when I was married and had children in tow, that I would love to be alone sometimes.  But once you are it is a very different situation.  I remember the first time I was able to wander around Byron Bay (my favourite place in the world) by myself. The first hour was great and I was able to be just Stephanie, not mum or wife, just Stephanie. But a very strange thing happened – I began wishing that I had someone to have a coffee with, very strange and very unexpected. And to coin a phrase made famous by that prophet of modern cinema, Hugh Grant, in “About a Boy”, I realised   “I was not an island”.  Anyway so, the point is I realised that I needed people, so now I travel with friends and at least the last couple of times, that would be Claire. So my advice is find a travel buddy!

We arrived in Nelson after about an hour drive from Picton, past wineries (Stoneleigh was one that I remember) and picture perfect scenery.  Nelson is  a pretty little town set by the water. It is actually a major port for fishing, timber and yachties. We had already booked our accommodation at The Bug Backpackers. It turned out to be a great choice, situated about 1km from the Nelson CBD but that wash’t a problem for us cause we had a car. It is very clean and has a great garden out the back. I was glad we had pre booked a twin room cause everything was full. It was perfect for us and  even had a sink, which isn’t always the case The owners  are an English couple who love living in NZ. They care about their backpackers and you can tell, which is more than I can say for some. In the morning there is freshly brewed coffee and fresh baked bread in the kitchen, but you have to get in quick cause  it is a first in first served situation.

Nelson is an arty town and there is plenty to see and enjoy. It is funny cause many years ago my ex and I gave a person called Sid  a lift to Sydney from Queensland. He actually came from Nelson  and worked on the fishing trawlers there. I had this badly misconceived idea about the type of person that lived in Nelson based on what Sid had told us about his live in Nelson, and that wasn’t pretty if you know what I mean.

We did try to find some live music on the second night we were there but unfortunately on a Thursday night the entertainment doesn’t start till 10 or 10.30 pm. Far too late a start for me and I can hear all you young people scoffing, don’t worry you’ll feel the same soon.

Anyway there  is something else that is very interesting about Nelson, it is the closest in Temperature to Australia than any other NZ destination. Apparently it i is very sheltered so the weather doesn’t vary too much  from Summer to Winter. The temperature in February when we were there was fabulous.

There is another interesting thing we noticed about Nelson, the residents come out to swim after seven o’clock at night. Apparently they have this tradition of evening swimming. Weird right? They have a long twilight so it is still quite light till late at night even at the end of Summer.   I heard a story while I was there about a group of swimmers in Nelson ( they were actually a club of night swimmers) that were followed by something with a fin. It was said to be a dolphin hut hey I’m Australian and I know that if you are being followed by anything with a fin at night you can bet your life it’s usually a shark.

* Nelson had great op shops in the same street as we were staying.

* We picked up the cutlery etc I mentioned last week.

* We did our shopping at a major supermarket in Nelson

* I also picked up homemade jam, relish and lemons from senior citizen stalls

Motueka and Golden Bay next week.


Touring New Zealand – Expect Visual Overload


New Zealand is an amazing place, most of the time it is simply an assault on the senses.  Visual overload goes with out saying, I find myself literally gasping at every bend in the road.

The waters of Marlborough sound, so deep and pure rush past the ferry as it makes it’s way to Picton. The hills that form the sides of the Sounds stand steep and tall, like the buttress walls of a fortress, and race at an astonishing gradient down to the water. Snuggly nestled in the little bays that line the shore are picturesque homes, ready fuel for your imagination. What would it be like to get your mail or go shopping by boat? What do you do if you run out of milk, no 711 round the corner?

Picton is a lovely town and perfect entry point to New Zealand’s South Island, with a great “I Site” (tourist information centre) close to the ferry terminal.   There are many good eateries in and around the main street, and you should take the time to refresh, check your petrol and map before heading out of town.

Most tourist keep moving but there is of course an excellent range of accommodation in Picton for anyone wanting to explore the Sound.

It’s really important to remember that although New Zealand may only be a small country with relatively short distances between destinations that doesn’t mean the your trip will be quick. The steep nature of the country and windy roads can double and sometimes even triple the time it normal takes to cover the same distance on a straight road. Having said that, the roads generally aren’t congested and driving is quite relaxing, except when you get stuck behind a convoy of camper vans heading up a mountain pass.

Helpful Hints

* I always travel by hired car when I tour  NZ. Their government requires vehicles to have safety checks every six months, therefore, even the cheapest of hire cars are well maintained. So don’t feel you need to go up market.

* If you pre- order your ferry tickets from the Inter Islander you get a significant discount

*Bring (or buy from an op shop) a thermos, always important to have access to warm drinks in a cold country. Also from the op shop find some cutlery & crockery. Another good thing to pick up is a blanket, you never know when the weather may change.

* A $3.00 insulated bag from Countdown (NZ supermarket chain) will mean you can carry milk and any other food Item that may need to be kept cool.

Next – On to Nelson and Golden Bay


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