A hike in the mountains and a loss
Now that the weekend is over, we want to go for a hike in the surrounding mountains today. In Kaikoura we can hike to the popular summit of Mount Fyffe. With 1602 meters it is not exactly small, but the hike starts at the parking lot relatively just above sea level. Thus, there are many metres of altitude in front of us. After about 3 hours we reach the mountain hut and enjoy a short break and the great view. Shortly behind the mountain hut it starts that there is snow in the shadow. Because of the snow our speed slows down drastically. Instead of covering 3-4 kilometres per hour as before, we only get to one kilometre per hour with difficulty. The summit is actually not so far away from the mountain hut, but due to the snow and an increasingly strong wind we decide to stop our ascent shortly before the summit. Too bad, I wanted to refresh my memories from 2015, because at that time I was already once in summer on the summit.
Since I have a drone permit for Mount Fyffe, we took advantage of the opportunity to test the Mavic 2 in strong winds. Surprisingly, despite gusts of up to 50kmh, it works out quite smoothly and we get some great shots of the mountain and the surrounding valleys and forests.
After another break at the mountain hut we start our hike back to the parking lot. The descent is much easier and in less than half the time we are back down again. At the place where I hid my Gopro for a time lapse, it is mysteriously no longer there. Too bad, because the time lapse with the valley and the clouds would have been cool. So, if someone finds a Gopro with a scratched front lens at Mount Fyffe Lookout, it would be cool if you contact me. I need the memory card (if the pictures are still on it), you are welcome to keep the camera if it has grown on you.
After this little scare (ok, we were pretty excited at the time) we go to the parking lot, get into the van and make a short stop at the police in Kaikoura. The policeman is obviously sorry and we take the opportunity to ask where we are allowed to camp legally in Kaikoura with our Van Freedom. The sum of a new Gopro we probably have to save in another place…
An extra night in Kaikoura
After it has become quite late due to the detour and the report of the loss to the police, we decide to spend an extra night on the beach in Kaikoura. We deliberately don't name the place, because the rules have changed again shortly after and we don't want to encourage anyone to get a penalty.
Philipp is still upset about the loss, while I already look online where we can get a replacement. A small waterproof camera is finally a necessary and practical camera for the journey. A camera that you can take with you even if you would not unpack all the other equipment.
From Kaikoura we drive the next morning to the first electronics shop, unfortunately they don't have a Gopro or the right model for us. Also, in the electronics shop the employee apologizes for the loss and emphasizes that this is not the typical New Zealand. One thing I honestly buy from him, because on four trips this is the first time, I have lost something.
We drive along the coastal highway towards Blenheim to have a shower after the exhausting hike of yesterday. We also hope to get a new action cam in the bigger town. Annoyingly, the mini tripod disappeared together with the Gopro. But well, shit happens and before questions arise now. Yes, I was aware of the risk and even after that I still film the same with my Gopro. But now I take more care to hide it a little bit better. Opportunity makes thieves, unfortunately all over the world equally.
A night in Blenheim and a busy day
After we spent a nice night at the Wairau Diversion Mouth, we drive again to Blenheim. Today we want to buy a new Gopro and start to save our pictures more quickly, because who knows if we will lose something again. The library in Blenheim is well sorted and the internet is ok from the speed. We also get a new Gopro including a mini tripod here, as a goodie the seller gives us a Gopro backpack, because he is obviously uncomfortable about the loss. It is nice to see that New Zealand reacts so strongly to this loss, although I have already finished with this topic myself.
With a new Gopro in our luggage we drive over the highway towards Saint Arnaud. There we stop at the two lakes and enjoy the peace and quiet.
In the afternoon we drive from Lake Rotorua towards Nelson. A former supervisor from my Working Holiday time works there on a hop farm and we want to surprise him with a visit. I had already got the address of the farm months ago, but when we arrive there in the afternoon nobody is there anymore. We search a little and find someone else in the office who kindly gives us the right address of Jed. A few minutes later we sit in the van again and this time we drive to the right address. As we drive up the driveway to Jed's house, he comes out of the door visibly irritated but quickly remembers me.
We are invited to stay for one night and the next day we can have a look at the farm in peace.
A day on the hop farm
Since neither of us have ever visited a hop farm before, we do not miss this offer. The hospitality of the New Zealanders is simply terrific. We can hardly keep his wife from cooking just for us again. After all, we have our travelling home with us and we don't want to be a burden to them.
The next morning, we drive in the morning to the farm where Jed already supplies his crew with work for 2 hours. When we arrive, he briefly introduces us to his crew and then gives us a short tour of the farm. With 80 hectares the hop farm is rather small according to him, but nevertheless it fills almost the whole valley and we are visibly impressed by the dimensions. After the tour I offer Jed to take some photos of the farm with my drone, so I can at least give something back for the hospitality. In the afternoon we are told we should stay another night; his wife has already done the shopping and would cook dinner for the three of us. A strange if also very loving situation. We agree and Philipp is visibly pleased, because there are steaks. Has he with me as travel companions no one in the luggage who usually eats meat.
A new farm
Before dinner Jed shows us a collection of meadows and proudly explains that the next farm will be built here. This will cover an additional 200 hectares and should be running at full capacity in 2-3 years. The dimensions are simply stunning and even from the air with the drone it is difficult to capture these dimensions.
The next morning, we sleep in, thank his wife Melissa for the hospitality and drive the highway towards Rabbit Island. There we have breakfast overlooking the beach and meet a German emigrant named Nikita in Richmond around noon. On the trip I broke a cable of my equipment, the spare cables were not available in New Zealand, so Nikita kindly accepted my package with a delivery from Hong Kong.
Since there is also a Freedom Camp in Richmond, we spend the afternoon in the library and in the evening, we drive to the Fittal Street Car Park and occupy the last free place there. Some of the other campers are already a bit creepy, it seems that some locals more or less live here.
Nelson and a shower again
After a relaxed night in Richmond we drive to Nelson to the swimming pool, we finally want to take a shower again. One of the pitfalls of Freedom Camping is the mostly minimal equipment of the pitches. Which is basically ok, so you just have to go to the swimming pool for a shower or visit a paid campground. A shower in the swimming pool usually costs only a few dollars (usually 2-5 NZD) and is completely sufficient for a good feeling.
After we checked the weather forecast, Philipp suggests to make a little detour to Golden Bay and spend a few days there. For Picton he has made a contact who wants to invite us to a hostel. Because we want to explore a little bit more before we go there, we decide to use the hostel visit for the end of the next week.
Golden Bay and an unexpected discovery
From Nelson we drive towards Golden Bay in the afternoon. Shortly after Takaka we stop at a Freedom Camp at a bridge. While I orientate over the badly gravelled place to avoid the biggest potholes, I notice how Philipp suddenly cries out: “That's not possible! Without understanding I look at him, because it is dark and apart from a few other vans I see nothing on the course.
After a little while Philipp explains what he has seen. Their old van, which they drove in 2016 during their Working Holidays, is also standing here on the course. What a funny coincidence, there are several hundred thousand cars in New Zealand and the chance to see the same thing for the second time is very small.
Unfortunately, it is already late and the lights in the van are off, so we don't pursue the plan to contact the new owners any further.
The starry sky up here is great, because Takaka is one of the few small villages that are even in this area.
Farewell Spit and surroundings
We leave quite early in the morning, because we want to have breakfast on the beach and enjoy the peace and quiet. On the way to the Farewell Spit we explore a few more lonely stretches and ride every gravel road where something worth seeing is marked. Thus, we explore places where surely not regularly a backpacker van comes along. We also take some smaller rock falls with us… one more reason to have taken out a car insurance including glass protection.
After we have explored the remote slopes, but couldn't find any particularly nice spots, we finally drive to the Farewell Spit. Even though I was already here, we want to do a little hike and explore the top. But because of the wind the sand flies so low that hiking is not much fun and after only one hour we are as if sandblasted.
Takaka Hill and the Hawkes Lookout
So, we leave already in the afternoon and drive in one go to Takaka Hill and choose the Hawkes Lookout for the overnight stay. Here Self-Contained Vehicles are allowed to spend the night and there is a great viewpoint from where Motueka can already be seen.
At night I take a few time laps and get scared to death by a lonely possum. The sounds of a possum are scary when you don't expect anyone else and listen to music in a deeply relaxed way. Fortunately, the possum is just as scared of me and disappears quickly between the trees. After a short phone call with my family I go to bed late but satisfied and look forward to a new week.
Travel period and interesting facts
Our fourth New Zealand trip took place from 15.08.2019 – 13.11.2019. Without much planning but with a lot of knowledge we explored New Zealand in our own van and got many updates to already existing knowledge. So, we can continue to be a relevant and important source of knowledge for you as a New Zealand interested person. If you want to get information about New Zealand, this blog is available for free.
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