Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Saturday, February 28, 2010

“Tent campers…Are you awake in there?” “Yes,” we groggily replied. “There is a potential tsunami headed for the coast of New Zealand. You can pack up and move your tent to the rugby field at the school in Seddon.” This was how we were awoken at 4:00 A.M. this morning! We’ve never packed up so quickly in our lives. We were at Marfells Beach on the eastern coast of South Island and north of Kaikoura and we were literally 50 feet from waters edge.

As we followed a long line of camper vans and caravans the 8km back to the main road we couldn’t help but think about the fact that we were originally trying to freedom camp (free camp) last night and would have had no warning about the potential storm. Earlier in the afternoon we’d followed a beach road and actually found a couple of campers that looked firmly entrenched and therefore proceeded further down the road. The problem was that it quickly turned very sandy and there was nowhere to turn around. Fortunately, Mike was able to use a wide spot in the road and drove partially up a sand dune to get us turned around. However, Gregory and I had to get out of the car and he had to back up and get a fast running start to get us out of the mess we’d found ourselves in! There’s always the unexpected adventure with the Williams family.

This morning, while we were able to quickly disassemble the tent, lay it in the boot and take off, we drove past large caravans with awnings, chairs, chilly bins, barbeques, and the works still out and had to sympathize with what they would have to do to get off the beach. It was early Sunday morning and I’m sure they were set up for a nice long weekend.

Currently we are sitting in Big Blue (our Nissan Bluebird) parked in a space overlooking the rugby field at Seddon School. We weren’t about to set our tent up again at 5:00 A.M. in the morning and at any rate the sprinklers are on! The camper vans and caravans parked around us sit dark and others have probably gone back to bed. We are covered by our sleeping bags and Mike and Gregory are reading books with their headlamps…It is currently 5:23 A.M.

As we drove to Seddon we noticed a definite elevation gain and from the map we can see that we are inland. A very cold wind nipped at us while we tried to properly fold and put away our tent. We can hear the howling of the wind as it gently rocks our car and by the light of the full moon and a few street lamps we can see the fronds of the palm trees swaying in the wind. We can only speculate that perhaps there was an earthquake off shore that brings these storm warnings.

When I asked Gregory if he knew what a tsunami was he said, “Ya. 100 foot waves Mom.” Mike mentioned how lucky we are that we aren’t in a third world country that has no warning system.

We originally got out the computer hoping for an Internet connection so we could Skype our parents so they wouldn’t worry. No connection so I am just typing in Word currently and hopefully we can post today. If you aren’t on Skype you should go to Skype.com and get set up. It took Mike only about 10-15 minutes to set up and we can call (telephone from the computer) America from New Zealand for two and half cents a minute! Once we have the caller on the telephone line we ask them to go to their computer (after hanging up the phone) and we can talk with video from the computer for free! How terrific is that?! We are thrilled because we have no phone service down here.

We came through Kaikoura yesterday, which is a city of about 4,000 and that is fairly large on New Zealand standards. The owner of the fruit and veggie stand informed us that they see over 10,000 tourists a year. There were too many hotels here for his liking. He said he does OK for himself and enjoys his 5 acres that faces the sea but if he were 20 years younger he would live in Australia where the opportunities are greater. Gregory was eager to try a variety of apple that was recommended to us by Linda, the Aussie we met back at Waikuku, and when Gregory asked about the Cox Orange apple the owner went in the back and brought out his one and only case that had just arrived. They were delicious and we wish we’d bought more.

The setting of Kaikoura is breathtaking. There are 8,000’ mountains that drop off into the turquoise waters of the sea. We’ve been told that it is especially stunning when the peaks are snow-capped. We drove up to the lookout and braved the winds to soak in the spectacular view. We then drove around the peninsula to the seal colony and got an up close peak at the seals. We were walking along the shore looking at the seals on the rocks when we turned and saw a female lounging in the sun just a few feet from us. We walked along the sea wall and I got a good dousing as the waves crashed in. I joked that now I smelled like seal water. After venturing into town to get some cash, and driving past several large and over-priced holiday parks in the centre (center) of town, we chose to get some groceries and continue further north to find a less crowded and more remote camping place. It was a lot of driving for one day but we were pleased when we found Marfells Beach, which we are sure is one of the beaches we stayed at back in 1995 with our traveling companions Ken and Cindy.

Today, after spending our Saturday morning in camp at Amberley Beach we drove up the coast and took a 10km detour down to Motunau where we watched tractors launch boats bound for the Motunau Island Nature Reserve, which has landing by permit only. It was quite a lot of work to get these boats launched! The tide was out and we explored the tide pools amongst the black and white stones collecting treasures. Gregory met a small boy whom Gregory said traded him a pipi (clam) shell for a paua (abalone) shell, Gregory’s first. We heard red-billed black birds call to us as they walked amongst the rocky shore. I thought of Mom and Papa George back home and how much they would love exploring this beach with us. As time got away from us we finally made our way back to the car and found the tide had come in. We still had plenty of coastline to make our way around the bay but it was a good reminder to pay attention to the tides. By the time we made it back to the car the boats no longer needed a tractor to make it out to the open sea. It was a lovely couple of hours and probably my favorite part of the day.

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