September 18, 2017
Had cheese, pate and shaved ham with crackers for dinner. 2016 Yealand Pinot Gris. For the first time this trip we played cribbage. Tied 1-1.
Sun was out but could see the clouds coming in. Drove north to Kaiteriteri Beach hoping to take a water taxi to Abel Tasman National Park where we could hike a bit and then return. Arrived just after 9:00 and there wasn’t another taxi until 12:45 with a return at 5:00. With the weather being “iffy” and I have a cold, we decided to head towards St. Arnaud which would shorten a long ride (363km) to Hamner Thermal Springs. St. Arnaud is in the Nelson Lakes National Park which is located at the northern end of the Southern Alps.
This is when the “unexpected started.” The GPS must be set for the shortest distance because we left Kaiteriteri on an unmarked road. The problem was that we were getting low on gas and there were only small towns along the way. By the time we arrived at the turnoff for Buller Gorge and St. Arnaud, we had not found petrol. I had marked my map when planning the trip to make sure we got petrol in Murchison. (Decided to bypass St. Arnaud and hope to visit upon our return up north. ) Arrived in Murchison about 12:30 and paid $1.41 a liter. (Heretofore we were paying $1.07/$1.10.) We were just glad to have a full tank!
Had lunch at the River Café. Bob had souvlaki and I had a not too good BLT. Because it was raining and we could not see too much through the fog, we decided to drive to Hamner Springs. Hanmer Springs is the main thermal resort on the South Island. We will be a day ahead of schedule but if the weather is good it would be lovely to enjoy alpine thermal pools!
Just past Murchison we headed south on SR 65 where we followed the Maruia River. At Spring Junction we headed east on SH 7 towards the Lewis Pass. I had read that the Lewis Pass was the least difficult to cross from west to east coasts. Because it was raining so hard I was glad for that! Well, shortly after it began to SNOW and the temp was 0. We are in the middle of nowhere (there are cars thankfully). We have chains but we have not tried to put them on a car let alone a rig in years. Soon we saw the snow plows passing by which was not a good sign. We had 65 km to go with no towns in between. At one point we considered pulling off in one of the very few spots that are used to let traffic pass. Bob was doing a great job but the tension was not fun for either of us.
Arrived in Hanmner Springs which apparently is VERY popular. Spoke to a guy from Christchurch in camp who could find no other place in town for less than $400 per night. The camp “basic cabins” are $80 where he is staying and we are paying $39.
The rain is torrential and non-stop. (Rain like this in CA would be horrific for avalanche, flooding etc.) Camp guy said this has been the coldest, wettest in the last 50 years. He is on holiday here for a week and not sure he will stay even though paid.
We are sitting in the camp kitchen/dining area sipping 2016 Craggy Range “Sav”. Even though there are cooking facilities there is no flatware, plates etc. Are we spoiled or what! May cook here, go back to the rig to eat and wash up.
We are having chicken Kiev with salad.