November is here in all its glory. It’s a lovely warm sunny day in Martinborough as I write this. We’ve had a seriously busy couple of months, and travelled over 2500km in just two weeks at one stage, because we could – that’s living the RV lifestyle, LOL.

South Bay pouwhenua front cover image. The archway pouwhenua as you walk up the entrance path at South Bay tells the story of Māui going fishing in his canoe and pulling up the house of Tangaroa (the god of the sea).

At the end of the last Chronicles in RV72, we had arrived in Kaikoura to house- and dog-sit. We had a brilliant 10 days staying there. Caspar had the time of his life chasing rabbits every day, and playing with Layla the dog, as well as all the chickens, sheep and llamas we were feeding.

With a campground and NZMCA park on this side of Kaikoura the marina and walkway are very popular for visitors

Kaikoura itself was wonderful. We were on deadline for NZTODAY magazine for much of the time, so were heads down and working hard every day, but each night we headed into Kaikoura to have dinner, meet locals and generally connect with the community, and we became well known all right – with the local police of all people. Those of you who follow our Facebook page will know why, but I will give readers an abridged version here.

Plenty of space to pull up and relax, sit and enjoy the vista

The first night out, at the Lobster Inn Motor Lodge, we enjoyed a really good meal in a friendly pub environment with a group of local road workers, and local residents, but I left my merino jacket there in error. When I phoned up the next day it was there waiting for me, no problem. The next night out we went to another restaurant in the main street, had a drink at the pub across the road and went home again. The next morning we got a phone call and email from Laura in the office, then a phone call from the police: “We have found your wallet Mr Mountain.” We didn’t realise it, but it had fallen out of his jacket pocket when getting into the car, landed on the road, been found and handed over to the police. A visit to the station to pick up wallet and leave behind magazines for everyone, and away – awesome, no cards or money missing, how great is that? Next day we spent a few hours at the lovely South Bay, taking lots of photographs for (hopefully) this magazine with Rocky’s flash new Lumix camera – it’s a lot smaller than the old Nikon we had so he is still loving playing with it, learning some of the smart-arse stuff it does and all that.

Museum manager Stephanie Lange was happy to give us a personal tour of the Kaikoura Museum

We relaxed for while on a picnic bench looking out at the water, then loaded the dogs into the car and went back to town for some retail therapy shop cruising. We realised within 10 minutes that we had left the camera on the picnic table – damn! Back we go, but to no avail – it was gone. What a bummer and Father’s Day too – my big boy got a butt kicking for that – and how embarrassing going into the cop shop to make a report. Come back Monday and file a report they said. Sunday night we got a phone call, “Just wondering Mr Mountain if you are still in Kaikoura, and have you lost a camera by any chance?” Turned out a local policeman’s son found the camera and took it to his dad who was having the weekend off. He’d picked up our magazines when he dropped into the office and was looking at them when his son showed him the camera. He saw a whole heap of motorhome and caravan photos on the camera, looked at the magazine he had been reading and thought, “who would take these sorts of photos, maybe it’s these guys,” so he looked up our details and gave us a ring on the mobile. Small world – lovely people in Kaikoura.

A few hours can be spent in the museum, they have an extensive research room, separate areas that honour all area’s of the regions development - and an earthquake exhibition is on display as well

We enjoyed taking time to wander in and out of every shop, and spent a few hours at the Kaikoura Museum on a rainy day – something I recommend. There is lots to interest everyone on some level.

The Rock turned vegan – a year ago now – so finding restaurants or cafés to cater for his needs is an interesting challenge. I am now a dedicated food photographer, if we find something worthy on his plate, so expect a few more food recommendations in these columns when he gets something awesome.

As life does, we had a change of direction on the day we were to return home. Just as we were discussing changing our Interislander ferry booking to an earlier sailing (as we were ready to get back home), we got a phone call that saw us head south instead – Invercargill hospital here we come – our grandson Finn was arriving. Hey, it’s only 12-hours’ drive away, but closer than if we were at home in Martinborough – off we went.

Pier Hotel got the thumbs up for Rocky’s dinner

A quick stop in Goose Bay to check out the road reconstruction and the work on the road tunnels to widen and make then higher for the bigger new truck units on the road. Another stop at UCC in Christchurch for a quick catch up, again in Ashburton at Nationwide RV – good walkies stops for Caspar as well.

We reached Invercargill at 9pm that night, looked on Google for vegan-friendly restaurants and went straight there. The owners were lovely and let us drive around the back and park up for the night – the thought of trying to find somewhere after dinner was just too draining. The food was excellent, one of Invercargill’s top restaurants we found out later, Elegance at 148.

The Shotover bridge is home to the Shotover Jet business, and also this picturesque cafe, now called the Canyon Food and Brewery

Finn arrived eight weeks early, but was nearly 5lbs and healthy. Mum and baby were doing brilliantly so we headed up to Queenstown for some work, and caught up with friend Rona. Here we took our first trip ever up to Coronet Peak. I know that sounds ridiculous, but we don’t ski so haven’t gone up before, but wanted Caspar to play on the snow. It is actually worth the drive up just to see the views. You can see from Arrowtown across to Lake Hayes, and see Queenstown itself peeking through the hills and over to Arthur’s Point.

Delicious food at the Canyon - who knew crispy brussel sprouts with pine nuts, golden raisins and a drizzle of balsamic would be so amazing - Rocky was drooling over that and the roast broccoli. Rona and I enjoyed a bit of cauliflower cheese, mmmm

On the way back we stopped at the Shotover Jet place – it was beer o’clock – a new business there since our last visit, and with things like brussel sprouts and broccoli on the sides menu the Rock was well happy, and so were Rona and I. The sides were all we ate – $7 each and absolutely delicious – the beer and wine was pretty good too. We did a lot of eating out when in Queenstown, with Nugget Point restaurant seeing us for breakfast and dinner.

Amazing flowers next to the Pier Hotel Kaikoura – quite the spring display

The Pub on the Wharf always gets a visit, though their prices have gone up quite a bit, and the boat on the water set up as a bar got a visit, though it was a short one because Caspar was scared and had to sit on Rocky’s knee shivering and shaking till we got off. Think he forgot to share that in his column, bit embarrassed he was!

Tunnel work – new trucks on the road are bigger than the old ones these tunnels were built for, so they are widening and adding height while they rebuild the road both sides

Time to go back to Invercargill, with a stopover in the historic village of Garston for a coffee at the cart, and later another to diversion to Riverton. I had only been there once before, the Rock not at all. What a hidden southern gem that place is; a busy little marina and boating scene, pretty as a picture on a sunny day, and enough shops in the main street to serve your needs. We weren’t there to stay though (but a longer visit is marked down) as baby was calling and so was home.

Themed café at Bill Richardson Transport World, good food in a fantastic venue

Another long roadie from Invercargill to Kaikoura in one day again. We caught up with Dave and Lynn, whose house and dog we’d looked after at the beginning of our journey but had missed them the day they got home because we had left in a hurry that day. Caspar was very happy to be back there after so long in the motorhome, but we were on the road next morning on a mission to get home.

The VW 1956 Kombi camper van and camp trailer

The road work is still amazing to see as you drive this highway, and the smiles on the road workers’ faces are so noteworthy – they all look so damned happy to be there. Guess it is pretty good compared to the Waikato expressway roadway crews, or the Papakura to Manukau highway work that is going on forever and a day.

Papa Bruce with Ben and wee Finn a few minutes old - to small to visit initially, we were just happy he arrived safely and healthy

We were home for a few days, then packed the motorhome and headed to Mystery Creek for the motorhome show. Then it was up to Auckland for more work, with one notable meal out as a treat. Heads up for this one – Amano in Britomart – go there for breakfast, lunch or dinner and have your mind blown with deliciousness and some of the best staff service you might have ever had. Wairarapa crayfish hand-made tortellini for me, and some vegan pasta that Rocky loved (who cares right …) and a simple quarter cut of lettuce with a lemon drizzle, holy moly. And no more expensive than any average restaurant. Everything hand made, Italian themed, incredible bakery as well – just saying, it’s worth finding.

Riverton – a hidden southern gem

A quick trip to Whangarei with client visits on the way, a very happy five-year-old’s birthday visit, and a first for the Rock, a visit to a little girl’s ballet class to watch her dance – what an absolute joy it was to, thanks to little Chloe Wright for sharing that with us.

Helping bake cupcakes for her birthday, the art of baking is not lost to the youth after all – good job mum Melissa

A visit to our granddaughter in Pukekohe on the way home, another bundle of joy. I know you readers out there will relate to these littlies who bring such joy too us, and we get to leave LoL.

A few road stops on the way up from Kaikoura to Picton, enough time for photos

I have been working in the motorhome this week. We are laden with deadlines on five magazines to get out before Christmas, and it is nice to be tucked away in the warm, cosy environment out there, and away from the office phone – fantastic.

A few road stops on the way up from Kaikoura to Picton, enough time for photos

Next week we head to Auckland in Rosie. She is getting some solar panels, an extra battery and some LED lights, as well as getting quotes for new squabs. She needs to be on the rental market asap to start paying her way, so we need to shake a leg. Summer is around the corner, Christmas parties are being planned – it’s all go.