We have been doing quite a bit of travelling recently, with a quick four-day trip to Queenstown on $75 return flights from Auckland (had to be done at that price) to see grandson baby Finn, and his parents of course. We picked up a Maui rental so we had independence, accommodation, and an office to work out of for a few hours each day. Thankfully there’s a good diesel heater in this model, and an electric ceiling bed in the rear over the good-sized U-shaped lounge meant we could leave the bed made up, push the button and make it all disappear, so we could sit in the back and enjoy the stunning views on offer. Excellent for baby Finn as well, making for easy changing and sleepy time.
This trip was perfect timing for Queenstown – there was hardly anyone there. It was such a treat to walk around the main lake waterfront, up the streets and into the shops, with hardly anyone else around. Honestly it is so rare to be in Queenstown and not be in a crowd of (usually young) people. I had to take photos in the main shopping area as you could see the beauty of the spot without the tourists. A trip up the gondola, of course, to see good friend Rona. It is quite expensive at $39 a head to go up there, but it is a view the rest of the world recognises and has to be seen if you’re there. This was probably about our 30th trip up. We have been up for dinner a few times as well, expensive per person but the food is truly fantastic, a buffet with a lot of options for everyone, including my vegan Rock.
We go to Queenstown often enough to have favourite restaurants. On the waterfront is the Pub on Wharf; years back $10 lunch meals were their drawcard, but unfortunately they have gone and chips are the vegan option for Rocky. But the people-watching opportunities and views sitting outside under a heater are great. Our real favourite spot is at Arthur’s Point, at the new Brewery and Café at the Shotover Jet area by the bridge. I have put in photos of yummy, affordable food from here before, but this time I had to video my food – check it out online with this story and on Facebook. I ordered a smoked fish pie that came out deconstructed and trendy in presentation – and my food was moving with little sea anemone-like waving fronds on the top! Seriously freaked me out for a minute. Sliding my glasses on to the nose and closer inspection revealed it wasn’t alive, and queries to the chef shared the secret of halibut fish flakes reacting to the heat below and causing them to wave around like little live beings. The vegan option for Rocky was delicious as well. We do recommend a visit here if you’re down that way; you won’t be disappointed with the food, drinks or views, and excellent prices.
We managed a quick road trip with mama Maura and baby Finn, doing the drive to Wanaka via Cromwell for a bit of shopping at the Glowing Sky shop for a top up of the merino winter jackets I like so much, a good reason for a drive on a beautiful day. Glowing Sky is a business that originated on Stewart Island and has stores only in the lower south. A nice lunch on the foreshore, shopping with the kids, a drive out to Glendhu Bay; what more could you want from a family day out.
Arrowtown was so picturesque, and again the streets were so empty it was a bit spooky. First time for many years I have been able to walk down the middle of the street to take photographs of the buildings – no cars on the road and hardly any people on the street until the inevitable tour bus group arrived a bit later, but we enjoyed the contrast in this usually busy alpine village.
Back at home to the rain, and a drive down the motorway to Hampton Downs where Rob Axton from Country RV along with his RV Service Centre crew were competing with their race car in a 24-hour endurance race for charity. We talk about living the RV lifestyle and getting out to live life while you can, so seeing Rob, Clint and the team enjoying themselves together was great. As a business and team they have found a non-work activity that rings all their bells, and as a team-building and bonding exercise it is highly recommended. As always at a racetrack there were people staying over in caravans, buses, motorhomes, campers and even a big purpose home-built truck with the race car in there as well.
The following week we drove down to Tauranga, enjoying a night in a hotel instead of the motorhome, to visit Country RV in Mt Maunganui and catch up with Colin and Merilyn Bates from Leisure Line to look over the new Nomad caravan recently released (reviewed later in these pages). It is always nice to stay by a waterway; for us this time it was right on the water with views of the bridge to the Mount, as well as of the port and back up the harbour to the train bridge.
Back home to pack up the house, we have moved again – but still in Pukekohe. We are renting a house for the first time for many years. Usually you have to tie into a 12-month lease minimum – if you can get a house. Boy that is another story in itself; registering to view a house online, getting an appointment with possibly 30 others, viewing it in 10 minutes, applying online if you like it, waiting to see if you have been chosen among all the others. For us, we took a house that offered a three-month rental then monthly after that. We couldn’t live in the RnR, which had been the plan, so scoring a house for just three months was ideal.
Once we knew we loved being back in the north we started looking for something longer term; although we’re not prepared to sell our Martinborough house at this point, renting is fine for the moment. It has taken four months to find something that would work for us. Finding a house with actual parking space for more than two smart cars in the driveway has been a major mission – seriously the houses built these days are pokey boxes with no section, a driveway just long enough to park the length of a car on it, a garage they call a double but only if you have baby cars, and certainly parking two motorhomes somewhere is just a fantasy. We were in a two-bedroom house for $540 per week – I kid you not. For $640 per week we have moved into a five-bedroom (yay we get an office each) house, up a right-of-way with just enough front area to squeeze all the vehicles in.
The garage is spacious and takes the two big cars easily, a separate lounge for us adults, and great family area for the light-of-our-life, granddaughter Charli and her own bedroom to stay over – life is sweet. So we moved in on the Saturday, and then packed the motorhome on the Sunday and drove to Martinborough – we had appointments to attend so a visit home had to be taken. A week was planned, but we have trashed the house so much clearing stuff out, and and our deadlne had got so tight that we’re still sitting here in Martinborough. The fire has been cranking non-stop, the walkies around the vineyards and old haunts have delighted Caspar – his barking at every movement going past has certainly let the town know we are back – and the comfort of a walk down to Kitchener’s to have an $8 mince on toast with local retirees and join in on the morning quiz ritual has been nice.
There is a new range of vegan food coming out of a kitchen down here, set to be available in service stations and New World stores I hear, so be tempted and try the burritos, they are delicious (so I’m told, as I tuck into my mince with gusto lol). I can’t recall the business name, but I do recall the tears that came to the eye of the person telling me about them, how they structure work hours to employ local mums who can only work 9am to 3pm, and work with the local community to help them and themselves. It was quite touching, but that’s how a small community rolls though, isn’t it – you help me, I help you attitudes.
We’ll be back up to the big smoke at the weekend to sort our house out with all the crap we think we need and are taking up. At the end of the month we head south again aiming to be at the Christchurch show July 5–7, our first time exhibiting there for a few years so please come and see us. Caspar will be on the stand this year as well.