Another pack up and go sort of day. This time we were heading into some barmy weather further up North on the South Island. We were rolling before 9am with another refuel stop to first get us underway.
We planned to drive for a couple of hours to break the back of the journey before stopping for an early lunch/snack/drink. The drive for the first part was not too bad apart from the number of roadworks we encountered. They seem to have followed us from Norwich. They do seem to have a strange way of way of doing roadworks down here. There are long stretches where they are doing both sides of the road at once. Rather than laying tarmac it just seems to be tons of gravel being flattened on top of the existing surface, and I mean tons, sometimes a couple of feet deep and then presumably a top surface laid to seal it. They do several miles at a time for no reason that I can see.
I have been singing ‘Tom Tom Turnaround’ in my head whilst driving and realised that it was due to the New Zealand supermarket chain ‘New World’ that we kept passing. It is strange how my mind works in subliminally making that connection and then not immediately telling me how or why. I have now looked the group ‘New World’ up on t’internet. I could remember the lead singer had a big Afro for some reason and I vaguely recollected that they were Australian. It seems they were formed in Australia although 2 out of the 3 were British. Their big hit was in 1973 after appearing on Opportunity Knocks. What I didn’t recall was they ended up in the High Court accused from trying to rig the voting on Opportunity Knocks (which used to be done by sending in postcards) by recruiting all the students in a London college to vote for them to win – which they did for 10 weeks in a row. There were other charges as well. They were initially found guilty but let off following an appeal.
Whilst in a roadworks queue we passed some nice-looking cafes but they were all on the wrong side of the road and so could not get to them. Eventually just before we got to Ashburton, we came to called ‘Farmers Corner’ which advertised a shop and restaurant. The building was beautiful and had won architectural awards. The gardens were pristine with loads of flowers and heathers. It promised alpaca feeding as well for visitors.
We thought it was strange that there were no other cars in the car park but went in anyway. First, we tried the toilets. Karen came out almost crying with laughter. One of the walls in each cubicle was glass meaning the alpacas could look in at you doing your business should they choose to.
Then we asked about the café and was told there wasn’t one. Out of politeness we thought we should still look round the shop. There were lots of expensive alpaca goods. Everyone in the shop was Chinese. Half the shop seemed to be stocked with weird Chinese lotion and medicines. We were followed around the shop by a youngish girl who kept trying to force us into buying we even glanced at. There then seemed to a random office in the middle of the shop as well as a warehouse box packing area. We got out as soon as we could as I was convinced it was a front for either a Chinese convert spying network or illegal drugs cartel. As we left a coach pulled up offloading lots of Chinese people – perhaps it could even have been people smuggling and we had had a lucky escape.
We drove on and eventually found a café called Salmon Tales at Rakaia. This seemed normal and we had a drink and shared a hot cheese scone which was as usual good with an interesting peppery taste.
Then we pushed on with an aim to get to the Waipara Springs winery about 2.15pm giving Karen ample time to sample their offerings. We were making good time until I took the wrong exit off a roundabout on the outskirts of Christchurch which lost us 10 minutes and then we hit roadworks about 10 miles from our destination. We sat there not moving for 20 minutes and then suddenly 3 Police cars roared past us, followed 5 minutes later by 2 Fire Engines. After a while we started to move but at only 5mph until we eventually got to the end of the roadworks. We were mystified to the cause of the hold up until a few minutes up the road we came to what the local news is reporting as a large bush fire. There were helicopters dropping water and all sorts happening trying to stop it spreading, with police everywhere. We were glad to be away from it.
We arrived at the winery with still enough time to sit in their lovely garden to order a pot of tea for me and the white wine flight for Karen. We had a long chat with the waitress who was from Wiltshire. Karen loved all the wines again but again voted the Savvy B her favourite. This is now our third visit here and previously each time afterwards we have ordered a box from a UK supplier to drink at home. We opened our last bottle on Christmas Day and Karen declared we now needed to reorder. I also had my arm twisted to buy a couple of bottles to take away with us to drink over the next couple of days.
Waipara Springs – we can highly recommend it and the staff are all very nice and friendly.
Then we drove back to Amberley to our motel for the night. The room or studio was again first class. The owner told us that he had been put on stand by the council to allow other rooms to be used for people being evacuated because of the bush fire.
After settling in, we walked to the very close by Countdown to buy some more porridge for breakfast and then drove to The Brew Moon Brewery for a Pizza and Drink. The place was buzzing and had a great atmosphere. It was the sort of place that Barry and Neil would have loved. The staff were so friendly as well. We sat on a long table with a load of UK students on what we thought must be a gap year.
The pizzas were top notch and they did one without tomato which was a Brucie bonus. Karen loved the beer that was made on site.
Back at the motel it was such a barmy evening that we sat outside catching up with messages outside until it got dark and we became weary of being bitten again. Those pesky sand flies are a menace. I now have 25 bites on my lower left alone despite Karen seeming to constantly spray me. I just want to scratch and scratch and scratch and scratch….