Lately my entries have been little more than a very thorough diary, going over pretty much everything we've been doing in excruciating detail. One of the reasons for that is that lately I've found myself with excessive amounts of free time. On a road trip, once the sun has set, there's not a whole lot to do other than write about the things you've done. So each day swells up to at least a full page…
It's a problem and I'll try to adjust my behavior from now on. Sadly, such things are rarely possible, so this is probably going to be a long one also. Too bad…
To the point
We returned to the east coast in fine weather and drove into a town called Timaru where we stopped at the visitor center. We got the friendliest and most knowledgeable help we've ever had there, which turned out to be only the beginning of a very fine stay in the town. It turned out that they allowed free camping with a self-contained vehicle in Caroline Bay, on a parking lot on Marine Parade. They even had a toilet and cold showers there, in addition to a bunch of dumpsters and a dump point for the campervan's effluent tank. It was great, we had no complaints what so ever about it, even though it was right next to the freight port where they were loading up containers 24/7. The location was perfect in the end, because it was only about a hundred meters from the thing we had driven there for: the local penguin colony. The little blue penguins inhabit the rocks next to Marine Parade opposite to the port, which makes it an ideal place to watch them come out of the sea at night. The lights from the port shine bright enough to let you see the birds and even take pictures, if you have a steady hand. We went to see them at about six p.m., just after sunset and saw two emerge from between the rocks not long after. None were making it to shore from the sea, but at least we saw a couple, even though it wasn't the best season for spotting them.
Timaru was more than just penguins and we ended up liking the town a lot. From our "campsite" we took a walk along the boardwalk through Caroline Bay and over to the Dashing Rocks. On the way back the track took us through a field that we shared with some grazing cows. Back in Caroline Bay we had a look around the park which was superb, pretty much as good as city parks go. In addition to the boardwalk and the beach there were outdoor gym equipment, fields for volleyball, tennis, football, bicycle polo etc., an open air theatre, some ponds and my favorite, a free aviary. The dome of the aviary can be seen from far off, it's packed with lively and colorful birds and it's completely free for everyone to enjoy. And that wasn't the only thing that was free in this town, they also had free wifi in public areas, mainly on the central shopping street. It worked pretty well as we were using it in the night to check our emails, but during the day it was very slow. That didn't matter that much though, since the library also had free wifi, which surprised us with its quickness.
We could have used the wifi to make the reservation for the most pressing travel arrangement in the nearby future, the ferry crossing to the north island, but we decided to do it the easy way and head back to the visitor center. They charged us $4 each and a 2% credit card surcharge, but it was super easy to get the tickets this way, and we even got the print without any hassle. Our 5.0 meter campervan and the two of us would make the crossing with Interislander for the price of $263, which is a lot of money, but it had to be done. We wanted to see the other island as well and we had booked our departure flight from Auckland. They advertise the crossing as one of the "must" travel experiences in New Zealand, perhaps we'll get to see some nice coastal scenery on the way.
Before continuing our way towards the eventual ferry crossing we did two more things of note in Timaru. We had lunch at Domino's, which is always worth a mention because it's so good. More importantly, I had a haircut. We've been on the road for over four months now and it was definitely time for that, I had started to look like a little boy in the photographs. When I pressed my mane down it reached my eyebrows, which means that it had gotten about as long as it's ever been. I was experiencing bad hair days and had tangles after a shower. I had started to feel like putting flowers in it and driving to San Francisco with a psychedelically painted Volkswagen Kleinbus. It had to go. It cost $15 and took about five minutes to return me to a state of military like order, with the mane reduced to about 12mm, sufficiently short to allow me to go the rest of the trip without another haircut. I was relieved and felt like myself again, looking five years older in the process.
It didn't help in the end though. As we were leaving the town we had come to adore we stopped at the Pack n' Save to get some long needed wine, but when we tried to get it through the register the lady asked for our IDs. That hasn't happened to me in years… She wouldn't even accept our foreign driver's licenses so Sini had to run back to the car to get our passports. To make matters worse we realized only later in the evening that the three liter box of wine actually contained a wine-like liquid containing only 5.8% alcohol.
We'll just have to drink more.