Day one on the road with Bettie and we didn't get very far - about 5km down the road to a freedom camp East of Christchurch. The day was spent stocking up the van, cleaning everything out and getting all out stuff into a working system. Then we celebrated with prawns and bubbly followed by steak, chips, mushrooms and salad. That first night I knew we had made the right decision, we were cooking out the back of the van shielded from the wind and eating cosy and warm at the table whilst many others in the younger Toyotas and hayundis were having to cook outside and eat huddled in blankets on camping chairs.
The next morning we had a lazy breakfast, I have finally brought marmite and loving every bite! We needed to register Bettie and get insurance, we thought we could get it on the peninsular and get a drive in as well - turns out not. So we had to make our way back to Christchurch. By now we had got lost a *few* times, as maps doesn't work with gps when you're in aeroplane mode as we need to be. Passing a pawn brokers as we headed back into town we invested $80 on a friendship saving GPS. Finally we got registered, insured and food for the day and hit the road to the banks peninsular.
Turns out Bettie is lovely to drive, but she isn't quite so keen on the longer journeys, so pushing her around town all day and then the 80km drive out to the peninsular was asking a little to much. Her radiator light came on and we pulled into a garage to let her cool and get extra coolant. A quick mechanic check later and we were back on the road, 2 hours later.
We spent the night in Okains bay, and the drive over the peninsular was stunning. Likewise Bettie was stunningly slow, it's good we have 2 months, as she likes the more relaxed pace when it comes to hills.
We made an early move this morning, opting to head for Akaora for breakfast by the harbour. If travelling across at dusk was pretty, travelling back at sunrise was breathtaking. As long as you ignore the slight inconvenience of having the sun completely blinding you on hairpin turns!
Going for a walk through the town and logging into the wifi my resident trip advisor hinted at the good cruises available in the area. We booked on the 11am boat and shimmied down to the harbour. As always you're promised all these animals, but rarely expect to see that many. Here we were on the boat 5 minutes before a pod of black finned Dolphins came to join us. Luckily I had picked up a memory card for my go pro this morning, so my first videos are of Dolphins jumping alongside the boat. The skipper turned the boat round twice to try and get us as much time as possible with the playful Dolphins, then we moved out of the bay and towards the seals. On the way we stopped at a cave and there was an adolescent white finned penguin preening himself in the water metres from the boat, with his age he hung around for a while, parading himself to many admirers. I'm pretty sure it was Bob, but then he didn't jump in the boat so I could take him home. Heading out to the ocean the wind picked up, the boat speed picked up and my breakfast nearly came up. We ducked into the next bay where the seals covered the rocks, including Cubs bounding around. We were out for two hours and had an amazing time, the commentator was great "and on our left we can see the rare breed of kayaker, the yellow one is the female" jokes mother Scott would giggling far too much at.
Leaving Akaora, we took the coast road up past the southern bays to more stunning scenery, and a few cars trudging along behind Bettie on the hills. We were aiming for a campsite a little further south, down by a large lake, but we came across a free site by a little stream and have set up here for the evening. As we both got a little pink from the boat we decided to put Betties awning out - maybe we peaked a bit too early with the Dolphins or maybe we're just not very practical, but the awning went up, and fell down, and went up, and fell down, and went up, and stayed up, and then fell on my head as I tried to eat cheese. The awning has gone back in the bag for another day.