A Fish with Tony Entwistle…

A Beautiful Day on a Stunning Tasman River

What a lucky & awesome day for me…while I was living in Spain I received an email from Tony Entwistle, an iconic New Zealand guide, who I had had the pleasure and joy of fishing with many years ago. He said if & when I returned to New Zealand, and I happened to be in the Nelson area, we should get together for a fish & to have a proper catchup.

Score for the Day: Tony Hooked 7 & Landed 5; me – Hooked 4 & Landed 2

Well, it took a wee while as I arrived back in New Zealand in November 2017 but the fishing gods were not kind to me. I had slew of things that needed to get done after an absence of almost 8 years…many tasks were related to repairing and renovating our old villa – sadly in need of some serious TLC.

Outing the Hook

But finally the stars aligned…with house renovations 99% done, my partner’s desired birthday wish was to do a 4 day/3 night kayak & camp on the Abel Tasman National Park. And as luck would have it, Tony’s guiding schedule had a free day on 20/11 – yippee!!!!

My Last Trout of the Day

I awoke early on the day to be greeted by pretty much picture perfect fly fishing weather with blue sky, sun and a whisper of wind. When I had emailed Tony several weeks before, he said at that time that the only place we could possibly fish would be lakes as all the Tasman rivers were in flood. Fortunately, they had had a few weeks of settled weather with a smattering of rain so the rivers were now all in good nick.

I always say to myself at the start of each trout season that this season I will go out with a guide and I have done it, but not nearly as much as I should. You learn so much just by watching the guide let alone talking to and fishing with him. One of my good fly fishing mates & I have talked about splitting the cost which makes it a bit more affordable (and they are worth it) and our mutual goal is not so much to catch trout (though you certainly will), but to enhance & expand our skill set and knowledge. These guys are serious pros, who have spent countless hours on the water (Tony estimates he has done over 4,000 guiding days and has been fishing for over 60 years) and gained experience in spades across the numerous dimensions of fly fishing. And just like learning a foreign language or skiing, total immersion (a full day or days on the water with a guide) is the best way to go.

Happy Camper – Weighed in @ a Smidge Over 5 Pounds….

Tony & I had an awesome day fishing and a wonderful catchup – and we hope to do it again before too much time passes us by!

An Abel Tasman Birthday Kayak

Too Many People…Te Pukatea Bay…Our first camp site

It was Hound #2’s birthday wish to kayak & camp in the Abel Tasman National Park, and we figured it was the best time to do it as Covid had pretty much cleared the park of international travellers (they actually closed the park several times last year due to too many visitors). We booked with Abel Tasman Kayaks to do a 3 night / 4 day trip for a mere $235 per person – a deal!

Our first 2 days out on the water (and last) were simply crackers with tons of blue skies & sun and very little wind…about 20 minutes out of our base camp Marahau, our kayak was ‘attacked’ by what we think was a rig shark – for a solid 10 minutes he/she kept banging its head against the underside of our kayak. Exciting start to the trip…

Abel Tasman Kayak Trip Map

I have to say that kayaking the Abel Tasman National Park is a wonderful way to do it – it is generally an easy paddle with only a few challenging bits (more if the weather gets nasty). We are by no means very experienced kayakers and we found it very doable bar a few rough beach landings.

A Lunch Break @ Watering Cove

There seem to be endless places, bays or beaches to pull into & park your kayak up for a break or some lunch or a bit of an explore. A good chunk of them are only reachable by kayak but our first night’s camp site was Te Pukatea Bay, which is on the walking track so we had a smattering of trampers…and wekas. Boy are they ever the curious bird – they have no shame or fear…at least in the Abel Tasman. The DoC warden told us a story about a wedding party who came to Te Pukatea to get married & celebrate, but the wekas found the boxed wine bladders first & deflated the celebration!

Te Pukatea Bay…Sweet.
Typical Example of Abel Tasman Beach You Can Kayak Into & Find No Folks…

Our last 2 nights camping were in Mosquito Bay (no mozzies though) and we had the place to ourselves…except for the wekas. The tidal movements in the Abel Tasman Park are, I was told by the kayak folks, some of the biggest in the world…to the tune of 4-5 metre rises & retreats. The 2 photos below show Mosquito Bay at low tide and when high tide comes in there is an actual island in the bay! And it was a bit nerve racking as we lay in our tent at night, we could hear the waves crashing just below our tent a metre or two away…

View East from Mosquito Bay

On the day of Hound #2’s actual birthday we awoke to a not so nice day – grey overcast clouds, a bit of wind and not so warm temperatures. But the consolation prize was before we headed out for our daily kayak, we saw a pod of orcas & some dolphins cruising & playing just beyond the Mosquito Bay entrance.

But our kayaking was not so successful – an hour or so into our paddle up the coast the wind picked up creating white caps & a steady drizzle started to fall. We decided to abandon our target bay & beach (Onetahuti) and instead made a bee line for Tonga Quarry Bay. What we had failed to read in our guide pamphlet was that Tonga Quarry beach is not recommended if the conditions are at all rough – ruh roh.

Needless to say it was a wee bit of a rough landing and I ended up taking a full immersion dunk. So after a quick refuelling break and a change of tops, we hightailed it back to our camp site & hid in our tent for a wee siesta.

View South from Mosquito Bay

We awoke our final day with a way better than forecast weather scene (phew!) and started our leisurely 4 hour paddle back to our base in Marahau. We made numerous rest & relaxation beach stops along the way, and made it back to Marahau just as the weather lost the plot…what a trip!

Mosquito Bay Camp Site – During high tide the waves crash right below your tent…

Highly recommended if you folks want to see one of the most beautiful spots in New Zealand…

Little Akaloa Camp Out…

Little Akaloa Beach…Too Many People.

We were about to take delivery of an 8 week old Jack Russell puppy (named Molly) which would mean our degrees of freedom would be severely curtailed, so we thought it wise to squeeze something in. We are always interested in doing something on the beautiful Banks Peninsula and neither one of us had been to Little Akaloa, one of the many, many bays & settlements dotting the peninsula shores.

It is an easy drive from Lyttelton, with the proverbial required stop off in Little River for coffee & cake (and ice creams) mid-way, so we reached Little Akaloa (population 15) late arvo & set up camp. It is a sweet wee camp site ($15 per site a night) that is only minutes from the beach, and comes equipped with not one, but two tennis courts.

Home Sweet Home…

It was a stunning evening and we greatly enjoyed a stroll to the beach and then sitting in our camp chairs with a glass of wine and listening to the cacophony of bird chatter & observing all the comings & goings of everything from kereroos to tuis to grey warblers.

Making Use of the Amenities

The next morning we awoke to a mixed bag of weather – not really bad (as in raining & cold & windy) but not totally good (clear blue skies & warm). Hound #2 decided to get on with her ‘100 Days of Summer’ project & inflated her paddle board for a cruise around the bay.

We then decided to head up & over the bay ridge line to Okains Bay as: (1) it has surf & Hound #2 was keen to grab a few waves and (2) it would be at low tide so we could scavenge some fresh mussels from the rocks for dinner.

All went to plan with a wee pit stop @ the Okains Bay Museum (they serve coffee!) and an attempted stop @ the General Store but we learned it had recently changed ownership & is only open weekends.

Off for a Paddle…
View of Akaloa Bay from the Ridge Line on our way to Okains Bay

The weather took a turn for the worse, so anymore outdoor, beach side activities were not in the cards. So a hasty retreat was made to the Hilltop Tavern for some lunch & a respite from the wind & drizzle & cold. The Hilltop does very good pub grub and also offers woodfired pizzas – and you cannot beat the views on a great day.

By the time we returned to our camp site the drizzle had stopped and the winds had faded away so we set about cleaning our mussel catch aided by a couple of cold beers. While we toiled away cleaning, an elder gentleman arrived & started to put up small placards at each camp site detailing the reservations for the coming holiday season. He seemed to be the acting ‘mayor’ of Little Akaloa and filled us in on the town goss:

+ They had a new boat ramp partly due to the Council but the community made a big contribution;

+ They got into a wee kerfuffle & trouble with the Council on the swimming pontoon as Council believed it violated district & health & safety regulations;

+ We then heard a siren & he told us it was the emergency civil defence siren which had been broken for decades but one of the locals climbed to pole, took it down & repaired it. He told us it goes off every Thursday @ 6PM but it really signals the Lift Your Elbow Club (e.g., drink beers) to assemble. Little old New Zealand – love it.

Fresh Picked Mussels from Okains Bay

Time to cook some fresh as mussels for dinner…we heated some oil & tossed in some minced garlic & let it sauté until softened & slightly caramelised. Then a dollop of the clean sea water & raise it to a boil and in go the mussels.

Cover the sauté pan and wait for the mussels to steam open – voilà! De-shell into our waiting 2 minute spicy noodle bowls and dig in to a very delicious & hot meal.

High Class Gourmet – Spicy 2 Minute Noodles & Fresh As Mussels – Yum!

We really liked Little Akaloa and will return – with our tennis rackets in tow!

Wellington With A Mate…

I was In Wellington to attend the National Famers Market Conference and used my free Sunday evening to catch up with my great mate Finn.

We met up at Puffin, which is an awesome & hidden wine bar focusing on natural, organic or minimal interventionist wines. Sampled 4 different and excellent vinos and nibbled on the a very tasty plate of bresaola. Then it was on to the Hanging Ditch which knows its way around a cocktail or two…

Cocktail Time @ the Hanging Ditch

But it was soon time to find something to eat to offset the alcohol as well as the fact we were damn hungry. It being a Sunday night, it is quite odd to me but many Wellington restaurants are shuttered on a Sunday – maybe it is the Covif19 effect – but the Wellington On A Plate fest was on so who knows…

So Finn (he is studying @ uni) suggested a fresh pasta place on Cuba Street called 1154 which was open on a Sunday evening & buzzing. This is my kind of place – good, solid, tasty food that does not break the bank (food & wine wise). All the pasta is made from scratch each & every day using the best ingredients they can source & all being made into classic dishes you all will know & love.

We were a bit boring & went for the exact same dish – Pappardelle alla Bognese. Still a delicious plate of pasta by any measure and we quaffed it down with a very nice Italian red ( I think it was a Sangiovese)) which I think came from the awesome Pasqua Vineyard. You can find a variety of Italian grapes varieties from this vineyard sold in magnums for usually $20 & under. Deal to make ya squeal….

The Very Affordable & Yummy Menu
PAPPARDELLE ALLA BOLOGNESE (Long, flat ribbon pasta, Northern Italian beef & pork sauce & parmesan) for $17!!!

Kayaking Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park – Oh Wow!

Site of Destruction….

A belated birthday present for Hound #2 was a 2 day, overnight kayaking trip on Doubtful Sound in the Fiordland National Park. Planned & booked months ago, the dates fell on an awkward period where we were 2 weeks into a kitchen / bathroom renovation / expansion and had to leave the house with most of the back ripped off. But operating under the theory that ‘shit happens’ we took off anyway…

Off to an Early Start…Crossing Lake Manapouri on the Ferry…Ferry Captain informed us all about going to Alert Level 2 – oh joy.

New Zealand at any given moment can have some very wild weather, as evidenced this past Spring with such massive amounts of rain that the South Island was literally cut in half  by floods & damaged bridges. And Fiordland is an area at the top of the wild weather list with rapidly changing conditions – mostly wet, windy & cold. It is a wee bit of a paradox to travel in Fiordland as you do want some rain so that the waterfalls come to life, but not incessant rain to make your kayaking time on the water totally miserable. We lucked out…the day & night before we set off on our kayak adventure got a decent dollop of the wet stuff but our first day on the water was perfect – still, calm water and no rain.

The Starting Point…

We booked out trip with Go Orange and met our great guide Cam just before we boarded the ferry.  After taking the bus over Wilmot Pass to Doubtful Sound, he whipped us (6 folks + Cam) into shape quick snap getting the kayaks to the water’s edge, shifting all the support gear too and getting us all suited up in thermal tops & leggings, fleece tops & hats, long John wet suits, paddle jacket & spray deck and life vests.

Let’s go kayaking!!!!

It is next to impossible in words or photos to accurately convey what natural awesomeness surrounded us  – towering rock mountains with sheer vertical walls that disappeared straight into the clouds & the dark water; at every turn a series of waterfalls ranging from mere trickles or slivers to big, gushing torrents; and dense & vibrant vegetation clinging to the vertical slopes that the movie wizards would be hard challenged to create with their CGI tools.

Cruise’n…Perfect Day – Enough Rain the Day & Night before to bring the waterfalls to life but still, calm & no rain first day on the water.

Our guide Cam was a wealth of information – from historical to the scientific (geology, flora & fauna, marine life, etc…). After several hours of leisurely paddling with lots of stop, rest & look time we headed for a rocky beach for some lunch. The weather co-operated and we had a good dose of sunshine and blue skies…

Our Lunch Spot…

After lunch, Guide Cam steered us to an area of the fiord that had suffered a major earthquake in 2009 causing the mountain in the picture below to be cut in half. You can see the crack to the right side of the photo centre but above the cloud bank it widens significantly. Guide Cam also pointed out several of what he called ‘travalanches’ where a huge section of vegetation, trees, ferns, palms, etc…rips away from the stone wall face & come crashing down into the water. Cam said he has heard several (sounds like a massive explosion or thunder clap) but has never actually seen one which he’d like to do!

Earthquake Crack – Just to the right of centre an earthquake split the mountain in 2.

Sheer Rock Walls that Go from the Top to the Bottom & Alive with Flora.

As the afternoon quickly passed by, Cam steered us towards our camp site for the night. After hauling the kayaks out of the water & resting them under a covered site (the NZ kea will cause mischief otherwise), we were all given a tent & Therma-rest sleeping mats to get set up ASAP before the evil sandflies devoured us. Go Orange maintains for the season an insect netted tent which offered a sweet respite from the blood drawing sandflies to cook our dinners (they provide gas cookers), chat and play cards. At 10pm it was time for a deserved sleepfull rest….

Overnight Camp Site

We awoke the next morning to a more typical fiordland day & weather – pissing rain and a slightly chilly temperature. We snarfed our breakfasts down & set about disassembling our tents & camp site and packing it away in the kayaks. Unlike the calm, glassy water of the previous say, a Southerly was moving up the Sound,  pushing the water into white caps & swells. It was at our backs which was the only good thing about it as our guide Cam kept looking over his shoulder to monitor the front & making some tactical kayaking decisions (skip lunch, make a bee line to the base, when to cross). He kept us close to the shore line for a good stretch which was calmer but he knew we’d need to cross to get back to the base camp. Crossing we hit a bit more water than we’d encountered before with swells crashing over the kayak’s bows but all ended safe & sound….

Stunning Rock Walls created when the Glazier Retreated…

Only to be shocked by the ferry captain’s announcement that the country had gone into Alert Level 3 and was headed for Alert Level 4 in 48 hours! Which set off a wave of panic as most of the crowd were foreign tourists in camper vans. We’d befriended a Swiss couple on the kayak trip & began helping them to hatch a plan as to where to go for the 4 week lock down. They decided to try & get to the North Island to warmer weather but were denied a place on the ferry in Picton. So they rang us & are now ensconced (maybe happily?) in our spare bedroom till things get sorted….

And in the ‘besides that Mrs. Lincoln how was the play’ category, we’d highly recommend the Go Orange overnight kayak adventure and all the better if you can get the great guide Cam…

On Our Way Home – Stretch the Legs Stop in the MacKenzie Country.

The Beautiful Boyle River Valley

Up River / Down River Views of the Boyle River

My fly fish mate Craig & I had been trying for more than a year to get a farmer to grant us access & give us gate keys to be able to drive into the Boyle River Valley, have a good fish & stay at the Magdalen Hut. But last season he made the decision to lease out his land around the river to some guides so it was a no go…he said to contact him early in the next season & he would work something out.

So Craig gave him a buzz first thing in the new trout season & the farmer was good on his word – it was just that the New Zealand Spring weather was not so good on its word and we had a wacky & wild start to the fishing season with torrential downpours which caused massive flooding and land slips…including on the farmers’s land. He said we’d have to wait till he could get the bulldozer and grater in to put the track back into navigable shape.

We finally got the thumbs up from the farmer & after a few hit or miss attempts at getting our respective calendars aligned, we loaded up Gertie the 1975 Series III Land Rover & toddled (that is how Gertie rolls) off to the Boyle River Valley.

Tried & True – Gertie the 1975 Series III Land Rover Gets Us There & Gets Us Out….

Given it was a Saturday and the weather was a stunner combined with the fact that the hut (only 6 bunks)  is part of the  St. James Walkway as well as the Te Araroa Trail, we were a wee bit nervous that the hut would be chocka with trampers. But our luck held out & we only had to share the hut with 2 nice Czech women.

One of the big advantages of being able to drive right to the hut (had to do a bit of 4WD – fun) is you can bring real food (and drink) since we were not having to worry about the weight to pack it in & out – yippee! So we tucked into a very tasty pasta & bacon dinner made by Craig and sampled a few decent Aussie reds & then to bed…

Up early to a cracker of a day (would be almost too hot) with an almost cloudless sky and not much wind (it was early yet). We decided to take the Land Rover back the way we came to an area where we could park up & scramble down the steep hill face to reach the river & then walk downstream to the end of the lower gorge & fish our way back up.

Mate Craig heads into the Boyle Gorge…

To say the day was a tough fish would be an understatement – we fished for 8+ hours, walked 13+kms and covered a damn lot of water but only sighted 6 fish (2 were on death’s bed as totally black) and managed to hook 1 good trout. It was a fantastic day for sight fishing with the conditions about as good as you could hope for and any water we could not see into, we fished blind. So no pool or run left unturned or touched…We ended the day with a foray into the upper gorge which leads to the Boyle Flats Hut as we had sighted several decent fish on a previous tramp. We went as far as we could go before the pool became too deep to wade & the bush too think to get through…

Me Fishing the Foam Line…sweet water…

We retreated back to the Magdalen Hut for a cold beer & a few sand flies….and devoured a lentil, carrot, celery, walnut & goats cheese salad I had assembled & finished off our Aussie red & sampled a very nice Sauvignon Blanc from Crater Rim

We would have to say that this fishing season so far, for us, has been not much to write home about as the trout are few and far between…our plans have been recently revised so that we go to rivers that actually have fish in them…down to the MacKenzie Country we think…

Birthday Tiki Tour To North Canterbury…

HOT OFF THE PRESS! 

If you don’t trust our palates then maybe you’ll listen to Winestatem with regards to Terrace Edge Wines!

“Whoop. Winestate Magazine have just published their best NZ Wines for 2019. We’re proud to say that of the 200 wines, six belong to us! EVERY. SINGLE. WINE we submitted for tasting got named on the list.

One could call that punching above our weight. We say it’s a reflection that small family vineyards create exceptional wines.

If you’re drinking our Syrah, Albarino, Rose, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir – you’re drinking some of the finest wine in the country.

Come and try them for yourself at our tasting room. Open Thursday – Sunday 11 – 4.30pm.”

Last week was my birthday and I did not want to do anything swish or expensive or OTT so we decided on a road trip north of Lyttelton with various stops along the way, but ending up @ Terrace Edges Vineyard for a wee tasting & toasties.

It was a cracker of a day weather wise so we piled into Gertie the 1975 Series III Land Rover & off we went…

Gertie…

First stop of the day was the Old School Collective, and the name pretty much says it all. A group of folks got together & purchased an old, abandoned school complex and proceeded to curate a group of independent, creative businesses (and a cafe called, appropriately The Office) to fill the empty spaces. The stores run the gamut from Twine Antiques (our favourite) to Good Dirt Flowers to Louise Who Pre-loved Clothing and even a Yoga Club. Twine was a standout – an antique shop that actually has antiques @ a fair price & not overpriced junk. Hound #2 made 2 immediate (right as we walked in the door) purchases & was very happy. After coffees & a shared piece of carrot cake @ The Office we continued…

A quick pop in visit @ the Brick Mill but it has changed & the one shop that held our interest has gone but Hound #2 managed to find a bargain plant pot…

Next stop was to be Mumma T Trading Lounge but it was not to be – as we strolled up to the shop they were carrying out the last of the shop goods & closed & locked the door!

With all this faffing around we were now hungry & thirsty, so onto lunch! We had been to Terrace Edge Winery a couple of times before & have always thought their wines (and olive oil & olives) to be top notch & pretty much have bought & enjoyed the lot. But we’d spotted on a previous visit a wee menu that offered toasties! So we sat down for the full vino tasting & ordered our toasties (a special combo deal – a toasties & a glass of wine of your choice for only $20 for white, $22 for red). I went with the Vietnamese Pork Toastie & washed it down with the excellent Pinot Gris and Hound #2 being a veggo ordered the Mushroom, Olive & Feta/Gouda Cheese Toastie & sculled it with a perfect Rosé. Delish.

Toasties!!!!

And as in our last couple of wine tastings @ Terrace Edge we liked the lot – and walked away with a bottle of the Rosé, the Pinot Gris & the Classic Riesling (that is what the wallet would allow) and some olives.

Terrace Edge’s Syrah Vineyard – As Steep As the French Rhone!

So if you are lost in North Canterbury or need a special place to take some mates or family, put Terrace Edge in the list & you won’t be disappointed….

Banks Peninsula Birthday Walk…

Onuku Farm Hostel – Super!

To walk the Banks Peninsula Track had been on our ‘to do’ list for some time, but Hound #2’s birthday was the final catalyst that pushed us into action. We set ourselves up to start the walk on Sunday November 17th so that we would be perfectly in mid-walk & be in Nature for the Big Day. The walk is superbly organised – all went like clock work the entire trip. To start, scooped up in Akaroa by a shuttle bus that took us to our first night’s accomodation – Onuku Farm Hostel.

What an amazing spot – beautiful facilities (the kitchens were better than ours at home), stunning grounds with sweet as views over the Akaroa Harbour and comfy as bunks, but also wonderful camping areas and special ‘star gazer sleepers’ (wee 2 person huts with skylight views to watch the celestial show). Worth a visit folks!

First Day’s Climb to the Peak – And on to Flea Bay…

The Banks Peninsula Track offers a bit of ‘glamping’ in that your big backpacks are shuttled from one accommodation spot to the next – excelente! So you are saddled with only your day pack. Makes for a much sweeter (and less sweaty) experience and lets you bring a bit more luxuries (vino, bubbles, decent & fresh food).

The climb up from Onuku will take some folk’s breath away – both for the wonderful views but also the climb is seriously steep…from 200 to 700 metres straight up hill. But you just need to take your time & stop to enjoy the harbour vistas, the flora & fauna & catch your breath before climbing on.

Descent to Flea Bay – Flora & Fauna & Waterfalls….and the Swimming Hole.

The descent from the peak to Flea Bay is a steep one & so different from the climb up in that rather than traversing grassy slopes, you are engulfed in the native bush of beech forests, palm trees & what seemed like hundreds of ferns of every type. Parallel to the track was a lovely stream with numerous waterfalls – Hound #2 HAD to skinny dip in the pool labeled ‘Swimming Hole’…ice cream headache cold.

Flea Bay

Our place for the night was a beautiful old farm house but with all the mod cons – good kitchen, hot showers, comfy lounge, sweet front veranda, etc…we took up the advertised offer on the kitchen white board to visit the resident blue penguin colony just around the coastal bend @ 7:30pm and they are not using the word ‘colony’ loosely – it might even be a city.

2nd Day’s Walk to Stony Bay – A Leisurely Coastal Stroll

Day 2’s walk is pretty much a coastal affair – not too strenuous but oh so postcard picture perfect. The forecast called for a threat of rather ugly weather but it seemed to be behaving itself…took some lunch time respite from the wind in a very cleverly built track shelter & made a short detour to observe the local seal colony.

On the Ridge Line above Stony Bay – 15 Minutes after this Photo the Skies Opened Up with Hail, Rain, Lightening & Thunder…

As we approached Stony Bay, the weather cranked its anger factor up a couple of notches but we sort of lucked out as the descent to the huts was through thick bush which protected us from the hail & rain…maybe not so much the lightening & thunder. We worried about our 2 German mates who were toddling along behind us at a slower pace. They ended up taking shelter in one of the rustic corrugated iron loos which I am not so sure is the best place to hide from a lightening storm?

Home Sweet Home – Stony Bay Cottages…Magical Place! Top Left: We called it the Harry Potter Shower with a huge tree going right through the middle; Kiwi take on a pool table; wee cottage; Main hut with 6-8 bunks, serious kitchen & dining area & a lounge area with open fireplace.

Our final night (and birthday night celebration) was at the Stony Bay Cottages – how magical! I wish I could just book myself a weekend here to hang out but you can only stay here if you are doing the track :-(. But what a perfect & fun night – I am guessing that Mark Armstrong (who owns the farm along with his partner Sonia) was the creative building force behind all the whimsical, recycled huts & buildings.

We made use of all the camp amenities – a wee game of badminton & then pool with our German mates, cold Moa beers from the well stocked camp store (have everything you need – vino, veggies, meat, bacon, eggs, etc) then wood fired baths with bubbles, then a delish birthday dinner of aubergine curry on rice with Pepperjack Shiraz (Hound #2’s fave) and a perfect bonfire side chat to end the night.

The Trail Back Home; Camp Store – Well Stocked & Very Fairly Priced; Wood Fired Bath…

Our Wee 2 Bunk Hut Complete with Resident Penguin on the Deck; Birthday Bubbles; Birthday Feast – Aubergine Curry on Rice.

Our final day was a walk out through the magnificent Hinewai Reserve – an absolutely knock your socks off place that much of the credit for its existence & continued growth (30 years old now) goes to the honourable Hugh Wilson. If you have never been, you need to go, and if you go, you should have a good squizzy of Fools & Dreamers which will fill you in on all the impressive details. If the Oxford Dictionary ever needs a definition or photo to explain the phrase ‘a labour of love’, well this is mos def it.

A Top the Ridge Line of Hinewai Reserve with Stony Bay in the Distance; Gorse in Full Bloom

Well, we liked this walk so much we most likely will do it again…It is hard in New Zealand to find serious value-for-money things to do, but this walk ticks all the right boxes. It costs $330NZ per person but with that you get the parking for your vehicle, shuttle bus to the first night’s accomodation, 3 nights of superb accomodation (you’d easily pay more than the $330 for just that in NZ), having your big pack shuttled from from place to place & stored at the Akaroa butchers for final pickup and, of course, the frigging walk!

Fire & Slice Woodfired Pizza – Sumner

Fire & Slice Pizza – Sumner

We had booked tickets to the Christchurch (in Sumner though) premier of the documentary ‘The Map To Paradise’ and thought it a prime time opportunity to try out Fire & Slice Woodfired Pizza.

After My Own Heart – Series 2A Land Rover….

Fire & Slice got me @ the Series 2A Land Rover in the entrance  😉 – what could possibly be bad about this place if they liked Land Rovers??? And we lucked out, as it was a quiet time on Tuesday night after what was apparently a CRAZY holiday weekend where they sold out of pizzas by 6PM on Saturday – that’s busy.

We had a good perusal of the menu whilst having a great chat with Pal Singh, the chef & owner. Decisions were made – I went for the Pepperoni Pizza & Hound #2 negotiated a not-on-the-menu Mushroom Pizza with Mozzarella & a smidgen of Blue Cheese

Wine was available (for $7.50 a glass – yay!) so we took two pours of an Italian red call Santa Cristina Rosco Toscana – a perfect pizza wine Pal Singh assured us and he was 100% correct.

Pizza Man Pal Singh…

After a short wait, 2 perfect pizzas arrived at our table – it was the best pizza we have had since returning to New Zealand 2 years ago…crust was perfectly crisped with some nicely darkened bits & covered in a wonderfully rich tomato sauce & just right melted cheese. And a deal to make ya squeal – total bill with 2 glasses of vino – $45. We will mos def be back Pal!

Mushroom & Mozzarellas & Blue Cheese Pizza

Pepperoni Pizza

Sizzling Miss Peppercorn

 

Miss Peppercon in Sumner

Hound #2 had requested as part of our Labour Day holiday weekend that I fire up Gertie the 1975 Series III Land Rover & head over Evans Pass to the village of Sumner so that she could collect some seaweed for the garden. And to really make it worth our while, I suggested lunch @ Miss Peppercorn

Miss Peppercorn is comfortably situated in the old Cornershop Bistro site (miss the Cornershop Bistro but Miss Peppercorn is a good replacement) and the menu offers quite an extensive selection of Szechuan seasoned plates (including vegan & vegetarian)…be very aware of the chilli symbols listed beside each dish as they mean serious business! The menu runs the gamut from small shareable plates all the way to serious sized mains meant to be communally shared & all at very reasonable prices (N.B. – since it is a ‘sharing’ menu & you all want to eat at the same time, you might want to make your server aware that you’d like your dishes to come out together, otherwise they will bring out one plate after another in succession. Someone at your table will be eating very early & another very late…).

Bang Bang Chicken Salad – Tongue Numbing Hot!

I opted for the Bang Bang Chicken Salad ($16.9) and made a fatal school boy error & failed to see the 2 chilli symbols listed next to the dish. A very tasty dish but after 5 minutes or so the edges of my tongue were going numb & constantly tingling…had to eat a wee bit of Hound #2’s fried rice noodles to calm things down.

Signature Fried Rice Noodles

Hound #2 really liked her Signature Fried Rice Noodles and would order again…a VERY generous serving so go when you are hungry…the table next to us had 2 MASSIVE bowls brought out in succession that would have fed a small army.

A Chop Stick Workout….

The unreal ice cream cones @ Utopia Ice Cream…worth a trip to Sumner on their own…

Cones @ Utopia Ice Cream to cool our mouths down…