Distance Travelled: 385 km + 26 km
Total Road Trip Distance: 1906 km
18th – 20th Nov
From Pavlova Palace we drove off to the Otago peninsula to find NZ’s only castle. We drove up to the gates and paid our entry to the bloke at the gate. He asked where we were from and on finding out we were from the UK he said “Ah so you have proper castles!”.
Despite the gatekeeper’s deprecating view of Larnach Castle, it was actually quite a specimen, and a little bit different than the proper ones we have in the UK. It was built by a rich Scottish chap called William Larnach in 1871 and was to be his family castle, until his 3rd wife allegedly had an affair with his son and he committed suicide. After the rest of his kids died the castle fell into disrepair until, in the 60s, a young couple snapped it up and restored it to keep those precious memories alive. It remains their family home to this day and currently houses three generations.
They allow guests into a few of the rooms which contain some of the original furniture and paintings. The finale of the inside portion of the tour is the view from the top of the tower out across the peninsula.
After the inside comes the outside and the well cared for grounds can be explored on a number of different routes. The current owners really have put a lot of money and effort into getting it back to its former glory and keeping it there.
From the castle we made our way around the peninsula to grab lunch at Penguin Cafe before continuing to the tip, where they house the Royal Albatross Centre. One of the only mainland albatross colonies in the world, it is cordoned off and only accessible on extortionate guided tours so we made do looking at some gulls instead.
From the car park at the albatross centre you can walk down a large flight of steps to a small bay that is home to penguins (that hide in the daytime unfortunately) and a seal colony.
I stood on an old ruined rampart (the albatross centre sits on an old UK military base) to take a photo across the water and heard an almighty splash as a seal came out of the water and ungracefully wobbled its way up the rocky beach. I had quite a fright and took the advice from our previous seal encounters to keep a safe distance as they can give you a nasty bite, which can transmit all sorts of horrible diseases. Thankfully all he did was flop down and fall asleep.
From the peninsula we started our huge drive up the coast to our final stop, Rangiora. On our way we saw a sign for a place called shag point. I knew very little about it but the name alone was enough for me to investigate further. Up a gravely track we came to a car park for a viewing point. At the end of the track was a rocky island covered in shags, and a couple of seals.
I jumped down to get a closer look but unwittingly jumped right next to two sleeping seals. Thankfully I didn’t disturb them and had more guts to stick around and take their photo this time (after I’d stepped back a little bit…)
From shag point we had a rather long journet north. We had booked a motorhome relocation to start the next day, straight after we dropped our car off. When we stopped somewhere halfway up to switch drivers I checked my emails to discover our relocation had been cancelled, 18 hours before it was due to start. I was outraged and sent a scathing reply (having checked earlier in the week to ensure there were no problems after the earthquake). I felt a little bad when they informed me one of their customers had left a campervan in the quake-hit Kaikoura and flown back to Europe without informing them.
With no wheels, no home and no route to Auckland for our flight out we felt a bit anxious. We therefore decided to stop in a town called Timaru and console ourselves with an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. Having spent 2 months in Asia already I have learnt to appreciate high quality Asian food. This was not that. Although most of it was edible, the beef soup tasted more like brown custard with meat chunks. I left that one.
We were heading back to Rangiora to spend the night with Callum. He had very kindly let us stay the night and offered up their spare room for as long as we needed it, which was both super kind and a great comfort what with us being (motor)homeless otherwise.
The next morning we fired off a bunch of last minute motorhome relocation requests, looked up cs5r rentals, flights, buses, chartered helicopters and how to teleport. We needed to get to Auckland one way or another.
We needed to take the car back for midday so Callum very kindly followed us in (including into a tiny car park when we took a wrong turn) and gave back old Tiida no problems. We had also found out that our motorhome request through a different firm had been accepted for the next day for three nights and four days (instead of the 5 we had been offered previously) but we were pretty pleased. To celebrate we got lunch in Burger King and went to the dog park with Callum’s amazing two dogs.
At the dog park I received three seperate phone calls asking if we could change dates/times and it all sounded a little shaky. On the way back we decided to pop in to the rental shop to get a contract written up as we didn’t want another last minute cancellation. We were told the next day (20th) was now not possible but 21st was fine. So we got it in writing.
It had actually worked out well for us. We had lost a day which was a bummer but the previous deal included only the van, we were financially responsible for all fuel and the ferry between the islands. With this deal we got a full tank of fuel (about $100 worth) and the vehicle ferry cost reimbursed ($220), but we had to pay for our personal tickets for the ferry. I booked us onto a ferry on the 20th and received yet another phone call to give us the wonderful news that after all the to-ing and fro-ing, our original dates were now available. So I rang the ferry company who changed the date no problem and we were set to head off the next day.
That evening we were having a BBQ to utilise some miraculous sunny weather, after so many days of rain. We popped to a roadside grocer where avocados were 40 cents (~25p) and stocked up. Interestingly, bell peppers (or capsicums) were $2 (£1.20) each, on offer!
We then went to the supermarket to get the rest, including a couple of crates of beer. At the till we were all (Kate, Callum and I) ID’ed. Two passports were handed over from the other two and I presented my UK driving licence. I was asked if I had a passport or a NZ driving licence to which I responded negatively. This meant we could not have the booze.
I am 27 year old with a beard I would have killed for when I was underage (I had very low standards…), I had proof of my age which had been accepted for me to rent a car and a motorhome, I was with two people of similar age who had proof and, I wasn’t even buying the alcohol, I was just there watching. I understand the ethos of no ID, no sale and I didn’t complain. I used to work in a petrol garage and we were constsntly reminded if we sold alcohol/cigarettes to minors it was us that would be fined and/or prosecuted, as well as the business. It was also incredibly annoying when people who looked very young shouted “Do I look 17?!” to which I would bite my tongue and apologise that I couldn’t serve them without ID. But this was a case of not-quite-the-right-ID-and-despite-the-chances-of-you-being-even-close-to-underage-being-zero, no sale. To your friend.
So we went down the road and bought it all there.
The BBQ was delicious and the underage drinking made it all the more fun. Danielle arrived back from Auckland, where she’d been to see a concert and we had a lovely evening.
The next day we were dropped off at the rental shop once more by Callum, the hero of our trip, and our next road trip was about to begin.
Callum and Danielle’s spare room was fantastic! Highly recommend! And their two dogs, cat and rabbit were a great addition. It was so nice to stay somewhere we knew we were welcome and we were saved from a bit of a pickle that turned out fine in the end but it really was so reassuring to have them there at that time. Thanks guys!