Pea, Pie, Pud

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Sunday, May 29, 2011

I know that It's ironic that we have the big campervan but we didn’t even sleep in it our first night. The thing was that it was late, dark, we didn’t know where we were and we came upon the lodge with a decent deal so we thought rather than try to figure out how this campervan/camping works our first night, let’s get some sleep (and let Dave sleep off his hangover) so we’re all fresh for our first full day in New Zealand.  That’s exactly what we did and we were nice and toasty in a bunk-bed room and totally refreshed when we woke up at about 10am the next day.  While getting ready and packing up I headed to the lodge part for some cheese toasties for the road and got to talking to the manager.  I hadn’t spent much time with him last night as I was busy doing 4 loads of laundry in machines that don’t use cold water and a dryer that didn’t actually dry.  I guess we’re not in Asia anymore where for $3/kilo your dirty laundry is cleaned, pressed and folded for you within a few hours. Anyway, the manager (I never got his name) had several helpful tips for our journey today as I told him we were headed to the Franz Josef Glacier area.  He gave me the name of some towns, restaurants and a hike to a waterfall to check out along the way.  While laundry may have been frustrating, the staff was certainly more than helpful.  We also visited with the pet sheep although Dave was a bit scared of her I think. 

We finally got on the road around 11am and the sun was shining so the views were spectacular.  We were right in the middle of fantastic mountain ranges with snow-capped mountains and rushing rivers.  Good thing we didn’t know about the risks of ice on the road the night before, and good thing we couldn’t see in the dark what the drop-offs looked like since the road was quite steep.  After driving for about half an hour we got to an information center where they told us the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall was 500meters up on the right.  It was windy but once we started climbing up it got warmer and once we made it to the top on quite a steep hike we were rewarded with beautiful falls.  We all took loads of pictures and really enjoyed the fact that you can just stop along your route and find cool things like this.

 We carried on through the mountains and just on the other side came to Jackson’s Restaurant.  The manager at Bealey’s had recommended this to us also so we stopped in for lunch.  It reminded me of a restaurant set in the wild west as it’s been there since the 1800s when the first settlers came through the pass (back then it took 5 days on foot whereas now it’s like an hour in the car).  We all decided to try meat pies as we hadn’t yet, and Adam and I opted for the "Pea, Pie, Pud" special.  This is where your choice of meat pie (venison, mincemeat, steak or chicken) is placed on top of a mound of mashed potatoes and all surrounded with green peas.  Adam had the mincemeat which looked like ground beef and Dave had the chicken and brie which was delicious.  I had the steak pie which tasted like a pot roast in a filo dough pie – fantastic!  It came out steaming hot and was delicious, one of my top meals on this trip. 

All warmed up we headed back on the road to continue on to Franz Joseph.  Once we finally reached the West Coast we followed the ocean and not only did it become much warmer, there were many more towns and people around!  We stopped in one town to pick up items at the grocery store since we hadn’t done that yet and peek inside some shopping.  New Zealand has natural jade (or greenstone as it’s called here) and so we checked it out at a shop to learn about it.  Most of the jade doesn’t belong to NZ but to other companies so what you’re buying is debatable whether it’s from here or not.  It’s shaped traditionally into a few Maori symbols that have to do with success, love, etc.  It was interesting to see but since we just arrived I wasn’t in a hurry to purchase anything quite yet.  Fully stocked with items for our mini-fridge and mini-pantry we headed onto the Glacier Highway and towards Franz Josef Glacier. 

There are a few glaciers in this area of NZ and the one furthest north is Franz Josef.  When we’d picked up Britzy Spears the saleslady asked us if we wanted the free tourism radio.  We had no idea what it was but if it was free, we were certainly going to say yes.  It turns out that the tourism radio is a little box a bit bigger than a GPS that is a radio station dedicated to tourists driving around the country.  There’s a DJ that plays light pop music and then every time you near a point of interest or any kind of destination they have tour guides explaining what the area is and what it provides.  They also advertise some popular campgrounds, hotels and other useful places of interest for tourists such as us.  We’d figured out that to camp in the campervan in cold temperatures we’d have to go to a campground and ask for a powered site.  When we pulled into the Top 10 Holiday Park at Franz Josef (directed there by our friendly tourism radio) I was shocked.  The place was completely spotless, and right next door to our powered camp spot was a huge building with heated showers, bathrooms and a fully stocked kitchen.  Not only that, but everything was sparkling clean! 

We hooked the campervan up to the power outlet and could then turn on the space heater (also called a fan heater) and use the microwave.  We decided to have dinner first before setting up for bed and since there was a fully stocked kitchen we could use it instead of dirtying the camper van.  We had picked up items at the grocery earlier in the day so for our first home-cooked meal in 80 days we enjoyed pasta with sauce out of the jar in the shared kitchen at the campground.  What was funny was that the three of us were running back and forth to the van and back and making a big show of cooking this while another couple using the next kitchen space over was making a gourmet meal with fresh garlic and herbs and sautéing away.  I guess everyone has to learn how to do this sometime, right?  At least we didn’t make chili con carne.  After cleaning up from dinner it was time to attempt to reconfigure the camper van to the bedtime option so that the three of us could go to sleep.  Adam’s top bunk proved the most challenging as he didn’t have room to even roll over but somehow had to make the bed.  After a brief Tetris-like game Dave and I figured out our bottom bed (we had to use the boards from both the kitchen table and the side table under the cushions for our bed) and we all tucked in with the heater puttering away for our first night in Britzy Spears.
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