Hello all from Hanmer Springs which is about 2hrs north of Christchurch. What an action packed last 2 days we have had!!!!
Since leaving the Franz Joseph glacier 3 days ago we drove to a riverside campsite about 30 minutes south of Picton which is in the far North East corner of the South Island. It's a truly beautiful small town feel and appears unspoiled. We made this journey north primary to meet up with our good friends on catamaran Moby whom we had last seen in Maupiti.
Yesterday morning we made the short journey north to meet up with them and Loic met us on the yacht club dock and transported out to Moby by dinghy. It was so nice to see Benedicte and Loic and their 3 kids again and catch up on their travels and future plans of crossing the Indian Ocean. We hope to at least do parts of the Indian Ocean together, especially Chagos, so it was fun to compare notes and planned schedules.
After a cup of coffee and catch up, we let go the mooring and headed Moby (an Outremmer 51 ft cat) out into the sound and to one of the secluded bays for the day. There we had a delicious lunch, some beer, and lastly a birthday cake that Benedicte had prepared to celebrate her two kids, and Guds recent birthdays. We all sang Happy Birthday first in English and then again in French, which was pretty cool!!!!
The kids had soooo much fun together and it's amazing how they all play so well and manage to communicate despite some language challenges! Later that afternoon the breeze picked up and we had a nice short sail back to the marina. It's always sad saying goodbye to such good friends, but we left knowing the next time we may see them may be in either Bali, Cocos Keeling or Chagos. Thanks Moby for the wonderful day and safe travels back north!!!!!
We headed out to drive towards Hanmer Springs at about 4.30pm, thinking it would be about a 3 hour trip. We soon discovered that the main coastal road we were meant to take down towards Christchurch had been completely destroyed in a major earthquake in November or December 2016, and has still not been repaired. Yikes.... The detour was now a 7 hour trip through major mountain passes instead of what was meant to have been an easy 3 hour drive down the East Coast. Like we have learned along our travels so many times, you just need to smile, change course and deal with it, so that's what we did. We drove till about 9.30pm along the detour and then found a place to sleep for the night and then got up early this morning and did the last two hours drive to get to Hanmer Springs.
The reason we needed to be here early was we had a 10am booking for a few fun activities!!!! The kids had been desperate to try jet boating, and we finally found a company that did this and more.....the package we had booked started with river rafting down the grade 2 river for about 1 1/2 hours, then a 20 minute jet boat ride. If that was not enough we also booked a paintball game to finish the day off with.
This has to rank as our best day in NZL.... Everyone had so much fun!!!! The river rafting was a blast, and no one except myself had done it before.... They were all a bit nervous to start, but it turned out they all had a blast. The Rapids were relatively tame, so it was perfect for the kids. We stopped about halfway down for a swim and cliff jumping into the river. The water was pretty chilly but refreshing and they had provided wetsuit etc, so no problem.
We eventually left the raft downstream and hopped into a jet boat and blasted upstream at speeds of up to 90 km and within inches of the river sides and cliff faces.... That was quite an adrenaline rush for all of us, and the kids were blown away with the boat's power and agility!!!! The instructor that took us paint balling afterwards, was an ex South African that services the jetboats , so showed us a bit of the farm and operation later in the afternoon and also the jetboat engines etc. These are ultralight aluminum boats, relatively short with two massive 750hp V8 engines that blast two high pressure manouvarable jets of water out the back... No props so can run in water only inches deep. We did a couple of rapid 360 degree donut turns on the way back which had the kids screaming with laughter.
Once back we headed back to the camper van for a lunch break and then headed back to the adjacent farm for a round of family paintball shooting. None of us had ever done this and Ben and I were dying to try it out. They had a huge field set up as the "battle zone" and after a short safety briefing handed us semi automatic paintball guns, and essentially said "have at it". These guns are gas powered and pretty powerful and can shoot fairly accurately up to about 100 meters. The first game was Ben and Gaby Vs. Mom and Dad. Poor Guds struggled with the concept of shooting her own kids, and could not bring herself to try aim too seriously. I on the other hand soon lost this parental instinct not to shoot your offspring after Ben shot me once on my finger and another on my face mask.... GAME ON became my new mantra and I soon had unloaded all 50 rounds in his direction.
We were lucky to have a fellow South African instructor James, who kindly gave us new weapons with another 50 rounds each, and the next and final round of "nail your family members" comensed. It started with Ben and I back to back, walking 15 paces, turning and firing. This degenerated into a full scale battle with all 4 of us walking away with "welts" from various hits. Let me tell you when one of those paintballs hits....it stings like hell and you start taking cover behind all the various objects they have scattered around the field!!!! The game eventually ended with our overalls a bit coloured from paint splatters, and all 4 of us having had a completely amazing day!!!!!
Tomorrow we drive back to Christchurch to hand our campervan back and have booked a nice looking Airbnb house close to the airport as we have a 6am flight back to Brisbane on Thursday.
So with that cheers to you all, and a special thank you to Kara in Boulder Colorado for the very uplifting email you sent to Guds today.... It's so nice to hear from you and your kind words really touched us..thank you!!!!
Pic attached was from yesterday aboard Moby, celebrating the 3 birthdays.