The best laid plans can often go south, and that’s exactly what happened with me. The one good thing was we were still heading south, and Moti was keeping her part of the plan.
From Kaikoura we decided to head to Hanmer Springs as neither of us had been there before. Chris had checked the map and decided we should take the inland route which would give us different perspective of the landscape. On this occasion I should have just agreed with him. However just prior to leaving the domain site I was chatting with another ‘vanner’ who spoke about the wonderful coastline, Goose Bay and the seal colonies further South. So, I persuaded my driver we should go that way, and then turn off at the appropriate road heading to the Springs. Well – Goose Bay was a let-down; we didn’t see any seals and when we came to “Leader Road East”, the road to take us through to Hanmer, it was closed for roadworks until 8.00pm that night! After phoning the NZ Road Transport 0800 number to inquire about the road closure and times, the only option was to drive further south to Greta Valley and then head inland.
Needless to say, once we arrived at Hanmer we were a tad stressed and tired….. so headed to the pub!
We can see why everyone raves about Hanmer Springs. Sure, it might be classified as a ‘resort’ town but we can see the attraction of living there. In fact, after the first day there we started asking ourselves, “could you live here?”, which I might add, has continued as we have travelled South. The township of Hanmer reminded me very much of Banff, Canada, which was my playground from Calgary during the 10 years I lived there.
Being the school holidays the town was busy; the campground was almost at capacity, and we were fortunate to get a site.
Everyone asks us, “did you go to the pools?” Yes, we did, but not until our final evening, and only for about 1.5 hours. Having been to many thermal pools in my lifetime, I can see the attraction of these pools as there are more than enough to choose from, all offering a variety of temperatures. Our first drip was in a pool with the temperature ranging from 36 – 37 degrees. It felt hot initially, but after a few minutes acclimatising it was comfortable. The second ‘dip’ was into a ‘thermal’ pool with a lower temperature of 34-35 degrees, which immediately felt a lot colder. We didn’t last long in there. Our last dip was in the ‘aqua jet’ pool, also of 36-37degrees, but with the water being powered out at various points of the pool – perfect for placing one’s neck, feet or shoulders in front of.
I think what made us feel so comfortable and relaxed in Hanmer being surrounded by the mountains are home to trails and seasonal ski slopes. The nearby Conical Hill and Heritage Forest has a trail winding to a lookout point. To the south, rugged Waiau Gorge is known for its whitewater rapids and abundant salmon and trout.
One of the days we took Moti up about 20 kms of gravel road to the St James Homestead which is on the Molesworth Station. Now cared for by DOC, the land offers many trails suitable for walks, cycling or horse riding. On this day, we decided we’d take the bikes out and explore some of the trails. Unfortunately (for us), the trails were quite narrow and rough which we didn’t think suitable for our bikes, or for our riding experience (or inexperience really). At this time of life, we think more about protecting ourselves and not wanting to deal with broken bones and injuries from a fall, especially some many thousand metres up the mountains, with no cell coverage)!
The remains of the homestead and surrounding buildings made for some good photography, and after a picnic lunch and some walks we returned to Hanmer. At that time we jumped on the bikes and explored more of Hanmer.
We stayed at the Hanmer Springs Top 10 holiday camp, which we couldn’t fault. It was the closest to the township and was no comparison to the initial campsite we went to, which sat beneath a mountain and was dark, damp and miles from the town. We couldn’t fault the quality of the grounds, the kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry facilities were spotless and modern, and overall, we left feeling impressed with New Zealand’s tourist facilities.
Fortunately, there were only domestic tourists filling the sites at that time!