Our camping spot, with Minnie safely contained inside!
Typical Wentworth Valley scenery. Gorgeous - just bring the mozzie repellent!
Wentworth Valley Falls - well worth the climb!
This was also the place where we christened our Weber Baby Q barbecue, affectionately known as Lieutenant Dan. This was our other major investment apart from the gazebo and cost $459. We did a lot of research before buying and found this was the most popular with others living on the road as you can literally cook anything on it from baking to a full roast, plus it is also really compact. You can purchase it as is, which we did, or pay more for removable legs. That's why we call ours Lieutenant Dan, because it's got no legs (you have to have seen Forrest Gump to get this one!) Anyway, with over 200 meals from a 9kg gas bottle, so far Dan has proved a very worthwhile investment.
One thing Gareth and I had decided months ago was that as soon as all this house moving stuff was over and we hit the road, we were going to treat ourselves to a stay at Miranda Holiday Park. Miranda is the home of the largest natural hot mineral pool in the Southern Hemisphere and Gareth had never been. I reckoned we were long overdue a relaxing soak after all the upheaval and was keen to show him the Seabird Coast, which as its name suggests is a sanctuary for all kinds of wildlife. I stayed at the Holiday Park years before with my Mum and the boys when they were smaller and really enjoyed it. I was really looking forward to going again.
But back then I didn't have a dog. This time was very different and as we have learned, a four-star plus rating means nothing when it comes to real hospitality. I swear to God the lady at reception took one look at Gareth with his long hair and me with my tattoos and thought 'Mm-hmm, I'm keeping THOSE two FAR out of the way!' In fact she pretty much said as much. 'If you go over there in the corner you'll be out of the road', she said - whatever that was supposed to mean. So over in the corner we went, to the special segregated area for people with dogs. There were at least a dozen closer parks available but she couldn't have put us any further out of the way if she tried, right by the entrance under a large tree.
Seeing as we were treating ourselves to a hot soak, we also thought we would treat ourselves to a nice bottle of wine and some beer to celebrate finally getting on the road properly. Not to mention fish and chips at Kaiaua. This goes without saying. One simply does not visit Kaiaua without getting fish and chips from the award winning takeaways - ask anyone! And there was the bottle store right next door at the tavern. Except today it was closed. How could it be closed? It was NEVER closed! 'It's Monday. It's closed on a Monday', the chap at the takeaways explained. 'You'll have to go to the dairy at Waitakaruru 20 minutes away for wine and beer'. Gareth and I looked at each other. Well, we were planning to stay a couple of days, we guess it was worth the effort. So off we went. And as soon as we walked into the dairy we knew straight away it was a fruitless mission. 'We don't sell it any more', said the smiling staff. 'Next stop is Thames'. What the hell, what was another 20 minutes out of our way after all?
So off we went to Thames and stocked up before finally returning to our isolated spot in the corner. Quite possibly the most expensive grog I have ever bought all things considered! But in the end we were very glad of it, as not only were we stuck in the corner by ourselves, miles away from other guests and any amenities, we also had a pair of floodlights pointing directly into our van, so that we had to go out and cover the windows with towels in order to get any sleep. Oh - and that tree we were parked under? It had herons nesting in it. In the morning when we woke up, Gareth went outside and poor Batty was absolutely SMOTHERED in heron poo. The air turned a deep shade of blue as the poor chap had to climb onto the roof of the van in order to secure our bird-splattered belongings before moving on (as you can imagine, there was no way we were staying another night!) Our lovely new gazebo, our backpacks, you name it, they were all covered in poo. Do you think that lady knew all along what she was doing? We think she bloody did.
And so I went in to see her before we left. 'I'm sorry, but we will be checking out a little late', I smiled sweetly. 'Our van got absolutely covered in heron poo overnight and my partner needs a shower before we can leave'. 'Oh dear, that is unfortunate!' she chuckled. 'Yes, it really is', I agreed. 'You see, I'm a writer and I would have loved to take some photos but of course I can't possibly do that now', I said. 'Oh, well you could go and wash the van?' she immediately said. 'Go down the side of the building here and use our gear to wash it off. You won't mention the heron poo though I hope?' she asked. 'Oh don't worry', I beamed at her before making an exit. 'I'm always honest!'