Sunday, 9 April 2017

A Pretty Good Autumn

I've never thought of NZ as being much of an autumn-y country.  Born and bred Kiwis would no doubt feel quite differently but after growing up in the tiny English village of Selborne I guess I was spoilt.  The whole village and surrounds became a glorious spectacle of red, cold and copper. Autumn to me meant picking the hops that hung over the school fence and keeping them in your pocket all day so you could sniff their delicious scent whenever you wanted.  It meant searching the countryside for horse chestnut trees so you could have conker battles at school and dissecting rosehips so you could use the insides as itching powder down some poor unsuspecting soul's shirt.  I haven't found any hops or rose hips yet and I'm not sure I will but I was delighted to see a horse chestnut tree the other day and our campground is currently surrounded by beautiful autumnal trees.

A typical Autumn evening in Gore

That's one of the many things I like about Gore; it does a pretty good autumn.  I know, you're probably thinking 'what are you still doing there?'  Several reasons really.  Firstly our much-loved four-legged travel companion Minnie has been receiving some vet treatment and we've had to stick around for an extra week so she can have tests and see how she goes on her medication.  It's a bit of a pain because she's been doing so well and getting so much fitter so we feel sorry for her having to suddenly limit her exercise but it looks as though she has heart problems and some fluid on her lungs so we have to do whatever's necessary to keep her well.  We'll know more after her visit tomorrow. Either way, she doesn't seem too bothered, but that's Minnie for you!

'Oops, you caught me'.  Our Minnie.
Ten years old next month yet she still sucks on her blankey like a puppy!

Secondly, I've had work coming out of my ears.  It's pretty hard trying to work when you're constantly travelling.  I thought it would be easy - I mean, I don't even have to leave the van to work after all - but when you're driving for hours every day trying to cover ground and make headway it's a real juggling act.  Things often don't go to plan, it's not always easy finding a decent place to stop for several hours at a time, I have Gareth and Minnie to consider and when most campgrounds have a checkout time of 9 or 10am we often end up having to pack up and leave a place right as I'm supposed to be starting work!  So from that point it's been good to stay in one place for a bit and I know how lucky I am to even be able to work the way I do so mustn't complain!

My office isn't ideal - but it's wherever I need it to be!

Finally, it's given us a chance to catch our breath and try to decide what the heck we do from here. We may not have too many worries in this simple life but we still have plenty to think about, especially with winter approaching!  A lot of people who live on the road permanently find a place to 'winter'; somewhere warmer that they can park up and hibernate for a few months.  Gore is the ideal place for us to do that - well sort of.  Our campground is super cheap at just $5 a night and it has everything we need within walking distance.  The only downside is that apparently the temperature gets down to minus 7 or thereabouts.  We're already getting down to 3 degrees at night and I really want to be able to tough it out here through the winter but in reality I'm not sure.  I want to see how resilient we can be - but it could also potentially go very wrong!

We also have a fair bit more of the country still to see - Oamaru, Timaru, Lake Tekapo, Kaikoura, Christchurch and heaps more.  The South Island is a big place!  And we should be making sure we see it before the weather gets too bad.  Heaven knows we've been lucky enough so far; whilst almost the whole country has been getting saturated this past couple of months, we've literally had hardly a drop of rain.  I've honestly been feeling really guilty about it!  No doubt it will catch up with us in the end but for now we're counting our blessings every day.

Somewhere out there - there's a patch of land with our
names on it.  We hope!

So there's a dilemma - do we keep moving and tick off the rest of the country, or do we stay in Southland, where we already know we want to be?  Which brings us to another rather large decision we're conscious of having to make soon.  Whilst we have no intention of giving up travelling, everyone needs a base, somewhere of their own and we need to find ours.  We've been putting feelers out in earnest for a couple of weeks now and have a couple of good leads to follow but everything is a bit 'pie in the sky' until we know the outcome.  Land in Southland is very cheap - there is one town near Gore where you can buy an acre of flat land for as little as $12,000!  But cheap as it is, we can't bring ourselves to buy there, it just doesn't feel right.  That's an understatement, it feels all wrong.  Even though we've been through it several times to make sure, it just has a bad vibe.  We'd rather pay a little bit more and get it right.

Another thing we have to consider with our land is council regulations.  We're not wanting to buy a house, we want to buy land and build our own house on it - a tiny house to be exact.  That's another good thing about Southland, there are not so many constraints and regulations when it comes to building tiny houses but there are still plenty, especially in residential areas.  So even if the price is right AND the vibe is right, we still may not be able to build the type of house we want due to council regulations and consent and suchlike.  We would rather live in the van for longer in order to wait for the right place than rush into making a poor decision but we need to find somewhere soon, otherwise we will have no choice but to stay on the road and find somewhere to winter.  There is also the possibility of leasing land, which we are also investigating and is an option many tiny house owners prefer as the price of the lease is usually less per year than what the rates alone would cost if you owned the same piece of land.  Decisions, decisions!  Sometimes my brain hurts just thinking about it but we are currently looking at an option which sounds rather exciting.  I'm not saying anything more about it just yet as I don't want to jinx anything but I'll be sure to keep you posted once I know more. Whatever happens, the main thing is that we are HAPPY.  And don't get pneumonia...

Early morning in the heart of Dunedin

The city taken from Otago Peninsula

We may not have ventured too far lately and hopefully that will change soon but we did manage an overnight trip to Dunedin at the weekend.  I really like Dunedin - I just hate driving in it!  All the cycle lanes, one way systems and funny road markings; I wouldn't last five minutes without getting lost or hitting a cyclist without Gareth as my navigator!  The city centre is quite pretty as cities go, with lots of very cool architecture and the people of Dunedin are great too.  I particularly love the Otago Peninsula, with it's narrow, winding coastal road and we stayed out at Portobello, surrounded by delightfully noisy tuis and bellbirds.  It's the first time we've been to Dunedin when it wasn't raining and really enjoyed exploring in the sunshine.  We ran out of time to go to Tunnel Beach as hoped but that's a good thing because now we have an excuse to go back!


  1. I grew up in Invercargill and we had a holiday house (crib) at Kingston which is the bottom of lake Wakatipu. It is an amazing place and the Kingston Flyer (train) used to come in twice a day and also the SS Ernslaw on the lake. We regularly went to Queenstown and one of my favourite places ever - Arrowtown - there you will see Autumn leaves - at least that's what I can remember! We also spent time in Alexandra, Roxburgh and most of Central Otago. I'm probably being biased but the South Island to me is much prettier than the North Island (and I live in the North for many years and many places too).

  2. What a small world, I LOVE Kingston! Seriously, it's one of my favourite places, it is so beautiful there by the lake. We freedom camped just a couple of kilometres down the road on the way from Glenorchy and it is up there with my favourite memories. Would recommend it to anyone! We still have yet to go to Alexandra and Roxburgh but they are both very much on the to-do list!