Day 8 – Rustic style camping and eating our bodyweight in cheese and chocolate.
After our slightly creepy visit to Tekapo, we were more than pleased to be driving away. Passing through teeny tiny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it towns, we searched for a place to camp for the night. The Musterer’s High Country Accommodation caught our eye and we pulled in hoping they had a free space.
Musterer’s High Country Accommodation are a boutique camping development with a variety of accommodation. Theres self-contained luxury cabins, powered camping sites and also a 1930’s carriage for two people (perfect for a romantic getaway!) Plus, they had adorable donkeys and goats on the property, what more could you want? As it turns out, the perks of travelling off-peak season came through again and we had the entire place to ourselves. Our hosts, Paul and Eunice were way more than accommodating by letting us not only have a powered site, but free reign of the delightful wool shed and hot showers. Talk about score! We were tempted by the hot tubs but unfortunately arrived a bit too late for them to be turned on. We cosied up in the fully decked out wool shed and made dinner and watched TV. This little bit of chill out time was just what we needed at the mid point of our trip.
The following morning, we woke to frosty surroundings, caused by the snowy mountains that enveloped us. Since the start of the trip, we had decided today would be our ‘big’ drive day. We were crossing the island and going from east to west across Arthurs Pass to Greymouth. It would take us about five or so hours, which was huge compared to the menial distances we had been travelling in the previous days.
We set off from our stay at Musterers High Country Accommodation, wiping the condensation from Mimi’s windscreen and turning up the heater full ball. It was a rather bitter morning so we were glad to warm up to the day in the warmth of Mimi.
In true BuchAll fashion we got an hour down the road before we were persuaded to stop. After perusing through a few travel brochures we had picked up along the way, we discovered the small town of Geraldine was home to the delicious Barker’s of Geraldine, as well as a popular spot for cheese tasting and a chocolatier. Basically a must-see on our agenda!
Finding a park, we all agreed on a ‘quick coffee break’ in Geraldine before getting back on the road. Ha, famous last words, we spent about two hours more than we should have there but it was such a delightful little stop.
First off we ate our body weight in preserves and chutneys from Barker’s of Geraldine. They had been creating delicious fruit preserves, chutneys and fruit juice syrups for our 45 uears . It was like a little slice of Grandma’s cooking, NZ style. My favourites were the onion relish, roasted vegie chutney and the lemon curd. Mmm! Even writing about them makes me drool. We bought a couple of jars to take home and to go with our wine and cheese nights that were being a regular occurrence on this trip.
Moving a couple of shops down to Talbot Forest Cheese, we tasted some high quality cheeses, made the traditional way. Again, we ate way more than we should and bought half the shop, but with cheese selling at dirt cheap prices it was too hard to resist.
Arms loaded with bags of goodies we wandered through the streets of Geraldine, until we reached Coco Chocolaterie and decided we definitely needed a sugar hit before leaving Geraldine. All chocolate here is made on site, by hand – even down to the tempering of the chocolate. We ordered a stack of different choccies and some coffee and filled the miniscule gap leftover in our stomachs after our morning feeding frenzy.
Before jumping back in Mimi, K and I had a look at the World’s Largest Jersey – knitted by local and as big as the wall while S and B bartered over some animal hides which S could use for her millinery business. It was a pretty successful little stop on our travel day, glad we’d decided to stop in! It was now starting to feel like we were truly in New Zealand and not just the touristy hotspots such as Queenstown and Lake Tekapo.
Now fairly behind schedule, we hightailed it out of there with a mission to stay in the van for more than an hour. This, of course, was a failure and we made a pit stop at the Staveley Store for a quick coffee and a sample of a cheese roll – because we hadn’t eaten enough in Geraldine – before setting off properly towards Arthurs Pass. P.s – the coffee in Staveley is fantastic!
It was a long, windy drive to reach Arthurs Pass National Park, but the view was fantastic the entire way. I kept feeling a sense of deja vu as we drove along and it wasn’t until we reached the small township of Arthur’s Pass that I realised I had been here before – back when I travelled through New Zealand with my parents at the age of 13. Obviously I wasn’t so enthralled by travelling back then as I am now! :p
The landscape changed dramatically as we drove, from looming arid mountains to dense forestry – we couldnt tire from the view. The road was windy and narrow, though it didnt seem to faze the large trucks whizzing by us as we puttered along in Mimi.
In was nearing dark by the time we reached the turnoff to Greymouth. We’d buzzed past Kumura and had our hopes of hot kumara chips shattered as the scattering of houses that made up the town of Kumara didnt look as inviting as we’d envisioned.
The weather looked shocking as we entered Greymouth and we made a decision to only perch up here for the night before heading on towards Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks, but more on that later…