December 30, 2012
It rains heavily during the night and early morning, and leaks through the tent ceiling dripping onto our sleeping bags in five different places. When it stops, we step outside, and are aghast at the rays of sunlight which feel uncomfortably sharp and stinging. Our tent is half dry by the time we pack up. At a parking lot near the bay where we stop to admire the color of the water, two men sitting in a car with the windows rolled down, say that last night’s rain wasn’t worth a thing. What they are waiting for is RAIN.
The area around Nelson looks similar to Hawkes Bay. Although it is mid-summer, the grass has already turned golden, and the ochre and brown tones on the hillsides testify to long days of sunshine with scarcely a drop of rain. The zenith of summer has passed, and harvest is nearing. We ride amongst vineyards and olive trees, cherries and pears, apples and oranges, clementines and lemons. In Motueka where we stop for a moment to look at the map, we discover Hans Peter waiting for us by the side of the road!
– We’d like to have a cup of coffee with you, he says cheerfully.
We see that we’re in front of an organic café, which a large wooden sign in bold lettering claims,
– You haven’t seen Motueka until you’ve been to Toad Hall.
Philip has met up with a friend from Munich whom he introduces us to. They are on their way to Old MacDonald’s Farm, one of the best campgrounds they’ve ever been to.
After they leave, we search the whole town over for a café with free wifi. We need to finish booking the trip to Istanbul, before leaving. At 16:00, after spending two hours hanging over our machines, Christof gets impatient and drags me off to look for a place to stay the night. We like Motueka, but the campground, three hostels, and a vineyard that offers simple accommodation, are all full. The vineyard owner feels sorry for us and opens the gate to her back yard, where chickens roam freely over a chaos of random objects that have been rotting there for ages, saying:
– If you don’t mind the mess, you can camp here.
We do mind the mess, and ask her if she would mind calling Old MacDonald’s Farm for us. It is too far to ride up to without a reservation. She doesn’t, and because there are still some free spaces, she reserves us one.
Around 6:00 p.m. we finally get on the road. At first the clouds look dark and threatening and we’re prepared for a drenching, but surprisingly, the sun comes out. The long shadows and cool evening air is unbelievably pleasant and inspires us to ride at this time of day more often in the future. It doesn’t get dark here until around 9:00.
The topography is all hills, and is extremely strenuous despite the cool weather. After climbing more hills than we care to count, the road passes through a cove with a stunning beach on one side and a campground on the other. We’re tempted to stop there because it’s so beautiful and we’re exhausted, but press on since we’ve got a spot waiting for us at Old MacDonald’s Farm.
Hans Peter led us to believe that there was only one long hill to climb, on the other side of which a wonderful campground would be waiting for us. We climb each hill in the faith that it’s the last, and slowly as it gets darker, we’re on the verge of giving up. It never cease to amaze us how little car drivers notice about the landscapes they drive through. We climb yet another challenging hill which leads down the mountain into a quiet valley where the road ends.
A little lane leads to an idyllic campground where cows graze peacefully in the dwindling twilight and chickens roam freely behind the plant decorated office building. A small brook runs through the property, which feels more like a nature retreat than a campground. We arrive just minutes before it closes, and set up in a field next to a high hedge that will provide shade during the early morning hours.
Hans Peter and Philip are having spaghetti with vegetables, in their camper which is parked next to the stream. They invite us to join them but we go for pizza at the only café in the area.