Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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Fleurs Place

Mr Uphilldowndale will tell you this was his highlight of the holiday.

We rolled in to  the small fishing town of Moeraki  looking for lunch, I’d a fancy for a pie, New Zealand makes very tasty pies.  Mr Uphilldowndale was scrolling through his phone to see what might be on  offer,  he announced ‘Rick Steins favourite seafood restaurant in the world is here, it’s called Fleurs Place*’.  Well, I thought that puts it out of budget then, you could  probably buy a truck load of pies for the price of a lunch with that pedigree.

But we walked down to the harbour, hungry and curious. It wasn’t the brightest of days, to take a look,  from the outside the restaurant  had a time worn patina,  a touch of some village halls I can think of here in the UK, there was a lot of outdoor seating, but it wasn’t that kind of day.

NZ Fleurs Ext

Inside it was warm and cosy, we took a look at a menu; to our surprise the price was do-able for a lunch that had much more promise than a pie; and to our delight, yes they did have a table for three,  they’d get it set for us right away.

They were just about to start the lunchtime service, a member of staff was setting flowers on the tables, I’m always going to gravitate to the flowers, they were roses, the deepest red velvety roses I think I’d ever seen, and their perfume was decadent

Fleurs place NZ roses_

The style of the decor, was eclectic, the kind of thing that looks like it didn’t take much trouble to pull together, but it did.

Fleurs place NZ

The tables, scrubbed; cutlery bone handled, china mismatched.

A wonderful old range, in the corner, made me think of my mother in laws precious range, and her pride in keeping it lit through the winter.

Fleurs place NZ range

We were guided through the menu**,  the starters we were advised are large, the recommendation was that we share a starter. This was good advice.

Fleurs place NZ starter

Tom said if we were paying he’d drive, and we could have some of New Zealand’s lush wine, maybe that is why this photo is not quiet as sharp as it should be?

NZ Fleurs Main Fish_

Fleur herself was front of house, there was no question she is fully in charge of every detail,  the food, staff, presentation, the works. With her mane of surf white hair, she exudes energy  charm and charisma.  You’d never guess she’s 80 years young (Fleur opened this restaurant at the age of 63 after her recovery from cancer).

What Fleur has in boat loads, is the ability to make her guests at ease, it is her homely yet special hospitality that creates an alchemy that makes this place so memorable.  After our meal she came and sat with us, chatted with Tom about where he’s working and what he thinks of  New Zealand, we in turn bought Fleur’s biography,  she signed it for us.

Fleur

As another customer was leaving I heard him thank Fleur and the staff,  ‘I’ll remember that meal till the day I die’.  So will we.

*Fleurs, the record, there is no apostrophe.

**I have one regret, that I didn’t try a dish that was on the menu, mottonbird, it wasn’t until later in our trip that a guide at the museum in Wellington, talked about how muttonbirds were considered such a delicacy that they were shipped out to Kiwi soldiers during WWII to help maintain morale. 

 

 


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Purakaunui Bay

More from our travels in New Zealand, November 2019 

One of the joys of travelling with Tom through South Island was his knowledge and network. He’d plenty of places he wanted to show us, and plenty that his mates thought we should be taking a look at.  If he didn’t know the answer he could find it in a jiffy, assuming there was some mobile reception!

This is Purakaunui Bay in the Catlins Coastal Area 

NZ Purakaurui_

We stayed on the Department of Conservation Campsite, just rock up and drop a registration form and cash in the box*

Here is our pitch, and our  hire van for the trip.

Quiet site_

It must have been a bit of a culture shock for Tom having not seen us for 23 months, to then share a van with us for two weeks. He survived, making himself a den on the double bed above the cab, we pitched camp at the back of the van.

New Zealand is geared towards campervans ( Scotland’s The North Cost 500 route, could learn a thing or two from the Kiwis).  Our van had a loo and shower, hob, fridge etc, and could sleep six, but that might be a bit of a pinch, and test most relationships!

For Freedom camping Campervans need to have a ‘Certified Self Containment‘ certificate, to show they mange their own water and waste needs for a minimum of three days. Just about every village/town has a public dump station where you can empty your tanks, and even the most basic of campsites had a ‘long-drop’ loo at the very least. (NZ toilets need a post to themselves, believe me, I was so impressed).

On the beach we found what we first thought were logs, but turned out to be seals

NZ DOC campsite_

They might have well been logs for the amount they moved though, I was hoping for a nice video taken from the discrete safety of the dunes. (You don’t want to get the wrong side of a seal I’m reliably informed by a wise women).  It seemed like mum and pup had a belly full of fish and milk respectively, and were only interested in sleeping and the odd shuffle and scratch in the sand.

NZ DOC Seal ans cub_

At one side of the bay are limestone cliffs,  with trees not so much windswept as impaled on the rock face,

NZ Purakaurui Bay trees

I’m not sure this counts as adrystone wall for my collection, more of a retaining wall maybe?

NZ DOC drystone wall_

At the other side is a geologist dream of lava formations.

NZ Purakaurui Bay Lava 4

Everywhere you go in NZ are the reminders that its  geological power and might are not so very far away.

*we were rubbish at having the right cash (or any cash) available at campsites! A little forethought is required.  There is, other than places like this little call for cash, everywhere takes cards.


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Quiet contemplation

More from our travels through New Zealand, November 2019

Stone stacking, it seems to be a thing wherever you go these days. I’m not sure what to think of it, it lent a little foreground interest to this shot I guess. 

NZ lake Pukaki Stone stack

Stone stacking is considered by many to be damaging to the environment, I reckon if you tried anywhere near a drystone wall here in Derbyshire, you’d have an irate farmer on your tail!

Lake Pukaki, a stunning place to sit and contemplate, whilst mindfully (or mindlessly) stacking rocks I guess.  Looks serene doesn’t it?

Just don’t look left of shot.

NZ lake Pukaki Stone stack non zen

Selfie paradise was in full swing. I don’t think this party of Chinese tourist would have been stone stacking, in general the Chinese tour groups didn’t seem to stay anywhere very long.  Just long enough to satiate their seemingly obsessive  need for selfies, I’ll lay odds on that, the wedding dress tour passed through here.

Tom wasn’t too impressed, he was hatching a plan to return at dawn and knock down the stone towers. He likes his landscapes left as nature intended.

NZ long white cloud view_

 

 


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Don’t drink the water

More from our travels through New Zealand,  November 2019

You never know what’s up stream.

NZ Dead Horse Stream_

Every bridge and culvert in New Zealand is named and numbered. And indeed if you’ve that kind of enquiring mind you can read the rational for it, here.

These two were on the road out to Mount Cook, Mount Cook.

birch hill stream NZ 2

I’ve no idea what a worry line is, but it’s worrying me.  You can follow Birch Hill stream up to the snow fields of Jamieson Saddle, but you’d need to know what you were about. 

New Zealand’s roads don’t seem to get a good press,

NZ Rd to Mt Cook Lake Pukaki vista

New Zealand does not score highly in road infrastructure when compared to other developed  nations, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2015–
2016.23 The New Zealand road quality is rated as 4.7 out of 7, which places New Zealand in position 43. The perceived comparatively poor quality of our infrastructure may partly be due to our geography and population size.

As the saying goes, New Zealand’s roads are different,  but I thought that report seemed a little harsh, there’s a lot less pot holes in the roads than here in Derbyshire at the moment. And the challenges  that a feisty young  mother nature throws at New Zealand’s road infrastructure, such as earthquakes, floods, landslips, snow and ice must be challenging to say the least.  We shall return to this topic.

 


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Lake Pukaki

More form our travels through New Zealand, November 2019

The glacial waters of lake Pukaki, South Island.

NZ Rd to Mt Cook Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki, a shimmering blue jewel set against a backdrop of Aoraki/Mt Cook, gets its distinctive deep blue tones from finely-ground minerals carried in the glacier-fed waters.

There are lots of blue wonders such as this 

It’s a long ribbon shaped lake, formed by  a terminal moraine dam   ( sigh, I loved glaciation in geography at school).

NZ Rd to Mt Cook Lake Pukaki Texture_

Water from the lake is used to make hydro electricity,  a canal carries the water to the power station. I think it may be a little chilly for a swim, even though it looks like a swimming pool.  The height of the dam  was raised

NZ lake Pukaki Canal_

(Mr Uphilldowndale would very much like to know by how much, but I’ve not tracked that info down yet, is it any wonder it is taking me so long to write these posts?) .

 


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Brides on tour

Once I caught my breath, at the stunning sight of the lupins at lake Tekapo, something else caught my eye. At first glance I thought I could see people catching insects, moths maybe, or butterflies? Entomologists, studying the secret life of lupins perhaps? 

I saw white net drifting over the lupins, twirling, lifting and then falling from the breeze.  Yes that’s it, entomologists I thought.

But no, it was a bride, a Chinese bride on a wedding dress tour.  Tom had told me about this, yes wedding dress tours are a thing. Whoever knew?

Brides and grooms, from China, come to New Zealand to have their wedding photos taken in these beautiful, iconic locations.  I told you the lupins were photogenic.

NZ Wedding dress tour _

It’s big business.  The civil marriage takes place in China, the bride and groom then fly to New Zealand, spending thousands of dollars on hair, make-up, photographers the works. The photographs are then shown on big screens, back at the wedding reception in China. It’s a status symbol.

I’d assumed the bride would wear the same dress for all the different locations, and back at the wedding reception in China. But no, it’s a different dress for the reception at home and it is different dress for each location! The companies facilitating the photo shoots, hire out dresses too. 

I did think it must be a bit chilly for the bride. Note the photographer is wearing a puffa jacket…

Wedding dress tour 3

The groom looked a little less engaged in the job in hand than the bride. Maybe he wants to be an entomologist.

Wedding dress tour 4

We went on our way, heading for Mount Cook National Park, it was a public holiday, not that you’d know from the roads,  bank holiday traffic back in the UK, does not look like this!  (Yes the glacial blue is true to life).

Bank holiday traffic 2

But it can be surprising what you meet on these seemingly empty roads. as they say New Zealand roads are different. 

On our way to Glenorchy, we spotted something, or at least somebody in the road ahead.  And by the time we reached them they had sensibly stepped off the carriage way.

It’s a  risky business this wedding dress tour lark.

 

 

 

 

 


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Will there be lupins?

That is the question I asked Tom when we’d booked the flights to New Zealand,  all  the websites and brochures I’d looked at showed photogenic images of luscious lupins, framing ice blue water and snow topped mountains. ‘ Yes, they are every where Mum’ he replied. Which is a bit of an issue, but we’ll come to that later, first, lupins. Enjoy.

Lupin 4 NZ

These images were taken at Lake Tekapo,  on South Island, the water  really is that blue, no filters here. In the distance Mount Cook and Mount Cook National Park. They were taken in November, so early summer for New Zealand

You can imagine how excited I was by this vista, Tom and Mr Uphilldowndale couldn’t stop sneezing though, but they tolerated the pollen long enough for me to play amongst the lupins and bag my very own lupin shots.

NZ Lupin close up

So how did they get here? The plant is native to  North America.

The story goes that,

As a schoolboy in 1949, Scott helped his mother, Connie Scott, of Godley Peaks Station, near Tekapo, scatter lupin seeds along the roadside. She bought about £100 worth from the local stock and station agent, hiding the bill from her husband for many months, hoping simply to make the world more beautiful.

1949, £100 of seed? That would have been an awful lot of money!

Maybe there is some artistic licence in that story?

NZ Lupin pink and blue_

Some see them as an invasive species.

The Russell lupin, Lupinus polyphyllus, hailing from North America, and used in a hybridisation program that subsequently gave it increased vigour, is such a mild-mannered and quintessential cottage garden plant here in the UK and a complete thug in New Zealand. Colonising streambanks, just like in the picture, they are taking over a habitat so important for New Zealand’s unique wildlife. Riverbed birds such as wrybill, black stilt and banded dotterel are being pushed out of their natural home by a garden plant introduced to New Zealand.

NZ Lupin_

and others see them as a valuable fodder for sheep

The New Zealand Merino Company (NZMCo) is drafting a new protocol to promote lupins as a high-country fodder crop, and seeking the support of Environment Canterbury, as well as conservation groups and farmers. It’s a bid to stay on the right side of environmentalists and ecologists who see lupins as an environmental time bomb.

 

NZ Lupin shore line_

I’ve tried growing them at home, I’ve never managed to get them established, they seem to be a slug magnet. The trip has inspired me to try again though, I’m confident they won’t be colonising the Todbrook reservoir though.