Harassed by monsters of the mountains!!!!

Tuesday 12 May (still)

I think, given the choice, I’d opt for snow and mountains over beaches. As much as I love beaches and the lazy heat, for me nothing can beat the harsh brutality and majestical power of the mountains. And today has proved to be just one of the very best.
We’re staying at White Horse Hill camp site, just a couple of km outside of Mt Cook Village, right at the bottom of Mt Sefton and Mt Cook. The view from the van is easily the most impressive we’ve had so far in NZ. We started in rain and very low cloud, and were initially unimpressed with the Tasman Glacier (it’s great, but we’d been to Puerto Moreno, the best in the world). But by mid afternoon, the clouds lifted, and the views were I think the best mountain scenes I’ve ever had the privilege to witness. We walked up to Kea View Point and just sat for an hour staring at Sefton and Cook. The glacier crawling down Sefton was creaking and cracking, and we were very lucky to see an enormous avalanche high up causing thunderous noise and devastation. Incredible! And now, at half 5 in the evening we’re sitting in the van with the same amazing view, and the sun setting behind is casting vivid orange, yellow and red shadows on it. the mountain looks on fire! For me, it’s pure 100% joy, and I can’t imagine how this could be bettered.
6pm, and the temperature is down to 3 degrees! And although it’s very still now, the winds are forecast to be 70mph at 3am! So we’re sheltered in the trees with all the other camper vans up here. Severe weather warning!!! Scary, but I’m excited about it! It’s going to be a wild night! I’m hoping we’ll get a covering of snow too! Maybe I’ll have to do an emergency drive out of here with Charlotte still in bed!! 😊
Tomorrow we’re heading back to the east coast at Oamaru, for sun, sea, beach, 18 degrees, and penguin watching!! Then around the southern tip and back up the west coast, the most spectacular part of NZ!! Randall, I hope you appreciate the stunningly beautiful place you live in!!!! Only 23 days left in the van!!!! Bloody hell, we’ll miss it when it’s over! I can see this being my future……..

Wednesday 13th May
Aaaargh! What a bloody night!!! It started well, with an amazing star lit sky, and the fastest satellite I’ve ever seen (no, it wasn’t a plane), but when we retired to bed (about 8ish!!) we could hear the constant roar and thunder of avalanches in the valley all around us. Exhilarating, but also quite scary (we were amongst the 3000+m mountains).
But then, we heard footsteps. Or something!! Shuffling around outside the van. I thought it might be the park warden checking if we’d paid, so I ventured out into the pitch black exterior…… nobody, and nothing. Nearest camper van was about 30m away. Still no wind…. Climbing back into bed, we’d just settled down again when we could hear noises at the rear of the van, directly beside us! And then the van started rocking!!!!! Did I go out to check what it was? Did I bollocks!!!! I banged on the side a few times to try and scare whatever it was away, and tried to reassure Charlotte that it was nothing….. And I still have no idea what it was! I’m presuming it was a lion, or an elephant, or maybe a mammoth….
Later that night, about 11ish, the wind picked up. And picked up. And picked up! It sounded like an express train coming right through the site! And now the van really was rocking! Bloody hell, it was horrendous! We contemplated moving, but couldn’t picture anywhere more sheltered, so just had to sit it out! Not a good night! I think I got to sleep about 3ish, more out of sheer exhaustion than anything else. The wind had now been joined by torrential rain and the sound on top of the van was deafening.
Anyway, waking up just before 7, the wind had dropped a bit, but the rain was still hammering down. We could see a huge amount of new snow on the mountains around us. It was a case of quick, prepare to go! So by 8 we were on the road heading to the sun! And within half an hour we found the sun, and it was once again glorious! The drive from Mt Cook to Oamaru is one of the most beautiful we’ve done, passing cobalt blue lakes surrounded by mountains that looked as if they’d been covered with icing sugar. Very strange to pass through Aviemore! We arrived exhausted, but the beauty of having the van is that we just parked up at the harbour and went to bed for an hour! Brilliant!
So now we’re in Oamaru, just north of Dunedin. I’ve been for a 4 mile run to wake myself up, and this evening we’re going to watch the penguins return to their nests on the shore line here. Penguins! Love it!!
Useless bit of information – Oamaru is where the SS Terra Nova first docked in 1913 to report the news of Captain Scott’s doomed expedition. See. Culture.

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