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New Zealand in a campervan – Havelock and happenstance

Havelock was not our planned destination. Phil and I had lingered in  the vineyards of Blenheim and were on our way to Nelson. The roads were windy and the driving challenging, we were tired so decided to stop and stretch our legs and get a coffee.

Havelock was the first town we came to. We parked up the camper and went to look for a cafe. Most of them were offering Green Lipped Mussels. Had no idea what they were, or that they were a delicacy of the area.

As we wandered toward the marina area, we found a small camping site, and our fate was sealed. We were tired, it was late afternoon, Nelson was a long, windy road away and they had one vacancy so we checked in.

I went to check out the wi-fi. In the laundry room there were computers to use and that is where I met Barb. We got chatting she lost her $2 worth of internet time and I found out where they were eating that night. Barb was with her husband Pete and they had been to Havelock before, it was one of their favourite places to stay. The pub they were eating at did great steaks and green lipped mussels. They didn’t stand a chance. I had already decided to gatecrash their dinner.

We were only staying the one night, had very little cash on us and the only cashpoint, in the only supermarket,  was broken. We found a cafe that took card payment, had some tea and then wandered around this tiny town.

We had stumbled upon a gem of place, once a gold mining settlement now the green lipped mussel capital of the world,  Havelock has a selection of galleries and small independent shops. The town has a slightly arty feel to it. It is the base for the Pelorus Mail Boat which serves the remote communities in the Marlborough Sounds. Day tours can be booked for NZ $128 or you can use it to be dropped off at one of the communities and be picked up a week later. Something I would quite like to do.

And so to dinner at the Havelock Hotel.  We had popped in for a drink in the early evening to check out the pub recommended by Barb. It was as if we had walked into a bar in the 1970’s.  Time seemed to have stood still in this pub. They did take cards (we had no cash) but only for over a certain amount so they put our drinks on a tab (without taking the card) because we told them we would be back later to have dinner. That is trust for you. And of course we went back, asked Barb and Pete if we could join them, they said yes.

Green lipped mussels and a steak cooked on a stone.

In a proper Kiwi pub.

It turned out the Barb and Pete were from Melbourne and were on the same flight as we were a few days later. They had travelled around New Zealand frequently in a camper van and gave us some good suggestions where to visit on the South Island. We got on so well we went back to their van for drinks and that is when they invited us to spend Christmas with them.

Being English we thought they were just being polite. We had only just met. Why would you invite us for Christmas? We were planning to skip Christmas. We didn’t say this of course, instead we politely said oh, yes, I am not sure what our plans are. Thankyou for asking. We hadn’t yet understood that Aussies don’t say anything they don’t mean.

We knew we would see them at the airport, and the next day said our goodbyes and headed off to Nelson to loop the top of the South Island before travelling south to Christchurch. I gave no more thought about Christmas until we met them again, in Kaikoura.

While my relationship with the van with the bed in the back (as the camper eventually became known) was not always an easy one, travelling this way gave us an opportunity to meet people.

In Bay of Islands we met Tim and Jo Ann while admiring a sunset. We then stayed with them in Wellington and got to see Oscars in the WETA boardroom and a film at The Roxy.

They suggested we visit to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre and go whale watching in Kaikoura, which is where we met Barb and Pete for a second time. It turned out that we had also been in Tauranga, on the North Island at the same time. We were meant to meet.

We met Barb and Pete because of the unplanned stop in Havelock . That is what I like about having no particular itinerary, just going with the flow. When you allow people into your life you gain experiences you could not have imagined.  When you open your life and let in whatever the universe has planned for you, amazing things happen.


And yes, we did spend Christmas with Barb and Pete.



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