With Christmas on its way, I picked what sounded like a perfect campsite from the D.O.C website and started to head towards it. I had a mountain pass to cross and another to partially cross, so it was another day of tight corners opening up into stunning views.
The road coming down towards the coast was especially dramatic and it took all my limited supply of maturity to keep my speed down and ride safely instead of riding like that perfect road begged me to.
At the top of the pass I met New Zealands best known friendly pest- The Kea. These birds know how to get people to feed them and exploit this knowledge mercilessly. Doing so means that they are happy to pose for photos and will happily hop right up to you if you pretend you have some food. They are also very fond of rubber and are known to strip seals, handlebars, and whatever other rubber your bike has clean.
In Greymouth I stopped for supplies and then headed up the next pass towards the campsite. Arriving, it was just what I was looking for- quiet, scenic, and seemingly designed for the perfect Christmas break.
Putting my bottle of bubbly in the stream to stay cool and opening my bottle of Pinot Noir to air, I set to work making dinner. I’d decided to treat myself to a proper dinner and since I was switching fuel types I also had two burners to use for the purpose.
With prep done- wonderful NZ lamb brazed, perfect little new potatoes boiled in herbs, other veggies cut and gravy starting, it was time to put it all together and let it cook down for a bit to produce my 100% NZ Christmas dinner…
That night a fun British couple at the site and I had the kind of night that travelers away from family during the holidays always hope for. Too much wine, too much food, and all the wonderful conversation we could handle.
The next morning I started on my breakfast, after having poured an airplane bottle of Baileys into my coffee.
The strawberries were cooked down with another airplane bottle of brandy (wonderful things those) and then mixed with some nice chocolate, to make a perfect topping for my pancakes.
There was plenty to share, so the Brits and I had a sunny breakfast together. For lunch they treated me to a great asian style noodle soup with fresh eel they had caught in the stream.
In the afternoon, the ‘Kiwis are Wonderful’ show began with a family trooping in for a picnic. Seeing us, the insisted we join them for turkey, ham, etc, etc all washed down with some excellent local ale.
Later in the afternoon it just didn’t stop, with a German riding couple showing up.
After sharing riding stories for a while we decided to ride into town and see if anything was open so we could pick up some beer for the evening. We didn’t expect to have any luck and were right- nothing was open. I spotted a restaurant that had some people, so thought I’d check if they did off-sales. As it turned out, they were closed and it was just family there for their own Christmas party. Hearing of our terrible plight, they apologetically explained that they’d love to help us out, but their liquor licence didn’t allow them to sell alcohol for off-site consumption. They then suggested the, to them, obvious solution- just give us the beer with a wave and a Merry Christmas!
So, while it may have been a Christmas without snow, without family or wrapped presents, it was also the most perfect of Christmases.