Gemma visits the South Island

In the first part of this series of pages about our trip to New Zealand’s South Island, I described all the drama about the flat we developed by Murchison. This trip very much contained more sub-stories, beyond the main one of our road trip. My ulcerative colitis started to flare between Xmas and New Year, just as we were setting off for the trip. The nature of Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome is not something anybody would want to read about in any detail, so I will avoid writing up that side of our trip. However, it did mean a last minute rearrangement of bookings. One of the advantages for us living in New Zealand means we had the joy of taking the third member of the family away with us to see all the beautiful scenery here. And she loves it, even though she is not a good traveller. But, one of the disadvantages is that much of New Zealand is closed to dogs, and many campsites and motels do not tolerate dogs. What we have found is that often those that do tend to be a bit down-at-heel, and in any given area can be hard to find.

Gemma and Georgina at Pilorus Bridge, on way from Picton Ferry to Richmond.

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The view from outside the motel at Richmond we stayed, on State Highway 6, towards the mountains. Gemma had to endure several of these roadside walks as we found our way around new places. We did find a reserve up the road. Some motels were better than others in directing guests to places they could walk dogs.

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At Murchison, I spotted this neat old Austin truck outside an Antiques barn, but Gemma’s interests were elsewhere…


Gemma was more interested in the holes in some of the buildings, which may have hidden rats. Glad to see a dog so well under control.


Gemma was perched on this brass plate for a photo for some reason. Interesting thing looking back is that she is facing homeward. She seemed to point/pull us in that direction quite a lot during the trip. I’m not altogether sure why Georgina put here there, maybe so she could see the view better; it is hard on small dogs, they get a very limited view of the world. However, she seemed quite relieved to get down.

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We were booked into a mix of pet-friendly motels and camping sites, intending to have nights in the Bongo, and others in motels to rest from driving and camping. It became clear during our first two nights in Richmond that my Ulcerative Colitis was flaring, and was not going away. When we reached the first campsite we were booked into, it was obvious the toilet arrangements simply would not work for me. Urgency in the middle of the night involving a rush across a field to a 3-cubicle toilet on a site with 30-40 groups of campers was never going to work. Fortunately, they had WiFi, and I was able to confirm certain funds had become available over the holiday period, and so we set off in search of a motel where we could hole up for the night with Gemma.

That evening was a bit frantic, with me driving back to Westport, looking for possible motels, while Georgina rang ahead. At one place we stopped we were told that there was nothing for people with a dog, although a couple of “sisters” came out and offered to double-up in one of their units, and let us use their other unit. The word was that there was nowhere that night down as far as Greymouth that had vacancies and would take a dog.

Eventually, I pulled off to a tavern I’d spotted on the way up earlier that afternoon. The guy there was very friendly, and Georgina managed to negotiate a room for us and the dog for that night. Once there, Georgina was able to start ringing forward, rearranging bookings from sites to cabins, cancelling and booking motel/chalet units.

This pub was a smelly place, but to us it was a palace. Gemma was keen to get to know the chooks in the yard outside, but we felt that a dead chicken might not be the best way to thank the landlord. The sheets were shiny nylon sheets. The TV was a tribute to the limits that CRT technology was pushed back in the 1990’s. The water was pumped from the ground and stored in a tank – a taste we were familiar with from our time in Te Kowhai, and not something I would ever want to drink with a stomach condition again.

The food was about as adequate as the smell, the sheets, and the water; I avoided the shower in the hall, George didn’t, but seems to think mine was the better option. I hate showers where you feel more grubby after than before, personally, and cannot see the point. The food was not nice, I had fish, which on enquiry turned out to be Rigg, which I was told is a type of shark, which was cut into rectangles, battered, part fried, then frozen ready for re-cooking for the bar. Nice, not my chosen way of dealing with fish, and hardly what I would call a recipe, and it tasted just like it sounded. Indigestible. Georgina reckons she has never had a pizza like hers before. It was Hawaiian, although instead of ham it had some kind of pepperoni sausage, and the base was more like a sponge than a pizza base. But, they were very nice people, if just a little bit odd. Their dog, a shnauser-doodle something or other was not so friendly. I got a feeling that her and Gemma were not going to be friends. Every time we went through the building, we were ordered to stop, while the dog sniffed us, checking out we had no food, before allowing us to proceed to the room.

The next morning, when we discovered a flat tyre on packing up to go, we said nothing to the landlord, just got it pumped up, packed and paid, so we could get out of there as quickly as possible. As we left, Georgina explained to me that of you have a flat tyre, there is no way you should say anything about to a Kiwi bloke. He will want to do anything he can to help, and we would have been there for 2-3 hours while he tried all sorts of things to fix it. Far better to keep quiet, get it pumped up, and move on to look at it somewhere else. Which for us, happened to be a pet friendly motel just down the road in Westport.

Gemma at beach near Westport, on the West Coast of the South Island.

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Gemma’s first look at sea lions, she could smell them, she could hear them, and now she could see them. She was quite excited, possibly scared, because her heart was racing.

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These were what was Gemma was looking at.

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Despite what George will tell you, about how hard it was on her, Gemma actually had a great time, as you can see is written all over her face. Especially when we saw the sea lions.

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Here we are on a West Coast beach near Greymouth, having just had some fish & chips, waiting for sunset. George put Gemma on a log, and then put herself in a rather odd position, so I could take a photo. I think the remarkable thing about this is that there were no sandflies.

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This was Gemma’s first view of the Southern mountains, and this was how she saw much of the South Island, sat on Georgina or my laps. Although Gemma does get queasy on long trips, especially the windy hilly roads, she gets lots and lots of strokes and cuddles. She also makes for a quite handy guide-book or map rest.

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Gemma visiting a glacial river, with the mountains in the background. Georgina is holding her, because the big rocks were a bit much for her small legs and paws.

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Lake Wanaka, George, Gemma & the Bongo

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When we stayed at Lake Wanaka, Gemma dragged us off on a long walk (towards home…), for which we were completely unprepared. No water, sunscreen, etc., so we got a bit dehydrated, I got a bit burned, and there was nowhere for a drink at any part of the route. However, if we had not gone with her impulse, I would never have seen this view, nor taken a photo of it.

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On the way back, Gemma seemed quite keen to test out this contraption, a home made raft, constructed out of a pallet with some milk bottles nailed on as floatation tanks. Kiwi kids, eh? Those engineer genes get them every time. Somebody should have explained that flotation tanks are supposed to be water-tight, and that attribute of plastic milk bottles is seriously degraded when they are nailed to piece of wood. This illustrates the potential dangers of the engineer mindset venturing into unfamiliar territory involving wood and nails. Gemma, using intuition alone, decided that the craft was not up to the job of transporting along the bank to the ducks nearby, and decided to carry on her way with us instead.


At Te Anau, we left Gemma in the motel room while we took a boat trip, so that was an opportunity for a dog-free photo of Georgina. We were worried about leaving her there, because the motel had a black cat that was very territorial, and did not want Gemma there. So we had to close up the curtains & doors properly. The evening before she had given Gemma a swipe across the nose when she put her nose through the gap in the ranch slider, and drew blood. That meant we couldn’t really let Gemma lounge outside, or lave the sider open. It made for a very hot, claustrophobic, stay. Gemma’s reaction to cats is to try and chase them away, so she never settled with the cat outside. We tried water, and cigar smoke, whenever the cat took up position underneath the Bongo, but it didn’t seem to learn that it was unwanted.

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Gemma having a snack by the road at Gore, on way from Lake Manipouri to the Catlins.


There were opportunities for some nice bush walks for Gemma, outside of the dog restricted DOC areas. This is the walk to McLaren Falls in the Catlins. Unfortunately, on the way back, Gemma upset a seed pod, which exploded into the side of her mouth, leaving hundreds of small barbed seeds in her muzzle. She looked like something out of a predator movie. I deleted the photos, because a dog deserves some dignity, but we did laugh. It took about ten minutes and a lot of struggling to brush the seeds out of her whiskers, so she could have a drink and treat. Very stressful for a small dog who relies on me to sort out those little mishaps in life.

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Somebody offered to take a picture of us together at McLaren Falls, with a great view of Gemma’s bum. :-/

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This was as far as Gemma got up the waterfall. I climbed the small escarpment, and while Gemma probably could have done that too, no way was I going to risk having to carry her down after.

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This is Gemma visiting the sea on a beach on the South Coast of the South Island, near the Catlins.

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George holds Gemma up for the picture outside Dunedin Station, just so she can show Gemma’s pal Molly when she gets home.

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While Gemma likes the countryside, the scenery and the bush, she is a street dog at heart; she was originally a rescue from Ireland, who would have been destroyed had Poole Pound Puppy not bought her to the UK for adoption. Despite all the devastation at Christchurch, she was in her element there. This was taken at the Re:START container city.

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Goose Bay, near Kaikoura, George, Gemma, the Bongo & Pohutekawa.

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This is Gemma visiting the sea on a beach on the East Coast, near Kaikoura.

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After we disembarked from the Ferry, we found a place along the Kapiti Coast to give Gemma a walk. It was an opportunity to brew up a coffee in the back of the Bongo, and make a baguette with pate that we had purchased in Akaroa the day before. Gemma in her usual spot, anticipating any little tit-bits that might come her way.


George, happy with coffee and baguette, provided by Mish from the Bongo mobile cafe.


Gemma at the beach on the Capiti Coast, back on the North Island. Not bad for a dog which was afraid of the sea when we got her back in Bournemouth, UK.

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When we got home, Gemma was stuffed, and did this kind of thing quite a lot for a few days.

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