Part 1 - The West Coast

So, off we went at 7am with a fully loaded van and a reluctant Shadow - she knows when we are going for a long trip and is not that keen in the van. However, we only had a short drive to the ferry terminal and then a short wait to get on board the Kaitaki. We left the boot of the van open and gave the dogs some water and said bye bye to them. I was just thankful that the sea wasn't rough - a one metre swell was reported. You are not allowed down below deck to check on the dogs so I am happier if the sea is calm and then I don't sit upstairs stressing so much. Rob and I got a possie in a cafe lounge and proceeded to while away the three hour trip by playing cards - Canasta actually. We didn't really bother going outside as it wasn't a particularly picturesque day (i.e. no lovely blue skies over the Marlborough Sounds, and crystal blue water) everything was more of a murky grey colour. Possibly we were saving our energy too for the long car drive and weekend of shows ahead.

We arrived at Picton some time after 11am and got to see the dogs again. They had survived - Phoenix, Kula and Sherry had had a nice nap by the looks of it, and Shadow had probably provided all the engine power for the past three hours and was well pooped, tongue hanging out and all hot and bothered. She obviously hadn't realised that the engine of the van was not running and that she could have just dozed. Very stressful just being a dog really isn't it?

The next task was going to be to take the dogs somewhere to have a little leg stretch and toilet stop. On a previous trip we had gone on a road that was the wrong way for us and found a park that the dogs could go on a bit of grass near the road. That was really the only place we knew in Picton, although someone had mentioned to us that, "The dog park in Picton was good wasn't it?" We didn't know where that was, so drove to where we did know. However, on the way to this park I saw what looked like a bit of bush area down a side street and so we went along to that and found a nice little track to have a walk along. Rob and I ate our lunch at this spot while the dogs had a drink and leg stretch etc. Then back to the task of persuading Shadow to get back into the van and we were on our way to the West Coast.

The drive on the way over was nothing special. As usual we tried to find somewhere for the dogs to get out and have a swim. The lake that we had in mind was the usual - NO DOGS!

(Click on photos to enlarge)
On the road to Greymouth (left). Lake Rotoiti (right)

So on we plodded further and further towards Greymouth via SH63, SH6 and SH7. We came by a nice little stream at the intersection of SH63 and SH6 with a picnic area where we could all get out and stretch our legs.

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Swim time at Kawatiri.

We finally got to Greymouth some time after 5pm and got settled into a nice motel unit. It was time for a bit of a chill out and some food before a lovely walk on the beach. It was not particularly warm and was a bit windy but we thoroughly enjoyed the fresh air and the chance to chill out. On the beach we found lovely coloured stones and started picking up some that took our fancy along the way. That started a trend along the West Coast that continued whenever we went to a beach or river bed where we could find different stones (see photo below).
Ah, time for a rest on a solid floor at last (left). Stones picked up on the West Coast (right).

This beach is not the sort of beach that you could let the dogs swim at. I find it quite amazing that these dogs that cannot normally be kept out of the water, seem to realise pretty quickly that they can't swim there. We don't even have to tell them. They settle to walking along the beach and finding other things to play with. When we took the dogs for their last walk of the evening when it was nearly dark, or when I got up to walk them on the beach at 6am, there was the added attraction of rabbits! On Saturday morning when I went out first thing in the morning and had the dogs on the lead until getting to the beach, they saw a rabbit running away while I had them still on the lead. Well, that was fun trying to hold them back. Luckily Phoenix can't see anything, so that is 25kg less pulling, but the other three still weigh more than me and I had to get them under control pretty quick otherwise I would end up on my face. Seeing the rabbit though livened them up to the fact that the rabbits were there and were real and so there was definite hunting activity going on on the beach by Shadow and Sherry. Shadow is the real hunter and Sherry goes along for the ride with her mum.

All doing our own thing on the beach (take no notice of Darth Vadar!).
Shadow and Sherry (right).

 Shadow looking happy with a mouth full of sand (left).
Phoenix, Kula, Shadow and Sherry on Greymouth beach (right).

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Walking along the Greymouth Beach.

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Digging in the sand.

So, we spent our first night relaxing at the motel  and grooming dogs in preparation for the show in the morning. We had already sussed out the grounds on the way in to Greymouth as we had to pass them. It was held at the Omoto Racecourse which brought back memories for me of the Pike River tragedy as the racecourse was where the memorial service was held and I had watched that emotional event on the TV. There were just two show rings and on the Saturday morning it was a bit drizzly and so we thought we were going to be in for a wet one. We got our van parked relatively close to the ring and the first walk we took the dogs on we put their wet weather coats on to try and keep them dry. We put them back in the van after we had dried legs and feet and heads and then waited for our turn in the ring.

We were possibly going to have a little bit of a problem with the line up because we had three bitches entered - Sherry (Junior), Kula (NZ Bred), Shadow (Open) - and if they all got into the line up then there was only Rob and me to run them. So we thought we might have to drop one of them out if necessary. Anyway, to cut a long story short there were two shows that weekend and both shows we got all three dogs in the lineup - in fact, they were the only ones in the lineup - and we were very lucky to have met up with Sarah and Margaret, who we had met a year or so ago at Nelson, and both were happy to hold or run any of the dogs if necessary. Sarah kindly ran Sherry in both line ups.

On Saturday we were lucky with the weather because the drizzle stopped and by the time we went into the ring it was quite pleasant. As I said, all three girls got through into the line up and Shadow won the CC, which was her fourth one. On Sunday, Kula won the CC and that was her first ever - so we were really happy with that as I was hoping we might be able to get her one on the trip. My official photographer, having been roped in to run a dog in both shows, unfortunately didn't get much in the way of photos (just one below) and a video when Shadow was running for an In Group award. We didn't win anything but had great fun anyway.

Sherry on the grooming table with Shadow in the crate and Kula and Phoenix in the pen.

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Shadow showing in the Open in Group class.
After we had finished the classes on both days we took the dogs for a walk while we were waiting around for the In Group awards. We discovered that we could walk all the way along the paddock to the end and then get onto a gravel road which was a road to nowhere so no traffic on it. Once you got away from the noise of the dogs and people etc, which wasn't that great but was still an interruption, you could hear the sound of nature - the birds in the trees, insects in the grass and the ducks on the pond etc. It felt very peaceful. We walked along the lane for a while and there were horses in some of the fields at the side. One horse in particular was exceedingly friendly. Over the two days we took three walks along this lane with the dogs and every time this horse came and said hello, and I felt a real connection with him.

My horse friend.

The last time we went along the lane on the Sunday I was quite sad to finally say goodbye to this lovely horse. Below is a video of one of our visits to him and this will forever be a wonderful memory for me as he was so interactive. You will notice that Sherry was absolutely busting to get in on the action, she is so beautiful when she is trying to make friends.

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Our friendly horse.

That was Greymouth. We had fun, had a nice motel, didn't get too wet, got a couple of CCs and met up with some friends again - you can't ask for more than that.

Franz Josef
We left Greymouth on Sunday afternoon to go to Franz Josef. The weather was quite warm and muggy but the clouds were low and so we didn't get a look at the Southern Alps along the way. This made Rob a bit sad as he was looking forward to seeing them. However, I was not so upset because from my last trips down the South Island I always remember those mountains as being very foreboding and oppressive. They are impressive also, but to be honest, it didn't bother me that we were unable to see them on the drive down to Franz Josef.

As always, once we were back on the road again, I spent all my time wondering whether there was somewhere that we could let the dogs out for a walk, stretch leg or swim. We drove for quite a way and came to Lake Ianthe and found a little layby away from the road where we could stop and take the dogs down to the lake.

Impressions of Lake Ianthe.
Stick retrieving and swim time.

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Then we rocked on to our motel in Franz Josef - The Glacier View Motel. Of course, Franz Josef was cloudy, misty, moody - the way I remember the West Coast from previous trips. It wasn't too warm either but once we had settled into the motel unit we decided to have a wander along a gravel road to the river which the motel owner had told us we could get to. So off we went on a little stroll after a busy day. We passed a field of small ponies and I said hello to them.

When we got to the river the dogs were keen for a swim - brrr - that water was coming straight from the glacier and as far I as was concerned was not even paddling material, let alone swim. The dogs went in for a little dip but I must admit that they didn't seem too bothered when we shortly started walking away from the river. They obviously weren't that hot that they needed to stay in it!
At the icy river (Franz Josef valley in the distance) (left). View from our motel garden looking towards Franz Josef Glacier (right).

We just had one night at Franz Josef, a grey, damp night, but we enjoyed the motel and the break. Walking on the grass in the motel garden we saw it wasn't really grass, it was a kind of moss and all the plants around looked like they were used to being damp all the time.

One thing that we discovered on holiday was that Kula reacts to my hairspray. Normally at home I put my hairspray on in the bedroom and if the dogs are in there they go out as soon as they see the hairspray come out. However, the motel units were relatively small and there was nowhere for the dogs to go really and so they got affected by the hairspray. Kula was the worst one and below is a little video of her sneezing after I had used the hairspray.

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The Glaciers
On the Monday morning I got up at 6am and took the dogs for a walk back to the river again. It was misty rain and a bit chilly but luckily not too windy. We packed up and left the motel at around 10am and had a long drive that day to Alexandra. On the way we popped in to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, walking a little way up the valleys to get a view of them.

** Franz Josef **
Franz Josef Glacier with an eerie mist around the hills (above).

** Fox **
Images of Fox Glacier (above).

So on we went to the next stop. We had a very long drive that day, probably about six hours' worth, and so tried to get some stops in on the way. The Glacier stops were only for the humans as no dogs were allowed there, but then later on we found a beach north of Haast called Bruce Bay and decided that it would be worth a walk along for the dogs as they had been in the van for a long time by then.

Now, we had a little chuckle here in the end because we had a pooh bag from somewhere else where we had stopped to relieve the dogs but hadn't managed to find a bin for the bag. So we had travelled with it in the van all the way to Bruce Bay. We parked on the side of the road (SH6) near to a campervan/bus vehicle. Rob got the bag of pooh out of the van and put it by the front passenger side on the ground so that it wouldn't be in the van smelling it out while we were out walking. I'll come back to that story later.

So off we went along the beach and the dogs had a fine old time with the sticks etc, another typical West Coast beach that had some stones that we could select some different colours for our collection. The dogs were good in realising that they were not to go into the sea and they just ran around all the drift wood that was on the beach, smelling and chasing sticks if we threw them. There were some lovely shapes of drift wood there and it seemed the perfect place to take photos.

After we had our walk along the beach - chasing sticks and digging etc - we went back to the van to continue the journey onwards. We passed a male occupant of the bus/campervan that was parked near us on the way back to the van and although we said, "Hello," he just ignored us and kept on walking by. The bus left shortly afterwards. When we got to the van we couldn't find the bag of pooh that had been put by the van on the passenger side. It was quite windy and so we thought it might have blown away (although unlikely considering the weighty contents!) and so we started hunting around. It was a real puzzle as we couldn't find it anywhere. We looked for quite a few minutes thinking it may have blown quite a distance, but to no avail. Anyway, we decided that we should move onwards as we still had quite a way to go and one bag had had more than its fair share of time spent on it. That eased my conscience enough to make me feel that we had done all we could - our motives were good in that we had at least picked up the pooh and travelled for some hours with it in order to try and dispose of it responsibly!

So on we travelled further south. We passed more mountains and had lunch at a little cafe in Haast. When we got there we decided to leave the back of the van open for the dogs to get some fresh air while we were in the cafe, so we opened the back door... and lo and behold, wrapped in another bigger plastic bag, tied to our tow bar and resting on the step at the back of the van was our pooh bag! Well, it didn't take long to put two and two together. Grumpy old man that hadn't said hello to us had seen Rob drop the bag outside of the van and us walk off along the beach. Thinking that we were just dumping it he had played a "dirty trick" on us and tied it to the back of the van so that we would find it later and realise that we hadn't got away with spoiling the countryside. What a miserable old blighter - he could have talked to us and we would have explained. The last laugh was on him though we decided as our mystery was solved, and it was no skin off our nose to now put it in a bin (there was one where we were)
which was what we had intended all along, ha ha. I would have loved to have found that man and told him what our intentions were. It just goes to show that people judge people wrongly a lot of the time and communication would have saved him a plastic bag and a grump, and us several minutes of traipsing round trying to find our bag.

Click here to transport yourself to Part 2 - Central Otago.