Day 17: Rakaia - Geraldine - Timaru
12 January 2010
2720km - map

It started off quite dull and cold again this morning but soon after setting off towards Christchurch it brightened up and was soon hot again. We skirted round Christchurch (we'll be returning here in just over a week's time when we'll spend a couple of days here) and stopped at Rakaia which is famed for having the longest bridge in New Zealand. Bridges aren't that impressive here, they all tend to be low flat bridges over wide estuaries and some look like they're going to fall apart as soon as you drive on them - no suspension bridge engineering marvels here and so we weren't surprised when we realised we had already driven over the longest bridge in New Zealand without realising it.

The truck stop we had found was unusually very modern and served very good food and so didn't seem like the sort of place you'd find truck drivers digging into piles of greasy food but they were there! We also encountered a lost kitten which a family in a motorhome in the car park were trying to find the owner of but the kitten seemed more interested in getting inside the truck stop where lots of lovely food smells were eminating from.

After lunch we tried to find some kind of vantage point to see this supposed longest bridge but failed so we headed inland to a place called Geraldine for a couple of reasons. One is that they have the largest jersey in the world on display there and if that wasn't enough one of the founding fathers of the town was a Talbot. So to Geraldine we went and found Talbot Forest, Talbot Street, Talbot Cheese and Talbot Silver (from which I bought my brother his birthday present which had been the previous week). While parked outside a supermarket, we got some "advice" from a local who told us how we had parked illegally on the wrong side of the road. It is a law in New Zealand that you must only parallel park on your own side of the road and I had parked on the opposite side. Apparently if we had been caught it's a $400 fine - must remember this!

Visiting the wool shop which has the world's largest jersey we also found that it has another curious attraction in the back room - a recreation of the Bayeaux Tapestry (ALL of it) made from small pieces of hand-painted metal in a mosaic. Not only was the famous french embroidery fully represented but also the supposed "missing" final 9 sections which the creator had researched and completed with his daughter. The creator of this masterpiece was only too happy to explain all of this but also show us his CDROM of mathematical puzzles and games which he demonstrated at length. He was a little odd or perhaps eccentric before his years but then it seems anyone with a passion for cyphers and mathematical puzzles tend to be like that (cf. Alan Turing).

We continued south, rejoining the coast road and ending up at Timaru and camped up for the night in Caroline bay along with a few other campervans just beside the freight port. Almost as soon as we arrived the weather closed in again, no rain this time but we ended up cooking pasta carbonara and eating it in the campervan for warmth!

Talbot Cheese
The Bayeaux Tapestry in mosaic
The world's largest jersey
Eating inside the campervan