After yesterday’s quiet day, we woke to find the weather sunny, and great to be outside in. After walking down to the car, we drove to Charming Creek, which is only two miles away. This is a river valley, with an old coal mine railway running up it. For the first mile it was good walking – a pretty wide, easy sloping path, with the river on one side and the mountains on the other. The path had been filled in between the rails of the old railway, and every now and again we’d come across a relic of the old coal mine railway – things like coal trucks, old engine cabs etc. The information boards, telling stories of dead miners and runaway trains notched up the excitement a bit too.
Then we turned the corner of the creek, and came across a railway tunnel going straight into the mountains. The girls went apoplectic – “Do you think there’s a ghost in there?” – “Will they be wearing a white sheet?” – “Can you go first?”. We all walked slowly through the tunnel, trying to avoid the water puddles, and Charlotte screamed when a drip of water dropped onto her face! It was great, and the girls hadn’t even noticed that they’d already walked two miles.
We walked on further, across the river on a tiny suspension bridge (well, it was 50m long, and about 30m above the river, but when you looked at it afterwards, it seemed as if it was made up of tiny ropes). Eventually after the second tunnel, and walking past two waterfalls, and through one waterfall, we turned around, and walked back down the creek. In all it had taken us two hours, and we’d walked five miles, but the girls enjoyed it immensely and found the energy to keep going.
After the walk we rewarded ourselves with an ice-cream. We’re all agreed that ice-cream is New Zealand’s best thing. The glaciers and mountains are cool, the whales, dolphins and seals are nice, but the ice-cream is terrific – there’s simply no other word. And just south of Hector is a shop which sells cones like these for 50 centres (Umm, about 20 pence), so they’re even within our budget! The problem is choosing the flavour from the freezer cabinet – Boysenberry? Cookies and Cream? Chocolate Éclair? Orange Chocolate Chip? Hokey Pokey? For me there’s no contest – Hokey Pokey wins every time. It’s a vanilla ice-cream, with little pea-sized balls of honeycomb stolen from the middle of Crunchie bars. The bad thing about New Zealand ice-cream is that we’ve only got three more weeks to eat them!