Banks Peninsula: Farm Tour at Murray & Sue’s farm

Sunday 04/03

Vlog by Isabelle: see below


By me:

We wake up at 7:30am to be ready for our 8:30am “farm tour” with Murray.

We start to listen to Murray’s witty, sometimes moving, story about his family’s and the farm’s history (both inexorably related). His granddaughters, both present, are actually the 8th generation living on their land. He tells us about the challenges of sheep farming and how diversification is key to sustaining this family owned business. Besides from the very hard work that such a business requires, we are very much impressed by the flexibility and the adaptability they’ve shown during their life (for example, the wool represents only 7% of their income while it used to represent more than 70%). It’s such a pleasure to meet such a passionate person. There is so much passion in his talk, and so much humility too. And he also manages to deliver a few important messages to the kids. Great job! His interesting speech lasts nearly one hour.

Afterwards, Hanna, his daughter in law gives us a live demonstration of sheep shearing. It’s such a hard work! Alone, you have to hold tight the sheep and at the same time shear him. It takes no more than a couple of minutes. Impressive!

We then go outside to see a demonstration of the role dogs play in grouping up the sheep. They have 7 dogs, which they trained themselves. You can see that they’ve managed to create an essential bond with the animals. We can see that their dogs love what they do. They are so skillful at what they are doing.

Hanna then milk a cow and we can taste the fresh milk.

Kids love to see these different activities. Jules says that he “would love to live here”.

Their farm tours, which they started a few years ago, benefit from a very nice reputation and they cleverly exploit the vein of the cruise ships berthing in Akaroa. Next Tuesday, they have no fewer than 3 tours!

We are then invited to share a cup of tea at their home, where we can meet Sue, Murray’s lovely wife. She’s so welcoming and sweet. We are offered her famous cones with jam and cream.

After a nice and interesting discussion with them on their terrace, with a gorgeous view of the valley down to the sea, Sue proposes to the kids to go and ride the ponies and the horse. They are thrilled. Murray invited me to join him on a tour of (a part of) his property in his car, an old Toyota 4×4. It’s nice to be alone with this man, who accomplished so much in his life. The scenery is just amazing. We drive towards the coast, made of impressive and beautiful green cliffs. I’m a bit ashamed to ask him to stop every 2 minutes to take pictures. He shows me around; it’s impressive to see the extent of his property. And they are only 4 (Murray, Sue, their son and Hanna) to manage it. It’s a complex business, which depends very much on many exterior (hence uncontrollable) factors.

When we come back, Sue and Isabelle are preparing a nice lunch. Sue invites us to stay for lunch. We are touched by this nice invitation! It’s Sunday for them and they offer us such a nice hospitality. Sue showns us her lovely garden and vegetable garden. We enjoy chicken and tomato salad.

They also offer farmstay. They are very resourceful (and hard working) people.

We leave the farm at around 2pm. We are sad to leave such a great place and such nice people. It’s definitely one of the most remarkable encounters that we’ve done during our world tour. As mentioned on their website, you “come as a stranger and leave as a friend”. So true! It was our great pleasure to meet this wonderful family. The farm itself is just gorgeous, and the family is so welcoming. We are so grateful that our kids could witness the Johns’ love of the land and the lifestyle that has been in their family for generations. It is a wonder to see. Thank you, Murray, Sue and Hanna!

We drive to Akaroa, a charming town with a French touch. Akaroa was the site of the country’s first French settlement and descendants of the original French pioneers still reside here. It’s a charming town that strives to recreate the feel of a French provincial village, down to the names of it streets and houses. The weather is great. The surrounding is beautiful.

We go and visit the Giant’s House, of local artist Josie Martin. The house is surrounded by a terraced garden with large flamboyant sculptural mosaic installations. Echoes of Gaudi and Mirò can be found in the intricate collages of mirrors, tiles and broken china. I really like this playful and creative combination of sculpture and mosaic. It’s a lovely, colourful and relaxing place. I like it very much (Isabelle and the girls as well).

We take an ice cream / juice and leave Akaroa around 4pm.

Once more, we don’t know where we are driving to. The plan was to go to Dunedin (on the direct SH1 road) but Murray and Sue discouraged us to take this boring road. Moreover, the weather forecast is bad over there on the next 2 days. So we decide to go first to Lake Tekapo. The weather forecast is not much better but at least we will have a nice drive this afternoon to there.

The drive is about 300km; it takes us more than 4 hours. On average, we usually do 60km/h during trips on the road. The road is nice after Rangitata (when we turn right towards Lake Tekapo).

The highway that runs through the Mackenzie Basin has been renamed the ‘Starlight Highway’. The region is indeed renowned for stargazing; it was declared an International Dark Sky Reserve, one of only ten in the world. The observatory of My John is apparently the ultimate place to experience the region’s glorious night sky. But the sky is overcast tonight so we won’t do such ‘Earth & Sky’ experience tonight.

We arrive in Lake Tekapo at 8:30pm. The township of Lake Tekapo is located at the southern end of the lake. The lake covers an area of 83 km² and is at an altitude of 710m.

We go to Tekapo Motel & Holiday Park, where we take a powered site. There are a lot of campers in the camping; probably one of the busiest camping sites we’ve seen.

We take a shower and eat a salad. It’s definitely not the best camping parks where we’ve stayed but it’s for one night only (and there’s no Top10 in this town). We are quite “far” from the amenities (and the weather is cold and rainy).

It’s nearly 11pm when we go to bed. Isabelle and I work a bit (till 12:30am).

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