Monday, 28 February 2011

Back to North Island & would you believe it!

Dear all

Yesterday, we took the the ferry back over to Wellington and I have to say the weather was far more pleasant than on the way down! We met up with Geordie in his pub the Four Kings and spent a couple of hours putting the worlds to rights. Next stop was to a tiny little pub, that I have promised Geordie that I would not reveal - in case the BA take it over next time we are here! LOL. It was a little sanctuary in the middle of Wellington, and Lisa, Geordie's partner joined us for a few more with a few of their mates. Fun night was had by all. We watched the start of the India / England World cup game then retired back to their flat for the second half and a few more refreshments! LOL We finally went to bed about 3.00am when Colly lost his wicket and we felt destined for a loss.
Little did we think that when we awoke this morning with a few hangovers, that we would see a draw spashed all over the news! Gutting in a way that we missed the chase, but relieved that we managed a draw tingled with a bit of 'we should have won!' Oh well you can't have everything & I an still dining out on our Ashes win plus I still don't think we can win this.

Today we had a little trip up to the lookout at Mt Victoria, where the views of the city, harbour & surrounding regions is sublime. We then had a walk around the town again, but this time we went up the very cute red cable car, which has been around since the turn of the last century for some more excellent views aof the city. We then had a little scoot around the Cable car museum then walked back down through the botanic gardens which  were really pretty. Our last part of the walk was through the old city cemetary which is now in two parts as they had to move half the cemetary so a major link road could bisect the land! 

As you can see I had some fun in the gardens playing with my new camera, which is taking my ages to get used to as I have had a Canon for sooooooooo long & you can't teach an old dog new tricks ...................... etc!!  Oh well they didn't turn out too bad so the Macro box gets a tick! The zoom is rather suspect and slow as is the power up, but I'm sure its just me being picky! So after our walk we headed back to Lisa & Geodie's for a scrumptuous roast Chicken and all the trimmings. Thanks Lisa one of my favourites and a proper night slobbed on the sofa watching crap TV - how else can you spend a Monday night? It will also be a long while before we get to do that again so we did appreciate it!    Back to the task at hand we head north up towards Hawkes bay tomorrow.  
Nite all

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Last Journey in the South

Dear all
Yesterday we went to Nelson and I eventually managed to pick up a new camera. It’s not what I wanted, but as it’s so expensive in NZ it’s what I could afford here. Then we just had a wonder around town, a nice lunch and picked up some really nice fresh apples. It was pretty difficult to do too much in town as there were hundreds of people who had escaped from Christchurch trying to buy all their basic necessities. The campsites rooms were all full of evacuees including 23 guys from Palestine who had two friends still in hospital, injured from falling masonry.

Today we travelled from Nelson to Picton via the extremely picturesque Marlborough Sounds on the Queen Charlotte Drive. The views were amazing which is probably why some of the homes looked equally plush! We also happened along some nesting Shags who seems quite happy to pose as I snapped away!
At Picton we settled into our site for the night to be told that the campsite we had stayed at in Christchurch had been destroyed and would be closed in definitely as they had huge liquefaction issues and one side of their home was 1.5m higher than the other! I do hope they manage to get their very lovely site back up and running as they were such a lovely couple. 

Tomorrow we take the ferry back to North Island and finally meet up with Geordie.
Nite everyone.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The top of the South and farewell to my G10!

Dear all

We woke this morning to find that two chickens and a peacock had taken refuge from the hot early morning sun under the van - not something you expect to find in such a remote location!
The big pull for this area is the remarkable Farewell Spit and it was on our way to visit this, that my trust Canon G10 decided to gasp its last breath and the lens jammed open not to be moved by anything. So now I am without a camera until I can find somewhere that I can replace it (probably Wellington). Now as most of you know for me to be without a camera is like I've lost a limb. I always carry one and take thousands of photo's every year so I feel a little bereft today.
Farewell spit is a 26km crescent shaped beach which protects a huge saltmarsh, home to thousands of migratory waders from the arctic tundra. The panoramic views along the spit and back across golden bay to Takaka Hill are bleak, but beautiful. We had a short walk along the beach, but it is a little repetative so I decided to walk across to fossil bay on the northern side of hte spit which allegedly has a number of fossilised shellfish on the mud rocks, but I couldn't find them. What I did find struck me to the core. Some imbecile had let a dog loose on a beach (which are banned in this area anyway), where it had found and mutilated about 5-6 tiny little blue penguins in their beach burrows.
 These little guys are not in danger or anything, with about 350,000 on mainland NZ alone, so are not protected, but it was the savage nature of the attack and that who ever was with the dog had not done anything to stop it. There were dog prints and a few human prints in the sand which is how we surmised the events. Luckily a elderly man from Nelson arrived with his sister shortly after me and had a mobile to call DOC. How people can do such things is beyond me. I am sorry to sound off here but these sort of things affect me greatly and this is a story of our travels good and bad.....

Back at the car park I had placate a very pissed of Dean who thought I had falled off a cliff I had been gone so long.
We quickly got back on the road and headed through Collingwood the last town in this part of the country and down towards  the wonderful Mussel Inn where to quote LP 'a rustic tavern-cafe-brewery. Theres music performed every week and its brews it own ginger beer and lemonade. A big bowl of mussels has restorative properties especially when washed down with a Captain Cooker - a brown beer brewed naturally with Manuka'.
Couldn't have put it better myself. Albeit I had a mussel chowder washed down with a rough apple cider yum yum.  It was lovely and helped to ease my 'bad' morning.  To work off our full bellies we went to the amazing Pupu springs one of the clearest, cleanest springs in the world. Pumping out over 14,000 litres per second - yep thats no a typo! its also believed to have healing powers, but as it all fenced off from the public I can't confirm that!! LOL. What was not so great was Harwards Hole, a very long drive via an unsealed road where scenes from LOTR were filmed, then a very beautiful long walk through a wood to a massive pile of huge rocks that were on the edge of  the hole. You couldn't see the bottom and it was a spectacular anticlimate to the end of the day, but hey ho you can't have everything!
Night all

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Able Tasman National Park

Dear all
As the area is still without internet access and only has intermittant mobile signals I am writing this up on wordpad in the hope I can post these soon. The news this morning was that the epicentre had been identified as Lyttleton - on the burbs of Christchurch on the way to Akaroa. That and the fact that the quake was only 5km deep meant that this time the damage was way worse than last September. The tunnel at Lyttleton collapsed in a few places  & the large 26 storey hotel next to the cathedral was so badly damaged that all the tourists had to sleep in the park - in the rain.
However they have now reviewed the deathtoll to 39 from yesterdays 65 as they had found a number of trapped people alive and pulled them from the wreckage. Still there are 300 missing including quite a number from Japan and the Philipines.  Our hopes and prayers go out to all those caught up in this terrible disaster.
Feeling a little helpless and somewhat removed from these events we carried on with our plans despite it being the topic of conversation on everyones lips. As we spent last night in Marahau we decided to walk the first part of the great Abel Tasman Coastal walk down to Appletree bay. The walk is amazing right through native bush overlooking beautiful golden beaches and coves which you can walk down to and relax along the route.

The coast is also frequented by loads of people on kayak's as the water is beautifully calm and shifting shades of turquoise/green/cyan.  During our walk the weather was fabulous, but as we crossed the estuary boardwalk back to the carpark dark clouds started to appear over the hills so we ducked in to Fat Tui's for lunch. Dean had the most enormous burger full of salad, egg, pineapple, beetroot and a huge home made burger. I had fush n chups (as they call it here!)
The heavens opened as we ate, but as is typical in NZ by the time we had finished the rain had gone and blue sky was peaking through the clouds. We then journeyed up over the Takaka Hills to the most northern point of the Island and on to Wharariki beach which is a huge cresent bay of golden sand, surrounded by large swirling sand dunes & punctuated by huge wave and windswept rocks.

Once the tide has reached its low point the large rocks have rock pools aAll too soon the sun was setting and we had to leave but it was a magical end to a magical day.
round them and young seal pups come down the rocks to play in these 'safe' areas. They were fascinating to watch as they frollocked in and out of the water and posed for us. The slightest unfamiliar noise sent them scuttling up the rocks to the safety of their tiny cave.  As all youngsters they were also incredibly curious and often swam up really close to us and checked us out!
Thanks for looking (when you do get to look!)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Black day for Christchurch

Dear all
This is a short post today as we have no internet or mobile connections where we are. Currently our priorities are getting messages home to parents as is every other tourist in the area.
Our day started well as we travelled north from Murchison along the Motueka highway passing some beautiful vistas. When we got to Motueka we had a little mooch around the shops where I bought myself another journal to cover South America. As I was queuing to pay we had our first inkling that there were issues on the other side of the Island. Everyone was rushing into the electronics shop next door to watch the unfurling chaos in Christchurch whilst locals were frantically trying to call family and friends to check they were OK, but the emergency services had already closed down most of the airways and internet services to emergency lines only. They say there are six degrees of separation in the word, but in NZ they are proud of the fact that it’s more likely to be two! It was evident within that first hour that this quake had been far more destructive than in September and within that first hour they announced 5 deaths. We decided to retreat further north to our destination a little early a campsite in a small village on the edge of the Able Tasman National Park, Marahau. The mood was so sombre most people spent the night glued to the TV in the kitchen as with no connection to the outside world there was not much else to do and nobody was in the mood to party.  On that note I will finish for the night (or when I can post). As you can guess no photos tonight.

I just hope the death toll & injuries stays low and the clear up is fast


Monday, 21 February 2011


Dear all

Today we made quite an easy day of it as we are getting to our last few days in the South Island. Punakaiki or Pancake rocks was our first stop and although it was high tide the wind wasn't sufficiently high enought to show us the beautiful blow hole in full action. None the less the rocks themselves are stunning made from Dolomite Point limestone whihc gives them their characteristic look. We were also rewarded by seeing loads of Hector dolphins feeding just off the rocks and the weather was really nice too as  you can see.

Heading off the Coast road at Westport we travelled down the dramatic Buller Gorge with its primeval ferns and cabbage trees is an ideal place to indulge in water sports and we saw loads of kayakers and rafters on the river. This gorge was devastated by earthquakes in 1929  and 1968, but the road still snakes through overhangs just barely big enough to take a bus . This evening we managed to find a brand new campsite which was on its first season and everything was sparkly and new and also pretty empty which means we might be able to catch up with some sleep!
Nite all

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Franz Joseph

Dear all
Today the weather was a little kinder to us and we left our little rainforest oasis in Franz Josef village itself and ventured out to the glacier to have a look around. The Maori originally called this glacier Ka Roimatao Hine Hukatere - Tears of the Avalanche Girl. The story is about a young girl whose lover falls off the peaks and her tears of her loss formed the frozen river. Sadly the glacier is more known as Franz Josef named in honour of an Austrian Emperor, when first explored by Julius Hasst in 1865. Unlike so many others this glacier started to advance again in 1985 growing a further 2km until 1996 when it started to back pedal!
The walk out to the terminal face was about 35 minutes and although the glacier is much bigger that it is at Fox it is also quite steep at the front so it was hard to the see it in all its splendour, but its still pretty impressive.
Back in the village we stopped off to watch Flowing West a documentary showing the flow of water from the sea to the mountains and back on a gigantic screen. The cinematography is amazing even if the music was a bit like 80's cheese!
Along the coast north of FJ is some stunnning scenery and some little amusing stops in the national park including the very amusing Pukekura (population 2!), which included the Bushmans centre replete with rustic cafe - they speciality game pie (made of possum meat!) and an amusing possum museum (which appears to be dislike, the possums that is!). O
utside they had some cute goats, a wallaby, some deer and a family of Thar. Across the road is the inappropriately name Puke pub which specialises in road kill in its wild food restaurant with delights such as 'wheel-tread possum' & head light delight. Yum yum !

Our next stop was one of those moments that you know that fate had a hand in. Ross in itself is famous for past glories namely the unearthing of NZ's largest gold nugget, Honourable Roddy, who weighed in at 2.77kg in1907, since then the gold mines have all closed and it now has a series of refurbished old cottages and a really nice waterchase walk around some diggings, caves, tunnels and the cemetery!
 Being a little 'gold towned' out I had a wonder into a jade carvers shop/studio & thats where I met Steve. He is not only an extremely talented carver but also takes part in loads of ironman & endurance type racing usually coming in the top 3 for his age group and in top 20 overall. Thats fair enough I hear you say until I tell that he is over 55 and only has one leg. What an inspiration and a totally top guy. His jade caving is amazing and he has a number of designs he has made his own (outside of my little backpacker budget), but I did purchase a simple caved necklace which I will really trreasure. Its not often I get the chance to meet a truely talented person, but today was my day.
Our final stop was Greymouth, a truely uninspiring town, full of commercial buildings and backpacker hotels, but our hostel (we parked in the carpark!) was lovely and a real treat after wet and dreary campsites!
Tomorrow we head up to Pancake Rocks. Don't know what I'm talking about - well you will have to wait until tomorrow then!
Night all

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The West Coast

Dear all

Today was all about glaciers and as we set off from Hasst we also kew that it was quite likely that we were not going to see a repeat of the weather from last week. The glaciers are predominantly here because of all the endless rain that this region is famous for or infamous! Both glaciers move at around 10 times faster than any of the Swiss Alps glaciers  and that what we hoped would make for some dramatic views.
We still had to drive the final 120km + to Fox, so our first stop along the SH6 was Knights Point, named after a surveyors dog! This was the final construction phase along this route which basically allowed Fox to become a real tourist destination. The waters around here are very deep and equally stormy and with the endless rain, made very hard conditions for the works. However I'm glad they finished it as it makes a fantastic coastal scenic route that provides vital incomes to so many small towns around the region.  Just up the road Moeraki Lake is very black and full of fish - quite different to many of the other lakes of the region. We did get out and have a look around, but the sandflies were still quite voracious so it tends to dampen your enthusiasm for walking, but not so much that when we got to Fox Glacier we didn't attempt two walks. Our first one was around Lake Matheson about 6km south of the little town along the Cook Flats. Despite our fervent wishes the clouds had been rolling in all day across Mt Tasman & Mt Cooks so we didn't have the opportunity to see the famous reflections of these mountains in the lake itself, which makes this place so photogenic and the shots used on every concievable surface from biscuit tins, stamps to beer bottle labels.  
 It was however a lovely walk and well worth the hours effort in the drizzle. Just the other side of town is the glacier itself which you can walk to - well nearly up to as your are barred from the last 80m to keep you safe from falling rocks and ice at the ablation zone (the bottom to you!) as the glacier melts in the summer sun!! LOL.  It is impressive by anyones reckoning and given that the ice here probably fell at the summit some 8-9 years agoand was pretty blue a pretty fast (in glacial terms!) beast.
So despite the rain we were still wowed and set off happily to Franz Josef for our next icy adventure tomorrow.
Nite all
PS Dean is happily snuggled in the campsite TV room watching the opening game of the cricket world cup - India v Bangladesh. I worry that this may be a trend setting event!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Over the Haast Pass

Dear all

 Today the run of lovely hot weather finally broke and we awoke to stormy skies. We struck camp and headed down the road to Puzzle World - Deans request! There is an excellent 3D maze which is supposed to take well over an hour to solve.  However we did it in 15 minutes, but then took another 35 minutes trying to get out LOL serves us right for being so cocky! There were also loads of optical illusions that kept us busy for the rest of the morning.  check this one out!
The clouds were still milling around as we started our journey to the West Coast.  We drove past another of the stunningly beautiful pale blue glacier lakes on our right - Lake Hawea and then on passing through the neck switched lakes with Lake Wanaka on our left. We stopped for lunch just by the side of the Lake which was still a really ethereal blue despite the gloomy skies. As short 30 minute walk, full of those pesky little sand flies to the Blue Pools to walk off lunch & we then passed up the track gaining height until we had clouds all around us and entered the Haast Pass. Can't tell you much about it as it was so misty, but the rain became a slight drizzle as we started our decent so we stopped at a few little DOC sites which had short walks through (sandfly infested) Silver Beech forests with some very grand waterfalls, with equally impressie names - Fantail, Thunder Creek and Roaring Billy.
Heading into Hasst I noticed that a short way further south was a tiny little fishing hamlet called Jackson Bay wher you could get some great views  of the Southern Alps and they had some resident Fiordland crested Penguin colonies. As it was not to late Dean was persuaded to take a little side adventure and off we went down one of the straightest roads we have ever driven down.  Migrants arrived here under a doomed assisted-immigration scheme. their farming dreams washed away by the never ending rain and a lack of a wharf, which was built in 1938.  Today it is more of a small fishing hamlet with half a dozen fishing boats bobbing in the bay. There is also a very cute looking  called the Clay pot which also acts as the local info centre!
Despite our best efforts we din't see any penguins, but did manage o see a rather large pod of Hectors Dolphins feeding right by the beach and picked up even more sandfly bites! And guess what it was raining there!
Night all

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Lake Tekapo

Dear all

Today we started the day in Lake Tekapo which is famous on the tourist routes for its turquoise blue waters and picture postcard views of the church of the Good Shepherd which sits on its shores. The church has a wating list of nearly two years which pleased Dean no end! Just along from this cute little church is a statue of a collie dog whihc is in tribute to the sheepdogs that helped to develop Mackenzie county.

The other big attraction for the area is the University of Caterbury's Observatory on Mount John, whihc has unparalleled views over not only glacial Lake Tekapo but also Lake Alexandrina which is a normal colour and therefore the contrast is all the more evident. We also discovered how to program delay my camera, which means you will have to suffer more shots with both of us in the future! Although it was perfect day we needed to move on as our time in NZ is flying by and we have yet to hit the West Coast ! All to come in the next few days> Although I struggle to see how most of this can be surpassed! So we hit the road and made it back to Wanaka by early evening and found a beautiful site right on the lake in the bush - not a car in sight (apart from those on the campsite!).  Lush! & on that note I will bid you goodnight!
Thanks for looking

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Mount Cook

Dear all
Today we woke to the most beautiful day and knew that our walk along the Hooker Valley to the foot of Mt Cook at the Hooker glacier terminus would be perfect. We set off early to avoid the worst of the crowds & the first stop on the walk was to an alpine memorial which pays tribute to the great climbers who have lost their lives on one of the mountains which overlooks the valley and I was shocked to see how many were there. All ages, mainly men in their twenties, but some in their sixties from all over the world. 
The walk itself undulated along the valley track along a glacial stream, crossing a couple of swing bridges and the flora and fauna was fabulous including the very pretty Cook lilies. Mt Cook dominates the whole view for the whole journey.

 Although we were in a valley it was still pretty hot so we took our time and had a timeout at the lake watching the ice, which had fallen off the glacier float across the lake and down the stream. We managed to grab a block smash a bit off and taste a bit - It was lovely! The 2hr walk back was equally fab, but was much busier & much hotter so I was glad we left early. After a long lunch & a siesta I left Dean to recover a bit more and took another trail out to Kea point, which had loads of different types of plants and ends at a platform with great views of of not just Mt Cook, but also Mt Sefton, the valley & the footstool. Despite its name I didn't see any more Kea, which was a shame as I quite like these cheeky parrots, but did see a couple of skinks basking in the sun. Once I was back we drove back to the village and had a look around the exhibition of the area at the DOC site  and the very famous Hermitage hotel, which was rebuilt here in the 1950's when the first one was firstly flooded & then burnt down near our campsite. It has fantastic views of Mt Cook and also houses the Sir Edmund Hilary Alpine museum. Well worth a coffee on the terrace of you ever get the chance!
Before we left the area we had a walk up to a lookout over the glacial lake and terminus to the Tasmen Glacier, the largest in NZ. As with most glaciers this one is receding and so the last few hundres metres is covered in rocks and doesn't look particularly glam, but as you can see quite a substantial part of its 26km length it is still pretty impressive and the bergs in the lake were massive as well.
We finished the day off driving to Lake Tekapo where we camped for the night pretty much cream crackered!

Nite all


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Life is too important to be taken seriously

Dear all

The strap line for todays post was taken from a card in a shop window in Arrowtown, which was our first stop on our tour today. This very charming village came about following the discovery of 'gold in them hills' in the 1860's. Most of the highstreet is made up of the original buildings and has a very cutesy feel to it and we spent the morning wandering around the town, the museum and a chinese settlement on the outskirts. The chinese were subjected to intense racism and were inlegible to register their own claims so were forced to rework old discarded claims in terrible conditions.  There was an opportunity to go panning for gold, but the river was quite busy with young would be prospecters so we had our lunch and headed off north.
We decided to take the scenic route up to Wanaka which was windy and very beautiful. We even managed to find a pub in a tiny village called Cardrona that Dean liked en route! The road wound its way up to Wanaka and then we sped off up Hwy8 to the Mount Cook national park. The route was beautiful and as we turned off to take the road to the village itself we picked up a hitchiker from Germany who was travelling on her own. Now I would say that New Zealand is one of the safest places in the world, but I thought this girl was pretty mad to be travelling on her own, but she turned out to be great fun on our 60+km journey down past Lake Pukaki and into the valley. We had a brief stop to look around the village with the world famous Hermitage Hotel and then pressed onto our camping area, which was a really nice DOC site at the start of the Hooker Valley walk, which is where we are off to tomorrow.
Nite all