Feeling humbled…. 15/1/19

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With blues skies and sunshine we set off towards Mount Cook, although it seemed to want to hide behind the clouds – it felt like the closer we got, the cloudier and greyer it became.

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On arriving at Mount Cook Village, we parked up at the White Horse Hill DOC Campground ($13 pppn) and looked up towards the glaciers and mountains around us! After lunch and loaded up with energy we set off on the walk to Hooker Valley Lake.  It is a fairly easy walk of 5km each way on a good path which unfortunately meant that it was fairly busy.

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Despite the greyness and Gale force winds, the views were beautiful leading us to an unexpected sight….

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Mount Cook Glacier comes all the way down to the end of the lake.  It is difficult to see in the photos as the ice is black but the large lumps in the lake are bits of glacier that have broken away – an absolutely incredible sight.

Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately, not sure which would have been best – we didn’t see any movement whilst we were there, although they do say that there are avalanches pretty much all the time you just have to listen out for them.

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A sight I could have looked at all day but without all the other people, so we didn’t stay too long, heading back down to Ava.  We timed it perfectly as no sooner had we arrived back to the campsite, the skies opened, leaving us to settle into the evening with Gale Force winds and spurts of rain…. but you still couldn’t deny that the views out the back of the motorhome were pretty impressive.

We woke to strong winds and rain again but bit the bullet and I went out for a run whilst Keith did his exercises inside!  Probably one of the hardest runs I have had in a while possibly due to the altitude or maybe just the Gale Force winds against me on the last 2km stretch…. I felt like I wasn’t moving!!

The rain and wind were pretty localised around the campsite so after a short walk to the Kea lookout point – the views yesterday were far better – we headed a little way down the road to find the sunshine and ‘The Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier walk’.

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Once again, we were blown away by the views.  A mixture of the Mount Cook lower peak (on the left) and the Tasman Glacier, which again came all the way down to join the lake and the parts that had broken off.  This time we were also able to walk out to where the river joined the lake and we had it pretty much to ourselves.

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Feeling a little humble, we ate our lunch and then headed back towards the bottom of Lake Tasman where we parked up for the night in another spot with spectacular views looking back up at Mount Cook.

We chose this spot to be the base for some more walking so after a quick cup of tea, we headed up the hill to the Pukaki Kettle Hole Track, a short walk (5km circuit) but very beautiful.

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As the evening set in the area we were parked up in got busier and busier with campervans, cars (which pretend to be self contained) and tents squeezing into every available space.  I guess it is of no surprise really as the views were incredible and it was free, thankfully no-one blocked our views and the night was peaceful even though the van that parked immediately behind us had a very young baby in it.

We woke to a cloudy morning and a nice temperature (around 11 degrees) for a run and exercise.  Both were enjoyable despite being watched by surrounding neighbours who obviously thought we were very strange and possibly slightly mad… we are used to it now.

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By the time we were showered and breakfasted the clouds had started to lift and the sun had come out as we set off Northwards on the Te Araroa path, another lovely 12.5km each way with yet another beautiful spot for our lunch.

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Conscious that you are probably bored of beautiful photos of Mt Cook we hit the road again, moving all of 40km further North East to Lake Tekapo to empty and refill the tanks before finding a little spot at the NZMCA which is in the forest right on the lake ….. not too bad if we don’t say so ourselves….

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Lake Tekapo – or more specifically, the 430,000 Hectares of the skies above Lake Tekapo  – are defined as the Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, one of only four of its kind in the world and on Saturday night we were lucky enough to have beautiful clear skies which were alight with a mass of stars – absolutely amazing.

After a good nights sleep we set off into Lake Tekapo village for a look around and an interim stock up of the food cupboards.  The village is tiny with only around 400 inhabitants, although there are a lot of new houses being built mostly populated by tourists as the village offers access to ski-ing in the winter and water sports and hiking in the summer.  It does however have the compulsary five cafe’s, a Chinese restaurant and a reasonable four square supermarket…. we passed on the Chinese restaurant but along with the supermarket, found a cafe to suit our needs!

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Passing briefly by the ‘Church of the Good Shepherd’ (above), which probably is one of the most picturesque churches I have ever seen, we headed back to the motorhome before the skies opened, enabling us to have a few quiet hours of catch up.  By 4:30pm it was all clear though, so we set off around the Cowan’s Hill Walkway which is a lovely 4km circuit along the lake shore and up above the village, providing beautiful views…. you would never have guessed that it was tipping it down half an hour beforehand.

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The cloud came back in later in the evening and it absolutely chucked it down overnight with the temperature also dropping to 8 degrees leaving us with a grey, cloudy, cooler start to the day.  Instead of going up high, we opted to do a lower level walk along the eastern shoreline which was also part of the Te Araroa track, a lovely peaceful 25km walk there and back…. with a few Merino sheep for company along the way.

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The sun eventually pushed its way through the cloud and by about 5pm we were properly warmed, enough to leave the door open for a bit…. we shouldn’t complain, we are at 710m altitude.

Last night was another clear night with an amazing sky, when you are blessed with something as beautiful as that you don’t mind the temperature dropping dramatically overnight and to be fair, this morning it was sunny and about 10 degrees by 8am, so not too bad really!

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After a nice run (Me) and a bit of exercise (Keith), we headed round the shoreline to walk up Mt John.  Mt John is a hill which sits at just over 1000m on the edge of Lake Tekapo.  It hosts the Observatory and also has a lovely cafe at the top with beautiful views.

We walked up the short steep route, around the summit and then came back down along the shoreline – a lovely walk, taking in some fantastic views over the whole area.

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With less than a week until we give the motorhome back, tomorrow we leave the mountains and head back to the coast.  For me, this last week has probably been the most diverse and stunning so far, although each and every week has brought different scenary and experiences – all of which have been fantastic….. hopefully the next – and last – week in New Zealand will have its own surprises!

 

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Clocking up the miles – by foot… 9/1/19

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As expected, it was a quiet New Year’s Eve.  If there were fireworks at mid-night in Dunedin we didn’t hear them from where we were …. all we heard was the most amazing birdsong when we woke in the morning – very peaceful.

We set off into Dunedin staying on the coastal road this time and the skies were blue and mostly clear so we could actually see where we were going which helped!

We headed to the NZMCA site which was on the North side of the city, stopping briefly to do some washing and empty/refill the tanks as the facilities at the site were unfortunately out of order.  As the sun was shining we thought we would head into town to stretch our and find the tourist office to get some more information on the next part we are about to travel. Whilst looking through the information on Dunedin we came across a walking tour for the ‘Town Belt’ which contained three routes mostly in the parks that ran along the edge of the city ontop of the hill.  With nothing else planned we headed off to join two of them together as between them, they took us up and around and then quite conveniently back to the motorhome…. a lovely ‘skyline’ walk taking in a lot of sites and parks that we wouldn’t have normally seen.

After a hot and humid night and with most things still closed we headed back into Dunedin to do a bit of shopping and follow the ‘Street Art Trail’.

The ‘Street Art’ was incredible with pieces distributed all over the city both large and small. Our favourite was hard to select but I think we both agreed on the eagle above which unfortunately was being slightly hidden by a lorry.  It looks like it is made of metal and when you are up close, it appears to be coming out of the wall at you.

The Street Art was very varied with talented artists from around the world contributing, something that I think most cities should think about doing as not only is it interesting, it also stops the nasty graffiti on the side of buildings.  I think it is fair to say that we liked Dunedin, although I can’t see the relationship with Edinburgh personally ….

After our normal morning routine we hit the road again and headed North up the coast aiming to get to Moeraki to see the Boulders before the tide was fully in and covered them up completely.  They are natural concretions formed over millions of years underneath the sea, slowly being revealed by uplift and then subsequent erosion of the sandstone – strange that they are only visible in one small spot here though….

Unfortunately, as the Moeraki Boulders were only just off Highway 1 the place was really busy so after some quick photos, we jumped back into Ava working our way just a little further up the coast to Oamaru.

Oamaru is an odd town but we were pleasantly surprised.  I had added it to the list of places to stop because of the Penguins – no surprise there then – although I have given up on trying to see any more as the only way it looks like I would get to see them would be at dusk (currently around 21:45 here) in an artificial environment set up for tourists which isn’t really the same…. may as well go to the Zoo!

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However, having parked up at the A&P Showground (another NZMCA site), we wondered into town via the Whitestone Cheese Co…. lots of lovely cheese (both Goat’s and Cow’s milk) including Blue, Cheddar, Brie, Camembert and Haloumi. We bought some Windsor Blue, which was melt in the mouth and some Brie, coming away from there deciding that other Cheese manufacturers should have a similar set up where you can do tastings, buy cheese boards with wine or just have a Cheese Roll or two with a coffee.  Unfortunately it was the wrong time of day or we would have given the Cheese Rolls – which are apparently a delicacy over here – a go.  For those of you like us who think of a Cheese Roll as a Bread Roll with a slab of Cheddar in the middle – think again.  Each recipe is I am sure different, however the concept is a mixture of cream and strong cheddar melted together to make a warm paste which is then spread on a slice of bread and then in this case, covered in fried onions.  The bread is then rolled and toasted to make it slightly crispy.  We haven’t seen anyone eating one either but will let you know if we come accross one or actually get to try one!  Cheese rolls aside, we had a nice walk round town and out past the steam train and the Steam Punk museum to the Penguin sanctuary.

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We both headed out for a run in the morning before setting off inland once again towards the mountains.  The route we had decided to take was up through the Waitaki valley with our first stop being the Elephant Rocks just outside Duntroon.

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The Elephant Rocks were formed in the same way as the Moeraki Boulders but in addition to the rock formations, the area is also known for its preservation of fossils. It is just unfortunate that there isn’t anything else left in the village of Duntroon to attract people though as the hotel and cafe are long gone and the Vanished World Heritage Center looks like it may be at the point of no return.

Back in Ava and we continued on our route for another 20km or so until we got to Kurow, where we stopped for lunch and headed up the hill to get some great views over the valley.

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It was a steep walk up but well worth it and someone had even carried arm chairs up the path to provide a breather along the way should we have needed one!

On the road again and another 25km up the road we pulled off at Lake Benmore to do the circular peninsular walk – well worth the little detour!

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The route was only 4km and it started by the dam, heading up into the Pine and Eucalyptus forest without any views, however roughly half way round and the trees parted to give way to beautiful views out towards Mount Cook.

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Feeling satisfied with a good couple of walks we headed on to find a place to stop for the night, settling on a DOC nestled between Lake Middleton and Lake Ohau.  The DOC site ($8 pppn) was really busy with lots of families who looked like they were staying the whole summer and a handful of walkers who were doing a one night stop before they continued on the Te Araroa (The long pathway walk that goes from the Northern most tip to the Southern most tip of New Zealand) as well as lots of people water ski-ing and Kayaaking.

We had come here to walk part of the Te Araroa track, so after a shorter run with stunning views of a snow capped Mt Cook at the end of the Turquoise Ohau lake, we headed South East on the trail completing a good 25km walk.  Unfortunately the clouds came in late morning and consumed the mountains so views were limited, hence no photos.

With the forecast showing a day of rain on Sunday we decided to move into Twizel on Saturday afternoon, heading to the Combined Serviceman’s club where we could settle for a few days walking and get some blue cod and chips for dinner…. note to selves that even ‘we’ don’t need 2 scoops of chips between us …..that’s a lot of potato!

We managed to get out before the weather broke on Sunday morning and walked out to the Salmon farm on the edge of town where we bought both some fresh salmon for dinner and smoked salmon for a few lunches – they even prepare Sashimi which was really impressive – my nephew would have had a field day, well worth a visit if passing by.

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Sunday’s rain cleared some of the mugginess and we woke to low cloud and fresh air, both of which disappeared pretty quickly leaving us with 25+ degrees and sunshine for a lovely walk down Twizel River  ….. just over 24km there and back, once again not particularly good for photos but the views of Mount Cook on the return leg were pretty impressive.

After fighting off the morning sandflies we hit the Te Araroa trail again heading towards Lake Pukaki and we were pleasantly surprised by the views from our half way picnic point… another lovely 24km round trip – we could have stayed sitting looking at that view for ages!

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With one last day in Twizel, today we set off on the Te Araroa Trail in the other direction – back towards Lake Ohau where we were last Friday/Saturday.   Another lovely days walking mostly by a lake …. It is difficult to believe that we will be on the plane home in two weeks time – time is flying by!

Goodbye 2018, hello 2019…. 31/12/18

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We got up on Boxing Day expecting it to be overcast but instead were honoured by the sun still hanging around.  After a run and breakfast – and a quick stock up of Jalepenos as we ran out last night and planned fajitas for dinner tonight – we headed on our way, leaving Te Anau behind us onto the Southern ‘Scenic’ route.

We didn’t get very far though having decided to walk another little section of the Kepler Track which was only about 10km out of town. This little stretch was from Rainbow Reech to Shallow Bay and it was another fairly easy walk through the forest along side the river and then down onto Lake Manapouri, a lovely spot to have lunch before heading back and on our way.

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The road worked its way through the farming land with hills and mountains around us until we got to the ‘Clifden Suspension Bridge’ built in the late 1800’s in the same style as the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol – apparently a claim to fame – not bad, but ours is better and it still has traffic going over it!

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Back on the road we had planned on stopping for the night at Tautapere, apparently is the Sausage Capital of New Zealand, however whilst driving through it it was evident that the little piggies may have unfortunately left town so we continued on, trying to stop at a freedom camping spot at Monkey Island which was over-run with campervans, before finally stopping at Riverton/Aparima where we parked up at the RSA club.  The club was closed, as was everything else – I guess that is Boxing Day for you – but we stayed anyway and it was incredibly tranquil apart from the rain that fell in spurts, literally!

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The spurts of rain carried on until about 10:15am and then subsided enabling us to stay pretty dry whilst out walking round the headland.  We had hoped to a bit of a loop back through the reserve but after just over an hour and a half we had got half way along the beach and couldn’t see a path inland (….. I had also made the stupid decision not to bring the sandwiches with us and we were getting a bit close to pushing ‘lunch’ one step too far) – so we turned back, retracing our steps. It was still a lovely walk though, beautiful, rugged coastline.

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After being reunited with our lunch back at the motorhome we set off into Invercargill which although we hadn’t originally planned to stop in, worked out best on timings so we didn’t have to rush. We picked up a few bits at the supermarket and had a look around – finding a Kathmandu shop with a sale – eventually parking up at the Workingmans Club for the night which was huge by comparison to any we have stayed at previously.

Invercargill surprised us, possibly because it was between Christmas and New Year but it looked like it had lost its soul. A large number of shops were closed – many looked like they were gone for good – several had closing down signs in the window and a high number were second hand shops – very sad as it is a fairly big town for New Zealand.

Our night at the Workingmans club was quiet though and I had a lovely run round Queens Park in the morning with an unexpected sight….. Emu’s!  They obviously keep them in their Avery but as they are very similar to the extinct Moa which I have taken an interest in, I did do a double take when I passed them!

Leaving Invercargill we continued on our last Southern stretch down to Bluff to hit the Southern most point of the South Island.

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Parked up (and with sandwiches in hand this time) we had a lovely circular walk up to Bluff Hill which provided great views in all directions before coming back down to Stirling Point again, just a shame that it was slightly hazy as the views out over Stewart Island weren’t as clear as they could have been.

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Happily walked, we continued on the ‘Southern Scenic Route’ into the Catlins, which I want to say is a Nature Reserve but I don’t think it is as a whole, it is just an area of the South of the South Island.  The Catlins has an outstanding amount of unspoilt beauty, possibly something to do with the huge amount of unspoilt forest which provides everything from Waterfalls to Beaches as well as Sealions to Penguins… that is if you believe them as we still haven’t seen the Yellow Eyed Penguins yet, although to be fair they are rare with apparently only roughly 300 surviving couples.

We stayed the night at Niagara Falls NZMCA …. and yes, there was a little waterfall alongside it.  Apparently the surveyor who named them was having a little joke as the waterfalls are probably better described as a few boulders with water flowing over them … to be fair they were pretty and a fair few people stopped to have a look but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit them!

It was a good stopover though (apart from the sandflies which again appear to have bitten me to death) which meant that we could be up and get to Curio Bay at a decent time which was what I was most looking forwards to ….

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Yellow Eyed Penguins, Sea lions, Hector Dolphins and 170 million year old petrified forest …. well the Penguins, Sea Lions and Dolphins didn’t turn up but I can confirm that the petrified forest was still there ….

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The long line that you can see going from the bottom right of the above photo up through the center is a tree trunk … the only known fossilised wood.  It is the nesting season for the Yellow Eyed Penguins so they are around (apparently) but generally they are seen at dusk, so unfortunately it is unlikely that we will get a chance to see them as we have only just past the longest day over here – dusk would be around 21:30.

Leaving Curio Bay we did a few pit stops along the route as there are so many places to go and see.  We tried to get to Cathedral Caves but it wasn’t low tide so had to pass them by, we did however do a quick stop at Lake Wilkie which was slightly more reflective than our last attempt at Lake Mathieson but still nothing to write home about, however the Florence Hill Lookout did provide pretty spectactular views.

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Slightly further round and we stopped for a walk through the woodlands and along the beach at Papatowai before having lunch … they do put picnic benches in some wonderful places!

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It always helps when it is low tide as the textures and colours are that much more distinctive but the beach was beautiful and practically empty,  you could walk for miles.

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Leaving the beaches behind us, we got back into the motorhome and headed to see the most photographed waterfalls in New Zealand…  the Purakaunui Falls.  It was a short detour on a dirt track but to be fair, they probably are the best ones we have seen yet in New Zealand – if you discount the ones in Doubtful Sound that is!

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With enough stops and a little ‘Sightseeing’d Out’, we headed North on another slightly longer dirt track to get to the Catlins River DOC campsite which really is in the middle of nowhere, up a valley with a fair few sand flies!

We haven’t had any phone coverage for a couple of days so we had no way of booking the site to ensure that it wasn’t a wasted journey – thankfully however there was ample space.  We paid our fees into the little box ($8 pppn) and headed out up one of the tracks which climbed up into the hills within the forest.  We had only wanted to stretch our legs as we planned the bigger walk in the morning but it would have been nice to get some decent views after 45 minutes climbing … apparently we weren’t worthy and needed to do more as we only got a glimpse on the way back down which wasn’t really photo-worthy.

Although it was windy and with a little rain, it was very warm and close which didn’t help the sleep or the bites from itching but it was a very quiet location. We got up at a reasonable time and headed out to tackle the Catlins River Walk.  We had planned to do the return loop which was 24km but one of our neighbouring campers told us that part of the track was closed and also that the track took a lot longer than we had expected as the footing was complicated … loads of tree roots coupled with a lot of uneven climbing up and down.  We were happy though and just walked out until we got to what seemed to be a good point and turned around and came back, doing a total of just over 5 hours.

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It was probably one of the nicest – albeit complicated – river walks we have done.  It just would have been nice to have been able to take our eyes off of the floor for more than 5 seconds at a time without fearing a broken ankle…. or falling over the edge!

Back at the campsite at a reasonable time, we packed everything up and headed for Owaka to empty/refill before a quick detour via Nugget Point.  Nugget Point was another possible viewing point for Penguins and Seals …. we got the seals at least but we are definately hitting the wrong time of the day for the Penguins… either that or they are a figure of their imagination!

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The views out beyond the lighthouse were fantastic despite the fog coming in and taking over the coastline which was a shame as the drive north along the coastal road was stunning.

Last stop of the day was the A&P Showground at Balclutha which was $10 a night. We were the only people there which was surprising as it was a great little quiet spot on the edge of town. It rained a fair bit over night, briefly stopping at about 7:15am, enough to lure us out – me to go for a run and Keith to do his exercise – only to let the heavens open again for about ten minutes to give me a good soaking …. keith managed to find a sheltered spot – oh well, the clothes needed a wash anyway!

After a quick trip to the Supermarket to get a few essentials – wine, beer, etc – we headed North stopping at Tunnel Beach for lunch and a walk.

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Tunnel Beach used to be part of the Cargill family land – a local politician in the 1870’s – and he commissioned a tunnel to be built for his children to go down through the rock to the beach.  The white Sandstone rock is beautiful just like the Jurassic coast in the UK and the tunnel is still there, leading you to the following beach and views…

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Heading north again we passed through the outskirts of Dunedin before wiggling our way round the coastal road of the Otago Peninsula until I stupidly decided to take a right turn and head up into the clouds to have a look at Larnach Castle, New Zealand’s only castle.  Unfortunately we couldn’t see much further than about 50ft in front of us so although I am sure that the castle itself is lovely, the views would have been spectacular on a clear day so we decided to give it a miss today.  We continued on the ‘high’ road, wiggling our way North until we re-joined the coastal road, passing through a little village called Portabello before finding our little field out the back of a hall to stop in for the night. Apart from the seagulls, birds, one other bus and the possible Sealions, Albatrosses and Penguins I have a feeling it is going to be a very quiet night!!

We did jump on the bikes and cycled up towards the Royal Albatross Center but my back is playing up on the bikes so we needed to turn back.

I know a little early but Happy New Year everyone. 2018 seems to have flown by and not only did we have an amazing summer in the UK, we also said goodbye to Mika and gained a new member of our family – Hattie, with whom we are looking forward to lots of new adventures in 2019… once we are done with NZ that is!!

Merry Christmas…. 25/12/18

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So in my last blog I said that we had bought ourselves an expensive little treat but I didn’t elaborate … well the treat was an overnight trip on a little boat on the Doubtful Sounds which to many of you probably means absolutely nothing so I can only apologise yet again for the influx of photos.

Doubtful Sounds is the lesser known area of Fjordland in the South West of New Zealand, coming in second to Milford Sounds which is smaller and far more accessible as you can get in and out by road so lots of people opt for a day trip leading to it now being New Zealands top tourist destination.  Doubtful Sounds is roughly 200km south of Milford Sounds but you need to take a bus, then a ferry over a lake for 50 minutes and then drive on New Zealands most expensive road for another 50 minutes to get to Deep Cove which is the closest edge of it…. the journey however is nothing in comparison to the sand flies ….. we have never seen so many, you really need to be dedicated to want to come this far!

Seriously, that isn’t the case – it just takes more time to get to and there are far fewer boats that go out which makes it a much more tranquil area and although it is far larger than Milford Sounds, they say that Milford is more dramatic as it is narrower with steeper hills/mountains that come down to the water…. we still opted for the more tranquil option!

So, we left Wanaka and as we had to be ready for our little trip at 8:30am on Saturday morning we figured we needed to get to Te Anau on Friday night so we planned to take the Highway 6 over to Queenstown and then work our way down afterwards.  There came the first issue, although it wasn’t really a problem – we took the wrong road, which took us up through the valley then over the top before descending down into Queenstown…. well worth the mistake!  Although it was overcast and low cloud the route via Cardrona Alpine Resort was stunning.  The road was lined with beautiful blue and purple flowers – sorry, nowhere to stop to take photos – before we climbed and then dropped quite dramatically before arriving at Queenstown.

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We stopped just at the bottom of our descent for a walk around Hayes Lake which was roughly 8km to stretch our legs.  Thankfully the rain held off until just after we stopped for lunch but it did give us a little shower on the the way back to the motorhome.

The rest of the route was pretty good and we arrived at Te Anau late afternoon and parked up at the NZMCA before heading into town for a look around and to pick up some more information to do some reading up on the next part of the South Island we are about to explore.

Bags packed and rain falling we were up early to ensure that we didn’t miss our pick up by Fiordland Cruises to start our overnight trip on ‘The Southern Secret’.

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After a bit of an ominous start (the minibus broke down) and the weather on the ferry looking pretty dull, we arrived at the other side to be met by sunshine and sandflies …. I think we actually preferred the low cloud and grey skies …. seriously, they were that bad!

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We made it though and by the time we got to the boat itself we were peeling off the layers and we had managed to shake off most of the sandflies so we were happy.

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The boat took a maximum of twelve guests and we were eleven plus two crew.  An American family of four (the children were 13 and 16) who were really nice, both parents worked in medical research for Malaria and HIV working for the US embassy currently living in Bangkok, A Kiwi girl with her Australian boyfriend who live south of Perth who were both winemakers and a retired husband and wife who do house swapping from the US with the wife’s sister – all really friendly.

We had a double en-suite which was perfect for what we needed and the lounge area  was light and welcoming so we soon settled into the rhythm of things and lunch was served.

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We were presented with a beautiful buffet of salads, fresh bread and lots of fresh crayfish that they had caught on the previous trip.  Keith hadn’t ever had Crayfish and it is fair to say that we didn’t let any go to waste.  It was so fresh and light … just delicious – although it was obvious that food wasn’t going to be an issue on the trip.  No sooner had we finished lunch, cake and fruit appeared …. then later in the afternoon a fantastic cheeseboard….

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We cruised into and out of different arms of the sounds and stopped to do some fishing on several occasions.  On the first stop Keith caught a couple of fish and I caught one – all were thrown back in as they were at the bottom end of the pecking order and apparently a bit mushy when cooked.  The second stop was a little better and some Blue Cod and Sea Perch were caught… most of which were keepers, the third had larger blue cod (not caught by either of us) and a 4 ft Shark…. which again got thrown back in.  Regulation is really tight regarding what you can and can’t fish both on quantity and size, we did however between us manage to get enough for dinner thankfully!

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We pulled into a nice quiet Bay Area where we anchored down and we were able to go kayaking, swim or do more fishing if we wanted to.  So, we went kayaking round the island and over to a waterfall and then once we were back on the boat did a quick dive in to the water for a swim.  It was fresh to say the least but so clear and although the photo doesn’t show it, very calm…. needless to say we went swimming before we had caught the shark!!

After a quick shower to warm up we did a bit more fishing and we started to move on again to explore a bit more.

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We found Bottle Nosed Dolphins that were huge in comparison to the Dusky Dolphins that we saw in Kaikoura.  They were playful but not quite as ‘showy’ as the duskies … mainly swimming along in front of the bow of the boat – impressive none the less.

We also came accross a blue eyed penguin who was having some chill out time …. we never realised how solitary they are, happily swimming around paying no attention to anything that is going on around them.  We had already been told that we weren’t likely to see the blue eyed penguins as the mating season is over so they have all disappeared back out to sea, we were happy though and hopefully when we get further round the coast I will actually get a decent photo that I can share as they are so small, I haven’t managed to get close enough despite my zoom lens!

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A little further on and we stopped to pick up the Crayfish pot which was full.  Out of about 15 that were in the pot we kept 11 which was pretty good, the others were too small.  So although several were tomorrows lunch for the next group, we got Crayfish Cerviche and Crayfish Sashimi to go with our dinner which was amazing!

Dinner was pulled together by Kerstin who was a natural at everything she turned her hand at … she could certainly cook for us any time as she produced a banquet for us.  Unsurprisingly,  we ate a bit of everything and there was something for everyone … chicken, lamb, salads, fish cooked in two different ways as well as the Cerviche and Sashimi – all followed up by a fruit crumble.

We stayed up chatting to Jason (the Skipper) and Kerstin and watched the sun go down as it was the summer solstice as well as a full moon … so tranquil and beautiful.  It was a clear night so the stars and moon were amazing but it did go down to about 6 degrees so it was a little fresh to say the least in the morning.

As with any boat it doesn’t matter how lovely it is, sound insulation isn’t the best and the son of the family in the room next to us slipped as he was getting out of bed during the night whilst getting up to go to the bathroom … funny, although it did feel like he was actually in our bedroom!

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Unable to sleep we were up early and went up on deck to watch the scenery unveil around us – spectacular… especially whilst no-one else was around.

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Everyone else slowly started to emerge to get some caffeine around 7:15/7:30 and after breakfast we started to move on back to the quay … an amazing morning weather wise.

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The trip was spectacular and we arrived back at the motorhome just before lunch, still feeling the cold as we hadn’t quite had enough time to warm up despite the sun shining back in Te Anau.  After lunch we did our Christmas haircut and then headed in to Te Anau to do the Christmas shopping which felt a bit weird.

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Before heading out on the boat we had decided to stay in Te Anau for Christmas, leaving on the 26th as it is a nice site and there are several really nice walks to do linked with the Kepler Track.  So on Monday morning, as we were all stocked up and emptied/filled we headed off on a lovely 23km walk on the opposite river bank to the Kepler Track to return back to Ava to be invited to drinks along with all the other campers – a nice surprise before we set into our BBQ,  enjoying our burgers and bacon – yuummm… a nice way to ease into Christmas!

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We were woken on Christmas Day by some Oyster Catchers (they are birds just in case you didn’t know…..) at about 5am, obviously on their way back from a heavy night out.  The sun was shining and it promised to be a corker so we got our morning exercise out of the way and once breakfasted, headed off to do the right hand arm of the Kepler Track which was in the forest along the side of the lake.  A lovely  undulating 25km walk – not too bad apart from the sand flies who appeared to want to join us at lunchtime.

Back at the motorhome we joined the others for a couple of Christmas drinks before cooking steak on the bar b q for dinner …. we do miss Turkey (or at least I do) but it was very good steak!!

Merry Christmas everyone – Enjoy, whatever you get up to, wherever you are!

 

West Coast and beyond…20/12/18

Setting off from Murchison we headed West to Waimangaroa where we had decided to do a walk up an old miners track to Denniston.  The walk itself which was supposed to be the old miners track was unfortunately cut short after about a mile as there had been a landslide so we continued up hill on the windy road getting some good views out over Westport but turned around before we got to Denniston itself unfortunately.

The whole of the North of the West coast is famous for its mining, historically Gold – which is what many British people came over here for in the 1800’s – and more recently Coal, mostly premium quality and therefore it is exported and not used for the local market.

We had headed north of Westport following a recommendation from Chris and Karen (friends of John and Lorraine from Auckland) as there is a short walk called ‘The Charming Creek’ which was supposed to be spectacular, taking you up the old mining track alongside the river so we decided to give it a go.  We had found that we could park up for the night at the Ngakawau Tavern which is about 300m from the start of the walk so after sorting ourselves out we headed in for a drink or two before dinner.  The owner and the regulars were amazingly friendly and we learnt a fair bit about the area, the mines …. and some of their personal life too!! There are still several active coal mines in the area, one just out the back of the Tavern where one of the guys was working, industry is still strong. Having made some friends and of course tried some local beer, we headed back to the motorhome for dinner to watch a spectacular sunset … I am sure the first of many on the west coast assuming the weather holds out for us!

Woken early by the cockerel – he did wake up just before 5am, did his chant until 7am and then I swear he went back to sleep again – we were actually out reasonably early, getting onto the Charming Creek Track before 10am.  The track is reasonably flat and the first hour runs along the line and the tracks are still in place… except where they had been hit by a boulder or fallen into the river at least!  After about an hour you get to a swing bridge and then a lovely waterfall where most people turn back, we decided to continue on and do the whole route to the mine and back which although they said it would be 3hrs each way, ended up being about 4hr 10 in total.  We were surprised (and happy) as we didn’t see anyone until we turned back and then came across a cyclist, then managed to get back to just before the waterfalls where we stopped to eat our lunch and from there on in there were small groups all the way back.  We did however meet a park ranger en route who was doing some repairs who gave us some insight to the track and a few other suggestions further down the coast that we shouldn’t miss.

A lovely walk with a huge amount of history and varied scenery – well worth a trip if you are passing through Westport.

Back at Ava we packed everything up and after a quick supermarket stop, headed over to Cape Foulwind which is the other side of Westport where we parked up at the Star Inn for the night.  Not that we make a thing of stopping at Taverns all the way along the route but we had wanted to come this way and fancied eating out, so once again headed in to the bar and were welcomed as though we were locals.  We ended up eating fish and chips …. I had Rig (which is a type of Shark) and Keith had Turbot – both were lovely.

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Instead of cockerels, this morning we woke to seagulls on the roof – no rest for the wicked apparently – but having scared them all away we got on with our morning routine and then set off on the beautiful walk around Cape Foulwind.  It is only about 3km each way but if you didn’t know which country you were in, you could have easily been mistaken for being in the UK in Devon or Cornwall.

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We walked round to the seal colony and then back before heading south to Fox River where we had hoped to do a lovely long walk up the valley and back.

Once at Fox River, we parked up in the Camping area as we had planned to stay the night, setting off en route only to find that the original path had been shut and roughly 2.5km in you had to cross the big river which would have been a pretty hefty wade.  Unfortunately as I have precious feet that don’t like rocks, we decided to turn back and continue down the road … a bit of a disappointment but we did see some baby Weka’s and they were all cute and fluffy.

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Next stop was another 15km down the road at the Truman Track which is just a short walk down to the beach through the forest but pretty impressive.  The native trees are huge and the pancake rocks and beach are beautiful.

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Jumping back in the motorhome again we did another quick drive to get to the main Pancake Rocks themselves which are part of the reserve.  It used to be pancake rocks and blowholes but the blowholes don’t appear to exist anymore which is a shame and although they were lovely, the Truman Track was definitely superior and with far less people which is always a bonus!

Enough interim stops for the day we headed to Greymouth where we parked up at Jellyman Beach randomly overlooking the speedway track which was fantastic for a late Saturday afternoons entertainment before we settled in to cooking some Steak on the bar b q for dinner.

By the time the sun set the car park was full of campers of one type or another and at around 10pm a few cars joined us looking to have some fun which made us a little apprehensive – thankfully it was all calm by about midnight, just the sound of the waves to keep us awake.

A complete change from the previous day as we woke to grey skies … although still dry to be fair!  We set about our morning routine and by the time we were showered and breakfasted the sun had started to come out … obviously just doesn’t like Sunday mornings, I can understand that!

We headed South again, stopping en route just beyond Hokitika at Mananoui Lake where we decided to do the tramline walk which was another old mining track.  Almost at the other end we got diverted and headed down to the Mananoui lake where we had our picnic lunch before heading back on the road.  A couple of hours there and back, nothing too strenuous but at least we got out to stretch our legs before the drive to Franz Joseph.

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We had been planning to do a heli-hike but over the last couple of days as we have been looking at the weather forecast we decided not too, so today we walked Frank Joseph Valley Glacier walk instead before heading back to Frank Joesph itself to find the NZMCA site.

I hadn’t realised that when I was here 20+ years ago the Glacier was actually still growing – unfortunately in the last five years alone it has shrunk more than 800m due to the climate change – quite scary when you see the signs as you walk up to it showing where the glacier used to come to …. when I was here last time it wasn’t too far from where we were standing when I took the photo above, very sad.

The NZMCA site was set in a great location on the edge of town with views up to the Franz Josef glacier in the distance.  We were surprised that we were only one of four on the site as we settled into our BBQ for the evening but happy with the tranquility of bird song and nothing else!

After a beautiful day on Sunday we woke to very low cloud – gutted for our neighbours who apparently had booked on a glacier heli-hike as it had obviously been cancelled.  I headed up the valley for a short run and couldn’t see anything above about 400m as it was covered in cloud – very pleased we did the walk late yesterday afternoon rather than leaving it until the morning.

We hit the road and headed South, hoping to make it over the Haast past before the strong winds came in stopping for a quick walk round Lake Matheson which is a spectacular Mirror Lake with the reflections of both Mt Cook and Mt Tasman when there is no wind or low cloud. Unfortunately for us there was both, therefore it was a pretty circular walk around a lake but without reflection and only the odd glimpse of Mt Cook or Mt Tasman when the clouds parted briefly …. still pleasant and a nice stretch of the legs.

A few miles further and we had a quick stop for lunch looking out over Bruce’s bay … Bruce – we were thinking of you!! Then we worked our way twisting and a turning into the mountains before stopping briefly at the Blue Pools for a very quick walk (due to the nasty biting insects… and too many people!)… although they were very pretty and begging you to go for a swim!

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We finally arrived at Wanaka after a very beautiful journey and parked up at the Wanaka Club which is affiliated with NZMCA, deciding to hanker down for 4 nights as there is a fair amount of walking and things to do here.

The Club is just outside the center of Wanaka (above it to be fair) and looking through the trees you have a great view of the snow topped mountains.  It was an incredible tranquil night despite the wind being fairly high and although we had expected rain in the early hours it was only a light shower.  We headed into Wanaka after breakfast for a bit of a look around and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the shops … definitely somewhere to spend money if you are having a day or two off from some kind of activity… Keith is certainly doing a reasonable job at transitioning some of his outdoor gear over to New Zealand brands!  We did however also pop into the Tourist office to enquire about options for Milford Sounds and Doubtful Sounds and appear to have booked a bit of a treat….

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Having spent all our money we headed out for a walk around the bay, which if the cloud was slightly higher would have been spectacular … although we were just glad that it was dry.

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Wednesday was supposed to be a little greyer and cloudier and it was, but again it didn’t really rain as much as they had forecasted so although there were a couple of light showers – and it was a little moody – we managed to get another lovely walk in

9A9A0815-FE6A-4DF9-81B3-EE18D3F0F73Earound the other side of the lake passing briefly by someone playing around with a jet pack which was amusing and impressive, especially when she did dolphin dives in and out of the water!!

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Due to the orientation most of the higher mountains and glaciers are on the South West side of the lake so the views from each side were hugely different. Tuesdays walk was a much flatter one on a wider track with views over to the snow topped mountains, Wednesday’s views were a little more subtle and the route itself was a little more wiggly and rough once you got a couple of kilometres out of town…. or to be fair, a little past the Wanaka Tree …

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All in all a lovely walk, much more tranquil than Tuesday as the route was further out of town.

Today we had a few chores to do so we have stayed a little closer to Wanaka to catch up on washing and also go to the Farmers market and get some food in before we move on.

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We did however manage to head up Mt Iron which sits about 1.5km outside Wanaka, providing an amazing 360 degree view over the area.  It is only 548m high but we struck lucky and although it was cloudy it was definately the best day out of the three to get the views….

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Six weeks in… six to go – 12/12/18

We left Kaikoura with blue skies and sunshine and headed a slightly different route north, up the Wairau Valley, then over the Richmond Mountain Range to arrive at Motueka.  As we entered the Valley the clouds got lower and it is fair to say that we were lost in them for a while but it was a pretty route through some of the Ski areas.

Once we got back down to sea level on the other side of the Richmond Mountain Range the skies had cleared but the air was definitely a little fresher.  We were heading to Motueka for the night to buy our tickets for the water taxi into (and out of) the Abel Tasman National Park as well as to do some last minute shopping at the butchers naturally!

Motueka is actually not too bad a town considering it is the last ‘real’ town before a huge tourist attraction.  There are two reasonably sized supermarkets, a couple of camping shops, lots of cafes and bakeries and of course a butchers!  As we were heading for a campsite for four nights and from Friday morning the weather was forecast to be pretty good, we stocked up on all things BBQ…… BBQ Breakfast (Sausages, Bacon, Eggs and Tomatoes), Lamb Steaks, Mince for burgers and more sausages …. we don’t normally eat quite so much meat but aren’t going to complain for a few days!

Leaving Motueka on Thursday morning we headed all of 20km up the road (albeit the last 5km were pretty twisty) to Kaiteriteri where we parked up on the Kaiteriteri Beach Camp looking out over the bay.

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Not that we are used to staying on many Campsites, the Campsites in New Zealand appear to have a different approach to those in Europe.  Several don’t actually have anywhere to dump waste (i.e. toilet and washing up/shower water) and the majority appear to charge for Showers on top of quite a hefty price for the site…. a little like Italy if I remember rightly.  This one is a pretty average price ($23 per person per night) and I am pleased to say that it does have a dump station for toilet and grey waste but they do charge for showers.  The price includes electricity, so we are actually plugged in for the first time in nearly six weeks – ironically with the weather forecast it is the time that we are least likely to need it. The Campsite is spotless, the staff are fantastically friendly and helpful and it is in a perfect location so we would definately recommend it and come back here if we wanted to do any more walking on the Abel Tasman…… its just those showers that nark me.

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We had booked Wilson’s Water Taxi, which is one of the larger companies here and they offer as many boat trips as you want for three seperate days over a seven day period for a set price, so we decided to do three days walking.  On the first day (Friday) we took the boat from Kaiteriteri to Awaroa, the furthest point that you don’t have to plan around a tidal crossing which we couldn’t work around with our dates, then we walked back to Midlands Beach.

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So, now comes the first real blog difficulty of the trip …. which photos to add without over doing it and boring you to death …. fingers crossed I get the right balance – I am sure you will let me know!

The walk from Awaroa takes you through the only ‘hotel’ type establishment in the National Park which also offers food and drinks – after that it is very much whatever you want, you bring in and take out as well.  There are a few huts and camps that have to be booked in advance if you want to stay over, as well as a handful of toilets along the route but you are pretty much on your own until you get picked up or walk out, depending on your approach.  We didn’t stop at Awaroa but headed on through to Onetahuti beach before we stopped for our lunch … to be fair I was still happy on my cooked breakfast but it was less weight to carry.  A beautiful beach and so nice that we didn’t have to share it with many people as it is still pretty quiet in the National Park.

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From here most of the track was inland with just the odd glimpse of the coast as we worked our way up and then down again on multiple occasions.

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Until we finally came towards Bark Bay when we were getting closer to low tide which for us definitely makes the views even more beautiful as you can see more variation in texture and colour … the photos just don’t do it justice.

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We had however walked far too quickly.  They recommend 4 hours and we took just over three so we had an hour and a half to wait for our boat back to Kaiteriteri …. ah well, I can think of worst places!

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Day two started with a few neighbouring campers looking on at us weirdly as we did our morning exercise routines – not much new there then – but with the show over, showered and breakfasted we headed off onto the boat again back up to Medlands Beach to start our walk back to Anchorage Bay.

There were a couple of side walks at the beginning, the first with a look out point and then another to Sandfly bay which didn’t give us too many hopes but both were nice little diversions before we headed on to find the longest suspension bridge in the park which stretches out 40m and you bounce all the way along it….

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Once again the track stayed inland mostly, climbing up before coming down again and repeating itself several times – although nothing too strenuous.  Eventually we were rewarded with a lookout over the Torrent Bay Lagoon which looking at the colours of the sand and sea could have been in the tropics somewhere …

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And then fairly soon afterwards the beauty of Torrent Bay itself from a high, the descent being the only thing between us and a toilet (I did say that they were few and far between at points) …..  oh and lunch!

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Torrent Bay is the only place in the park where there are still a handful of private properties, some are rentals, some just holiday homes or ‘Bach’s’ as the Kiwi’s call them, all only accessible by sea or helicopter.  There is another tidal crossing at Torrent Bay although they have an alternative route here for high tide which they don’t have north of Awaroa.  We stopped and ate our lunch by the quay before heading on round the high tide route which provided equally beautiful views as well as a diversion up to Cleopatra pools.

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A day in and a little more experienced in the timings of the walks, we changed the return boat for today to a slightly earlier one so only had forty five minutes to spare, enough time to explore the caves at the end of the beach a little more before being picked up!

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Day three was an even warmer start with the sun and the humidity giving us a warm wake up call.  This was our last day in the Abel Tasman Park and as the last hour and a halfs’ walk isn’t that pretty as you come back into Marahau we had decided to get the boat back up to Anchorage bay and do a walk round the headland before continuing on the main trail to Apple Tree Bay for the final pick up.

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We have found a fair bit of wildlife on our route but we hadn’t expected to fall upon wild boar, especially not a sow and her four piglets. Unfortunately for us when we came accross them, the piglets ran the opposite direction to mum so we were prepared to be ambushed for a while although she obviously was glad to be rid of them as after the initial search the piglets wandered off and she didn’t seem to be following.

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The rest of the headland route after we left them behind was a little less eventful, with beautiful views and ending up on a lovely little beach before heading back to Anchorage bay.  We then got back onto the main track and climbed up ……finding a not too bad a place to stop for lunch if we do say so ourselves!

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There were quite a few optional ‘diversions’ on todays route …. almost all appeared to be down to be a beach – which obviously meant climbing back up again – but each and everyone delivered on views and colour.

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We worked out that they put a nice little bench at the top of any steep walk down to a beach so that you have somewhere to rest when you actually manage to make it back up again …. not that we are complaining as it was all stunning and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

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Despite taking all the side routes we were still slightly early for our pick up, so we ventured a little further down the path and managed to get some lovely views over Apple Tree Beach before we finally said goodbye to Abel Tasman and hopped back on the boat to get back to Kaiteriteri.

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Having not thought too much about next steps for a few days we got the maps back out again and after changing our minds on our destination a couple of times, we packed everything up and retraced our steps back towards a DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite at the end of the road between Kenepuru Sound and The Queen Charlotte Sounds.  We had been wanting to walk a bit of the Queen Charlotte Sounds track since we arrived two weeks ago but the weather was so bad we had pretty much written it off.  Bullet bitten we hit the road, stopping briefly in Motueka to get some shopping in and then in Havelock for lunch before tackling the 55km out to Kenepuru Head Camp.  The first 15km of the road was old ground as we did it when we travelled from Picton to Nelson a couple of weeks ago, however the next 40km was new territory.  As we turned off we were faced with a sign stating that the road was ‘uneven’ in places and that there wasn’t any provisions available so we should be prepared…… The next 40km took roughly 1hr 15minutes.  Although the road is tarmac it is narrow and very twisty and falling away in places which means getting over 35km/h was pretty much impossible so we just took our time and I enjoyed the views as Keith was driving!

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When we finally got to the Kenepuru Head DOC Camp ($13 per person per night) it was fair to say that we were in the middle of nowhere with only Weka’s and Tui’s (Kiwi bird’s) for company and the views were amazing.  As all Brits do, we put the kettle on to have a cup of tea before we headed out to stretch our legs only to realise that the gas had run out …. of all the times and all the places it had to be when we were a long way from anywhere to exchange it. Thankfully due to the way that Geoff and Tracey have the van set up we could switch over to use the BBQ gas bottle temporarily … I can confirm that it kept us fed and washed for the two days – and I am sure that there is still plenty to spare – until we got back to Havelock… back up plan was cold showers in the morning!

We walked round the end of Kenepuru Sound and admired our surroundings, taking in the tranquility before heading back to take up our lovely viewing spot, watching the tide come back in again.

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After probably one of the most tranquil nights we have had yet – or at least it was after some of our fellow campers went to bed – we headed over to the other side of the peninsula to see a bit more of the Queen Charlotte Sounds.  Unfortunately the track isn’t accessible from where we were camped up so unintentionally, we took Ava on a little adventure up a dirt road to Camp Bay, it was only about 8km (5km of which were on the dirt track) but too far to walk and then do part of the track as well…. it is fair to say that Ava needed a bit of a dusting down by the time we got back to Camp at the end of the day though.

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Ava parked up safely, we set off North on the Queen Charlotte Track which winds its way down to the sounds and then round each cove.  Unfortunately this part of the track is quite heavy with foliage so although it was nice the views were pretty limited.  There were however lots of streams and waterfalls, one of which providing a lovely little spot for lunch before we turned and headed back – all in all a nice little 20km walk.

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The journey back to Havelock this morning was equally as beautiful and once in Havelock again we swapped the gas, emptied and filled the tanks and set off through the valley to Murchison, the home of the Buller river where there were Gold mines and now a lot of water sports.  We have parked up in another NZMCA site in the center of town – which is tiny – and having had a quick walk round, are settled back in Ava watching the rain fall down around us …. he ho, I guess it was inevitable and is our welcome to the Westcoast!

Storm avoiders…. 4/12/18

Unlike the American’s who search out storms, we are now officially storm – or perhaps just bad weather – ‘avoiders’…. if at all possible. For the first time in ages the rain was so heavy we opted to take an extra rest day and lay off on the exercise – it was proper nasty out there.

Despite the low cloud and rain we took the scenic route over to Havelock and to be fair the glimpses of Marlborough Sounds through the cloud were stunning – in a mysterious kind of way.  As we worked our way over the hills and twisted and turned with the coastline the cloud started to lift presenting us with the beautiful backdrop of the hills and a slightly red-ish sand where the tide had gone out.  Havelock was just a quick pit stop to ‘un-load’ all things dirty and ‘re-load’ of fresh water but interestingly it is the World’s Green She’ll Mussel Capital … They are green lipped and huge – and I thought the ones in Spain were on steroids, these are about three times larger!

Forgetting the mussels for the time being, we headed to Nelson to look at options for walking and cycling in the area whilst also reviewing the weather as the next weeks’ forecast isn’t looking that great.

Nelson is a bit of a hub for travellers, some of which use it as a base and a fair number seem to just stop and work – each to their own I guess but it isn’t a particularly pretty place, more of an entry point to the region.

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We found a pub/hotel called ‘The Honest Lawyer’ in a little place called Monaco which is part of a nature reserve where they allow NZMCA members to stay for up to two nights for $20 which is refundable if you eat/drink with them.  It is roughly 6km outside Nelson, a beautiful location and more importantly for us … close to Pic’s Peanut Butter factory where we had booked on a tour on Thursday morning along with a visit to the Proper Crisps factory.  As it would be rude not to, we headed into the pub on Wednesday evening and were not disappointed.  Keith had Fish and Chips and I opted for a Chowder accompanied by a couple of glasses of red wine for me and Beer and Mead for Keith …. always like to keep it local!

So when we first arrived in NZ, the wonderful friends that we met in Spain a couple of years ago – John and Lorraine – gave us a huge goody bag filled with all their favourite things ‘Kiwi’.  Apart from the recycled/re-usable hessian bag which is a big thing here – almost no plastic bags at all which is fantastic – we had a lovely bottle of NZ Red wine, a packet of Pineapple Lumps, a bar of Whittakers Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate, a book on ‘Instant Kiwi’, a loaf of Vogel Bread, a pack of Proper Crisps and two slugs of Pic’s Peanut Butter …. I don’t think I have forgotten anything but if so many apologies John and Lorraine, it will be something to do with the fact that we probably ate it/drunk it so quickly!!

We started to work our way through the bag of goodies and although the Pineapple Lumps are a flavour burst, I am saddened to say that they aren’t up there on our list of favourites although everything else hit the spot, so much so that Keith decided he wanted to do the factory tour at Pic’s and Proper crisps when we got to Nelson.  The only problem being that when he went onto Proper Crisps website he found that they didn’t do tours.  Distraught, as you would be, Keith got in touch with them and made a bit of a joke about it and they invited us in to have a chat and take a photo with Ava.

Bright eyed and bushey tailed we got to Pic’s Peanut Butter factory at 9:30, Keith was concerned we would be late for the 10am start so instead we figured we would turn up for their Sales and Marketing staff meeting – they were very welcoming!  Pic’s is 100% natural Peanut Butter and it is fair to say that it is tastier than the Meridian that we had been buying in the UK …. must be something to do with the quality of the nuts!  The forty minute tour takes you through the process – did you know it takes 18 weeks to grow peanuts and that when they come out the ground as what we know as ‘Monkey Nuts’, they are a legume and not a nut? …. it is in fact a pea in the shape of a nut, which is where it gets the name ‘peanut’ from!

After our initial overview and education on nuts, we went into the factory where they currently still hand fill the jars. We then came back out to make our own peanut butter and taste all the other spreads that they offer…. Crunchy (which was still warm!), Smooth, Almond, Cashew and recently they have brought out a Boysenberry Jelly…. all pretty delicious, although it is a shame that they didn’t offer up tastings of the ice-cream that they make too!!

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After topping up our cupboards with another jar of nutty butter we moved on round the corner to go and meet Emma from Proper Crisps.  We hadn’t really expected anything but it was lovely that they responded to Keith as it demonstrated that they really believe in their customer feedback.  Emma who has only been with Proper Crisps for seven months did an amazing job of talking us through the history of the company as well as the process of making the crisps, of which every element still has some manual input – the company really is still very small.  They make eleven different products – two half popped corn, two Kumara (or sweet potato in our world), one Vegetable medley (i.e. beetroot, parsnips and Kumara), one parsnip and five different flavours of crisps – all with natural ingredients.  Before coming to the factory we had been doing our best to work our way though the different flavours, happily demolishing the Marlborough Sea Salt and Paprika Crisps, the Chipotle and Garlic Kumara Crisps and The Marlborough Sea Salt half Popped Poporn …. however we now have a new challenge to work our way through over the next few weeks – Thank you Emma and Proper Crisps for your kindness!

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Back at the Honest Lawyer, we took the bikes out onto the ‘Taste Bike Trail’ to Rabbit Island, which apart from passing the timber factory was a very pretty 37km ride.

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Having looked at the weather we decided to hedge our bets and not venture further towards the Abel Tasman, but instead re-trace our steps a little.  The plan, which changed four times within the space of 24 hours, was to go to Havelock for a couple of days, then a Department of Conservation site on Charlotte Sounds, then Picton but as we arrived into Havelock – having stopped briefly at Pelorus Bridge for a lovely walk and lunch – the skies opened and we decided to continue on to Blenheim ….. plans are made to be changed!

Arriving into Blenheim the sun came out and although it did rain a little during the afternoon, it was nothing in comparison to Havelock.  We parked up at the Bowls club for $5 donation with the NZMCA along with several others motorhomes and went for a walk into town to explore and stretch the legs.

Blenheim is the main town within Marlborough, the largest wine region in New Zealand.  Surprisingly it is nothing like the towns that are at the center of the other wine areas we have visited to date perhaps due to the fact that the vineyards are a little further out, therefore the town itself felt very normal.  Whilst we were having a mooch around we popped into Kathmandu and Macpac as Keith was still thinking about buying a new waterproof jacket as his has started to leak.  After much contemplation we left with a nice new jacket in hand … hoping that it will keep the rain away for a while!

Blenheim had its Christmas market on Saturday morning so although it still feels a bit odd as it is summer down here and nothing to do with the fact we are not particular fans of them, we thought we would wander in and have a look around and we are glad we did. The market was pretty big, taking up most of the center of town with a mixture of artisanal stalls, food (to eat), food (to buy and take home) and Christmassy stuff – we even bought some wax wrappers for food which we have been contemplating for a while – a good way to wrap up sandwiches and cheese that is re-usable rather than having to use cling film.

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After lunch we set off for a nice walk up Mount Vernon and back along the ridge which is just a couple of kilometres outside Blenheim, the round trip being 15km in total with the highest point being 422m – not too high but enough to give great views over the area.  Whilst at the top of Mount Vernon we were reading up on the area and found that Blenheim is the closest town to the fault line and has the highest probability of earthquakes in the world… not really what you want to read 422m up and in the middle of nowhere, although I guess it would be a quick way of getting down again!

Before setting off in the morning we headed to the local farmers market where although we missed out on the local blueberries, we managed to get some fresh Strawberries, French Pate and make friends with a baby goat … who incidentally was selling his ice-cream…. and yes it was blueberry!

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Cupboards stocked we hit the road heading for Kaikoura continuing to run away from the bad weather, hoping that we would be as lucky as we have been over the last couple of days and avoid the worst of it.

Along the route we were exposed to the fantastic coastline and thunderous waves that we are used into in the UK … oh and lots and lots of seals playing on the rocks!

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For those of you who didn’t know/don’t remember, Kaikoura was hit by a really bad earthquake in November 2016 – the second largest to have hit New Zealand since European settlement.  The town of Kaikoura was cut off completely for five weeks and on the 1st December (i.e. this last week) the first train ran through Kaikoura which is a huge advancement although the roads are also now open but still in a state of disrepair.  Just to put it in perspective – Cape Campbell, at the north-eastern tip of the South Island, moved to the north-northeast (closer to the North Island) by more than two metres –  and rose almost one metre. Kaikoura moved to the northeast by nearly one metre, and rose seventy centimetres….. nature is quite incredible but also quite scary, thankfully in this particular earthquake there were very few deaths despite the destruction caused.

After parking up up the Trotting club in Kaikoura (which is an NZMCA site), we headed out for a walk despite it being foggy.

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We decided to go round the peninsula rather than just straight into town and got to see the amazing rock formation that surrounds the Peninsula along with even more seals.

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The walk ended up being roughly 3 hours which I hadn’t expected but we are so glad that we did it as although it was foggy, on reflection it was actually fairly clear as the following day we could barely see the edge of the cliff, let alone any further…. why anyone wanted to go Kayaaking in this weather – I don’t know!

 

This morning however was different as we woke and could see blue skies. As I went out for my run I turned back to see the backdrop behind the motorhome of the slightly snow dusted mountains which we haven’t seen since we arrived, a lovely view and as the day went on the views became even clearer.

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When we arrived on Sunday we booked ourselves onto a Whale watching trip as from a tourism perspective that is what Kaikoura is known for.  Considering the weather over the last couple of days we weren’t that hopeful however that all changed this morning. The sea was calm close to shore but when we checked in at the office the crew had put quite severe restrictions on the boat and its passengers, expecting a rough ride.  As we headed out to sea the swell was high for a small catamaran with several people looking green. However, after a couple of false starts we found a Fin Whale and then within a few minutes the star of the show…. a Sperm Whale who we sat and watched for nearly ten minutes before he disappeared again.  Sperm Whales apparently come to the surface for about 10 minutes to digest their food and re-oxygenate, just lying there spouting air quietly before slowly ducking below the water and diving down, flipping their tale in the air as they do so to return to the deep waters for another 45-60 minutes before they come up again – silently beautiful in a strange kind of way.  After he disappeared we turned back towards shore, finding lots of playful dusky dolphins to watch dive and jump around us for a good ten minutes which was good fun – a well worthwhile trip.