Monthly Archives: February 2011
Wednesday 23rd February
The next morning we received the devastating news that our friends Phyllis and Bob, who were crewing on the sailing yacht Quest, had been senselessly murdered by their pirate captors. We were all stunned. Neither we or Peter and Margie knew the yacht because it had joined the BWR in Phuket but Phyllis had joined the rally in Gibraltar and Bob in the Marquesas and they had crewed on various boats. They had both joined us on Camomile for my birthday party last year. They were lovely people and both so full of life; it’s a tragic end to their journey and our thoughts go out to their families.
We left Kates and drove with Peter and Margie to Chch to take their camper van back. We had intended to spend the day in Chch but that was out of the question so we turned north and drove to Hanmer Springs. Set in the Kaikoura range 380m above sea level Hanmer Springs Thermal pools were an ideal way to relax after the previous couple of days. There were 15 open-air thermal pools of varying temperatures, their geothermal waters drawn from an adjacent bore. We spent several hours wallowing. The three Sulphur pools contained unfiltered thermal water, which left our skin feeling very soft and clean. We had had enough of the tent so we hired a 2-bedroomed cabin for the night and enjoyed a pizza together that evening.
The next day we continued up the Kaikoura coastline stopping several times to gaze at the seals basking in the sunshine on the rocky coast. We stopped in the coastal town of Kaikoura for lunch then continued our drive up the coast back to Picton. Peter and Margie were booked onto the Interislander ferry to Wellington the following day but they had time to have a look around Picton. Camomile was safe and sound when we returned. We bought fish and chips and took them back to Camomile to eat them before we took Peter and Margie to the cabin they had booked for the night.
The next morning we picked them up and took them to the departure lounge for the ferry. It was sad saying goodbye because we had spent a wonderful couple of weeks together but the sailing world is quite small and I’m sure we’ll meet them again one day.
Tuesday 22nd February
It rained very heavily over night so we waited for a break and quickly put the tent away just before it started again. We drove over to the hut to cook some breakfast but Peter and Margie thought we had left and drove off too. Not to worry we’ll soon find them again, we seem attracted to them some how. We drove back down past Lake Pukaki and turned towards Christchurch.
We stopped at the church of the Good Shepard next to Lake Tekapo on the way. Built in 1935 to commemorate the pioneer farmers of the area the picturesque small stone chapel has the most amazing backdrop of the milky glacial turquoise lake with Mount Cook behind it. Sadly yet again Mount Cook was hiding behind the clouds so we didn’t get to see it.
Strangely there in the car park yet again was Pete and Margie’s van; I told you they couldn’t get away from us!
We had planned the whole trip around the 22nd and planned to meet Michael and Ger from Simanderal, another BWR yacht, in Christchurch that evening. They had also flown to NZ from Australia and were doing the circuit in the opposite direction. Today was our only chance to meet up with them. I was talking to Margie and trying to call Ger when Bill felt a strange movement in the car….
As we drove towards Chch we heard on the radio that there had been another really bad earthquake to the east of the city. Many buildings in the centre of town were damaged with many people killed or injured. Clearly we couldn’t go into the city. Eventually we managed to contact Michael and Ger but they had been diverted out of the city, ironically we had probably passed each other on the road as we continued to drive towards Chch. We couldn’t go to the campsite we were going to stay at so Kate very kindly opened her doors to us again and Peter and Margie stayed on the drive. Barry cooked one of his wonderful lasagnes. We felt several big aftershocks that evening which is the strangest sensation.
We packed up early and drove away from Dunedin vowing not to book a campsite through an ‘i’site again. We drove North towards Oamaru where we stopped briefly for a coffee. We turned off SH1 onto the 83 which runs alongside the Waitaki river. There are a series of power stations and dams on the river that are fed by the three lakes Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau. The Waitaki dam was named after the river itself and was also the first dam in New Zealand to be built without diverting the natural river flow.
The stations powerhouse was completed in 1934 just after the dam was built. Made of reinforced concrete it was 109 metres long. Over the years it’s gradually been extended, as more power was demanded of it. It now has a total of seven generators with a capacity of 105MW. We stopped to take a look. The water was a beautiful milky blue colour. We continued up the road passing the Aviemore and Benmore dams each one rising up like steps.
We drove over the Benmore dam and parked high above the lake for lunch with a view. We drove past Twizel where the control centre for the power stations is operated. We continued past the glacier-fed Lake Pukaki and drove towards Mount Cook. Unfortunately it was cloudy and Mount Cook was hiding shyly behind the clouds. We drove as far as it’s possible to go and arrived at the DOC campsite at 900M above sea level. We drove to what looked like a remote corner of the campsite and there in front of us was Pete and Margie’s campervan, they couldn’t get away from us that easily. While I caught up with the news Bill put the tent up – well he’s so good at it now!
As the forecast was better for today rather than tomorrow we walked to the base of the Hooker glacier. This involved crossing 2 high suspension bridges and traversing the glacial moraine of the Hooker valley. It was a superb walk with only a gentle incline. There were beautiful mountain flowers growing next to the path. It took 2 hours to reach the lake where we were rewarded by the sight of icebergs floating in the silty water. Alas the cloud base had dropped even further preventing us from seeing the snow capped mountain peaks of Mount Cook and the Tasman. It was a spartan but striking outlook that can’t be captured in a photo you’ll all have to come and see for yourselves.
We walked back to the camp and cooked out in the open air which although chilly was refreshing.
The local teal ducks were interested in what we were doing, they were so tame they fed right out of Bill’s hand. We had a peaceful nights sleep although the wind got up and it was blowing strongly by the morning. Peter and Margie went off to find some different walks but we went to the Cooks village i site where they had a very informative display of the mountains and a museum of mountaineering artefacts. We drove down to Twizel. Originally built in 1968 as the base for the upper Waitaki power development Twizel was to be bulldozed once construction was completed but its inhabitants successfully campaigned to retain the town. We enjoyed a tasty lunch in the sunshine but the rain clouds were building again.
We drove back up the lake to the car park at the base of the Tasman valley but the rain had started and we had no means of drying clothes in a tent so decided against walking to the Tasman glacier. We went back to the campsite and took our gas stove and the means to make supper into the hut where we were joined by Peter and Margie and we had a great time catching up but the main topic of conversation was the BWR yacht Quest that had been captured by pirates in the Arabian sea.
Friday 18th February
We said goodbye to Lyndon and continued through the beautiful Catlins countryside towards Dunedin. We were driving along the road and came upon a sign ‘Welcome to Waihola, No doctor, No hospital, One cemetery, Slow down!’ The kiwis are wonderfully candid.
We arrived in Dunedin at lunchtime. We parked the car and walked into the town. It is said that Dunedin is the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian heritage city in the southern hemisphere and you will feel like you have stepped back in time. It is supposed to be the Edinburgh of New Zealand. We were mildly disappointed when we arrived, there are indeed some beautiful buildings in the city in between the glass and concrete towers but it isn’t Edinburgh. The one thing it did have in common however was the temperature, which was cold!
It’s home to one of the largest Universities in New Zealand and had a nice atmosphere with lots of street cafes around the Octagon, which is dominated by the statue of Robert Burns and the Anglican St Paul’s cathedral. Dunedin is the home of the Cadbury factory for New Zealand so before lunch we visited the ‘i’ site and booked tickets for the Cadbury factory visit and 2 nights in a local campsite – big mistake, more about that later. On the outside Cadburys looked as it was, a factory, but inside the foyer there were copious displays of every chocolate bar I knew and more plus the wonderful smell of chocolate!
We were shown into a video room and given a plastic bag with a chocolate bar in it plus a hygienic hair cap, which, as it’s a working factory, we were asked to put on. Bill had to have a special one for beards. We were invited to eat the chocolate bar while watching the video but save the little bag. A lovely young lady showed us around the factory wearing purple dungarees with pockets bulging with chocolate bars.
As she showed us around she was asking questions and giving away chocolate for the correct answers or for any excuse, like anyone wearing purple, or at certain points on the tour. As you can imagine I became very knowledgeable on any subject she asked questions about and ended up with quite a goody bag, almost as many as the children! It was a very interesting tour and we learnt lots of facts. One part of the factory is busy for 6 months of the year making Easter eggs, the other 6 months it isn’t used. They make enough eggs for the kiwis to have on average 9 each, that included the little crème eggs but it’s still a lot per person. Cadbury was also the official chocolate at the Queens coronation and they were permitted to retain the royal colour of purple as their corporate colour.
At the end of the tour we were taken into the tall purple chimney. Was it full of chocolate? Almost. We went inside and lined up around a huge vat that, after a count of one, two, three, filled with liquid chocolate. Why? Just for fun. At the end of the tour we visited the shop and stocked up.
We went to find the campsite recommended by the ‘i’site. It was on the edge of town but not very nice, we wouldn’t have chosen it ourselves. It was very noisy and crowded but we found a spot and pitched the tent.
The next day was wet and cold so we decided to visit the Otago museum. Founded in 1868 it features a good natural history section, a maritime exhibition and Maori and Pacific island sections. We spent a couple of hours looking around the exhibits. We spent the afternoon on the Otago peninsular and intended to visit New Zealand’s only castle with its beautiful gardens but with the low cloud we couldn’t even see it. We continued onto the Albatross Centre right out on the head. It’s the world’s only mainland colony for giant royal albatrosses. It had a very interesting visitor centre. After our drive we went back to the campsite. As it was Saturday it seemed that everyone from the local low cost housing had decided to camp out that weekend. We got back to find a tent really close to us on both sides, there wasn’t even room to park the car. These people weren’t there to enjoy Dunedin they were there to get drunk and make a lot of noise. It was 3am before they shut up.
Wednesday 17th February
We stayed in a nice campsite in Riverton overnight enjoying fish and chips by Riverton rocks for supper. We woke to thick fog in the morning brought on by the sunshine of the day before. We got on the road again and drove towards Invercargill. This town has the reputation of being a bit boring but it seemed quite a lively town. We stopped briefly to have a look at this beautiful building that was their town hall and theatre. As we continued driving the fog cleared to a beautiful sunny day.
The Southern Scenic Route passes through the Catlins. Situated off the beaten track The Catlins encompasses a coastal strip of spectacular rugged coastline and beautiful windswept beaches while inland lie undisturbed forests and enthralling landscapes. We stopped at Curio bay to look at the petrified forest. This is one of the world’s most extensive and best-preserved examples of a Jurassic fossilised forest. Fossilised trees lie embedded on coastal bedrock 180 million years old Unfortunately the tide was coming in and we couldn’t see it all but it was amazing to be able to walk around the fossils on the beach unhindered. I wanted to go into the Cathedral caves but sadly the tide was in too far.
We watched the surf rolling in across the beach.
We continued a bit further to Porpoise bay this was the southern most point of South Island. With the clear blue sky we had a breathtaking view of the picturesque sandy beach. Based in the old school building Waikawa museum contains artefacts and history of the colonial settlers and information on local shipping, gold mining, saw milling and farming in the area. We stopped and had a look at their lovely collection of exhibits before enjoying our picnic.
We drove through the beautiful countryside for another hour or two before stopping for a twenty-minute walk to Purakauni Falls. Surrounded by bush this magnificent waterfall cascades 20 metres over three tiers and was a dazzling sight.
Our last stop before the campsite was Owaka. A delightful little village with a wonderful teapot garden. I loved it but I couldn’t count how many teapots she had on display, there were hundreds. The more you looked the more you could see.
We drove down the gravel track to the Newhaven Holiday park. As a little girl I was taken to Newhaven in Sussex on holiday many times so it was a ‘must see’ for me. We weren’t disappointed it was a lovely spot and the best campsite we stayed in on our whole journey. Run by Lyndon and Jacqui it was very small with only 10 cabins and a dozen or so camping sites. In the middle was a spacious amenities block with showers, washing machines, a kitchen and a small lounge, which were all beautifully clean and well kept. There was a little veggie patch that you were welcome to pick from in exchange for the odd job or a dollar or two. At the end of the site was a track which led down to the beach. After about a mile of so we came across what looked like a large lump of wood but when we got closer we realised it was a sea lion. I think we disturbed him because he sat up and growled at us but then lay down again. A bit further along there were several others. We left them to bask in the evening sun. While Bill put the tent up I made some dinner then afterwards we sat in an otherwise empty lounge and watched an old episode of Coronation street – it all felt wonderfully normal and there were NO sandflies.
We went for a lovely walk on a delightfully sandy beach.
Wednesday 16th February
Although the Gunn camp was very nice and friendly, it was in a valley and the sun didn’t come over the top of the mountain until gone 10am. Unfortunately this is the kind of environment that sand flies flourish in. While we were trying to pack the tent away if I killed one sand fly then I must have killed 80, they were everywhere. We had jeans on luckily because they were crawling up our legs, flying into my face and getting in my hair; I had several bites in my hair.
We packed up the car as quickly as possible and drove down the road to meet Peter and Margie for our walk. The road became a track and you couldn’t drive any further. Peter and Margie were there in their van. A well-graded track took us on a short climb through the rain forest to the lookout of the impressive Humbolt Falls. Unfortunately we couldn’t get any nearer and it wasn’t a good view so we came back down the track, crossed the swing bridge and walked along by the river. It was a lovely setting. This was where we left Peter and Margie for a few days. They wanted to do more hiking in the area but we wanted to make our way further south. I’m sure we’ll bump into them again.
We drove further back down the road to the entrance to Marian falls. We had to cross another swing bridge – I just love these swing bridges, not, and walked along the track through the rain forest again. These falls were more like we were expecting. There were a spectacular series of waterfalls which we viewed from a gantry that hugged the side of the steep bank.
We drove back across the glacial moraine towards Te Anau with superb Alpine views. Half way down we stopped at the Mirror lakes to gaze at the marvellous reflective views of the Earl mountains behind them.
Once through Te Anau we joined the Southern Scenic Route that was to take us right round the southern side of the island. We stopped briefly at Manapouri to look at the lake of the same name with its stunning mountain views. Manapouri is the departure point of boat trips out to the power station at the other side of the lake. It’s possible to continue across a short stretch of land onto Doubtful sound where you join another boat trip. We really wanted to do this but it’s a whole day and way beyond our budget. So we just enjoyed the view. We continued our drive ever further south.
We swapped the mountains for soft rolling hills very like the South downs. We passed through Tuatapere, which is the centre of a farming community and is known as the ‘Sausage Capital of New Zealand’. Sadly we couldn’t buy any because we didn’t have any where to keep them. We continued down to the sea and stopped at Te Waewae bay for a picnic. It was a bit windy on the cliffs but there were breathtaking views of the bay. This was as far southwest as we could go so we turned the car eastward and started driving along the coast.
It was a beautiful calm sunny day but we noticed some thing odd about the trees; they were leaning right over. These trees aren’t being blown by the wind they have grown like that. It gave us an insight of how windy it must get along this coast – glad we didn’t bring the boat down here.
Tuesday 15th February
We slept much better in the insect free campsite. We packed up and, after doing a bit of shopping, drove to Milford sound. The stunning alpine 66-mile drive takes in the most spectacular terrain and is one of the most scenic highlights of New Zealand. Every winding bend brought a new view better than the last. The journey takes you from the green grass lowland pastures of the Eglinton river, through native bush, up into the rocky mountainous area around the Homer tunnel.
Completed in 1953 the Homer tunnel pierces the sheer rock to allow access to Milford Sound. The tunnel is just under a mile long and 945 metres above sea level. There are another 10 miles of mountainous terrain beyond the tunnel through a valley with sheer sides of shattered rock.
According to Maori legend the fiords were created by the legendary Tuteraki with his adze, he started in the far south and by the time he reached Milford Sound he had perfected his technique and carved an awe-inspiring fiord. Piopiotahi, to give it its Maori name, stretched out in front of us making a dazzling sight. We parked up and went and booked a cruise for later in the afternoon. We had a lovely lunch and then explored the various walks around the village of Milford.
We were so lucky to have a beautiful blue-sky day for our cruise. Words and photos cannot describe the beauty of our surrounding. We saw seals sunbathing, breathtaking waterfalls which the boat went right into, and majestic mountains rising 1200m out of the sparkling water. We went out to the sea and then returned down the other side, it was awe-inspiring. Although it was cold the sun just shone all afternoon. While talking to the skipper later we learnt that they only have about 80 days a year like this so we were lucky.
Milford sound is the top thing on the list of 101 things to do in NZ and I think I would agree with them.
After our cruise we stopped at the Chasm half way between Milford and the Homer tunnel. This was an impressive rock chasm formed by the rushing waters of the Cleddau river. The loop walk offered views of waterfalls and sculptured rock formations.
We had looked at a few campsites on the drive up but they were all DOC sites with compost toilets, a no no as far as I was concerned. Peter and Margie can use them because their motorhome had a shower and toilet but we decided to drive to the Gunn camp. It had been recommended by the i site in Te Anau. It had proper toilets, showers, a kitchen with an outside barbeque and …….. SANDFLIES.
Sunday 13th February
We didn’t know where Peter and Margie had ended up but we had been planning to go Te Anau today so we thought if we continue on down there we’d probably bump into them. Meanwhile our concern was where could be get a shower? Idea – Go swimming. We found a lovely pool in the next town so we had a nice swim, sat in the spa pool to soothe both our backs and then had showers and I washed my hair, perfect. We continued our drive down the southern shores of Lake Wakatipu.
At the bottom of the lake we saw a signpost to the Kingston Flyer, a steam train. We decided to go and have a look. As we drove into the car park we found Peter and Margie having lunch in their van, how spooky was that? We had no idea they had stopped there. We all thought it was very funny. The ironic thing was that the train track had closed down and the train had been retired but the old waiting room had an interesting museum in it and a nice coffee shop.
We all continued on our way to Te Anau, which took several hours to drive, but not a lot to see except sheep, sheep and more sheep.
Te Anau is the gateway to Fiordland National Park and lies nestled on the edge of Lake Te Anau, the largest lake in South Island. Across the silvery blue waters is some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenery. The four ‘arms’ of the lake extend many miles into the mountains to the west. These arms once held glaciers which flowed into one main trough, grinding out what now forms the bed of lake Te Anau. We drove out to a D.O.C camp on the outskirts of Te Anau. We pitched our tent next to Peter’s van among the trees.
We had the most fantastic views across the lake for our evening drinks but unfortunately the camp was inundated with mosquitoes. It also only had one compost toilet, which absolutely stank.
We had to spray the tent with fly killer before we dare open the inside. It was a cold night and I didn’t get much sleep. The next morning we had to spray again because there were thousands of mossies and sand flies buzzing around. When Bill packed up the tent we shook the dead ones into a mug and they filled it! With the mossies and the compost toilet I stamped my feet and declared no more DOC sites.
We had one more look at our stunning view of the lake and then drove into Te Anau and found a nice insect free campsite. Margie and I spent the morning doing washing and interneting and I had a nice long shower, Peter went for a walk and Bill visited the local hardware store. In the afternoon we drove into the town to look around the shops. We also went to the local cinema to watch a film on Fiordland; it was spectacular. It had been filmed by a local helicopter pilot and showed the part of Fiordland that can’t be reached by land; the waterfalls were breathtaking. During the hour it was showing we just watched, mesmerised, all wishing we could see it for ourselves. As it was Valentines day we all went out for a super meal in the evening.
Saturday 12th February
We agreed with Peter and Margie to visit Queenstown separately so Bill and I packed up the camp and drove into town. Queenstown is described as the adventure capital of the world and one of the brightest diamonds in New Zealand’s jewel studded crown – humm, I’m not sure I would go that far but it certainly had a lot going on. Nestled on the northeastern shores of Lake Wakatipu Queenstown was formerly a gold-mining town but now relies on tourism. It offers a host of exhilarating activities from jet boating to bungy-jumping and skiing in the winter.
After parking the car the first thing we came across was the local church’s farmers market. These are always very well organised with lots of examples of local produce on display and for sale. We bought some locally growth fruit and homemade cakes. The church had a beautiful flower display inside.
We walked along the waterfront to the peninsular gardens established in 1867. Trees and flower gardens cover a small promontory with paths leading through the gardens out onto the waters edge. There were fabulous views across Lake Wakatipu to the Remarkables range.
We watched the TSS Earnslaw arrive on the waterfront. It offers trips across the lake but as with a lot of things in New Zealand it’s beyond the cruising budget. We walked along the waterfront and watched the jet boat going out onto a fairly rough lake as it was blowing a good F5/6, which was creating quite a chop. It was only out a few minutes before it came back in to let someone off who had already been seasick. We decided with that and our bad backs it wasn’t for us neither was bungy jumping. (Sorry Paul and Derry we failed!)
One thing we did treat ourselves to was a ride on the skyline Gondola. Opened in 1967 you are whisked up 450m in small gondolas that takes just four minutes. The views from the viewing platform across the town and lake to the Remarkables were breathtaking.
There’s a further chairlift that takes you higher and you have the option of walking back down or taking the Luge ….
…. So we had a go
We had arranged to meet Peter and Margie at a different campsite that was quite a way out of town next to a lake. When we got there it was very crowded and the only facilities it had was one compost toilet, so we went back to the same campsite we had been in the previous night but didn’t camp next to the lake this time so as not to upset the ranger.
During a conversation with Thomas while we were on our tour, we learnt that we had been awarded the WOA Rayner Challenge plate for our ‘Epic Voyage’. This is the Association’s oldest and most prestigious accolade awarded by the association to anyone they consider has completed a voyage that stretches them and their crew well beyond their usual cruising plans.
We were very flattered to be awarded this and touched that people at home still think about us. Our thanks go to the committee that considered us, Dick Leedham for paying our subs and accepting the award on our behalf and to Liz Roberts for sending me the photos.