May - June 2016
  • Day20

    Final shot of scenery

    June 6, 2016 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌙 2 °C

    Queenstown to Glenorchy & return to Queenstown airport. Fly to Sydney, fly to Wagga
    Coldest start to the day so far, -5c with a very heavy frost on the ground. Soon warmed up as we had to pack up our vans and all our belongings we have gathered over the past 2 weeks.
    Left all our excess food & supplies at the van park kitchen for some other travellers to make use of.
    Decided to make the most of the morning so we headed north west (sort of) to Glenorchy, about 50km from Queenstown & at the upper reaches of the lake.
    The roads winds around the edge of the lake , occassionally diverting up or down some steepish hills. Bit treacherous due to large sections covered in frost so we went pretty steady, just stopping a few times to take photos across the lake towards yet another range of snow topped mountains, some mist hanging over the lake gave it a nice look.
    Stopped long enough at Glenorchy to have a coffe & a look at the old wharf area before we began our final journey back to Queenstown airport. On the way we came across a car that had lost contol on an icy bend and ended up in the ditch, a bit mangled but all looked ok.
    Our GPS had 1 final go at us, sending us to the wrong adress for the Blitz Van Return so we had an extra lap of the airport carpark looking for it. Finally got there and both vans were returned with just over 2900km travelled over the whole trip and only 4km difference between the 2.
    After a quick check of the outside, the Britz guy gives us the OK and then gives us a $180 road tax bill for the duty on the diesel we have used. We were surprised how cheap ($1.10-1.30/ L) how diesel was, but it is without duty and all road users have to pay this duty, later on.
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  • Day19

    Cruising Queenstown

    June 5, 2016 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Just Queenstown today
    Had a leisurely breakfast while we enjoyed the fresh crisp morning, officially -1c but chill factor of -5c.
    So when the frost had lifted a little we took the van park shuttle bus into town for our 11.30 Segway tour.
    Plenty of people about doing stuff on the water while we stayed on dry land. The Segway people picked us up in a mini van and took us to a carpark, about 1km away where we were "trained" in the dark art of Segway riding. After we had read & signed a disclaimer, absolving them in case we ran over over any pedestrians. Funny how the jetboats were much more dangerous but no disclaimers there.
    Sue decided it was not for her and decided to wander the town on foot rather than on 2 wobbly wheels. The rest of us (7 of us) zoomed around until we thought we wee pretty good, only Simon & Michelle had done this before, so they were just showing off.
    Ready for real world we set off at a sedate pace, weaving thru pedestrians, shopping centres & stopping along the way for our guides to give us a few bits of info about Queenstown.
    They told us that Queenstown is based on 4 "rushes", the 1st was the Greenstone /Jade by the Maori, then the Gold Rush in the 1800s, then the White rush, the snow and ski influx and now it is the Adrenaline Rush, with all the action sports both winter & summer.
    Did 1 uphill & 1 downhill, then they upped our speed limiters a bit to 12km/hr. We went around the bay, thru some suburban streets and up into the botanical gardens where we stopped and the guides showed us how to play frisbee golf. The gardens have an 18 hole course. Looks like fun.
    Continued back through the warf area, thru the crowds, waving at Sue as we wizzed by. Then they increased our max speed to 20km/hr for the final jaunt home, returning to the gravel carpark and handing back these great little machines. Bundled back into the van and dropped off back into town where we met up with Sue.
    On recommendation we headed straight to the most famous burger joint in NZ, Fergburgers who make 20 different types of hamburger. As it was 2.30pm, we were lucky there was only a 20 min wait, apparently in summer there is a 2 hour wait. Finally lucked a table just before our order was ready, just as well as they are very hard to eat standing up, without about 6 paper towels each. I had the plain burger, the others had the same with bacon & avocado. We all agreed it was most likely the best burger we had ever eaten. Yummo!
    After that culinary extravagance we had a nice long walk around the CBD before the cold drove us into a pub for a warm seat & a cold drink. As it was getting on to dark, we went up to the gardens where there was an electric light show, using light to highlight the natural park features or create their own. Very nice, would be lovely at night but we would have frozen by then.
    Walked back to Fergburgers, the bakery side this time and bought some delicious pies & pastries for our last supper in NZ. Got some wine to wash it down with to complete the scene.
    Took the shuttle bus back to the van park, grabbed the chairs next to fire and shared our spoils while picking out our own individual highlights / memorable moments from our fantastic trip.

    Weather was sparkling cold and crystal clear, max about 10c

    Highlights
    * Segway tour around the bay,
    * Fergburgers burgers for lunch,
    * Fergburgers pies etc for dinner,
    * casual walk around Queenstown
    * nice warm log fire, wine, dinner & a good ol chat between friends (still) and travelling companions.
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  • Day18

    Shotover

    June 4, 2016 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Cold and absolutely clear skies, looking forward to a beaut day. No deadlines so we had a leisurely start and headed off to Queenstown, only after visiting the local craft market (only small purchases) and the community book fair (1 book bought). That done we embarked on the 1 1/2 hour trip back thru the Southlands, plenty of traffic going south, many had fishing boats attached, ready for a long weekend of fishing. Saw someone being booked by the police for what we think was unauthorised camping on the side of the road. Went past farms with cattle, sheep & deer, no dairy down this far south. Apparently the deer are used for meat, antlers & velvet from the antlers.
    Stopped a few times for scenic photos and smoko by the lake, wind had picked up and the lake had some nice waves happening. Only saw 1 fishing boat out.
    Got into Queenstown and went directly to our van park, about 4 km north of town. After checking in and having lunch at our picnic table, we were ready for action.
    A 10 min walk down the road took us to the Shotover Jetboats, the shallow hulled jet boats that produce over 700 HP and travel in about 10cm water. Simon & I queued up with 10 other unsuspecting citizens, put on splash jackets, life vests & before we know it we are in the boat and our pilot gives us a 15 sec safety rundown then says to put on our seat belts. Everyone looking & the pilot laughs, there aren't any! He says he will do a bit of a spin and everyone wave, for the cameras. Then he gives it the full throttle and takes us on 25 mins of awe inspiring water action, getting up to 90km/hr through canyons just wider than the boat and regularly throwing some 360 degree spins, at full throttle. We went down river for about 10 mins, there was only about 1 minute when we were going in a straight line, whenever there was a bend or choice of travel, he would take the shallowist or riskiest route, closest to the banks, rocks, logs or whatever obstacle he couldn throw the boat around. No wonder this is rated as the most exciting ride in this town. 10 mins back up the river, past our starting point until about 500 m along, it was all rocks, so he turns for home and for a bit of extra fun, does another pass thru the canyon & another couple of 360s.
    It was freezing cold but no-one cared but it was just so exciting, probably the biggest adrenaline thing I have ever done.
    Michelle & Sue waited on top and got some great photos and I think secretly they wished they had come along (probably not!).
    We then caught the free shuttle bus into town, where all the people were returning from their day's fun, it was really starting to get going, being a Sat night on a long weekend, plenty of young people about ready to party.
    These more mature folk hit the supermarket, bought some supplies & caught a cab back to the van park as the temp had dropped to about 3c as the sun went down
    The van park has a superb amenities block, complete with a wood fire which we stoked right up while we went over the day's action.
    Followed dinner with a few hands of cards and finished off some wine & coffee.
    Re-met some fellow travellers that we have seen in other parks & events. Minus 1c when we turned in.

    Later that night Michelle and Simon snuggled safely in their bed when the door opens!! It is trueabout the van hopping in trailor parks, after some convincing Sue was sent back to their van next door. She now has her official trailor trash badge.

    Weather was magnificent, cold and fine, max about 12c

    Highlights
    * superb scenery on route to Queenstown
    * Shotover Jetboats
    * Queenstown top 10 holiday park.
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  • Day17

    Ffiordland

    June 3, 2016 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Van free day today, we are off to Doubtful Sound, supposedly different to Milford Sound. We had pre booked so all we had to do was stand outside our van park at 8.45 and let it all happen. Small bus picked us up pretty promptly and drove us down to Manapouri Lake, about 20 mins away. Day was pretty overcast so not too optimistic about fine weather.
    At Manapouri we checked in, picked up our pre-ordered picnic lunches and boarded the large boat to take us on the 1st leg of the journey. Went across the lake, the largest in the Sthn Hemisphere, it took 50 mins at 25 knots. The trip was booked thru Real Journey's who have the exclusive rights to Doubtful Sound, and have been doing so for over 50 yrs. Reached the West Arm of the lake which has a hydro power station, built in the 1960s, to supply power to a nearby aluminium smelter. We waited in the small info centre until Chris, our original mini bus driver arrives in a coach size bus to take 44 of us on the gravel road over Wilmot Pass to the boat at Doubtful Sound. The road was originally built to provide access to the power station so all supplies were brought in by barge from the ocean, trucked over the mountain to the power station. So the road has no traffic but is subject to trees, landslips, washouts, etc. The area receives about 8000mm rain per year and can get 300mm in 1 day.
    After 20 mins we arrive at the warf and get on our boat, the Navigator, which is normally used for overnite cruises but today is used for day tours, so a bit of extra luxury but no use of the sleeping cabins.
    Off we went on a 3 1/2 hour crise, down the sound, right into the ocean and then turned around & came back. The day was cool, overcast & some misty rain but it gave the whole atmosphere a special feel and some spectacular views.
    Cruising along and a pod of dolphins decided to have a frollick under & near the boat for a little while, the captain shut back the engines & drifted for a while till they passed. Wonderful sight.
    Then at the ocean (the roaring 40s) we stopped right alongside a group of small islands that the fur seals use for basking in the sun. No sun today but plenty of basking happening.
    On the return trip the captain pulls into a small cove and completely shuts all the engines off and asks everyone to stay still, dont talk & no photos. For about 10 mins all that we could hear was the birds, a distant waterfall and the rain drops falling on the water, what acoustics, what silence. One in our group found this a challenge ....
    Finally had to dock, take the bus back over the mountain, board the next boat & return to Manapouri then the mini bus back to Te Anau about 6pm.
    Early dinner tonight that Sue & Michelle had done last last night, a chat to a few new travellers and we were all done by 8pm.

    Weather was cool overcast, showers of misty light rain, all day.

    Highlights
    * the whole Doubtful Sound tour,
    * dolphins at work/play
    * fur seals, doing nothing but waving a fin or two,
    * 10 mins of silence on the sound (hardest work Sue has had to do for ages!)
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  • Day16

    Road called ICE/GRIT

    June 2, 2016 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 13 °C

    Travelled from Wanaka to Arrowtown to Te Anau
    Not such a great vista today when we awoke, a fog covered the valley and hid the mountains. Never mind, we resumed out drive south, heading for Arrowtown.
    As soon as we left Wanaka there a big sign on the roadside, "Ice/Grit", maybe its the name of the highway we are on. Have seen it in various places along the way and obviously indicates there could be ice on the road or grit dropped there by the council to stop vehicles slipping on the ice. Plenty of signage this morning as we went along altho no ice but could see the roadsides and paddocks were frozen.
    Went around a bend and there before us was a fence covered in bras! Had to stop there & check it out. The nearby community of Carbona has set this an awareness campaign for breast cancer and invite ladies to hang a bra & donate some $. Sue left one of hers and a few $ in the donation box.
    A few km along we reached a high peak on the range and it was well and truly covered with snow, good enough for some skiers to get in some early season practice. Of course we stopped & threw some snow about as well.
    After a nice steep drive down the other side we were given our 1st long distance view of Queenstown, very impressive.
    Soon we turned off & went into the historic village of Arrowtown, named after the 3 creeks converging in the shape of an arrow. Was sunny but freezing, there was a hoar frost and the ice on the puddles was about 20mm thick. The town was originally a gold rush town in the 1800s, the Chinese immigrants got the whole thing going and must have suffered during the freezing winters. There is a small recreation of the old settlement along the creek.
    The main street is a narrow street with the shops retaining original frontages and a side street still has the old miners cottages.
    We stayed there until lunching in the park, nice & sunny but in the shade the grass was still frozen.
    A few km out of town we caught a quick view of the classic NZ mountains reflected in the water, giving us a glimse of Lake Hayes.

    Bypassing Queenstown we continued south through amazing Southland territory, undulating pasture lands, beaut trout streams, deer farms, hunting lodges and the now normal snowy mountains behind. 1 1/2 hours later we arrived at Te Anau and our van park was located right on the lake. Was very chilly wind but warmed up once inside the kitchen / dining room where we met French, Singaporeans, Israelis, Chinese, Spanish, & a couple of token Kiwis.
    Weather was fine all day but cold & windy in the afternoon

    Highlights
    * snow to play in,
    * Arrowtown & its quaint street, shops & houses,
    * drive to Te Anau, thru the Southlands
    * Te Anau van prk on the lakeside
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  • Day15

    Rivers, Lakes, Snow & Mountains

    June 1, 2016 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 13 °C

    Haast, up & over Haast Pass, stopping at Thunder Creek, Fan Tail Falls, Blue Pools, Lake Huwea, Lake Wanaka & Wanaka.

    The cold wind blew most of the night and eased off before dawn but still very cold at breakfast, but clear and no sign of clound so the day looks promising.
    Headed south on Haast Pass, the road following the rivers with snow topped mountains towering over us on both sides.
    Our first stop at Thunder Creek, the temp was still only 2c, lovely waterfall dropping into the river below. Noticed some piles of stones, little stone cairns dotted along the riverbank. From then on, every time we stopped, we saw these, not sure of their significance but given these fast running creeks, they certainly wont be permanent.
    The next stop was at Fantail falls, a smaller water fall that spreads out as it falls into a creek. The rocks in the creek bed were still covered in ice as the sun hadn't yet touched them. Sue built another cairn and then we were off again in the comfort of our warm vans.
    Next stop was the Blue Pools and required a little longer walk through some forest and over 2 swinging walk bridges until we came upon the Blue Pools which are the deep pools of water from a creek just as they merge with a larger river. The colour is an absolutely clear pale blue, can see every pebble on the bottom of the creek bed, we watched a couple of large trout swimming just underneath us, completely undisturbed. Heaps phots and the walk back was as good as the walk in.
    Stopped for a late lunch at a tiny village of Makarora West where we ate our lunch in front of a huge open fire, looking out over the paddocks & mountains.
    Just as well because no sooner had we left there than we came upon the expanse of Lake Wanaka, against a background of glorious mountains. It seemed to go for ages until the road veered away, over another range and we are presented with Lake Hawea, which provides another set of lake/mountain/snow panoramas.
    Finally we get into Wanaka township and decide to stay the night rather than get into Queenstown late. Good choice because the Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park is set up on the south side of the lake and we had a fine view of the lake, the town & the mountains.
    The park was probably the best we have stayed at so far with a large kitchen dining area with a large wood fire. So we settled in and the ladies did their usual routine, discovering fellow travellers from Japan, Argentina (who spoke Italian, to Sues delight), Germans (who were cooking Irish Stew!), French, and a couple of Aussies.
    Is State of Origin Rugby League night so we stayed up to watch the 1st half, but as the game didn't start till 10.20pm, we didn't stay till the end.

    Weather was cold, fine and absolutely superb. Max about 10c.

    Highlights
    * All our stops were special but Blue Pools probably sneaks in at No. 1 due to it's unique colour.
    * ALL the scenery
    * Wanaka Kiwi van Park
    * multi cultural dinner & discussion.
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  • Day14

    Up, up & away

    May 31, 2016 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Franz Joseph town, chopper over the glaciers, drove to Lake Paringa, drove to Haast

    Half awake all night wondering what the day will conjure up, bit like Xmas wondering what Santa will bring. Woke to cold but fine morning, tho the sun doesn't get up till late in these parts (7.45am). Hoping for the best we (the ladies) only had time to "chat" to a couple of French & German young backpackers, no travelling hints from these two.
    Quick exit from the van park to take advantage of the clear morning, we scooted down town and engaged the services of a reputable looking mob to take us over the glaciers.
    So very soon, after parting with a considerable amount of hard earned $, we were signed up, weighed and safety briefed and escorted to the lift off site, about 300m from their office. Brett, our helicopter pilot was there waiting for us and before we knew it, we were strapped in, headphones on, cameras ready and we were off into the mountains. I was lucky to get front seat and what a thrill that was, arising through the valley floor up into the mountains, skimming a couple of mountain edges and admiring the view. Apparently all the rain the last couple of days has resulted in a nice dusting of snow on all the upper peaks, giving us a nice white vista.
    Firstly we flew up onto Fox Glacier which is the longest glacier and then at the top Brett tells us he is landing on a flat bit at the top, looks like it is the size of a footy field but in fact could fit 100 fields on it.
    There was very little wind so we had a perfect touchdown before Brett let us out to play in the snow and take some happy snaps. The snow was probably about 20-30cm deep with solid ice below. After about 5 minutes we were strapped in again, this time Simon got front seat, and we were off again, the chopper rising steeply, crossing over the mountains to reach Franz Joseph Glacier which is a bit shorter but steeper.
    Absolutely stunning scenery and it was hard to remember to take photos with so much to see, the glacier, the crevasses, the snow capped mountains, the waterfalls, the snow hikers huts, the valleys and the torrents of water from melted ice.
    Next thing we know we are hovering near the landing pad and Brett is thanking us for travelling with them, etc.
    Still grinning, we are escorted from the landing back to their office for a final debrief, then we are off to have a coffee and chat about what a great thrill we have just had.
    Doing more earthly projects, we drive south, taking about 1/2 hour to drive to the town of Fox Glacier which took about 6 minutes in the chopper. After hearing about the great stoney beach at Bruce Bay, we push on for a late lunch, driving through some winding roads, flanked on the east by the snow topped mountains, and criss-crossed by numerous creeks & rivers and the familiar 1 lane bridges.
    We stopped at Bruce Bay, which was a rocky beach, no sand but covered with driftwood. Having been told that the beach was famous for decorative stones, we went prospecting, did get some nice rocks and plenty of coloured stones and swarms of sand flies. Not sure if we picked any of the valuable ones but got some nice ones anyway. The best thing at this beach was there was a huge pile of white beach rocks and a blue texta. Travellers had written their names or messages on their own rock & left it as part of the pile. We added to the pile!
    Getting way past lunch we continued on, seeking a suitable lunch spot, we eventually came upon Lake Paringa, a large natural lake, a glorious spot to stop. Established ourselves out of the icy wind, we enjoyed a relaxing lunch on the foreshore.
    Still heading south we came upon a spot along the coast road called "Ship Creek", recommended to us a couple of days ago by Dave, the tour guide. Ships Creek was a very well constructed public walkway - 2 walks, 1 along the sand dunes and 1 along the creek. We took the creek walk, about 20mins along a well gravelled walkway through rainforest, swamps and coastal scrub. Was only 6ç so was pretty chilly but well worth the walk, lovely forest.
    We were aiming to go another 150km but after 20km we reached the town of Haast and while small, it offered a couple of van parks and some shops. So after talking to a shop owner, we decided it was not wise to keep driving so we checked into the Top 10 van park on the outskirts of town. Bit nervous as we were the only visitors but the couple running it seemed nice and the ammenities were very good. Apparently this park used to be a hunting lodge so has a huge games room & lounge and the kitchen is an old plane hanger that has been converted. Is well appointed but is open along 1 side, that was a condition that had to be met.
    Anyway the wind was howling off the snow so we took advantage of the free courtesy bus to a nearby hotel, the Frontier Inn, which was a very pleasant surprise, had a large open fireplace in the centre of the large open dining room. So we got the best seats - the lounges in front of the fire and stayed there for the evening. Had a delicious dinner before returning to our vans, blowing even stronger & colder. There are no large trees on this site and the vans were swaying all night from the wind.
    Funny sight, at the hotel there were 1 or 2 bus loads of Chinese? who came in for a buffet dinner & on the table behind us was a lady, still dressed in her snow gear, eating a bread roll, on her fork, like it was a potato or something, not so familiar with the local customs!

    Weather has been spot on today, mostly sunny, only some showers when we were driving, then cold and cloudy in the afternoon.

    Highlights
    *All Day!
    * Van park in the rainforest,
    * Helicopter ride,
    * the glaciers,
    * playing in the snow up the top of the glacier
    * great scenic drive along the coastline,
    * lunch site at Lake Paringa
    * river walk at Ships Creek
    * unique van park
    * dinner at Frontier hotel
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  • Day13

    Surf & Snow & Scenery

    May 30, 2016 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    Greymouth to Hokitika to Hokitika Gorge to Franz Joseph.
    Every day starts differently for us, today was the day we had clear skies and a freezing cold wind. We are 30m from the sea and it is the coldest we have been all trip. The wind was from the south, straight off the snow.
    The sea was pretty rough and an ugly swell so the girls played on the beach, that is the hard black granite rocks & pebbles that substitute for sand.
    1st call was back into town to the tourist info centre which was great and the lady there gave us some very good info.
    The first recommendation was to follow the concrete floodwall which follows the river down to the sea. The town has had numerous floods over the years and after 2 in 1988, they decided to build the floodwall. Can drive right out to the end where the sea & river meet. Definitely no surfers or swimmers out today, there was spray off the waves going 5m high and the only living souls out there were the seagulls, and they dont count!
    Quite spectacular as when we looked south we could see the snow capped mountains in the background, behind the breaking waves.
    Too cold to linger so we motored south towards Hokitika Gorge that we were told about. The 30km drive inland from Hokitika was superb with the road meandering through lush dairy and sheep pastures with the mountains and snow as a backdrop all the way. Got to go over a few more 1 lane bridges, over the many creeks & rivulets that cross this land.
    Finally came upon the gorge which directed us on foot, to a gravel walkway for a few hundred metres before opening up onto a brilliant turquoise blue river which originates up in the mountains somewhere. The walk continued over the river, via a swinging cable footbridge, around a bend in the river to allow some more special views upstream.
    After taking a gazillion photos we strolled back to the vans whereupon we set up out camp chairs, table and proceeded to enjoy our lunch overlooking the valley under a beautiful sunny day.
    Places to go so we packed up and drove back into the town of Hokitika which is famous for the Jade / Greenstone. Had a look around but most of the jade is just as jewelry so we just windowed shopped for while before continuing our foray south.
    Our aim was to reach the town of Fanz Joseph, 135km away, didnt seem too much of a stretch until about 30km out of Hokitika when it started to rain (1st time today!) and it kept going and even increasing to a torrential downpour in some stages. Arrived at FJ just on dark, 1st stop was the small supermarket and then onto the van park located just on the side of town.
    The park is outstanding for scenery, we are parked out the back in the rainforest, with just enough space for our 2 vans and then rainforest between us and the next spaces.
    Pretty nice facilities so we cooked tea, lightly interrogated a young Dutch couple, played a few hands of 500, Sue and I giving the Swan's a real surprise before they sneaked ahead and ran out eventual winners.

    Weather was bizarre - cold and windy but fine early morning, warm & sunny and calm at lunchtime & then rain to heavy rain all afternoon, stopping after dinner.

    Highlights
    * lovely granite stone beach
    * dramatic surf with the wind causing lots of spray
    * seeing the surf with snow mountains in the background
    * picturesque drive up to the gorge
    * stunning colour of the river at the Hokitika Gorge
    * glorious luncheon location
    * dramatic drive into the mountains to Franz Joseph
    * unique camping spot in the rainforest caravan park
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  • Day12

    East coast to west coast

    May 29, 2016 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌙 7 °C

    Kaikoura baby seal nursery then west to Hanmer Springs & onto Greymouth, on the west coast.

    Hoping for a clear morning and a spectacular sunrise shining on the mountains and it almost happened, lovely to watch the tops of the snow capped mountains get painted with a pink brush, making them blush for a few short minutes before the clouds rolled over and cut off our view.
    Never mind, Michelle was gainfully employed getting info & tips from the tour guide for the American students. They were in fact on a ecology study tour not some secret missionary expedition as we had feared. Got some good sightseeing tips from Dave & then subsequently from a young couple who were conducting scuba diving courses in the area.
    The best tip meant that we left the van park soon after and returned about 20km north to where we had seen some seals sunning themselves on the rocks yesterday. We were told that the baby seals spend their time up a creek, so we went to see.
    Sure enough, the baby seals make their way about 300m up a small, steep, rocky creek until they arrive at a pool under a waterfall. When we saw them, there were about 20 or more seals playing in the water just like puppies, splashing, pushing each other around, fighting for toys and generally having a great time. And we got to stand alongside, less than 1 m away from them, they are not scared at all. Apparently the pups come here for a few days while the mothers are out at sea feeding, so it is like seal day care, not sure if there were any supervising adults tho.
    Returned to Kaikoura and had a quick look around the fore-shore where we found more seals, this time adults and they we sunning themselves in & around the carpark of the lookout. Got some good close up photos & Sue got close enough to get barked at by a big seal who wanted to be left alone.
    Thoroughly impressed we had to leave and make our way south along the coast before turning inland and began ascending the hills, which of course meant the start of the rain. After a while we left the main road and followed a narrow but well made road, with almost no traffic, luckily because most of the bridges were only 1 lane.
    Came out of there onto another highway which wound its way through more very barren hills with a large river running along the bottom. Eventually this brought us to Hanmer Springs, a town built and devoted to the thermal pools which have now been enclosed and thousands of people visit & pay to soak in the "healthy" waters. As it was still raining steadily we adjourned to the 5 Stag Hotel for lunch, which of course has the heads of 5 different types of deer mounted on the wall. After getting the good oil from the locals, we decided to make the longish trek across to Greymouth, a further 210km but 3 1/2 hours + drive.
    This took us on the road called Lewis Pass which would have been a magnificent view if it stopped raining even for a short while. I do not think the wipers were turned off once, the whole time. The road winds its way between the snow capped mountains which seemed to be in clusters rather than a whole range. So most of the time we were alongside at least 1 of a number of rivers and creeks, which after this rain were in full flow. Even little rivulets were creating mini waterfalls as they raced down the hillsides into the larger creeks. Most of the Pass is all native bush, trees or pine plantation and looks pretty lush rainforest region.
    Finally we passed out of this steep country and into less steep & rolling hills where farming could hitrecommence. Paddocks were under water and looked like dairy cows were in danger of getting bogged, weighed down with fully laden udders.
    Through some small villages and about 30km from Greymouth the sun broke through and caused the wet paddocks to be covered in a low hanging mist, almost like driving through fog. The few towns all had their wood fires going and the smoke just added to the haze.
    It was just dark when we arrived in Greymouth so we drove straight to the van park we had selected, but after a quick reconnaissance of the place, from our vans, we drove out and found our way to another park a few Km down the road. It was much better so we checked in there and discovered that we are about 30m from the beach. With the wind blowing and the temp dropping we will delay a beach visit till the morning.
    Had very good pasta dinner in the kitchen area, Sue & Michelle interviewed 2 British girls, 2 Taiwanese lasses & 1 French lad who were all staying here.

    Weather was ok but cloudy till we went into the mountains and then it was cold & wet, all day.

    Highlights
    * brief but spectacular sunrise colours on the mountains,
    * baby seals in their waterfall pool day care,
    * big adult seals taking over the lookout carpark, softer than sleeping on cold rocks,
    * amazing but wet drive over the mountains on Lewis Pass.
    * comfy van park in Greymouth, right on the sea shore.
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  • Day11

    Bye North, Hi South

    May 28, 2016 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌙 10 °C

    Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton, south Island. Drove 160km south to Kaikoura

    Lucky we stayed overnight in the carpark/van park, if it was the normal grassy spot, we would still be there, bogged. It rained all night, with intervals of heavy storms.
    We had to be at the warf by 8 so we skipped breaky and queued up to go onto the ship. It holds up to 1600 passengers & 600 cars. Was probably only 1/2 full today so all loading went smoothly, campervans were last on (& last off). Found some good seats right up the front and settled in for the 3 1/2 hr trip. Expecting it to be rough due to 50 knot winds but was really quite smooth, went through plenty of rain until the sky broke just as we reached the 1st sight of the south island. Some really nice views off both sides of the ferry as it wound its way through the bays & into Picton wharf.
    Almost last off the ferry & into the end of a really heavy storm, all the low lying paddocks were under water & creeks running over. Cruised our way to Blenheim (26km) were we spent a little time exploring car parks, trying to find 1 to fit our vans, well worth it by lunching in an excellent cafe in the CBD.
    Headed south through vineyards and sheep country before getting into some pretty barren hills with no trees or stock, except 1 large salt farm, pretty unusual in these parts. Then we we running alongside the sea with a range of hills just inland. Must create a rainshadow as the grass was brown & the creeks were dry. Then we went around a corner to see in front of us, a huge snow capped mountain, the tops sticking out above the clouds.
    From then on we had coastline to our left and mountain range to our right, the road & railway almost filling the gap inbetween.
    Around another bend and we see seals dotted across the rocks on the shoreline, hundreds of them, lounging about, spending the afternoon sleeping and waving to the tourists who had pulled up to watch them, us included.
    Into Kaikoura late afternoon, shrouded in mist & clouds, so no view of the mountain today. Checked into the Alpine-Pacific Kiwi Holiday Park and was most surprised - surely the best one we have stayed in yet. Small in sites but plenty of kitchen & bathroom space & ammenities, although I did have to use the old trusty pocket knife to get the washing machine working.
    Strolled down to the supermarket and stocked up, returning via a small fish & chip shop selling crayfish, oysters & fresh fish. Thinking some fresh crayfish might be just the ticket for entree, we enquired about those crustaceans only to be told that they were NZ $80 each. No sale here, so continued empty handed back to the park to enjoy an excellent meal, exempt of crayfish.
    Kitchen was heaps busy with a bus load of young Americans, who say they are on an environmental study tour but we suspect more, eg church group or some such as they were too well behaved to be normal students on tour.

    Weather continues to be cool but not cold and ranging from showers to heavy rain with occasional spurts of sunshine.

    Highlights
    * easy embarkation and comfy ride on the ferry,
    * spectacular views of the bays entering South Island,
    * wide range of scenery going down south to Kaikoura
    * finding an outstanding campervan park in town.
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