Round-the-south

February - July 2017
February - July 2017
  • Day135

    Pukaki and tragedy

    July 3, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    After a relaxing morning having well crafted pancakes from chef James we headed towards Tekapo. In no hurry we stopped for photos at the end of lake Pukakai which has Mt Cook visible at the other end.

    Arriving in Tekapo we dumped our bags in our room and said hello to the hostels gorgeous giant bunnies. They all slept on a wheelbarrow snuggling each other to keep warm!

    A drive down to the lake shore and we came upon the famous chapel. Very picturesque but very hard to get a shot without a tourist in it! We decided to go back to Lake Pukaki to try and get nice sunset photos of Mt Cook. It was a bit far away and mist rolled in but the colours behind the other mountains was fiery orange!

    Feeling the cold I'd run back to the car and knew there had been an accident when I saw an ambulance followed by a police car whizzing by. As we drove towards it a full blown emergency response was ongoing. Walking to the front to see if help was needed it was obvious they had it all under control as the firecrew broke the roof off one of the cars. A civilian walked towards me, a nurse she was one of the first cars on the scene and sadly confirmed that two had died.

    Walking back to the car with the somber news, the fire coordinator followed and explained that the road would be closed for at least 6 hours. No diversions were possible for us without 4WD and snow chains so we turned back round and headed for Twizel. We found the local sportsbar which made a good roast dinner and wittled the hours away playing pool against anither stranded couple Emma and Fergus. The owner was very kind and kept the bar open and gave us the money to play pool.

    At 23:30 we headed back to a still closed road, pulling in to the layby at the head of Lake Pukaki I pulled the sleeping bag out and snuggled in for a few hours wait. At 2 the road cleared and we were back in our beds and very thankful to be there
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  • Day134

    Mt Cook

    July 2, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 10 °C

    Waving goodbye to Tony and Dave, the NZ road website declared the roads open, and we were driving towards Mt Cook. We stopped a few times for photos of the crisp white snow against a clear blue sky before arriving in the small alpine Mt Cook village.

    With some persuasion from James we headed for the Hooker valley track, with an added 2km due to the access road being snowed under. Armed with walking poles to help my terrible balance we crunched our way to the beggining. Suprisingly the path was clearly marked by a 1 foot across depression in the snow by the morning trampers so there was no way to get lost off the trail.

    We crossed 3 swing bridges with Mount Cook looming ahead before finally descending to lake hooker shore. The lake was frozen solid and the glacier beyond was buried under the snow. Mount Cook dominated the landscape and looked amazing in the late day sun bathing its snow covered slopes.

    Turning back as sunset the colours on the mountain turned orange whilst the sky beyond turned a deep purple. We reached the car as darkness set in and drove a small distance to the YHA. Setting out soaking boots in front of the fire we toasted another brilliant day in NZ.
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  • Day133

    Travellers rest

    July 1, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Rain had finally arrived coating the area in grey dampness. After driving from Oamaru we parked at the end of Lake Pukaki hoping it would clear. It didn't, so we headed to our hostel for the night. More a farmstay we drove 4km off the mainroad to Buscot Station and were welcomed by Tony.

    A retired farmer and widower Tony started the backpackers when times were hard and now enjoys the company of 3000-4000 backpackers a year. A keen traveller Tony had been to the 4 corners of the world usually on farm tours! Uncle Ed would be jealous!

    He had a cosy lounge with a log burner in the middle, El the other guest was already curled up in the sofa with a cup of tea, and in the oppisite chair lay Frank the cat heavily asleep. We joined them with a steaming cup of coffee and photography books of NZ to flick through.

    Supper was had with all around the table including Dave a longterm guest who has been working at the farm on and off for 10 years. Falling asleep we hoped for better weather the next day.

    Setting off the grey clouds were still ever present as we started our drive up to Mt Cook Village. The snow turned to sleet and cars covered in snow passed by. If those cars could leave we hoped we could continue. We hit the snow and it came down fast. We got as far as 10km away from the village before we had to make a retreat.

    A quick phonecall to Tony and we were back in front of his fire along with 4 other stranded by the weather as they closed the roads. Luckily he has Sky TV so with some beers we enjoyed the Lions test match and hoped for cleared roads in the morning.
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  • Day131

    Dunedin, Moureki and Oamaru

    June 29, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 2 °C

    A drive across the island and we arrived in a very cold Dunedin. A university town we had a pleasant walk through its centre "the octagon" and a walk down to thenstation where the smell of chocolate wafted from the Cadbury's factory.

    The hostel we stayed at "The chalet" was much friendlier with a ling dining table and we met a young couple who were studying photography. They were hawking their talent and were getting paid to create videos for local buisnesses as they travelled around. Very enterprising! They also gave James some good tips for astral photography when we get to Lake Tekapo.😊

    Across the table lay Tenner from Germany who had worked in the North Island for months and was now looking for work in Dunedin to fund travel Asia. Craig had left the UK a year and a half ago and worked as a chef/ hostels and had qualifications to work with thise with mental health. Henhad a wonderful energy and had been to a few of the same places as us in the US and Fiji. He runs a travel blog and was coming to the end of his time in NZ. Hitching his way to Christchurch James offered him a lift so we had an extra passenger for the next day.

    Setting off as a trio on a icy morning we headed out to the Otago Penninsula. With the sun low in the sky and a mist lying over the water it was a beautiful view outbif the window. We crossed over to the other side and walked to lovers leap and the chasm.

    Passing back theough Dunedin (Pak n Save stop) we then beelined to the Moureki boulders, strange spherical rocks that sit on the beach. A lot of fun wasnhad climbing on and in the boulders before heading on to Oamaru. Dropping Craig off at the end of town he'd been a lovely addition to our travels and I hope he continues to have such fun travels.

    We spun back to Oamaru and headed down to the dock at dusk to watch the little blue penguin colony return from a days fishing. Watching the tiny little things waddle back was so captivating. They are little heroes. Heading back to our own hostel to crash for the night we lucked out with a homely place and drifted off very comfortabley in our bunks.
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  • Day130

    Queenstown

    June 28, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 5 °C

    Welcome to the adventure capitol of New Zealand, also the money sucker of NZ (thankfully we saved a lot last week!) It was a liveky sunny day as we arrived and the snow was halfway down the mountains, a good omen for our chosen adventure sport, sking!

    Wandering around the waterfront we met up with Nick and El James' uni friends who's wedding we had unfortunately missed. We had a lovely hot choclate and a short catch up before organising to go out for drinks and food later in the night in a cery nice thai restaraunt.

    Next day after a lazy morning we headed up the cable cars and had a fun hour going uo and down the luge. After working up an appetite the next stop was Fergburger which was yummy with blue cheese! In the evening we walked up to Nick and Wl's Air BnB where we had a lovely meal with wine and wished them well in their continued honeymoon!

    Next day was sking day!! We boarded the bus which wound its way up to altitude and the snow. We broke through the clouds and entered the ski resort. Picking up our boots and skis we lined up with 7 others and were paired with Andrew from Scotland who would be our instructor. A very patient man he had us up the lift and down the begginer park slope within 2 hours.

    Unfortunately for me the angle of the ski boots left my calves screaming and when we finally stopped I became an old woman hobbling about. I couldn't carry on so thanked Andrew and sat myself down with some coffee and mulled wine stretching my calves back out. Watching James progress he soon disappeared out of view ip the big chairlift for a proper run. It's not fair how quick he picks stuff like this up!

    Back down in Queenstown exhausted we wolfed down our food in the hostel before heading out to watch the midweek Lions match, a draw. I'm getting nervous for Saturday!

    James has the ski and luge photos on his blog!
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  • Day126

    Invercargill

    June 24, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 6 °C

    Waving goodbye to Maxine we drove down to Invercargill. Trying to get to the southernmost point we were disappointed to find it blocked by a closed road. Plan B was Waipapa point, somewherr James had camped at his last visit.

    A pretty lighthouse stands at the coast with sealions and seals having a nap on the grass taking only a cursory glance our way. Wandering down to the sea the waves were crashing over the rocky inlet and an orange haze lay in the sky despite being hours from sunset. An idyllic stop.

    We arrived into Invercagill just before sunset and ran over to Queens oark for a walk dyring the sunset where the sky turned a fiery orange. Our hostel had a friendly English man who had been to New Zealand for months mostly trying to do the great hikes and had hopes if doing the Te Araroa hike down the spine of the country.

    Next morning our first stop was Transport world. Created by Bob a local buisnessman with a passion for old cars it now holds over a thousand cara, trucks and tractors in 5 warhouses. Cars looked so much better in the 50's and 60's! While I wasn't as enamoured by the trucks their backhistory was enough to keep me going through. The museum had a good restaraunt so we treated ourselves to lunch before leaving!

    We drove on to Bluff which is the end of route 1 which started in Cape Reinga so we'd done from the top of the north to the bottom of the south (if we ignore Stewart Island)! That night was the first test for NZ v Lions, we were beaten but there might be hope!
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  • Day124

    Milford Sound

    June 22, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Leaving Wanaka behind we went over the Cardona pass with a sprinkling of snow over the mountains. Passing Queenstown we stopped for our 3rd hitch hiker a young woman from Wyoming USA. A keen rugby player she has decided to settle here in NZ, working on a cattle farm. She had been on a week away to visit a friend in Rotarua watching the lions match.

    Dropping her off an hour later we continued on and arrived in Te Anau at dusk. Our backpackers was another trip down memory lane for James and it had a big fluffy cat called Dexter. Again people were in their own little world and the social areas were silent.

    Next morning we were up before dawn on the road to Milford Sound. As light increased the great hulks of stone either side of the valley came out of the darkness. They only became higher the lower down the valley we went.

    We'd booked a cruise that had commentary so a bit pricier but we didn't mind as we only ended up with 10 on our boat and had the views to ourselves. Luckily there was no rain or mist and we could see the sound clearly. I can't believe Mum and Dad's cruise ship came down this narrow straight! With wind blowing in our faces we crusied up and down staring at the high granite walls and the waterfalls dropping down from the cliffs. When it got to cold we grabbed a cupbof soup and a warm roll from the canteen.

    Returning back up the valley now in daylight was spectacular (a bit better than the sound itself) and stopping to see a chasm, we were charmed by a Kea scrounging for some food. Cheeky bugger tried to peck the rubber off the car!

    We tried a different backpackers that night Bob and Maxine's. The place had a lovely open kitchen diner with a log fire and a friendly dutch guest (the Dutch are so friendly!). Maxine the owner was an eccentric, with mumbling speech, asking if we were German and being preoccupied with going down to the pub. She didn't know if she was coming or going, but she does run a lovely place!
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  • Day122

    Wanaka

    June 20, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 5 °C

    Whilst James jumped up at the crack of dawn for a hike up Mount Roy, I didn't fancy this steep looking mountain. Instead after a lesiurely breakfast I walked along the lake shore to "that tree" the other side of the bay. An amazing walk in itself, the view from the lakeside changed with every step.

    A brief wander into town I parked myself at a coffee house and people watched the local residents bustle about and the bus load of tourists land take a photo and leave.

    With James back down we enjoyed a reduced price steak (still yummy!) before heading to a sports bar to watch Lions v Chiefs. It's looking more promising for the test matches!
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  • Day121

    You shall not (Haast) Pass

    June 19, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Having conquered a few passes in South America this was the first in NZ. The lowest of the passes it still has plenty of views and mini walks along the way so took us most of the day to complete.

    We offered a ride to a young Canadian from the hostel who was doing a multi day Copland track. He'd travelled through Asia and hoped to go to Oz next before heading back home and working as a rafting/ ski instructor in Canada. Nice life!

    The Haast pass gave us two waterfalls, one roaring (Roaring Billy) and one thunderous (Thunder falls). Reaching the top of the pass after numerous photo stops we headed up the (steep) hill to the look out. As James says you must go up for the best views. If Anaesthetics fails I might try and invent the jetpack for a easy way up! Or just improve my fitness....

    The sun was setting as we apporached the lakes, bathing the hills in a golden colour and then turning the sky purple. We arrived into Wanaka in the dark to a warm fire in the Wanaka bakpaka. With a private twin room booked as a treat (no smells or weird people that turn heaters off! /open windows/go to sleep early) it was lovely.

    Whilst we were in South America someone had recommended the Cinema Paradisio here in Wanaka so we duly headed out for the first cinema night of our trip. A small place with two screens we shared a box of popcorn and enjoyed our beers whilst sat in the back of a convertible car! Whisked away by the suprisingly good Wonder Woman film the screen turned black for an intermision. Something I've missed in modern cinemas. Here you got freshly baked cookies that melted in the mouth. This is how cinema should be done!
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