We stayed in Te Anau the night before the big day out to Milford Sound. I didn’t sleep well with the anticipation and wanting to wake up early enough to set off before dawn. Which was about 7.45am.
We saw our first waterfalls of the day, which were rivers of condensation running down the inside of the cottage’s windows and collecting in deep specially designed channels on the window sills. Obviously a common phenomenon.
I filled up Jucy and then came back to pick up Heather, knowing that without any overnight frost and peak daytime temperatures forecast to be unusually in double figures, I didn’t need to rent any chains at the local garage but just make sure the tank was replete. I’m not sure Jucy would welcome the indignity of chains anyhow. Or indeed that the clearance between wheel rim and hub was sufficient for her to wear them.
Luckily we had good, if wet, conditions and were soon steadily taking our time along what promised to be a very scenic drive, the 2hrs or so to Milford Sound, along the purpose built road which doesn’t go anywhere else, so it’s not easy to get lost.
Our planned stops on the way there (or back) for photos or short walks were:
Te Anau Downs
We tried many of them, (we never really looked for the Milford Swing) but not all had views due to low cloud and rain, and the Chasm was closed, possibly ever since the road had been washed away in February this year, stranding 200 tourists who had to be rescued by helicopter. They were still working on the repairs, which may take a year to complete.
I’ll let the photos do the talking from here on, only just to say that the road is one of the most exhilarating and extreme I ever been on, and I was very glad the conditions were mild.
Noting prepares you for the breathtaking tunnel and the exit from it into the gallery of the Sound. Wow.
We had a short wait and walk to the Mitre Peak boat after coffee at the reception area. This was the first time we had seen sandflies. Maybe they were attracted to the 1 million visitors a year? Luckily it was not so busy today and we were one of only a few boats to go out. Ours went right out to the Tasman and had about 60 of us aboard. It was really comfortable and felt brand new. What a luxurious way to travel. And a special offer of $49 too – bargain!
We were so lucky with the weather. Rainy enough too make it really atmospheric and create loads of waterfall, but not too wet to go outside and enjoy the experience.
We were also lucky with the tunnel as there were no cars or worse, buses, coming the other way as we went back. Our timing had been perfect as the 1pm tours were much busier. Our 11am adventure had been epic.
We celebrated with my long anticipated steak, by walking down to the Fat Duck after we got back. Sadly it was gristly and not very good. Heston – you are safe from this imposter! (although your chicken popcorn is under threat.)
Milford Sound is described by Kipling (the poet, not the cake maker) as the 8th Wonder of the World. Even if it isn’t a sound, but a fjord, he’ll get no argument from us.
Today was a transitionary day, as we travelled from the adventure capital to the gateway to the Fjordland and the place I have been most corrected on for pronunciation. Tea anna ooh it isn’t apparently.
Tay-AAhn-ow is allegedly better. Or Tay-ah-now is acceptable. The emphasis is on the ah. And that’s understandable. Or even more applicable if it was on the ooh. As in “Ooh – look at that view”. “Ah-mazing!”
We tried to say goodbye to Kimberly but she must have been on the school run. It was raining and I had lost my bravado of the night before when it came to doing the shark thingy. So we turned left instead and headed for the hills. The remarkables.
Skirting alongside them, when they and the lake ran out of steam, we got to Kingston. Kingston too had run out of steam, with nothing open, although the heritage railway the Kingston Flyer was due to be again in a couple of hours, having apparently been back in commercial operation this year. Two hours was too long to wait though especially as the cafe was closed.
We started to see why Otago was described as large open plains, although we were soon in the Southlands.
Garston came and went quite quickly without exposing its charms. We stopped in Athol instead for coffee and discussed, compared and contrasted the merits of this quiet backwater with the even quieter backwater of Ladismith in the Klein Karoo, from where our barista had escaped with her husband 10 months ago and was now turning English into her first language.
For two hours we sped along roads the Romans would have been proud of, between pastoral plains and red tussocks. We took a sharp right at Lowther and another one near Mossburn, although never quite getting to the heart of the Deer Capital of the country.
We did see quite a few specimens though, grazing away contently, presumably on Chewings Fescue, a species of grass developed here by George Chewings in the 1890s. Grass famous not just in New Zealand but also making its way to the hollowed green courts of Wimbledon at one time. The 210 residents of Mossburn must be proud.
Tussocks turned to snow topped mountains and we spotted the large lake Te Anau-side. Our attention was diverted by a Fat Duck. Not expecting Heston Blumenthal to be present in this remote location, we nevertheless had one of the finest lunches of our trip. I had chicken popcorn on sticky rice with Japanese pickles and salad, Heather had pumpkin gnocchi. Both were worthy of Braying about we thought.
A quiet cup-of-soup evening was spent at the cosy Birchwood Cottage in anticipation of an early start tomorrow for a big day ahead.
Our second full day in Queenstown gave us the opportunity to go out on the stunning scenic drive to Glenorchy, visit the attractive small town of Arrowtown, do some extreme wine tasting and visit the AJ Hackett Bungy site. Not to jump as by the time we got there, it was closed. (I would have driven round and round in circles to make sure it was closed, had we arrived early…)
We also thought we might have a steak dinner and take in David Copperfield the movie, but by the time we got back to the apartment just after 5.230pm our energy was spent.
So mostly pictures, rather than words today. We left rather late for us, some might say good planning to avoid any latent frost on the roads, others might say it was a sluggish start from a very comfy and we learned a new mattress.
Glenorchy is a small community that has the slogan “Gateway to Paradise”. Paradise we discovered was some 17km further on. We didn’t go, based on the sceptical gurning of the faces of the experienced veterans at the table next to us in the hotel when we asked them whether it was worth the extra distance.
We had experienced some collateral damage from the fallout of a vitriolic phone conversation we had been exposed to on the way into the Glenorchy hotel for coffee, (although the potty mouth did have the grace to apologise to us) so the 56-year-married last-of-the-winter-wine quaffing couple and their sister were a pleasant contrast to chat to.
Although they didn’t fancy Paradise, it was clear from the giant map on the wall in the hotel what excellent tramping opportunities the area showcases, including the Routeburn Great Walk.
Our next attraction was the charming and well preserved ex gold mining town of 2,000 inhabitants, Arrowtown. Today’s touristic golden seams were being extracted by well heeled retail outlets. And a cheese shop.
We escaped more icebreaker and merino budget busters and after a walk around the town and a look at the damp and cold looking part restored Chinese Miners settlement, we had some warming cheese.
“Age is of no matter, unless you are a cheese”. An excellent philosophy. Or wine of course. Did you mention wine? It would be rude not to especially as Martin had suggested Chard Farm.
We went there directly and experienced our first ever extreme wine tasting as we navigated the perilously steep road which was somewhat incredibly the original road into Queenstown. Dreading the occurrence of an oncoming vehicle given the narrowness and lack of barriers, Heather meditated with her eyes closed for the 2km or so gravel road to the vineyard cellar door.
The cellar door was excellent. And busy. We waited our turn by reading “Dogs of New Zealand Vineyards” and details of the vineyard and its history. Voted 4th best to visit in the world by a magazine article, it was a great visit.
The wines were good too I believe, but spooked by the incoming journey, I sniffed but otherwise stayed off them for the sake of the return leg. We bought a selection of three, a pinot gris, a gewürztraminer and a riesling, so I can try those safely later.
Our adrenaline needs satisfied by the wine tasting, we nevertheless stopped at the AJ Hackett Bungy jumping centre on the Karawau bridge just on the main SH6. We hadn’t seen it on our trip down from Wanaka as the Crown Pass comes out closer to Queenstown.
It was closed. Not my sort of thing anyhow. But the views were spectacular and the water was really blue, so we enjoyed the visit.
Taking advantage of a special offer 10 cents off a litre of fuel today, we filled Jucy up to the brim and once back at the apartment our appetite to go into town melted away, a bit like the mac and cheese enjoyed earlier had done.
David Copperfield will have to wait for a rainy day.
We knew that we wouldn’t be able to hold our heads up high at “Squirrels Leap” if we didn’t go on a jet boat while in Queenstown. So we booked up with K-Jet on the basis that they went down the Shotover River and claimed to have the fastest boats. And they gave you free photos. And they had a special offer 🙂
I was wearing so much clothing I could hardly walk. But I would be warm.
We stopped occasionally to clear our watering eyes and check each other for errant dribble. The scenery was eye watering, let alone the ride.
The pilot was excellent. He explained how the Shotover river changes its course all the time, especially after rain, and how each day it’s like coming back to a new river. Helpful. He was a good looking chap with a glint in his eye, and I suspect he may not struggle to find girlfriends, or boyfriends, for that matter.
He waved his hand in a circular motion from time to time and shortly thereafter tried to get us wet with a jet boat pirouette.
He weaved between stumps of wood and over impossibly shallow pebbles. Not just him. The boat too of course with us on board. No photos of this exist as the centrifugal force would have seen the watery end of the camera or phone. Luckily no photos came out later of the inside of my thighs as I pressed them tightly together onto the camera when we were doing our boatabatic manoeuvres.
We have a plastic jacket on, over our multiple layers and then on top of that, a life jacket. How many fatalities have they had I idly wonder? (while spinning round like a water-bound top). I’ll look that up later. (Actually two have died, neither recently and neither with our operator, who has 8 boats and can take up to 150 people an hour)
Our pilot beached us deliberately but briefly and then cleared the engines of pebbles one at a time. I’m very happily married and heterosexual, so this show of bravado had no effect on me. Although I did wonder briefly how different my life might had been if I’d been a jet boat pilot rather than a stationer. Hey ho.
The whole hour was great fun and it felt like only ten minutes had passed as we throatily sped back to port, passing the weird shark thingy on the way.
One classic Queenstown experience banked, another beckoned. The Fergburger. It wasn’t far and after a chat to the Cornish lass behind the counter, number 9 was soon being announced with our order complete.
We went to the excellent BYO food Perky’s floating bar in the harbour and sheltered by plastic sheeting from gulls and warmly cosseted in the arc of outdoor heaters from the cold, we tried to devour our burgers.
They were, to be fair, very good, although of Brobdingnagian proportions.
And I had chips too. Shame on me.
Nothing left but to have a pint of Guinness in the Pog Mahones Bar nearby, which we felt obliged to do to be sure as we had met Emily from Dublin at the Jet Boats (ten years here) and an unnamed Irishman from Galway (six years here) trying to persuade us to commit suicide adventurously and expensively in the shark thingy.
Humid back at the apartment as our damp freshly washed clothing and heat pumps combine to create a fug of tropical proportions. But at least we will have dry undies tomorrow. Or the day after.
I think tomorrow we will find less exotic ways to endanger ourselves and stick to great scenery and other tame attractions. Although today was just brilliant.
Heather suggested a drive to Glendhu Bay along the western edge of Lake Wanaka before we took the Crown Pass road to Queenstown. We needed to allow the frost to thaw out of the roads and leaving it later to make the passage was sensible.
We saw the route start for Roy’s Peak and the car park was full – obviously a popular choice although not for us today.
We went back into town and had a coffee at the Lake Bar, where the friendly waitress talked to us about the dreaded inversion layer, which apparently can trap the town under a blanket of cloud for weeks on end, making everyone grumpy. We hadn’t seen that, and given the wall to wall sunshine we had experienced, had not been surprised by the amount of new house building we saw, although $2.25 million for a soon to be completed waterside apartment seemed a bit steep.
A group of four behind us spoke Afrikaans, not realising I could understand most what they said. Disappointingly their conversation was all a bit urbane.
We set off to conquer the Crown Pass, with a little trepidation given its fearsome description.
We soon arrived at the “World Famous in New Zealand”, as Martin described it, Cardrona Hotel. This iconic public house was copied and shipped to London and the copy erected there to keep Kiwis from getting too homesick. I can see why. It is a charming place. We loved it.
We had a huge bowl of curried parsnip and pumpkin soup, plus a small libation to gods of steep mountain passes. Only a small one.
The sky was an exceptional blue colour today. Almost unreal. The air is so pure here I guess?
We stopped as suggested at the lookout point overlooking Queenstown in the distance. And as if on cue, the required plane flew into the valley below us, undercarriage lowering for its landing.
We hair pinned hairily downhill towards Arrowtown and Queenstown rather rapidly even in second gear. I can see why there is the concern the conditions have to be just right. They were today, with more hazard from the layers of grit than from ice or snow.
We decided we had time to check out the town centre of Arrowtown, fancying the sound of the cinema there for a rainy day if that occurred, with David Copperfield showing at the Dorothy Browns theatre that we spotted easily in the centre of the well preserved and characterful old gold-rush town.
We will have to come back we thought, rain or no rain. It’s only 25 minutes from Queenstown.
We found our AirBnB at the outskirts of Queenstown and unpacked and made ourselves comfy in the bijou but cosy one bedroom with stunning views over the lake. Then heading into town, which took 15 minutes on foot, where we had a good wander around and managed to get in and out of the Icebreaker shop without spending any more money. Phew!
The busker and his large fluffy hound were warming up, with the hound reaching some unexpectedly high notes.
The centre of the town feels like a resort. In a good way. The atmosphere of holiday pervades the place and there is a profusion of places to eat and drink. And lots of attractions. We noted the shark boat thingy and the variety of jet boats and saw the gondolas taking parachutists to the top of the local mountain where they then floated down into the town. And the paddle steamer returning from a cruise.
Two for one cocktails tempted us in for some excellent and five drop tabasco spicy Bloody Marys at a surprisingly low price in a very upmarket Little Blackwood. We sat right overlooking the waters edge from our first floor window side and enjoyed a fire and comfy sofas to people watch from.
We walked back up the hills before dark, finding a shorter 12 minute route back, then rustled up some pasta and sauce we had been carrying around for weeks for our dinner. Before which we met Kimberly, wife of the husband and wife owners of the AirBnB and mother to the 14 year old teenage daughter we could hear sometimes hear moving about Kevin-like above us. Kimberly was very helpful and welcoming, although couldn’t offer a solution to the clothes drying rack’s disappearance.
We had a cosy quiet TV evening and an excellent night’s sleep in a very comfy bed. After booking up a jet boat for tomorrow. Queenstown is fab!
Like Nelson, we felt no imperative to rush around while we were here, rather to soak up the atmosphere and the sun streaming through every window. Maybe it was travel fatigue. More likely just a lovely opportunity to enjoy some world class views without a care in that world.
We were in no great rush to do anything much. So we didn’t. Rush that is. I saw the the only opportunity to see the replay of the much anticipated Crusaders v Hurricanes super rugby was on Prime at 11am.
No Prime plus one, so I would spoil myself with just the first half, which was hugely entertaining, including one of the most freaky and spectacular tries I’ve ever seen. With the Hurricanes leading at half time and spoiling to spoil the 36 match unbeaten home record so valued by the Crusaders, we went to lunch. No further spoilers…
We lunched at the pleasant and well located Bombay Palace.
A lovely tasty and spicy lunch and a viewing spot to people watch to our hearts content with the sun shining on us across the lake. Bliss.
Today was about the drive and the destination. Haast Pass, 563 metres across the Southern Alps and then Wa – na – ka.
The weather was a bit ominous in Haast first thing. I went out for a walk but soon got deterred by the cold and the snow flurries on the hills. We set off 3 km back on ourselves into the Township part of town to find some understandably expensive petrol and filled up even though we probably had plenty to spare. Some of our new friends’ warnings were ringing in our ears: “You may find the roads can get closed while you are on them and you might get stuck up there, for days on end…” they had offered up encouragingly… :-). So I thought we better have enough petrol to avoid hypothermia.
Annoyingly I thought I had lost the red reading glasses case that I had been carrying around with me since October, and superstitiously seeing it as an unlucky omen, I went back to scour the motel room for it without success. Of course then everything started to go wrong. Bugs got in the car, we hadn’t seen many bugs all trip. My camera card kept saying “memory full”even though I knew I had emptied it last night. Cars kept cropping up unexpectedly on single lane bridges coming the other way. That sort of thing.
“Get a grip on yourself.” I told myself sternly. It’s only a glasses case, and a pretty tatty one at that.
We had several stops in mind on the 2 1/2 journey to Haast and the first was Thunder Falls, as we could see the Roaring Billy Falls roaring at us from the car. From the start we sidled alongside the Haast River, an unlikely blue in places and we kept trying to find an ideal stopping point to capture its turquoise colour, which I’m not sure we ever successfully managed.
The Gates of Haast is not I think an official tourist stop, but there is a trail winding its way through the bushes just before the bridge itself (don’t stop on the bridge please we had been asked, but in a lay-by nearby). Health and safety haven’t interfered with the experience and you can walk unwittingly through the bushes and then drop off a steep cliff into the stoney waters below. Luckily the curse of the glasses case hadn’t come to that.
At the Fantail Falls I started a quick conversation with the other couple of people who were doing the same journey and assured them we weren’t stalking them. “Or we you”, they replied.
At the Blue Pools I decided that the 45 minute walk was too long to leave Heather on guard and I just walked down to the river. You could get the idea. The clouds were swirling around the peaks above and patches of blue sky started to appear. All looking very pretty.
The top of the pass, when it arrived, was almost anticlimactic. The road is so important, being the national one, that it is kept ice free and open as much as possible at great expense. Indeed I thought at times there was more grit than gravel. Still not complaining, as we had already enjoyed several dramatic road crossings, we started cruising down the hills towards Wanaka with the scenery getting every more dramatic.
Serendipitously seduced by the sign that read “Roaring Fire” we stopped for coffee and a first class sausage roll at the Wonderland Makarora Lodge Cafe some 60km before Wanaka.
The scenery started to get awesome. Not as Eddie Izzard says, awesome as in a hotdog sort of way, but properly awesome.
It irked me that the time I really would have enjoyed having the use of the proper camera, I didn’t have that available. So the iPhone it was, and thankfully that does a decent job of portraying the scenery.
It’s just as well I didn’t have the camera working otherwise I’d still be sorting out the photos.
We arrived in Wanaka and the kind Niamh and Andrew had arranged an earlier access to the Ridge View Apartment.
After goggling the view for twenty minutes, we went into town to shop for a new camera card and lunch, deciding it was by now such a lovely sunny day that we could happily sit outside in the Trout by the lake in the sun, and enjoy the Saturday atmosphere. It felt like being on holiday. Gosh, we are. The longest holiday ever.
Back at the apartment it was apparently Matariki, or Maori New Year, being celebrated this evening. We learned this after playing a game of tug blanket with the resident balding but lovely hound.
We were so spellbound by the views however that we decided we would enjoy them from the comfort of a beanbag, with the sliding window open and watch the fireworks from there.
As the sun started to throw amber shadows on snow tipped peaks, we reflected on the day’s drive – one of the first of the trip so far and a must-do in our humble opinion. And coming from Haast to Wanaka just gets better and better. And its rare that the view from our apartment is so good that we just are happy to stay in and enjoy it. Which we did. Even though we could only see the most lofty of the fireworks.
And I found the red glasses case wedged in between the pages of one of the guidebooks, so good luck was restored.
And having bought the new SD card, the lady in the shop told me how to recover the use of the old one. Which I managed to do. The curse of the glasses case was well and truly lifted!
Wow, what a day. If we were slightly underwhelmed yesterday, we were completely whelmed today. Even overwhelmed.
It started frostily and with dense mist outside. Not a great chance of seeing glaciers today we thought. I was determined, come what may, that I would walk up Canavan’s Knob. Well, with a name like that you have to.
Before I had finished getting the last bits of shell away from the hard boiled egg that was to be breakfast, the mist had cleared, leaving a frosty sunny outlook and a Jucy sitting outside completely frozen.
Even though the decking outside was like an ice rink and I’m not a very good skater, I kept rushing outside to take yet another photo.
After thawing Jucy out sufficiently to be able to drive safely through the village I turned right this time over the bridge. Having parked up by the start of the Canavan walk, I was impressed by the neatly built moraine path leading to the hill. So much so, that I bent down to take a small stone as a memento (yes, I know I shouldn’t.). No chance. The whole thing was frozen together in a giant ice block and all stones were immovable. For now at least.
I must get fitter. Huffing and puffing up the hill, I reached the lookout to the west towards the sea.
Then the pinnacle was reached with a convenient bench to flop into as I caught my breath. Lovely views of the glacier. Result.
Loads of helicopters whirred overhead on their way up to the glacier, those on board obviously enjoying great conditions for a heli-hike. At $185 for a twenty minutes flight though, I was pleased to be out of breath rather than out of pocket. Plus it would be hard to improve on our Baileys drinking, crampon wearing glacier walk on the Perito Moreno a few years ago.
Back at the apartment we checked out and departed at about 10.30 as the road was thawing out nicely for the trip to Haast, which we had been warned might be icy.
Soon we were in the equally charming but even smaller resort of Fox Glacier. Not sure whether they had named the mint after the resort, or vice versa, the South African couple in the cafe we visited for breakfast were none the wiser. So happy here they had swopped their nationality, but hadn’t shaken off their accents.
We decided to carry on beyond the signs for Lake Matheson, our next intended stop, to the Glacier Viewpoint and were rewarded with stunning views.
I had some slight camera envy chatting to another chap and his wife at the site, who suggested the reflection spot at Lake Matheson where they had been first thing this morning. They were excited at the views of Mt Cook as they had been on the other side a few days previously and had seen nothing of the mountain in heavy snow and rain.
Heather headed for the cafe at Lake Matheson as she was happy to guard the car while I went in search of the money shot.
I got to Reflection Island having gone anticlockwise round the lake as suggested, only to find the viewing platform there occupied by 8 young oriental travellers. They were keen to take photos.
I amused myself by working out how many combinations of the 8 of them they could take photos of. Given one had to hold the camera, there were 5,040 possibilities. Ah, but there were 8 different cameras. So over 40,000.
After 15 minutes of watching this, I felt my patience and my life slipping away. I started hurumphing. That seemed to work as after another three or four minutes and several more combinations and a bit more hurumphing they gave way so that I could take my photos which I did in thirty seconds, giving them the platform back. They are probably still there.
Ironically the proper camera didn’t take quite such good shots as the phone as the wind was disturbing the mirror finish of the lake, creating blemishes which the iPhone didn’t show.
On the basis that it was only 5 minutes longer to walk round the rest of the lake, 45 minutes it said in DoC terms which I knew to be 30 for me, I did that and passed some of the others that had started out in a clockwise direction. The couple were right and by the time I got to the jetty which is where most visitors take their photos, the ripples were such that the mirror effect was almost completely gone, so I left the German couple there fiddling with their tripod.
Yes, I had taken too many photos and yes, I’m publishing too many here now, although a fraction of those I took. Not as many as the oriental group though. I ran out of memory on my camera card, something I had never down before, as I clear it of all photos every night. But today was a bit special and so with index finger repetitive strain injury spared by a full 2GB card, I returned happily to the car guarding Heather.
We set off to Haast enjoying a splendid drive in great conditions. An Unesco world heritage site due to its isolated location and unique topography, we relished the journey as it became ever more remote and the single lane bridges became ever longer and more difficult to judge for oncoming traffic. Not that there was much – we didn’t see many other travellers.
We stopped for the views at Bruce Bay, and avoided getting splashed by the breakers crashing over the rocks.
We stopped again at the Knights Point Lookout where there were one or two other cars.
We made our final stop without a paddle at Ships Creek, where a lookout tower lured me in.
This is lovely wild countryside. And we enjoy a bit of driftwood. We drifted up and down the semi-adventurous mountain pass, thankful for the sunny conditions, although we did get grit blasted by a lorry at one point obviously taking precautions on behalf of all us motorists.
The Aspiring Court motel was perfectly comfortable and although we had planned to self cater, the description of the shenanigans on offer at the nearby Hard Antler Bar meant we walked the 5 minutes to take in the meat raffle, and ace of spades draw in the company of rough shod and hairy, friendly local characters.
We also shared the most delicious seafood basket for two, which was reminiscent of the Codfather principle that “We batter everything” as it served up a variety of succulent seafood goodies all coated and deep-fried in a golden crumb batter.
That was accompanied by the best chips we had seen all trip, but despite that we couldn’t finish the huge sharing dish. And the English barman/teacher in waiting from Margate had asked Heather if we wanted one each!
What a brilliant day. Glaciers, an Unesco World Heritage Site and antlers.
The day dawned damply and with mist on the mountains, which hopefully would clear as we had planned an excursion to visit and view the glacier. After all, that’s why we were here for two days.
We drove through the town and out the other side over the single lane bridge and left into the carpark, where quite a number of cars and vans were already in situ. The signs were good, promising a walk in good conditions with the glacier viewpoint just 2000 meters from the glacier itself.
We should have guessed from the body language and lack of enthusiasm shown by the returning walkers that all was not quite as promised.
It started to drizzle, but undeterred we got to the point where the glacier had been in 1906. No sign of it today though, so we carried on further with our hoods up as rain starting to fall more heavily.
We were at the end of the available walk – the rest of it was forbidden and roped off. Normally one would walk on the moraine, past a waterfall, and get to within a respectable distance of the glacier. Apparently that was too dangerous today, so we could go no further. Even on a really clear day, the view from out end point would have been a bit underwhelming.
Feeling a little shortchanged, we headed back and bumped into a couple that we had passed on the way out, just coming down a steep looking track to the right. “We were a bit disappointed by the view,” we explained. “Bloody-A” said the fella. I think that’s what he said. “Much better up there,” he enthused, “Although it’s a bit bloody steep”, I think he added.
We took the route up and sure enough, it was steep and the view would have been better. Had the clouds not rolled in.
We drove back to town to try and have some lunch. That proved a challenge too as nothing was open apart from Snakebite and although that had been good, once bitten etc.
We drove back and forth a bit admiring some of the views and exploring the town. And seeing other Jucy customers in their camper vans doing the same.
The mountains were tantalising us by clearing at times and then clouding over again. We could have gone for another walk, but the forecast wasn’t great.
We went back to the apartment where the views of the mountains were even clearer. Maybe this is the pattern of the weather here, cloudy first thing and then clearing mid-late afternoon.
We went out later to the Landing for dinner – missing out narrowly on the table with the fire in a bowl on the table and then after having a drink outside in the warm sunshine, went indoors and enjoyed a good meal of bangers and mash and a small pizza. On leaving, we admitted with an unusual display of honesty to a round of drinks which we thought had been missed off the bill. It transpired later when the internet caught up with us that we had already paid for those separately. Doh. Still – it was happy hour.
Back at the apartment the heat pump was put into overdrive and so were the electric blankets.
We will have another go at glacier spotting tomorrow….
We patted a dry golden retriever farewell and thanked Robin for his fine hospitality, eggs and all. Greymouth was very grey as we sped through, although the town was bigger than we had thought and the parts along the national road cheerier than we had expected.
We were thinking of Penny’s and Martin’s father David this morning as he had fallen over and broken his hip and was due for an operation later today. We silently wished him well.
It rained along the way although that made the passage through the dense bush on either side even more atmospheric and one could imagine how all of New Zealand must have looked before the land was cleared for agriculture and forestry.
We passed the Shantytown heritage park, which wasn’t as I first thought a celebration of Greymouth town planning, but a theme park centred on the gold mining in these parts. It was closed, although too wet to visit anyhow.
As sadly was the Tunnel Terrace Walk, kindly suggested by Martin’s friend Richard. We took the short detour there and found the discretely signposted tunnel entrance, suggesting a geocaching backdrop as one of those places that most wouldn’t know about. I did a couple of dry runs up and down the tunnel, but either side of that the rain was too heavy to endure what would have otherwise been a lovely walk I’m guessing on a dry day. Another time.
Back on the main road the rain came down even harder, but magically and majestically it stopped as we entered Hokitika, the town with a twinkle in its eye as one of the guide books describes it.
We hadn’t had a pizza for nearly 24 hours, so we sought out Pipi’s which on our drive by scout looked rather closed. We drove along the beachfront, noting all the driftwood, and taking the essential photo below.
It was a little early for lunch anyhow, and I was keen to see the Hokitika Gorge, so off we sped. A flat road heading east that zigged and zagged between farmland and we eventually got to a stretch where the clods of earth and cow detritus realised from the road and splattered themselves underneath poor Jucy’s undercarriage. The indignity of it.
Again after a spell of rain we arrived in the Gorge carpark as it cleared (the rain that is – the carpark was already nearly empty). I scampered along the beautifully built and manicured path and elevated boardwalks (the DoC do spend some money – although with great results) along to the viewpoint, then the swing bridge and finally the lookout point by the river where one could clamber down onto slippery rocks right at the fast flowing river edge (optional).
The water in the gorge had that special turquoise look that comes about through the suspension of powdery particles, although on a sunny day that would be a brighter blue still. Apparently this is a place where sandflies can be a nuisance, but not today as they had all been drowned.
We zagged and zigged back to the town and found Pipi’s was still closed, only open now Thursday to Sunday. So we stomped over to Stumpers where we stumped up for a chicken wrap and pumpkin soup.
Of course just after Hokitika it started to rain again (how can we be so lucky all the time?) and en route we amused ourselves by trying to photograph a rainbow, which put itself in the same difficulty bracket as large trees, eels and fantail birds. How can rainbows hide round corners? I’d never seen that before…
We were closing in on the mountains with every twisting kilometre and snow capped peaks peeked out at us above the hills.
We arrived at the Te Awa cottage which was a smart prefab on static wheels with a wonderful view of the mountains. And the sun was shining on the snow.
Cooking facilities were scare and so we drove further into the main part of town and sat outside (outside!) in the warm sunshine, admiring the views in the Snakebite Brewery. It didn’t brew its own beer, so that was a bit of an exaggeration, but had plenty on tap.
Asian food small plate choices before dark and we were good to go. We cranked up the heat pump to 18 degrees on our return and enjoyed our surroundings, with little light pollution and peacefully quiet, despite being close to the main road.
Sadly I learned later that my ex-work colleague and charismatic born-with-the-blarney-stone irishman Terry McKilkenny had died, cause unknown, in Siem Reap, where he and his husband Nat had moved a couple of years ago to open an art gallery.
Seize the day, I reminded myself.
More positive news was received from Martin, that his father David had been through surgery and was understandably tired but recovering ok.
We turned the electric blankets on as they had become essential items and slept well through heavy rain.