A Travellerspoint blog

January 2019


Woman versus Kea

all seasons in one day
View Xmas/ New Year 2018 on Sallyj66's travel map.

There was much partying and celebrations for the New Year over night in the camp ground. It was all good spirited but did mean that my sleep was severely lacking come morning. We did catch some fireworks through the roof window of the camper at midnight, a perfect night for it.

The first morning of the year was spectacular. It has become a new ritual for us to get on the road early, then have breakfast at a picturesque spot along the way. There was scarcely any traffic (so pleasant and relaxing) but we were following a tour bus, that therefore stopped at the same places that we wanted to. As it turns out was a bus load of dutch people so that was nice to chat and connect.

As we drove towards Milford the weather became progressively more cloudy and grey. The beautiful mirror lakes (where some very clever clogs has put the sign upside down to reflect right way up in the reflection) were lovely but I think a crystal clear day would be stunning. Stopped for breakfast at the top of the lookout point, the mountains are so dramatic.

I am a conservationist, but Keas test that stance. We stopped at a scenic spot behind a bus of asian tourists, the driver standing alongside with a broom in his hand-slightly strange but never mind. As soon as we pulled up a kea flew from the bus and landed on our bikes and promptly started pecking with his hook like beak at the cover. I grabbed the broom from the driver and chased it off. They are the smartest of birds, and obviously this one had been round the tracks a few times. He nonchalantly hopped onto the roof out of my reach. Sal was aghast and told me to get in super quick as we were taking off, which we did at a rate of knots-camera clicking from the tourists! We had the opportunity to sight see at another spot, but on seeing another kea decided that it wasn’t worth the risk.

Going through Homer Tunnel was an exercise in me managing my anxieties which I obviously succeeded in. The view on the other side is so breath taking. On the way back we stopped at Marian Camp where the road workers had set up camp during the building of this tunnel. Such tough and resilient people.

Finding a park at Milford is not easy but they have a system that seems to squash huge number of visitors in. The constant noise from the helicopters taking sight seers around is intrusive. We visited the grave of Donald Sutherland (he and his wife were the first European settlers here) and I am sure he would be mortified to see the tranquility and seclusion of his piece of paradise so disturbed.

We had contemplated a cruise but the rain had come in and we didnt really relish the idea of being herded onto a boat with so many other people. So we climbed to the look out, walked around the foreshore, we had wanted to go to the falls but that walk isn’t allowed anymore because of the fears of rock falls. Pity. By 1.30 we had seen enough and made our way back. In Milford we were wearing scarves and trousers and jackets, but the closer we got to Te Anau the hotter it became and we needed to shed layers again. Te Anau was just heaving it was so busy. We went to the supermarket to restock, got more fuel then drove onto the shores of Lake Wakatipu again. A very long day, 8 hours driving for Sal, but to visit such a special place was fantastic.

Funnily enough where we are parked is roughly parallel with Milford, but has taken us many hours of driving south to get back here. Tomorrow we make our way to Wanaka and then via the Haast Pass onto the West Coast.

Posted by Sallyj66 23:41 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Haast Pass

all seasons in one day

Leaving Wanaka was a relief for me. it is a drop dead gorgeous setting and the camp ground was fine, but it is too much like Auckland for my liking. All the throngs of people, the glitz and glamour of boats/jet skis, flash houses, boutiques, cafes and so on-just lovely to leave it behind us and make our way to bush and beauty again.

I have been over the Haast Pass before, but it was a first for Sal. We drove up the western side of Lake Hawea crossed over the neck and then the eastern top end of Lake Wanaka. Very beautiful but I think Autumn would be the prettiest . Stopped and refuelled at Makarora- the dearest diesel we have bought yet, then it was onto the scenery in all its dramatic splendour.

The crowds were huge and parking at each of the spots was at a premium, not easy with a camper and ours is small by most standards. We walked to the Blue Pool ( not very blue today due to lack of sun) and I walked over two swing bridges, needs must unfortunately. It was a real treat for me to see the Southern Rata out in bloom, a first for me. Then we went onto the fantail falls which is a beautiful waterfall. The thing that was most surprising was the stone cairns that had been built there on a log. These impromptu art works give such character.

At Haast we visited the Information Centre then had lunch by the Haast River. I can see why it is called ‘Wet Coast”, no lack of water issues here.

We have camped for the night at Lake Paringa, a DOC camp, $13 each here-must be tourist rates.The stream of vehicles coming in is non stop. There is a boat ramp here and the jet boats incredibly noisy. I am hoping for clear skies tomorrow to show this place at its best.

Posted by Sallyj66 19:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Fox Glacier by Helicopter

I am writing this parked by the Whataroa River in a secluded spot, accompanied by the dulcet tones of a jet boat on the river. At the previous Lake we also had jet boats doing their noisy thing-must be the thing here.

Our time at the last camp site was disruptive, mainly by people arriving to all hours, opening and sliding doors without any thought for those already there and hopefully fast asleep -fat chance! There were just so many vehicles crammed into every nook and cranny. It really is the silly season for tourists on the Coast. We woke to a glorious morning and Sal attempted to catch the light on the Lake.

Got onto the road quite early and it is so much more pleasant driving at this time. We were heading towards Fox Glacier and impulsively decided that if everything lined up, then we would go for a helicopter ride to see the glacier. I had been here some 40 years ago and even then they were receding very fast and we had to walk for ages just to reach the glacier. We thought that it would give a much better perspective and to seize the moment.

The weather in the mountains is fickle and changeable. While we had perfect weather as we approached Fox there were clouds gathering up in the peaks. The woman assured us that they cannot fly in the clouds as the pilots (and us) need to see-reassuring I think.We hung around for about an hour and then the decision was made to go for it.We were joined by a German couple.

I have never been in a helicopter. We were allocated seats by weight distribution, which meant that I was in a front seat....light weight!!!! As we lifted off I could hardly believe that I was in this small bubble reaching higher and higher into the heavens. What a view and vantage, skimming over the tops of bush, up valleys and then there was Fox Glacier and its unmistakable shape. We hovered over and moved around to see all the crevasses, waterfalls, people on the glacier(I couldn’t), the hut. Then the bit that was scary was that we climbed through cloud (I assume he knew where he was going) to rise above the cloud and see in clear blue sky Mt Cook, Tasman and then Victoria Falls and Victoria Glacier. Drop dead spectacular.
The cloud was coming in quite fast so he needed to drop down fast to a lower altitude to make our way out, this he did by spiralling down an invisible tube. Sal tells me afterwards this is when she thought we’d had enough! It seemed so mundane to the pilot and yet to me was a trip of a life time. I think we were very lucky to get this trip in before the weather closed in, and so pleased that we just decided to go for it and worry about the money later.

Lake Matheson is very close by. The last time I was here-over 40 years ago we walked into the “mirror lakes” on a dull day to be disappointed with what we found. The cloud was coming in but we went there with a positive attitude. So this time, even though we had sun we also had wind which meant that we could not see the reflections promised. Sal however went for nice hour long walk around the lake and I chilled in the van after checking out the gallery/shop.

Still making our way north and we thought that seeing the white herons at Okarito would be a great opportunity. So drove into Okarito Beach to find an exposed, windy site. We were advised there to go onto Whataroa to make enquiries about this trip. After some negotiations we have now booked a trip tomorrow, on jet boat, to the nesting spot of the white herons regardless of the weather. This is why we have found this out -of -the -way resting spot for tomorrow’s adventure.

Posted by Sallyj66 19:55 Comments (1)

Whataroa Kotuku

Jet Boats and Birds


We woke to a glorious morning by the river. Unfortunately during the night we had been overcome by a plague of mosquitoes that caused us to empty a can of spray into the van. Then when we wiped them off the bed they were full of blood, so it looks somewhat like a war zone by morning. But that over and done with and we of the adult birds had a leisurely breakfast overlooking the river. Jet boats had arrived early to do their noisy thing, but I have an updated opinion on them now.

We were joined on our tour by an Australian couple. They were staying n AirB&B on a farm. Left at 11am by van for a 15minute trip to the river, then onto a jet boat for a 12km trip to a ‘permit only’ zone for a board walk to the hide to look across the river at the white herons nesting. The chicks are quite large now, indistinguishable from their parents except for the beautiful filigree plumage of the adult birds.

The jet boat ride itself was fun. I think it is like drifting on water, not that our driver was so exuberant, but we had enough of a thrill to make it fun. When we first went into the hide we were whispering and very quiet, however we soon realised the birds didn’t care at all about us.They are gorgeous and pristine white. The ‘chicks’ ( not far off leaving the nests ) sit and wait patiently for either of their parents to bring them back food. However once the parent is in sight, the noise is full on.

We stayed there for about an hour I think, photographing every possible movement of the birds. Then another boat ride back to base. It was very special to see these rare birds, who only nest here and nowhere else in NZ. The population has stayed stable ever since the 1880s, apart form a spell when their feathers became desirable as a fashion accessory and then then numbers plummeted dangerously.

So on towards Hokitika. We stopped at Lake Ianthe for lunch, but it was so busy there that we got out quickly. Sal spoke to a man who had caught trout in the late, was filleting it, then was going to cold-smoke it. Not sure what that means.

Posted by Sallyj66 12:08 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Hokitika to Punakaiki and home



Today was the first day we had what I typically associate with the ‘wet’coast-rain. We had been recommended strongly by another camper at Hokitika to visit the Hokitika Gorge, and in particular the Blue Gorge.We have seen some magnificent blue rivers along the coast, a wonderful turquoise colour ,so despite the weather we thought it was worth a visit.

Into town for groceries and a quick drop in at the Information Centre where a very helpful woman gave us explicit instructions how to get there.Our sat nav had given us novel instructions how to get to Hokitika, so this trip involved us doubling up somewhat on our journey here.We really did contemplate several times turning back because the rain and cloud was intense. However we persisted and were surprised to find the car park nearly full. It was a trip back into the native forest area.

Our walk was very pleasant and reminded us a lot of Pelorus Bridge, but on a bigger scale. Needless to say the river was in flood and brown and muddy. However the walk is very nice and also involved another swing bridge!

At Greymouth we made a spontaneous decision to have lunch at Monteiths, which was pleasant. Then as we drove back up the coast pulled into side roads hoping to find another lucky spot as we had in Whataroa.Found one and noticed that there was a marine reserve notice. It even had a camper friendly notice, so it seemed hopeful. Unfortunately we also noticed a man getting his fishing gear ready-a surf caster, in front of the sign.He was quite overt and not at all trying to be clandestine.

Sal went for a walk on the beach and there were three people openly fishing in a marine reserve.She spoke to the woman with children and she acted ignorantly. Well that doesn’t sit well with us, so onto the 0800 DOC number, and then suddenly this place didn’t seem so good anymore.On the road again and into the Punakaiki Camp, we got the last spot.

It is amazing here. The Pohutukawa are just fantastic, such a vivid red. And needless today the birds that go with them. A busy family camp, reminds me of Marahau.

On Monday morning I had some resistance to visiting The Pancake Rocks again as I have seen them many times before. However we got up early and avoided the crowds. A beautiful day and the sea was rolling in with huge waves from the Tasman. We could feel the earth shudder as they hit the rocks. Then on Northwards and the call of home was getting stronger. Found a side road to explore and found a deserted storm damaged bach in a stunning spot. From there we made the decision together home and get 2019 under way.

Posted by Sallyj66 21:54 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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