The trip from Cromwell to Te Anau was going to be about 3 hours and so we decided we would just stop wherever it made sense. The first place we came to was Arrowtown. This is what it says on their website “ Arrowtown is charming and quirky, a delightful gold rush village nestled beside the sparkling Arrow River and below magnificent peaks” we walked down the Main Street and took a few photos but really it is just a cute little shopping place, not something either of us are overly interested in. And so after about 20 minutes we continued our journey. One thing that was interesting was, the film crew that had blocked off the road to film for something in the local church, maybe we will see it in a future episode of Brokenwood. The scenery along the way was spectacular and made the travel worth while. We stopped at a roadside coffee van in a town called Garston and Rob had, what he described as an amazing lamb burger. My egg and cheese with all the veg was also excellent.
We arrived in Te Anau just after 2, checked into our hotel and then took a walk around the town to see what it had to offer. It is on the shores of Lake Te Anau and is the starting point for the Kepler track so was well served with both restaurants and sports shops. We had a great dinner at an Asian Fusion restaurant although I am sure we probably brought the average age up a few years.
This morning we went to meet the tour company and go through our pre track briefing ahead of tomorrow. We then did a sample pack of our backpacks to make sure that we could fit everything in and also to check if we needed to buy anything. We were on our way into town to get some last minute bits and pieces, when we saw a seaplane coming into land. We looked at each other and then decided yes we would go and talk to them to see what was on offer. After a 5 min chat, we had booked ourselves onto, what they call, a one hour mystery flight for 2pm that day. It was such an experience, we flew up one of the Fiords, so close to the mountains it felt like we could touch them. We landed in a remote bay and the pilot pulled the plane onto the beach so we could get out a just walk around for a bit before continuing the flight back around to Lake Te Anau. As an indication of how quick the weather can change here, our landing at the bay was on smooth water and by the time we got back to the lake the wind was whipping up the water and the landing was a little bouncy. What and experience though!!
And the obligatory bird pictures – the prints inside the sand circles are Kiwi claws, still yet to see them in the wild but I have hopes for Stewart Island.
Arrived here late morning and while waiting for out first night hotel room to be ready, we first stopped at the Heritage area in town for lunch at the local market and then we headed out to Cornish Point for a walk along the side of Lake Dunstan -Lake Dunstan is a man-made lake and reservoir in the South Island of New Zealand. The lake was formed on the Clutha River as a result of the construction of the Clyde Dam, filling in four controlled stages beginning in April 1992 and completed the next year. We walked 3.5 miles out to the coffee boat and were lucky to be there, 10 minutes before it closed for the day. And then walked back to the car. We passed a number of cyclists and decided to hire some bikes for the next day and do the complete track to Clyde.
The weather was dry but overcast, which is ideal for cycling, but again a little bit of Googling last night indicated that this was no gentle path and not for the faint of heart! “The Lake Dunstan Trail links the townships of Clyde and Cromwell. The trail offers cyclists and walkers a challenging 55km ride (Grade 2-3) through unique and fascinating landscapes so characteristic of Central Otago as it journeys along Lake Dunstan, the Kawarau River and the mighty Clutha River Mata-au. This route climbs 2,837 ft with a max elevation of 1,029 ft then descends -2,940 ft. It was only recently opened in May 2021 .” Just after the coffee boat there is the highest climb with lots of narrow zig zags both on the way up and down the other side. Thank goodness we had the sense to hire EBikes but it was still a technical challenge for me as the track was very winding. I had my Garmin watch tracking and we cycled just over 27 miles then shuttled back to Cromwell. One of the things my watch does is tracks heart rate and then overlays it against gradient. It was funny to see it confirmed that my highest heart rate was not actually the climb up but further along where the path is flat, with lots of twisty bends, very narrow and with a drop off to the lake on one side. A very technical bit for me, and happy to say I negotiated it well and with plenty of encouragement from my riding coach (Rob) who was just behind me. We only took video and that needs editing so here is what someone else had to say about the ride.
We moved into our next location in Cromwell and struck gold, Hotel.com is owned by Expedia and they combine properties that are also part of VRBO, although that is not obvious when using the Hotel app. So we are in a VRBO for the next 2 nights, the lounge/kitchen area must be about 30ft by 40ft and then we have panoramic windows looking out onto a deck that is overlooking a small inlet off the lake. So today we are going to do nothing but enjoy our beautiful surroundings and just relax.
And here are the animal and flower images, ok some of the animals may not be real. It was interesting to note a few things, if you look at the vineyard image, you will see that every other gap is left free to grow wild flowers and grasses. Also not clear in the images above but all along the trail is what we thought was Heather but is actually wild Thyme and the smell was amazing.
Woke up to a beautiful day in Omarama which is in a flat plain some 1500 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountains. It is also supposed to be one of the best glider plane areas in the world. We drove out to follow the road up the side of Lake Pukaki and we were treated to beautiful displays of wild Lupins along the sides of the road and then an amazing views of Mount Cook. What looked fab in the pictures from afar, the low level cloud, also convinced us a drive to the base of Mount Cook would be a waste of time.
And so after driving halfway up the side of the lake, we turned around and headed to Lake Tekapo. More views of Mount Cook and also a very nice little town and we could stop and have lunch out on a deck. We could see the famous little church that the area was also known for but there was at least 4 full size tourist buses there, and so I made do with just a long lens photo.
We drove back towards Omarama and went to visit the Clay cliffs that are just outside of town, here is the Google description The Clay Cliffs are a stark sight – tall pinnacles separated by narrow ravines. These otherworldly formations are made up of layers of gravel and silt, originally formed by the flow from ancient glaciers over a million years ago. Back into the town and a quick visit to the glider landing field to watch some of the sail planes land and at least one get towed up behind a little tow plane
More animals and some of the thousands of bee hives we have seen everywhere this trip
What we have found over and over again on this trip, is that casual conversations with locals, has us going to places that were not on our original list. This was the case in Wanaka. At the top of Iron mountain yesterday, a gentleman recommended a drive out to Raspberry Flats and then when we checked into our accommodation (which turned out to be a very nice VRBO) he asked if we were planning to climb Roy’s Peak. Rob looked it up and we thought the Peak would be a challenge but we would give it a go.
Next morning the weather was raining at the start and the weather forecast predicted really high winds coming in later in the day. So we decided that Roy’s Peak was not a good idea and we would drive up to Raspberry Flats. The last 18 miles of that trip are on gravel tracks and through small fords so to say it was interesting was an under statement. When we got to the end there was the ability to hike up the valley, the scenery was stunning and we were able to see part of Mt Aspiring Glacier. But, as most of you saw from the video Rob posted on Facebook, the predicted winds were very strong and it was as much as I could do to stay on my feet. We just walked up 2.5 miles and then returned to the car. It was definitely worth the trip.
Next morning we were planning to check out of our rooms and then go and do Roy’s Peak. Wow, what an experience, here is what the Google has to say: “Roy’s Peak is a medium to hard difficult day hike. It involves a large elevation climb of 1,258 meters (4,127 feet) and in total is 16 kilometers (10 miles) long. You need to be reasonably fit to complete the track.” That’s 5 miles up and 5 miles back down. We experienced sunshine, medium winds, occasional light rain and up at the top we actually had some snow falling on us. The views were amazing, a lot of people stop about a mile before the top as there is a spot where a lot of Instagram photos are taken. But these hardy souls pushed on to the true peak. Although for the last 500 yards we took different routes. Rob did the incredibly thin ridge walk and I did the zig zag track. In total it took us 5.5 hours and I was incredibly proud of our achievement. We were pretty tired but drove on to Omarama, early dinner and then collapse into bed.
No blog would be complete, in my opinion, without some animal images
We had a lazy day as our last day in Fox Glacier gentle walk close to the hotel, early lunch and dinner and a walk over to see the glow worms, this was somewhat spoilt by a coach party of tourists that did not understand the need for darkness and were walking around with torches!
Up early the next morning and heading off to Haast rain first thing and then it cleared up nicely with a few stops at Knights Point and Ship Creek before we arrived at Haast. We passed a husband a wife team cycling, twice along the way, first between Knights Point and and Ship Creek, and buy the time we took a quick walk and got back on the road we were able to pass them again.
When we got to Haast we were a bit surprised just how small it was, one pub/restaurant and one grocery store/cafe and just a few houses and farms. We took a ride along to Jackson bay and walked over the headland there and then settled into our motel for the night.
Next morning we headed to Wanaka and decided to stop at every walk and photo spot along the way. Imagine our surprise to see the two cyclists again and yes after a 30 min walk at one of the lookouts we could not believe our eyes, it was our cyclists. We pulled into a restaurant to get lunch and Rob said wouldn’t be funny if they came in after us and yes they did! I went over to congratulate them and tell them how many times they had caught up to us. And lets just say, they were not spring chickens. We still were in Wanaka by early afternoon and do we took a walk up Iron Mountain and were treated to quite a steep walk but the view from the top was well worth it. We later checked into our place and were pleasantly surprised with great views of the lake, a really nice place and a fully stocked kitchen, including a nice bottle of wine, home made muffins and lots of other treats. We walked into town for dinner and then back for an early night.
Leaving Hokitika with overcast and rainy weather. This continued all the way down the coast to Franz Joseph, so we had a quick lunch visited the local tourist office and also called in to a Kiwi Sanctuary to find out about all the work thats happening over here to aid their conservation and one of the many ways they are doing this is to control the predators that were introduced to the country, Stoats and rats
By the time we came out the weather had dried and we drove on down to Fox Glacier where we were staying for another 4 nights. That evening we walked up to the lookout for Fox Glacier a nice pleasant walk and a great view.
Next day Rob woke me up just before 6, I quickly pointed out the error of his ways, no issue with the time, but he did not have a cup of coffee ready for me and ws insisting we left right away! On the upside, we had stunning views of Mount Tasman and Mount Cook also perfect reflections of both mountains in Lake Matheson. Back to the hotel for a belated breakfast and then back over to Lake Matheson and a hike over the mountain to lake Gault. There was a young man there from Australia who was about to dive in the Lake, he confirmed our thoughts as declared it freezing.
Later that afternoon we took another small hike to look out at the largest active land slip in New Zealand, it’s been on the move for many years and heavy rain still brings more of it down.
Ok the next morning Rob had learned his lesson – woke me at 5.45 with a coffee cup in his hand and then we drove over to Okarito to walk up the the trig point. The drive over the mountain was very eerie as there was a combination of mist rising from the valleys and also low cloud. By the time we got to Okarito it had started to clear up and we hiked up to the trig point where we were spoilt with magnificent views of the alpine range.
We drove back to Franz Joseph and stitched together a number of walks around the Franz Joseph glacier valley as well as a walk up to Lake Wombat, I have to say although the walk up was quite challenging the lake itself was a disappointment and was about the only time neither of us found anything there to photograph. After an early dinner we headed off to a Fox Glacier lookout point that was much better than expected. We then drove 6 miles down to Gillespie beach, this was another “interesting drive” as it was a gravel road, slightly wider than a single track and with many twists and turns. It turned out to be a worthwhile journey as we were treated to another lovely sunset and also views on the some of the alpine range bathed in the warm sunset light. Rob also challenged me to take a photo of the moon with my camera and as you can see below, the result was pretty good, especially as I hand held it. The drive back in the dark was even more interesting and we had to drive slow so that we could any Kiwi’s if they were out an about.
No post would be complete without animal and arty shots
We were sad to leave Karamea, we really loved that it was so secluded and yet had all that you would need in such a small town. The weather was not great as we left and we had rain in the morning. By the time we got to Punakaiki, the weather was perfect. The tide was in and the beaches looked amazing with the white crested rollers slamming their way to the shore.
Punakaiki is known for the pancake rocks and blowholes and as the tide was high and the wind was in the right direction, they really did not disappoint. This is probably a good time to tell you that while almost all the pictures are mine, except from some really good ones from Rob, they are just a drop in the ocean of the numbers of pictures that we take at each location. Also we have been using the Insta 360 (you can google to see what that is) and so we have a boat load of video that Rob will edit when we get home. Don’t worry, we are not going to subject you to the extra photos and video. We also hiked up the Punakaiki river and gorge as far as the swing bridge that anfternoon and that was an interesting path.
We drove on down to Hokitika and checked into our motel. Off into town for a lovely Thai dinner and then parked by the shore and waited for what turned out to be, a pretty lovely sunset.
The next day we drove up to Lake Kaniere and hiked as far as we could before having to turn back as the path was very muddy and waterlogged and my leaping distance is not what it was. We drove up to Hokitika Gorge and were treated to the most amazing turquoise waters that ran through the gorge. According to the “Google” The water of Hokitika Gorge appears a mesmerising shade of turquoise blue due to the presence of glacial flour in the water. Glacial flour is a fine, silt-like sediment that is created by the grinding of rocks by glaciers. So now you are as informed as we were.
Into town again for a walk out to the point where Rob decided to reenact the scene from the Titanic, this would have been more impressive if you could have seen him trying to balance his camera at the right angle on the rocks, set the 10 second timer and then run like hell to get back onto the boat and in position.
That evening we had a really great meal at Stumpers in town, the Salmon was soft and moist and the vegetables were cooked to perfection. We shared a meringue and ice cream sundae (well I had a few spoons and Rob ate the rest) back to the hotel and left the next morning for our next location
We left Nelson bright and early. If you look at a map of South Island there are not many roads that go from east to west and so even though the distance as the crow flies would have been 58 miles, we actually had 198 to drive. As soon as we had arrived in New Zealand we purchased really good road maps of both Islands and that was useful as we lost both GPS and Cell signal on the journey. My poor cell phone had no idea where we were. The journey was very pleasant as we meandered through the valleys passing the many sheep, dairy and venison farms. Oh that reminds me, always make sure you have a full tank of Gas, there were no gas stations until we were right over on the west coast. The last leg of journey was “interesting” we had to go up and over a very high and winding mountain road, which went into one lane at places because the other half of the road had fallen into the valley with the severe weather last year.
But we arrived safe and sound in Karamea, permanent population of around 400, the northern most settlement in South Island and only access in or out was the road we just arrived on. The Motel was delightful and a trip into the Town (well the streets where the few shops etc were) took us to the village tavern. I do have to admit that a friend of a friend that we had made contact with, and who moved back to Karamea some years ago had recommended both locations. But imagine our delight when we went in and there was a roast dinner on the menu with roast and steamed vegetables! Hurrah, I was beginning to think we would arrive back with scurvy given the lack of vegetables we had been eating. After dinner we took a walk to the beach and while not the best sunset, it was still pretty good.
The next morning we were picked up at the motel for a guided tour of the Oparara Arches and Honeycomb Hill caves. You are only allowed in with a guide and there was just the two of us, so we had a great day. The guide was called Rob and he and my Rob shared all the same interests and hobbies, it was almost if he was a brother from another mother. We started off to a walk to the caves and found out some fascinating facts about the local flora and fauna. Also when the caves were discovered in the 80’s there were complete intact skeletons for Moa, a huge emu like bird that was now extinct, that must have fallen down one of the holes in the forest floor and perished. They also found an extinct Haast eagle skeleton that was later moved to the Te Papa museum. We also got to see Glow Worms in the caves that was a very interesting sight. Back to the car park for lunch, this was provided as part of the trip. We kept a careful eye on our food as the local Weka were on the prowl. After lunch we strolled to the famous arch and then made our way back to the car. During the day, while we were talking to Rob (other Rob) he was astonished that we would consider leaving the town without walking part of the Heaphy Track. And so we arranged to stay an extra night in town. It was interesting to note that the brown color in the otherwise clear waters are from the natural tannin leeched from the trees
Next morning we met Anji for coffee (the friend of friend) and had a lovely hour talking about the area and life in general. Just as we were about to leave for out walk, she mentioned that she had her local crafting meet up at the tavern that afternoon. So off we went for the walk, one of us was upping to pace so that we could get over to Scotts beach, which was just beautiful and back into town for the afternoon so that I could join the ladies and stitch a while. It’s been a great experience here and still lots more we could have explored.
The day started with beautiful blue skies, this was another travel day so we packed and headed out. As I mentioned before, SH1 in South Island hugs the coast for the first hour. We stopped the car at Oahu and were treated to more fur seals lounging around and some of the birds nesting on one of the rocks. And then the clouds came in and it poured with rain, the temperature also dropped. There is a reason that Crowded House sing “Four seasons in one day”
The weather calmed down a little and we drove up and over the mountain ranges over to Nelson, with a quick stop in Blenheim at one of the wineries where we had a coffee and Rob had his obligatory cake. We actually stayed on the outskirts in a place called Tahunanui. Went out to get groceries 2 miles up the road and the local Police were out in force, stopping every car to breathalyze the drivers, 2.30 in the afternoon! Good job we had coffee at the winery. Luckily there was a good pub/restaurant just down the road so we did not get too wet going out for dinner.
Friday was another really lovely blue sky day, we had already planned that we were going to Hike at Abel Tasman and the forward forecast had predicted light rain for the morning so we were really pleased they were wrong. It was a great 10 mile walk in total, skirting the cliffs around the bays. We were treated to the beauty of the rain forest like trees and plants and then sweeping views of some of the bays. The local Weka are clearly not to bothered about the humans walking by, although my best view was actually the small video clip that I took. Rob edited it for me and the link is below. We ate lunch down on the beach at Akersten bay. While we taking some photos, a cheeky Weka tried to steal Rob’s banana out of his back pack.
On the way back we drove around to take a short walk down the the beach to take pictures of Split Apple rock. Rob was more impressed than I was, but I was balancing the view of the rock with the crazy steep climb to and from the bay.
Saturday we drove out to Rabbit Island and walked the nine mile loop around the Island. It’s a mix of forest, river and beach. When we were on the beach side, I started to get upset as I thought we were seeing some beached whales but as we drew closer you could see that they were not really whales but giant inflatables and they were having a volunteer training session to show people what to do in the event this really happened, Phew!!
On the way back, we stopped at the Classic Car museum, which in the past also had a wearable art display, but not today. Given that my walk around a bunch of cars took less than 10 minutes, I was grateful there was a cafe there so I could go and sit and give Rob more time to enjoy them.
Monday in Wellington was overcast and rainy but we needed to get laundry done so that was ok. I found a launderette and somehow managed to find one that was 3 shops away from a quilting and embroidery shop. So deposited Rob in there with the washing and went off to shop!
The weather still had not improved so in the afternoon we went to the Te Papa museum which is the national museum for New Zealand. Each floor was themed and we both particularly loved the devoted to the animals and plants of NZ. There was also a special interactive exhibit around the battle at Galipoli. The 3d models were made at the Weka Studio, where the Lord of the Rings and Avatar models were made. The people were 2.5 bigger to scale, which really enhanced the impact of the scenes. On the walk back to the hotel we came across some yarn bombing and also this strange hand model on the roof of a building!
Tuesday we were up early and on to the ferry to from Wellington to Picton across the Cook Strait. The crossing was quite rough and Rob did not do to well! The weather was quite blustery and I did not want to leave him when we got into the calmer waters of the Fjords so we have not pictures but it was really beautiful. We drove down SH 1 to KaiKoura the road closely follows the coast line and so the views across many of the bays were really stunning. We had a nice dinner at one of the local pubs and then got ready for the next day
We were lucky to have good weather today and set off for an 8 mile walk around the KaiKoura peninsula. It was such a varied route, up through forests, over farming headlands and best of all, just under the cliffs along the headland past the Fur Seal and bird colonies. It was pretty special and each turn of the corner brought something new to delight us. We stopped for lunch and then went back to our rooms to relax before going out for another curry tonight. Tomorrow we drive to Nelson and hope to do some hikes at Abel Tasman.