Saturday, 28 February 2015


We found a wonderful spot for our accommodations in Hokitika...the old psychiatric hospital, which is now used as a hostel.  They accept tents and so we pitched ours on the lawn on a cliff overlooking the beach and the Tasman Sea.  Just below this site is "The Glow Worm Dell" and we visited it at 9:30 at night.  It was aglow with the light of glow worms and was magical. These larvae are housed in the overhanging foliage and cast a bluish glow which makes them look like stars in the darkness.  It was a bit spooky as one could well imagine that they were eyes peeping through the ferns and mosses in the darkness of the forest.

We awoke to a bright and sunny morning...but the weather closed in and before we knew it rain arrived.  We decided to stay and have a down day.  We also had an Mom and Dad had spent some time here many years ago and had met a painter named Brent Trolle who they asked that we track we were off with a mission in the rain. 

We asked at the first painter we came across and he immediately directed us to the gallery of Mr and Mrs Trolle.  It was a short distance away in their home.  We rang the bell and introduced ourselves and had a wonderful chat over a cup of tea.  We passed on greetings from my parents who were very grateful for the hospitality the Trolle's had shown so many years ago.

The rain had not stopped, so we found the old and very lovely cinema in this small town and went to see "The Second Most Exotic Marigold Hotel".  Then it was back to the tent to see if it is indeed waterproof as the rain worsened as the sun set.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Fox Glacier

We got up early to visit Lake Matheson...a beautiful still lake that reflects mount cook and  the  Southern the morning before the winds pick up.  We followed that with a hike up to see the leading edge of Fox Glacier.  It was a hard walking day as we are still recovering from the strenuous Rob Roy Glacier walk...but we did it! 

After all that walking (another 10 km) we decided to make our way to Hokitika..a coastal community...out of the mountains.  We left the glaciers and wonderful memories of them behind as we made our way once again on the winding roads heading north.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

West Coast South Island

We made our way to the West Coast through mountain passes past incredible scenery.  We made a few tops to view waterfalls.  It was very picturesque...but tiring as the road wound its way through the mountains.  We celebrated the few straight stretches we encountered.  One of the things we find remarkable is that even on major highways most of the bridges are one lane only...requiring one direction to yield.  Luckily there is not much traffic.

We finally made it to the coast and saw lovely stands of white pine in rain forests coming right down the mountain sides to the coast.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Rob Roy Glacier

We decided to take the advice of a fellow camper and to go on a long hike...which was rated as "moderate" giving views of Rob Roy Glacier in Mount Aspiring National Park.

The adventure started with a long drive out of town...20 kms on paved road followed by 31 on gravel, through farmers fields, past cows, sheep, deer and wapiti in paddocks.  The road had at least 6 fords on it...and it was so weird to be driving through water!

When we finally arrived at the end of the road a sign lead us to the trail which was 10 km in total.  The first 1 km was easy...following a glacier fed river through its valley....what followed was 4km of climbing  a steep and rough path.  This took about 1.5 the first lookout.  A further 30 minutes and we were at the second lookout. 

It was spectacular.  We had a view of the glacier face and many, many waterfalls which were falling from it as it melts. 

Although we had started the day in sun and heat, by he time we got there the clouds had the mountain and glacier a spooky kind of ethereal quality.  We stayed for about a half an hour...and then faced the inevitable...4km back down.  By the end we were exhausted! 

Travelling day

We spent the afternoon travelling back to Te Anau where we had a camp site booked.  After a quiet night we hit the road in the mid morning heading for the West Coast, past Queenstown.  It was a lovely drive over twisty and winding roads.  We did not stop in Queenstown as it is very touristy and very busy.

We stopped briefly in Arroetown, the location where gold was first fond, prompting a gold rush.  The town has been maintained in its "gold rush" style and is very quaint.

We opted to press on toward Wanaka...a little town nestled in the hills and mountains near Aspiring Mountain National Park.  We found a Camp site there overlooking another fabulous view of lake and mountains and settled in for a clear night under magnificent stars!

Kayaking on the Sound

The next day we joined the tour that we had booked first thing in the morning.  We and three other couples made our way to the harbour area where we were outfitted with all the necessary gear, including the most bizzare looking longjohns, designed to keep us warm, even when wet.  After a quick introduction to kayaking, we were launched and paddling in the sound.

The water was totally calm and the day sunny...again...very rare indeed.  We felt so fortunate to avoid rain for two days, in such a very rainy place! 

As we have experience in kayaks we were often in the lead of the group (imagine...we were the old folks and we were often being told to slow down!!!).  Our tour guide took us across the sound where we visited Bowan Falls.  We made our way up the coast line, with precipitous and moss and tree covered cliffs fallng into the sea under us.  The water was crystal clear and we were treated with sightings of two seals.

We stopped  on a rocky beach for our picnic lunch and then we were back on the water again...just in time for the winds to pick up...just as we had observed the day before.  The guide explained that this is caused by the warming of the cliffs, which cause an afternoon wind to come up.  The Sound is renowned for its high winds, and this is one cause.  As the wind approached, we could see the waves getting white caps, but our guide told us not to we would be sailing!  This was incredible...we put our four kayaks together, and tied a sail to two paddles, two of our team mates held the sheets (the ropes on the front edge of the sail) and we just flew down the sound!  It was incredible! 

After a very successful outing, we bid the Sound farewell and went on our way.

Milford Sound

We arrived in the morning at one of the two Lodges in Milford Sound and scoped out our camp site.  Then we went directly to the harbour with the intention of booking a boat cruise to see the Sound.  We had already booked a kayaking trip on the following day, but we knew that we would not see the entire Sound by kayak as it is many kilometres long.  We were very fortunate as we got onto a cruise almost right away, which included lunch and a visit to the marine conservatory, something I really wanted to do.

The boat cruise was fantastic.  We went the full length of the Sound and learned many wonderful Milford Sound is not a sound at all...but rather is a Fjord which was misnamed.  Also, there is almost three times as much rain in the Sound as there is in tropical rain forests!  This causes an interesting phenomenon in that a layer of fresh water sits on the top of the salty water below.  In addition, this fresh water is stained with tanins as it has travelled through the undergrowth which is clinging to the cliffs above.  The result is that the salt water is dark and cold, like conditions in the depths of the ocean.  Consequently, marine life thrives at shallower depths than in the Ocean itself and is observable at shallower depths.  The marine observatory therefore allows for interesting things to  be seen.

The observatory has windows at a depth of 10 meters and these give a view of black coral, very rarely seen alive at less than 50 meters.  It was just beautiful, looking like frosted trees. 

Other than a stop at the observatory, the cruise took us to the exit of the sound to the Tasman sea and return.  We saw the two permanent waterfalls in the Sound, Stirling and Bowan falls.  We also saw fairy falls, which is not a permanent fall, but appears after rain storms.  (Many cascades appear after rain storms, but we were so lucky as we had one of the clear sunny days which are rare in the Sound).

While the cruise started in the calm and late morning, by the afternoon there were strong winds.  This would prove to be important to know the next day.

It was the most wonderful scenery, living up to its reputation!

Monday, 23 February 2015

Te Anau

We  made our way next to Te Anau...a lovely little town on the edge of a huge lake and the gateway community to the wonderous Fiordlands National Park.  The little community was picturesque in its own right....and the last touchstone with civilization before venturing into the National Park where there are no stores, two basic lodges, and tour operators galore.  We spent a quiet evening, watching the sun set and fending off sandfly....a cousin of the black fly.  In the end we spent most of our time indoors!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Off to Invercargill

We were on our way again the next day, heading west toward Invercargill.  We followed the scenic route, making just one stop at slope point, the furthest point south on the South Island.  It was a bit anticlimactic, especially as the day was dreary.

We arrived in Invercargill and set up camp and settled in for the night.  The following day we visited the two major draws in the city...the water tower, which is famous for its architecture; and the local hardware store.  The water tower is like none I  have ever seen...The hardware store is ehays and sons and it is incredible.  It is huge and houses the usual hardware merchandise, as well as museum-like displays of motorcycles and cars.  Its claim to fame is that it has memorabilia from the "fastest Indian" the motorcycle which was constructed and ridden by a New Zealander.  This included a replica which I was able to get into for a photo...

Curio Bay...More Wonders

We had been told that we might see penguins at a spot a few hundred metres down the road...between 7 and 9 pm.  It seemed amazing and a bit strange to us that the penguins could be so regimented, but we took the walk to the appointed spot, the petrified forest (an area where fossils of trees have been exposed by wave action).  To our great surprise and delight...and precisely at 7:00...a large penguin came out of the sea and walked and hopped her way up the rocks towards bushes at the perimeter of the fossils.  She/he (apparently the sex cannot be determined by sight alone) stood a  mere 10 metres away from us for a good 40 minutes...resting and cooling down after a 30 km swim to get and bring back food.

We waited patiently and eventually two chicks appeared from the bushes clamoring to be fed.  It was wonderful to watch them feed and be force them to follow their parent around the rocks...the local conservation officer explained that the chicks need to exercise to be ready to depart three weeks hence.

After about 30 minutes the chicks made their way back into the bushes to settle in for the night and the parent went back to the water's edge to wait for the return of his/her mate.
It was very special to see, especially as this type of penguin (yellow-eyed) is notoriously shy. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Curio Bay and Hector's Dolphins

After having seen the Cathedral Caves we went on to Curio Bay.  It was suggested that we go there by people we met in Dunedin and we were not disappointed. 

The camp ground was not to the standards we would normally accept, but the location was incredible.  The ocean was right below our site, which was well sheltered due to thick growth of New Zealand Flax, which was used to delineate the different camp sites.  we knew we were going to be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the ocean and this made the camp ground worth it.

It was an extra surprise to learn that the endangered and rarely seen Hector's dolphins are often seen in this bay!  We went for a walk on the beach and we saw the dolphins in the bay, and even surfing in the waves around very lucky swimmers!  It was an impressive sight!