After the truly magnificent whale watching ...

Trip Start Sep 19, 2002
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Trip End Sep 22, 2003


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Tuesday, November 5, 2002

After the truly magnificent whale watching experience, we headed across New Zealand and then South. We passed through Oxford, Sheffield and Springfield but didn't find the "doh" beer factory. At Oxford I had my dressing changed (yet again) but the good news is that the hole is getting smaller (now a 5p piece rather than a pound coin). I've now got a puncture repair type patch on it that you can see through which is quite a good introduction to total strangers. The bad news is that I will be scarred for life "...but what about my previously perfect bottom! I'll never model swimwear again!"

The route west and then south was stunning with waterfalls cascading down onto the road and snowy mountains and blue rivers from the natural stone chemicals. Stopped at Hokitika beach and found greenstone and marble among the stones. Also saw people fishing for whitebait which although people catch by the kilo here it is still really expensive which is why we saw so many people fishing. The sea meets the estuary here and creates swirling tides that fight each other and there have been many shipwrecks here over the years. One is now on the roadside filled with concrete and with picnic tables in it so it looks like you are sailing in the boat. Then disaster struck - we had our first run in with the police......!

The central locking didn't appear to be working when we got back to Stan the Van and just as I was about to get cross with the rental company with yet another problem, we realised that the ignition was making no sound at all either. Woops! In the bad weather we had put the lights on. And left them on. While we played on the beach with puppies and pretended to be sailors from ages gone by. I was hysterical with laughter as we were miles from the nearest phone and most of the other vehicles around us were quad bikes or shipwrecks - all highly unsuitable for jump starting poor Stan. As luck would have it, along came a police car at just the right time (obviously just about to stop for lunch as I don't imagine much crime on such a remote beach). Phil coyly asked if they knew where the nearest phone was and as we had hoped they offered to jump start us. Don't people stare when you talk to police officers? Especially when they are removing things from your van while you stand looking sheepish. (The battery was behind the sink). Anyway, we got started and then Phil drove Stan around for the next 15 minutes to make sure we had enough juice to get started on our own. What a palava!

Next day we headed for the glaciers. Fraz Josef comes first but we weren't feeling particularly well so we avoided the glacier hike and just walked to the viewing platform to take photos. It looks really strange because there are all these rugged mountains and then this white river in the middle which has just stopped and looked all bumpy. Of couse it hasn't stopped because it apparently pushes forward about a metre a day but is nowhere near as long as it was in previous centuries. Basically the hard snow at the top pushes the ice slowly down over time and it's so old and compact that it doesn't melt until near the bottom of the mountains although if the world continues to get warmer then they might start retreating again. Legend has it that a plane crashed near the top and it took three years for it to reach the bottom!

We headed for Okarito for the night and wandered along the beach watching the whitebait fishing again. We also saw a white heron (sacred to the maori and quite rare) so feel we are doing well with the wildlife watching.

Next day we headed for Fox Glacier (where the name for the mints came from I think) but the town was loads smaller than Frans Josef. Again we opted for the DIY walk but chose this time to go along the valley floor to the terminal face of the glacier. This involves walking past signs that say "no stopping" with a picture of people being crushed by falling rocks. As you can imagine, I wasn't feeling particularly carefree! We walked over many little rivers and I'm getting better at getting across by myself without being swept away into the icy waters. Fox is slightly different to Frans Josef - not as picturesque but more rugged and menacing and it changes everday so you have to watch where the markers are or you might get caught in a landslide. We also saw the infamous kaka (large wild parrots) who did little dances on our roof for our enjoyment.

We also walked around Lake Matheson which is where you get the fabulous pictures of mounts Tasman and Cook reflected in the water. However not this day as it was so cloudy they didn't exist at all. But we felt quite good that we had done all this walking.

We parked up for the night at Lake Paringa and shock horror we didn't pay. This was out of protest at the lack of facilities and allegedly free sites that the DOC are supposed to run but don't. There was only one toilet working and that wasn't a proper one and that was the sum total of facilities! There wasn't even any water because of the giardia risk. We promised ourselves that the next night would be at a proper camp so that we could have hot showers and do the laundry and use proper toilets that did things like flush etc.

On the morning of 4th we headed south again to Monro Beach to see the crested penguins. After walking through coastal rainforest and seeing the largest fushia in the world we happened upon the beach but the tide was up so we couldn't get to the rocks where the penguins do their penguiney thing (incidentally, what do they do?) We were getting bitten alive again by the infuriating sand flies (itchiest bites in the world) so we headed back and eventually saw two other couples!

We arrived at Wanaka with sunny views of Mount Aspiring across the lake - truly magical. We had a fabulous kebab in a place called The Fez (three pounds each) and a slice of baklava which if you've never tried it - you should! It's filo pastry with honey and nuts in the middle - gorgeous but not really pacific rim food. I was so busy talking to Stavros about the ingredients that I left my bag there and we had to go back when he was shut to retrieve it. Luckily this time there was nothing of financial value (no passports and tickets) but my journal and our expense book was in there. Wot a narna!

Budget wise we are doing okay and are spending on average just under 60 pounds per day. However, with Queenstown next on the itinerary and lots of activities to surge the adrenalin, and then Taupo with the sky diving and Rotorua with Zorbing and Swooping, I think we will soon be over our budget. We planned to go to Milford Sound for the day after Queenstown but will have to wait and see if the tunnel is okay after the tourist bus caught fire on 3rd and exploded. There's no concrete lining in the tunnel so it should be okay but it's the only way through so if not we will have to miss it out.

Off to Queenstown now so must dash as Stan is a'waiting. Could have stayed here as there is loads to do but the weather is pants so we'll move on today.

By the way - did you notice that we have entered the top 5 logs for the month so that you just click on it and you are in! (well we were at 10 o'clock British time) Keep looking at the site to try ang get us in the all time top 5!

Be in touch soon, bye for now

Pip and Red
xx
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