A Travellerspoint blog

The wet and windy west coast

After leaving Wanaka we drove to the West coast to the villages of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef. The main attractions here being the glaciers! When we arrived the weather was having a shocking time. We headed first to Fox glacier and walked down to the look out but the visability was so bad that we couldn't even see 100m in front of us and the bad conditions meant that they closed the path that leads up to the glacier face. We also missed the glacier in Torres del Paine, Patagonia and were beginning to think that we just weren't meant to see one.

We headed to the backpackers hostel, which was a really lovely hostel complete with fire and hot jacuzzi, where we proceeded to spend the afternoon whilst the weather played out its tantrum. We had hoped to watch the Luna eclipse that was happening this evening, however that didn't happen. The next morning the rain had cleared and although it was still slightly cloudy, visibility was improved. We took our chances this time with Franz Josef. We were able to walk along the path to the glacier and finally(!) we caught a glimpse of a glacier. THe glacier has retreated so much over the years that you can almost see it edging its way back. We enjoyed seeing the glacier so much that we then drove to a second lookout point some kilometers away for a second view. Glaciers are awesome. We were going to take a guided trip out onto the ice but weren't sure it was worth it with the rain expected imminently and we were pretty chuffed with just seeing it.
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That afternoon we drove up to Arthur's pass, a village settled at nearly 1000m high. The road itself is also called Arthur's pass and connects the east to the west coast by going up over the mountain range. It was pretty chilly up there and we chose to stay in one of the DOC (Department of Conservation) campsites, which was basic but had shelter for us to make some food. After a short walk to a 131m waterfall and a few drinks in the only bar in town, open late (8pm) we headed back to camp where we decided it was too cold for the tent and spent out first night in the car. We had to do it once and it was surprisingly not that uncomfortable.
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The next morning the clouds had come in again and we took a short 8km walk along the path and through the trees. Shortly after we left Arthur's pass and headed back to the west coast. We arrived in Greymouth, where the weather had deteriorated. There were weather warnings when we arrived and winds of 150km. After grabbing some lunch and a hot drink we went to check out the situation with Tourist Information. We wanted to head up to the Pancake rocks, however the road was closed. Subsequently many other roads leading out of Greymouth were also closed. So we took the only one open and headed to Nelson. The drive was actually OK and it seemed we were headed away from the worst of it, but as soon as we arrived in Nelson, back on the coast the winds picked up and the rain too. We found a cabin for the evening and holed up there to see what the next day would bring.
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Posted by Time Well Spent 19:36 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Wanaka

A small distance north of Queenstown is Wanaka on the shore of the the lake and surrounded by mountains. We spent two nights here, camping the first and as the rain descended staying in a luxurious (some may say basic, but luxurious to us!) cabin. The weather meant that we were limited as what to do here but we enjoyed some short walks round the town and made the most of having a solid roof over our head.

We did however find time to go to Puzzling world, a maze ad exhibition of mind tricks and puzzles which was brilliant. The maze had 1.5 km of paths and apparently people walk an average 6km (which I am sure we managed) trying to find the way out. It took us an hour and a half to locate all 4 corners and finally the exit! The exhibition was my favourite part though with some excellent holograms as well as a tilted house where balls roll up tables and you are so disorientated you cant work out which way the real "down" is. There were also other exhibits such as concaved faces of famous people that appear 3D and follow you around the room and an room which makes one person in it look massive and the other look tiny.
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After all this mind blowing stuff we needed a drink (well I did, Rosa volunteered to drive) so we went to Wanaka Beer Works to sample some of the brews, and the old toy museum (I take back what I said earlier, with all the model trains, airfix modes
ls and classic cars on display this was definitely my Dads favourite part of the S. island!). Rosa found the Sylvannian family section incredible (again). I then found her at the lego table where she'd made a car, which she was very proud of. I on the other hand sampled some of the local beers from the brewery in a taster session (though I was tempted by an airfix model, especially with the rain now threatening for the next week!). We'd need an indoor activity.
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Posted by Time Well Spent 19:28 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Queenstown to Arrowtown

Our first night in Queenstown was spent camping in a central though slightly less then appealing campsite near the town. Queenstown is the party and extreme sport capital of the South Island and reminds me slightly of Newquay (you can decide if that is a good or a bad thing). It is filled with pubs, bars and tourist agents selling everything from jet boating to sky diving.

We ventured out our first night to watch the Friday night rugby and enjoy a quiet pint in a "traditional" Irish pub. The following day we sampled some fresh cookies recommended to us by our NZ friend from a place called Cookie Time, they were delicious but nothing on Ben's Cookies! The same day we also sampled the world famous Fergburger, said to be the best in the world! Really was a great burger and worth the queue which is there from opening time until closing and never dies down! After all this food we headed up the Gondola to Mount Bob where we dabbled in a not so extreme sport, with a spot of luge, essentially a tray with wheels and primitive brakes which whisks you down a windy course! Great fun! We ended the day with an 18 hole mini golf course, where we drew (though there may have been a number of restarts for some of us....okay both of us but I still deserved to win!).
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The next morning there was a gap in the cloud for us to take part in some proper extreme sport in the way of some paragliding (which Rosa had to spend some time convincing me was a good idea). It was a great way to spend a morning, running off the side of a cliff and dangling below a parachute. It was beautiful, and to be honest not that extreme, my landing left a little to be desired though. I am sure the grass stains will come out of my trousers eventually!
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After all this excitement we headed to the nearby town of Arrowtown, a small 'town' that looks slightly like something out of the wild west, in the middle of a beautiful forest now well into its Autumn colours which made for a beautiful afternoon. We grabed a pie for lunch from the bakery and caught a film at Dorothy Browns, a boutique 15 seat cinema including thrones and sofas to sit on (guess which seating option Rosa chose) along with the added benefit of a glass of wine and no preamble or adverts!
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Posted by Time Well Spent 19:19 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Milford Sounds

The next day after we'd completed the Kepler track we took it easy and drove the famous Milford Road to Milford Sounds. The road itself is a beautiful drive with numerous stops along the way. We stopped at the Mirror Lakes, as you can see from the below picture they are a perfect mirror for the mountains towering above them. Other stops included a chasm, a creek and various other lookout points taking in the beauty of the surrounding mountains and fiordlands. None quite as spectacular as Milford Sounds itself. The road also included a 1.2km long tunnel that was dug by hand in the 1930s and completed in 1991 (I think they probably gave up with the "by hand" after a while)!

We spent some time at the sounds walking around and taking in the scenery. Our legs didn't enjoy the walking bit too much but we did enjoy the scenery.

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Posted by Time Well Spent 19:10 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Te Anau and the Kepler Trek

As I sit here writing this I am nursing my tired legs and back and enjoying a well earned cup of tea and this is all because of the Kepler Track. But more on this later.

First I should start with talking about Te Anau, the town which sits on the lake of the same name in the Fiordlands of the south island. Te Anau is a pretty little town two hours south of the famous Milford Sounds with its main function being a jump off spot for various walks, cycles, boat and heli rides in the area. We spent a pleasant day here getting the customary New Zealand pie, wandering along the lake front and visiting the small bird sanctuary where there are a number of Takahe flightless bird thought extinct until rediscovered in 1948 in the local area.

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So onto the Kepler Track, one of the great walks of New Zealand the track is a 70km circuit climbing up and over Mount Luxmore at 1472 metres. We did this in two nights and three days, one short and two long. Our first day, the short one was a walk from the carpark at Rainbow Reach to Brod Bay campsite, the walk was not so exciting winding its way through the woods occasionally catching a glimpse of the river. The same however cannot be said for the campsite which was basic indeed but in the most beautiful setting on the beach by the lake where you could watch the sun set over the mountains, a spectacular way to end the first day. We slept early that night knowing that the next day would be our longest. Our second day was a 1,400 metre assent and descent covering 24km, a walk that took us 8 hours. The first section of the walk was a fairly uninteresting assent through the trees. Though once the tree line is passed you are rewarded with a spectacular view with the clouds settled in the valleys and the mountains in the background. We stopped for a break at the Luxmore hut where we were greeted by a Kea, the worlds only alpine parrot and apparently the cleverest, he certainly wasnt shy.

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After our break we continued to the top of Mount Luxmore with its stunning panaramic views, made all the better by the beautiful weather. We then continued along the ridge with spectacular views either side before descending to our second campsite at Iris Burn where we were more then happy to arrive and rest our weary legs after a tiring but beautiful day. We took a further 45 minute wander up to the waterfall nearby. It looked like it would be a lovely spot for a swim, however as you can see from our attire it was far to chilly for that.

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Our final day was a 25km tramp (walk, hike, trek to everyone else who isn't a Kiwi) back to the car, through forests and wetlands with a beautiful stretch along the shore of lake Manapuri.

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As happy as we are to be sitting here with a hot cup of tea away from the sandflies we loved the walk and were very lucky with the beautiful weather. It really was stunning and I hope the pictures do it some justice.
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Posted by Time Well Spent 23:45 Comments (0)

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