|Call it Southern Rehab 2007|
I was supposed to move from Ward 81 into the Rehabilitation Ward of Auckland Hospital. A very kindly nurse came to explain what would be involved. They would help me to lead a normal life. The physios, for example, would work with me until I was able to knot my own tie. It quickly became obvious to both of us that I had no interest in being normal. I decided I would take a chance on rehabilitating myself so that I could once again lead an extraordinary life, as I had become accustomed to do.
Making an extraordinary trip around an extraordinary country seemed to be in tune with my idea of Rehabilitation.
Being invited to speak at The Folklore Symposium provided the incentive to drive to Wellington, and anyone who happens to find themselves at the Bluebridge Ferry Terminal with a Punto should not resist taking the opportunity to drive around the South Island “Italian style”. It really is good for your health.
The general forum seemed to consist mainly of everyone complaining about the venue. It was such a relief to get outside the architecture.
We all walked up Hill Street to the Tinakori Bistro for a set menu. Scallops and Rib Steak with cheese cake for dessert. John O’Malley entertained us with stories of mining in Australia and around Reefton. He has the task of trying to get the Music School into the black. VUW had combined with Massey and run themselves into all sorts of problems. I was too exhausted to feel like social networking. After the stroke my stamina was not what it used to be. Most people seemed to be delighted with my presentation. A relief.
Sunday 2 December 2007
A lazy beginning to the day, and a luxuriously long breakfast. I had decided there was no point in racing off on the ferry to arrive in the South Island feeling exhausted, so I accepted Kimiko’s kind invitation to stay for another day. Browsing through her photographs of the Albany farm left me full of admiration.
We invited Kimiko and Nori to come with us as we explored Wellington and visited friends. She was keen to show us Stewart Park, Titahi and I had never been there before. It was a coastal reserve where the Plimmerton Harbour meets the sea. We then doubled back down through Porirua and across to the Hutt Valley on the Paremata Road. Down to see the new Dowse Gallery. A great architectural disappointment. The coffee was good.
On through Eastbourne to the end of the road. It was possible to hire a mountain bike and cycle on from there out to the lighthouse. We settled instead for ice creams all round. Found the Eastbourne house by Ian Athfield looking almost new, but we could not locate Gus Watt’s own house at Sorrento Bay. It was too long since I had been there.
The Lower Hutt Memorial at Petone, built on the site where the first settlers landed, and erected in 1940 for the centenary, was a museum and seemed to be an unlikely place to find a superb exhibition of Pacific photographs by Glenn Jowett. (AA Book of NZ Historic Places p137)
Nearby Patrick Street has been preserved as a historic precinct, with all the houses restored and looking very smart.
Called in at the Bluebridge terminal to buy a ticket for the 1pm ferry tomorrow. Padrone was less a 10% FMC discount, and I got a 10% Supergold discount off my fare.
I had been hoping that Waitangi Park might surprise and enchant but the whole school of intellectual landscape design fails to delight me. It seems to ask to be admired for being so smart, rather like those smug people who try to convince others that they are intellectuals. The skateboarders in contrast had to be admired. They were simply stunning.
Te Papa at speed. The Whale exhibition had just opened for a season but was now just closing for the day. Amazing footage of whales diving down to great depths.
Tried to find Gerald Melling’s Skybox with no luck, so headed off to Karaka Bay. The turning for the Shelley Bay coast road was difficult to find and we ended up making several long abortive detours, on one of which we found the Mount Crawford prison. Finally however we did make it to Karaka Bay and it was delightful. Victoriana crowding up to the street, and a small wharf. If it was the new home for the elite film set (forgive the pun) they have avoided all ostentatiousness.
On to Seatoun, just because I had been reading so much about the area in Judy Sier’s new book on Chapman-Taylor. Around Breaker Bay and Moa Point to head back to Lyall Bay. After great indecision we settled for a small Indian Restaurant run by a Bangladeshi family. Back to our luxury accommodation.
Monday 3 December 2007
Wellington – St. Arnaud
As our “flat” emptied out the car filled up, but somehow everything fitted it. We seemed to have more gear than when we left Auckland. Farewells. Away at 11.15am.
We were early enough for the mid-day check in for the 1pm “Santa Regina” ferry to make it possible to look at the Meridian building, with the reality failing to live up to the green hype, and also have a coffee at the Red Dog. Helen then went off to the City Museum to see the holograms, and that was almost a fatal mistake. She failed to come back and I was not allowed to load without her. She finally turned up just before they lifted the ramp.
From the harbour we were able to enjoy all the coastal road we had travelled around yesterday. An idyllic smooth crossing of Cook Strait. There were now large salmon farms in the Sounds. All too soon we were at Picton around our scheduled arrival time of 4.18pm.
My original intention had been to head to Golden Bay, but the weather forecast for the West Coast was superb which presented an opportunity not to be missed. I decided on a figure of eight pattern going directly to the West Coast via the Wairau Valley and then returning to Golden Bay via the Lewis Pass at the end of the trip. As it turned out we never did make it back to Golden Bay.
I had not been along the Wairau for many years and found the dry brown landscape transformed by vineyards and cherry orchards. A completely different texture where once there had been barren hills.
The beauty of the Nelson Lakes National Park was not to be rushed. Pitched the old K2 tent at the Doogue/Wood retreat, to relive so many fond memories, and watched the day die over the lake. The beech forest seemed to be much more open now, but DoC seemed puzzled that I should ask about this. Perhaps it was the natural cycle rather than windthrow. Beech seedlings do not mature until the old trees fall to let the light come in.
Tuesday 4 December 2007
St. Arnaud – Westport
Wednesday 5 December 2007
Westport - Punakaiki
A superb sleep on a wonderful soft bed. Met the Australian companion of the blind man. He explained that they did not actually know each other, but that the blind man was “showing him around New Zealand”. By the time we had packed up and cleaned up it was already 10am and check out time for our cabin.
Around past the racecourse to the mouth of the river. A freighter seemed to be waiting for a pilot. It steamed off again, but only to go in a circle to return to wait. Perhaps the tide was too low. The tip of the breakwater has boulders with numerous bronze plaques for people who have lost their lives crossing the bar. A brief conversation with a visitor who knew one of the men. He could have saved himself but went back to try and save the boy from his fishing boat. The anchor was from the Kaitawa which sailed from Westport only to founder on the Pandora Bank, with all lives lost. 35 I think. A place for thinking how frail life is, but today it was perfectly calm.
Back to the lagoon to enjoy the fishing boats. At the main wharf a Holcim cement boat was loading its bulk cargo. A crowd gathering in front of the Municipal building left me wondering what was going on. It turned out that they were all volunteers having their Christmas photograph taken. Helen had shopping to do. We needed a pot and a knife to replace the ones inadvertently left in the boatshed at Karaka Bay. I waited and watched on the corner outside the Cosmomopitan where we had had whitebait last night. On then to 168 Romilly.
Peter Lusk was back from his morning’s work. Caroline provided an instant excellent lunch of good fresh avocado, tomato and lettuce. I discovered that Mount Augustus and the famous snails were just to the north. Their daughter Danielle was doing architectural draughting. Peter offered to come with us as a guide so we set off together to explore the Denniston incline. A long metal road to the bottom. John, who was a miner and came from a mining family, turned up to inspect vandalism to the sign. He now works for DoC. I commented that he was well qualified but he did not get the joke. A good sealed road winding to the top of the incline was being used by trucks carting out coal and care was needed to avoid them on the hairpin bends.
We drove through the old township to visit the old school which is now a museum. A friend of Peter’s showed us around. I discovered that Peter had been one of the people who sat on the roof of Owen Wilke’s house to try and stop the Council demolishing it. His quiet exterior gave little indication of all the campaigns he had been involved in. Back for a cup of tea and finally on our way around 5pm. Helen had more shopping to do, this time for a battery for her camera.
By the time we reached Punakaiki it was clear that we would not have time to get to anywhere with the same magic. The camping ground lay in the shadow of the cliffs right next to the beach. Perfect. Explored the pancake rocks, cooked up some Ruawai kumara for a meal, and watched the sunset from the beach.
Thursday 6 December 2007
Punakaiki - Okarito
To cherish the moment it was not necessary to do more than sit outside the cabin in the sun watching the shadows moving across the escarpment. A walk down to the river and the beach. On our way by 10.15am.
Breakfast from the hot bread shop in Greymouth, with the information centre just over the road. Down to the river mouth to eat our rolls. In the distance Mt Cook was visible. Talking to locals. Photographs of fishing boats in the Erua Moana Lagoon. Checked at his office but Gary Hopkinson was out of town for a week.
Bought a few vegetables at a roadside stall, but this was not a place for growing either vegetables or fruit. On to Hokitika. Left Helen to explore “New World” to stock up for the journey while I visited the uninteresting Catholic Church and the Greenstone factories. Then we shared a whitebait lunch at the Wongs Wok Chinese Restaurant, which seemed to be catering to busloads of Asian tourists.
A drive-by tour of Ross. A coffee to keep me awake in the heat at the Possum Café. Only on the West Coast could there be a sign “A vegetarian is just another name for a piss-poor hunter.” At Whataroa helicopter flights were being advertised for flights up to five nearby glaciers at $96. That seemed like bargain and I wondered about coming back in the morning. By then I had lost interest. Weather is never predictable so played cautious game by going down to Franz and up to Sentinel Rock to get views of the glacier. Back then to Okarito. The Youth Hostel may not have been full but it was certainly fully occupied. However a ”Vacancy” notice nearby on the main street attracted us to an excellent en-suite room for NZ$60. On a walk discovered the librarian sitting on the front steps of the now almost restored Donovans Store. She showed us around the building as well as the library, and I gave her a copy of “Piglet” to be part of their small permanent collection. Most of the books were a rotating collection sent down from Hokitika. Shared the archive idea we were developing for Kohukohu. The librarian also worked for the canoe hire and knew all the local tracks so we were able to sort out times and tides for tomorrow.
Friday 7 December 2007
Decided to stay a second night in our wonderful accommodation only to find they were fully booked for the night, with a group coming. Packed up and moved out.
Down to the canoe hire. A little after the 9am target, but they seemed very relaxed. A briefing and then we walked down to the wharf. I was expecting two singles, but we ended up with a double. That worked out to be fine even if our co-ordination left something to be desired. The foot pedal rudder controls took a little getting used to.
Up the lagoon with the tide, with kotuku flying over our bow soon after we had left the wharf. The poles marking the channel have been much improved and the new maps made it much easier to sort out features. Up the first river. It was necessary to portage over one shoal area and then the upper reaches were finally blocked by an impassable log. A lunch stop.
There seemed to be no point in trying to explore all the rivers so we settled for a leisurely paddle in the shadow of the mountains. The canoe hire rescue boat came up to check that we were ok and when we asked for champagne he decided to let us amble home with the tide, with advice to watch out for two spoonbills. They really are odd birds with a peculiar dance routine. Back to return all the gear and pay for a half day hire for two.
On to leave Padrone at the entry to the track up to the trig. The view from the top was truly spectacular. Okarito lagoon to the North and three mile lagoon to the South. The forest running away to the snow sparkling on the Alps. The battery on my D-70 expired teaching me a valuable lesson.
Turned off half way down to take the track South to three mile and five mile lagoons. Their beauty was breathtaking. Back then along the coastal walk, which should not be tackled when the tide is high. High tide on this night was around 10.30pm, but with no wind and no waves there was time enough.
The locals obviously did not like people camping anywhere other than in the camp ground so it seemed best to respect their wishes. In fact the ground was soft and the facilities were excellent, even though there were no electrical outlets for charging equipment.
Another sunset with the sun just sinking into the sea.
Saturday 8 December 2007
Okarito - Gillespies Beach
Fantastic hot showers. Spread out the tent to dry. Breakfast at the table before we left. Down to the beach. Farewell to the camping ground. Kotuku. Back to Franz Joseph. DoC was happy to charge the battery for my camera, while we walked over the road for a coffee and muffin. Mark Mellsop was now in Hokitika.
On South to Fox where everything seemed to be closed for the weekend. Down to Lake Matheson, to walk the circuit, which took more than an hour. A gem.
On to Gillespies Beach for no particular reason. The DoC camping ground was rather grotty, but the setting was spectacular, so we set up our tent for the night. When I went down to photograph the light of the setting sun reflecting on Mount Cook and Mount Tasman I found a bevy of very serious photographers with even more serious equipment doing the same. Some guide book must have brought them all to this spot.
Sunday 9 December 2007
Gillespies Beach - Haast Beach
At 6am the world was shrouded in mist. I figured it would burn off and slowly it did. By 8.30am most of the mountains had emerged. Half an hour later the sky was clear. Then the heat haze developed into a new cloud formation by 9.30am. Packed up and ready to go. Helen went for a long walk along the beach gathering stones. Drove along to photograph the couple of baches where the main road meets the sea. One looking very well organised for self-sufficiency with a SOMA windmill and photovoltaics.
Not a car to pass on the 12km of narrow winding road back towards Fox, which was fortunate. The strong light and deep shadows demanded careful driving. Down to the Lake Matheson Café for a coffee and savoury muffin. Talking to a couple from Manchester, UK. Through Fox township which these days seemed little more that an advertisement for glacial helicopter flights.
Only 4km down the dusty road to the glacier car park. Walked far enough to get a view, but the glacier is much better seen from the road on the Southern side. Down to the end of that road and walked a further ten minutes down to a viewpoint. Lunch at the table in the car park. Another good view half way down the road to the main highway.
On South, luxuriating in the spectacular weather and even more spectacular scenery. Drove in to the Copeland Track car park to find fifteen or more cars and a Canadian just setting out to walk across. Gave him enough advice to see him on his way.
Bruce Bay was a big disappointment. Hundreds of tons of rock have been used to form an embankment for the road to run along. We tried to get out to the beach by following a route alongside the lagoon. No luck. Back to let Helen look for rocks below the embankment. Two dolphins very close in, playing around by the entry to the lagoon.
The Salmon farm which had moved up-market from the days when you could BBQ your own salmon. Knights Point was becoming overgrown. At Ships Creek I was eaten alive by sandflies and had to retreat. A pity. The Haast Pass Petrol Station was just closing at 7pm so decided to fill up a little rather than limiting our options for tomorrow. Molly gave us a map and helpful advice.
On to the Haast Beach Motor Camp to take a room for NZ$60. Downloaded all my D-70 photographs to my laptop and cleared the camera. Charged the battery, Tried to save the images to a memory stick as a back up. Charged up the laptop battery. A massive sorting out of gear. Helen cooked a meal to go with our smoked salmon from the salmon farm. A fantastic sleep.
Monday 10 December 2007
Haast Beach – Glendhu Bay, Wanaka
Rain had set in during the night and became steadily worse. Our timing had been perfect. The great array of identical “Kiwi Experience” tents were sodden but packed away, and their bus left, towing a trailer with dozens of mountain bikes in a rack on top. Later I would learn that at 2am one of the girls had broken an ankle, “probably trying to get into the driver’s bed” the lady owner suggested as we left. The police and a doctor had been involved but the noise had not been enough to wake me up.
Finished charging my razor, so that everything was well organised for another leg of the adventure. A wide verandah to park the car under made it possible to pack in the dry. A great hot shower. Helen cooked a breakfast. On our way by 10.15am.
Steady rain all the way to Jackson’s Bay. An amazing Bayley’s land agent sign on the hut at the end of the Bay. “Zoned for coastal settlement” etc. The “crayfish pot” did not open until mid-day, so we were too early, but it then stayed open until 6pm. Peter Kent’s “visitors centre” was weathering well and the wharf had not changed.
Too wet to go down the Cascade Road to Ellery. Drove only to the entry to Manuka Lagoon. On to the Visitors Centre at Haast. Enjoyed the great photography. Bruce Bay without the road. Discovered that Kahikatea is New Zealand’s oldest tree.
We paused here and there but made no real stops until Makarora. A yarn with the pilot. Today the weather was too bad but normally a flight up the Wilkin and over Rabbit Pass, with a circuit around Aspiring would be NZ$210. A minimum of three passengers would be needed to make the trip. The Southern Alps Air plane will take five. Some other time. They will also fly you in and drop you off in Siberia so that you can walk back down to the Wilkin and jet boat back out. NZ$270 Unfortunately the Siberia strip is at the bottom of the valley while the best of the Siberia is the cirque. Nostalgia made it all very tempting.
A buffet meal. Lamb, beef stroganoff etc. A coffee. A game of table tennis to get some exercise. On to Lakes Wanaka and Hawea. Found Errol and Jan’s house, but no one was home. Sat at their garden table and ate the last of our Hokitika salad. Decided to camp in their tussock but it was not to be. Off up the Matukituki Valley until the road became so corrugated that I thought it would shake Padrone to pieces. Amazing scenery. A cabin at the Glendhu Bay Motor Camp was only $17/person so settled in for the night. Very comfortable and a fantastic setting.
Tuesday 11 December 2007
Glendhu Bay, Wanaka - Glenorchy
Sat out in the doorway of the cabin again, working on my laptop, and greeting all the camp users as they passed by. Ran the battery down to 60% but it did not take long to charge it back up to 91%. Beginning to enjoy keeping my diary up to date. Then some more reading to try and work out the trip system for Padrone. Finally managed to get results. A hot shower for a dollar. More hot water than I could use. Packed up and on our way by 10.15am.
It was still drizzling and the cloud level was very low so there was no point in heading back into the hills. Helen checked out the Jackson Bay property at Bayleys. They had been wanting a million dollars, but that had come down to half.
On to the DoC Visitor Centre. A superb poster of tramping huts, each quite unique. If only I had enough wall space for all these things. They also had a postcard with a smaller edition of the same photos. Excellent photos of the Olivine Ice Plateau.
On to Errol and Jan's. They were home, having arrived in late last night, after clearing briar from a reserve at the top of the Lewis Pass. A great welcome. We admired a very pregnant skink sitting on the rock outside the back door, and Jan showed us an astonishing series of photographs of skinks she had taken. This is real conservation. Giving us all the eyes to see.
She showed us a photograph, a poem and an article she had had published in Tui Moto, “The Mystery of the Forest”. The wife of the editor had become a friend. This led to her showing us a "book" of her poetry, inspired by the Albany kauri forest. Exquisite. A quilt with all the colour and complexity of the forest. Her creativity was astonishing.
Gave them a copy of Piglet. They wanted us to stay for the night and it was very tempting, but I was beginning to feel that time was running out with still a long way to go. We looked at a caravan surrounded by a fence to keep it in, which reminded Errol of my General Studies lectures, and the climbing wall, and then headed South.
Liz Phillip had told us that she spent her rest time in the Cadrona Valley so we called in to the pub to see if we could track her down. We seemed to draw a complete blank until finally there was a response to the cell-phone number she had given us. Brian told us she was up at Routeburn Flats. We pressed on although it was becoming very clear to me that we could not get that far tonight.
The Crown Range provided a spectacular entry into Queenstown but terrified Helen. I refuelled in Frankton to allow for contingencies and drove through Queenstown as quickly as I could trying to keep my eyes shut. The social phenomena is incomprehensible to me. All that was quickly left behind as we drove up the lake. Cloud up the valleys made the day seem to close in more quickly than I would have hoped, and there was relief all round when we found an empty cabin at the Glenorchy camping ground with only ten minutes to spare before they closed. Once again the setting was superb.
Wednesday 12 December 2007
Glenorchy - Routeburn Flats
The new road was now sealed well up into the hills, and this was the first time I had crossed the Dart River by bridge. My mind went back to crossing the Dart many years ago on my own, with the river boulders rolling under my feet and the pressure getting to the point where I would be swept away. Then suddenly it began to feel just a little less and I knew I was going to make it. That incredible sensation of feeling alive. I just lay on the bank gulping in the mountain air. How could anyone understand who has not gone right to the edge?
Now it was all so easy, although DoC was still warning people to keep away from the Snowy as it was considered to be extremely dangerous. Years ago I had gone over the Snowy to get from the Rees to the Dart, on my own, although I had been very careful not to slide off the snowgrass. You need to make those journeys when you are young. Of course it is dangerous to be alive.
Now it was possible to drive to a carpark and a shelter hut at the start of the Routeburn. A lavish new facility is well on the way to completion which will make it even more posh. The rivers now have bridges and the track is a well formed easy grade path. The adventure may have gone but the beauty remains. Within minutes of leaving the carpark you plunge into a fairytale world of moss.
A short distance up the track I found Liz clearing the gutters at the side of the track. I tried to slip past but she was not to be fooled. Big hugs all round. She needed to carry on working while we walked for perhaps another two hours up to the hut. We had only taken day packs and had just set out to head back to Padrone when Liz arrived and convinced us to stay the night. While we lazed about enjoying the beautiful valley she prepared a sumptuous meal and the warden’s cabin had two extra bunks with enough duvets to keep us warm. We talked late into the night over ginger wine.
Thursday 13 December 2007
Routeburn Flats - Mossburn
The sensation of waking up in a tramping hut was wonderful. With an 8.15am radio sched Liz contacted all the huts in the area to confirm the numbers who had stayed the night. Fun, but it all seemed to be part of the modern DoC bureaucracy.
Reluctantly we walked the couple of hours back to the car park, taking of course much longer to photograph and just enjoy the beauty. Padrone was safe and sound.
On to Paradise and then the road up the Dart into “Lord of the Rings” territory. The road goes for a considerable distance and we did not make it to the end. Many fords so it would be impassible in wet weather, but a bus goes up to deliver and collect trampers. A far cry from the days when you just took it for granted that you would walk.
Back down. The Glenorchy Cafe, opposite the Mobil Station, sets a high standard. We enjoyed an all-day breakfast and a coffee. The “fur place” just up the road employs three full time workers turning possums into gold.
Back down the lake to Queenstown which seemed to be a tangle of one way streets, malls, and people trying to work out why they were there. Gross.
Andrew Patterson’s bungy centre did not live up to the hype, and hype was certainly what the whole place seemed to be about. The Peregrine Winery was serene in a fantastic setting.
Arrowtown has become a tourist film set, but the parking accessible by numerous arcades actually works well. I would have liked to call in on John Blair but I was running out of steam as well as time.
Back to Frankton Junction and on South. Cloud below the craggy tops left us constantly stopping to take photographs. Once the lake was left behind the flat landscape seemed rather dull.
A camping ground at Mossburn suddenly loomed out of nowhere and seemed to be a better prospect than driving on to Te Anau, so we settled in to a cabin.
Friday 14 December 2007
Mossburn - Te Anau
Awake around 8am. Very overcast and a light drizzle. Not looking good but when travelling you take the days as they come. Helen had a text message from Corina to say that Kitty had moved in and was sleeping on Mia's bed. There seemed to be no sign of the Japanese who were supposed to be living in my house and looking after her.
To Te Anau for breakfast at the Sandfly Cafe. Te Anau is now a thriving up-market tourist township with nothing to remind you of what it once was like.
North up the Eglington Valley. Trampers setting out on the Milford track were gathering at a wharf at the northern end of the lake. The valley seemed to be more open than I remembered it, but once it closes in it is truly spectacular. The Divide which is the other end of the Routeburn Track. The cirque at the Homer tunnel with cars waiting for the green light and keas waiting for the cars. Milford. The new terminal for boat trips seems to have turned Milford Sound into a tourist industry.
A coffee. Checked out the Lodge which was full apart from the dorms. When the sun came out we returned to the Sound. Walked in to the Chasm through exquisitely beautiful bush. Waterfalls everywhere. Back up through the Homer tunnel, after the traffic lights had been turned off for the day, presumably after the last buses had gone.
Superb views down the Hollyford Valley. Gunn’s Camp was a possibility for the night but the 10km drive seemed as risky as the sandflies. There is now an organised tour in which you walk and jet boat down the Hollyford to Martins Bay and then fly around to Milford to take the bus home. Three days and two nights from Te Anau.
Back to Te Anau which now has several camping grounds but the traditional one by the Lake had the best setting. Found a good cabin and moved in. Back to the township for the unlikely combination of a venison meal at a Chinese Restaurant.
Saturday 15 December 2007
Te Anau - Bluff
Although we were already on the road south I decided to refuel before setting out. That meant that we went past the DoC information centre so we called in to check it out. A sign in the entry was advertising “Ata Whenua”. I had been past the cinema the previous day but had written it off as just another tourist trap. Around we went. The vibes were good before the film even got under way. Would we like a coffee? It would be brought to our luxurious seats.
A helicopter pilot had spent hundreds of hours flying around Fiordland. He teamed up with some of the cinematographers from “Lord of the Rings”. The result was edited down to a 35 minute film with a special sound track added. To show the film he had built the cinema we were in. We took off on the most amazing journey. Helen ended up deciding to buy 12 copies of the DVD for presents.
After that I could not resist calling in at Southern Lakes Helicopters to check out flights although the cloud cover seemed to be too low and packing in. We settled for a flight around the Kepler Track. It cost no more to land as you only pay for the actual flying hours of the helicopter, so we landed on the snow at a little mountain tarn.
They also offered a wide range of flights to Doubtful Sound, Dusky Sound, Milford etc, and of course a “Lord of the Rings” flight. The euphoria of all this carried us South to Manapouri. The boats operating out of here to the power station and Doubtful Sound were now a very slick operation.
On South again on the Southern Scenic Route. The Clifden suspension bridge was opened in 1899. I had originally set out to get to Tuatapere to see Harold Marshall, but he had moved back to Auckland some months before we arrived. Tuatapere is mostly famous for its sausages, but the shop was closed for the holidays.
The Hump Ridge Track could be seen in the distance. This was now a three day two night walk set up through a local initiative. It is possible to freedom walk it but there is also a helicopter luxury option. The huts have a warden over the summer months and breakfast porridge is free.
Finally to the coast. Macrocarpa here were blasted by the South wind into astonishing works of art. Today there was no wind and a heat wave which made it hot even in just a T-shirt.
I would not have gone down to Cosy Nook, but I wanted to see if Nigel Brown was home. It was one of the great discoveries of the trip. A headland of granite boulders curled around to enclose a tiny cluster of baches. This is what urban design is all about.
By the time we reached Riverton the new Museum which Helen Clark had opened only a few weeks previously had closed for the day and our eating options were beginning to diminish. We settled for the roast of the day at the Apirama Tavern overlooking the estuary and it was excellent. Interesting housing here for both the rich and the poor.
We just passed through Invercargill with a slight detour to find the Museum. None of our information gave any hint that there was a camping ground at Bluff but we decided to take a chance. It paid off. We drove most of the way through Bluff and enquired at a dairy. No luck. Then as we headed out of town there was small sign. Perfect. The cabins were unlocked and an honesty system operated. Put your money in an envelope and drop it in the slot. One cabin seemed to be locked, although we later found this was only the appearance presented by a faulty lock. The second cabin was open and free so we moved in. Later we met the caretaker and arranged to stay a second night. We looked out across a field to big freighters coming in to berth.
Sunday 16 December 2007
Bluff - Stewart Island - Bluff
We were down at the Stewart Island Ferry Terminal by 9am, half an hour before the scheduled departure. Decided to take the Patterson Inlet cruise, and that proved to be a wise choice. A catamaran with a single deck took us across Fouveaux Strait which was almost flat calm. As the South Island slipped behind other islands appeared. Dog Island, Ruapuke Island, and Titi Island from which mutton birds come.
Oban Bay is no longer the sleepy hollow I remembered but is still very laid back. With more boats the store now stays open all day. Explored the town, which did not take long. The DoC office. I was mostly interested to find out how the locals felt about almost all the island being turned into a National Park. It would seem that the tensions are being overcome.
The Museum was like many small community museums and the volunteer was happy to talk at length about almost anything. He recommended the Kai Kart alongside for the best fish in town and also the Fushia Walk. Wise advice.
The Kai Kart served up a fish platter for two. An enormous plate of scallops, oysters, mussels, calamari, cod and other fish. Two others also sharing a platter had just arrived in from walking the track across the middle of the island where they found kiwis running around in the daylight. I wondered if they were weka, but did not voice anything to take away their euphoria. Later in the day we would all meet again at Ulva Island as they began a four day canoe trip.
The Patterson Inlet cruise left at 1pm. It began with a great spiel about how they wanted it to be a personal trip and they would respond to anything the passengers saw. The usual tourist banter I thought to myself as I pointed out to the guide a penguin I could see sitting on a rock. Without a word the guide raced up to the skipper and suddenly the boat did a 180 degree turn and we cruised in for a closer look. It was only the second penguin they had seen in the last four years.
We stopped at Ulva Island for an hour to walk around a few of the easy tracks. The island is now predator free and the bird life is thriving. A robin and its chick came to get us to turn up some grubs.
At 4pm we set out in the underwater-viewing boat. The kelp swirled around but the crew decided there were not enough fish and they gave us all a complete refund. Great value.
The fuschia walk wound up to Trail Park, but felt as though it could be much more remote. Then it became the Raroa Walk and went down to Thule Bay, where there are a number of boatsheds which have been converted into living accommodation to the consternation of Southland Council. We returned to Oban by the road to catch the 6.30pm ferry home.
One interesting option for some other time would be to fly to Mason Bay, stay in the hut there, walk across the almost flat middle of Stewart Island to Freshwater Bay in about four hours, with another hut there, and then take the water taxi back to Golden Bay. NZ$185 for the transport. A flight to Mason Bay is NZ$130 with a minimum of three.
A blue cod meal in the local fish shop. Up Observation Hill. Rang Clive and he sounded apprehensive about his operation. Rang Claire and she was in tears as she described how sick Piglet was. Told her we were on our way north and would be there as quickly as we could.
Around to the point where SH1 begins before returning to the Camping Ground.
Monday 17 December 2007
Bluff - Kaka Point
Our minds had turned North and so did we. A tour of the Tiwhai smelter seemed to be of no importance. Sheds on islands which could only be reached at low tide. To the Invercargill Museum for an all-day breakfast and a big bowl of coffee. Excellent exhibitions on the Sub Antarctic Islands which did not seem to be so far away from here. Helen wanted to see the Tuatara and ended up photographing a plastic model before the helpful hostess revealed the truth and sold Helen several Tuatara to take home. Photographed the main street and the cathedral as we headed off.
I was fascinated by some “baches” and then realised they were whitebait cribs. Dozens of them all over the place alongside the river. Each unique and eccentric.
We turned off at Fortrose to take the southern route past Slope Point to Curio Bay. By chance it was low tide which revealed the fossilised trees.
Errol and Jan had recommended the lamb at McLean Falls, and they were right. This was a new holiday park, having only opened a few months back, with a variety of accommodation including cabins and an excellent restaurant. If we had not been on a tight schedule I would have been tempted to stay. It had been developed in the corner of a farm, and the farmer-owner knew his lamb.
We turned off again at Papatowai to take the southern route to see the Purakaunui Falls, which seem to feature of every South Island brochure. They are only a ten minute walk from the carpark and the forest is as interesting as the falls. Helen was keen to go to Surat Bay to see the sea lions, but it was a futile journey. The map showed a road to the east but it did not exist and we had to return to the main road before turning off again to Nugget Point.
This was where the sea lions had gone to. They were everywhere. The whole area was also teeming with birds and a five minute walk led to a hide from which we could watch penguins on the beach. It was the right time of day for them to be coming ashore, and a few juveniles were just sitting on the beach preening themselves.
Kaka Point had a camping ground and there was a cabin available. We took it.
Tuesday 18 December 2007
Kaka Point - Christchurch
The weather had cleared and the light was sharp. I could not resist going back around to Nugget Point. The landscape was astonishing.
It was not difficult to find Hone Tuwhare’s humble home but he was not about, and I did not want to trouble his minder. I resolved to write an article on the theme of great people not needing pretentious architecture to prop them up.
Balclutha made it seem that we had returned to what is euphemistically called “civilisation”.
You can park for 30 minute in the Dunedin Octagon without charge. This gave enough time to explore the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Ted McCoy’s little chapel, the extensions to the cathedral, and to take a walk around the Octagon. After the world we had been in Dunedin seemed rather down at heel and a little seedy. On to the Museum where Helen looked at butterflies and I had a coffee. The new university buildings seemed to have no soul and no humanity. Aquinas Hall looked down on us as we drove north.
A motorway took us well out of town. We refuelled at Waitati. We almost looked at the
Moeraki boulders but the tourist paraphernalia made us retreat.
Called in at the Totara Estate intending to make a quick visit, as my Life Membership gave me free access to all these NZHPT properties. It immediately became apparent that this was one of the best of the Historic Places Trust properties, comparable to Pompallier House. It assumed that our whakapapa tells us who we are. We need to be given a chance to explore rather than being presented with a dusty set-piece image of Victoriana. Our visit began with a video explaining how the frozen meat trade came to develop, Then we wandered through the men’s quarters, the stables, the granary, the slaughterhouse, the carcass shed and the pig yards.
When the first shipment was made in 1882 it took a month to load the “Dunedin” as the carcasses were sent south by rail and frozen on board the ship by a steam powered freezing unit. The sailing ship took three months to reach London and the cargo arrived in perfect condition. On my bookshelf back at Karaka Bay was “Totara Estate”, published in 1982 for the centenary, with all the details.
The music playing was by Phil Garland, so we felt able to take that with us.
This was my first visit to Oamaru since I had become a Life Member of the Whitestone Civic Trust so I needed to catch up on the politics. The classic problem. A small group of dedicated volunteers work themselves into the ground. When they succeed others see the financial advantage in taking over what they have done. When anyone can become a member of the Trust and gain a vote it seemed almost impossible to prevent the takeover. Long discussions on all this.
I had driven almost 6000km and enjoyed every minute of it. Perfect rehabilitation.
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