North of Bluff is Invercargill. Queen's Park has beautiful gardens with a small zoo, bird aviaries, and the Museum and Art Gallery. We enjoyed the animal sculptures created from old cars and farm machinery, the display around 'the fastest Indian', the Tuatara display and the shipwreck survivors display.
Further west is Riverton, and although we stopped here for afternoon tea, the driving rain meant we did not leave the van. We continued our journey and arrived at 'Long Hilly Track' at Roundhill while it was still raining. Despite this, Darryl took off on the 2 ¼ hour track.
He only took 45 minutes before he returned. We cooked dinner and then I sauntered part-way along the track, taking photos, before we turned in for the night.
Breakfast was at Orepuki Beach, purportedly the 'gemstone beach', but once the rain stopped, and we went for a walk, we decided that this was more of a descriptor term, highlighting the river-worn boulders and pebbles eroding from the cliff and sitting in the sand like gems.
Clifden suspension bridge was built in 1899, and this longest NZ suspension bridge is still a sturdy structure (although I would no like to attempt to driver over it).
|To Kepler track|
Further north was the start of the Kepler track, and at this place the Waiau river was stunning – deep and perfectly clear, and very fast running. Darryl crossed the suspension footbridge and made his way to Shallow Bay hut, where he enjoyed beautiful views across the lake. He loved the Beech Forest, views of the snow on the mountains, and the bogs. Next was Te Anau where we filled up with fuel and then started out on the road to Milford Sound.
The first campsite in Fiordland National Park was Henry's Creek, along the shores of Lake Te Anau and we found a secluded campsite then had our brie and wine sitting on the stony shore, watching the sun set behind the snow-capped mountains. The only negative was the sandflies which arrived as soon as the wind died down, but Darryl's 'secret' mix of Dettol, Methylated Spirits and Olive Oil kept them at bay.
At Monkey Creek we stopped and a couple of Kea were entertaining everyone – bathing in the creek and jumping on cars. There was a procession of tourist buses and motorhomes.
At Milford Sound we went on the lakeside walk, where we were able to see a spectacular waterfall, and the lookout walk, which doesn't appear to be finished. The walk along the Hollyford River to Lake Marion was through the mossy beech forest, with the river roaring over the boulders beside us. We only went as far as the lookout.
Camp was made at Cascade Creek, where the sandflies were thick, but we went for a walk up a gravel avalanche debris and saw fascinating rocks and boulders (granite with sheets of schist). We slept well beside the fast-flowing river.
In the morning Darryl did the nature walk to Lake Gunn, while I enjoyed my bacon, eggs and coffee. We had a quick stop in Te Anau before a dusty, gravel road to Mavora Lakes. The fine loess dust penetrated everywhere in the van – even inside cupboards, and nothing we did would stop it. It was the Labour Day Long weekend, and campers were everywhere, but this picturesque spot was one of the LOTR filming sites, and a lovely spot for lunch.
The ragged Remarkables Range at Queenstown was still quite snowy, and Lake Wakatipu beautiful, but we did not stay long in this very touristy area. Driving down the Kawarau Gorge towards Cromwell was pretty amazing with huge swathes of jutting rocks, and Roaring Meg at the bottom where the River raged through them.
We ended up in Bannockburn, and old gold-mining area for the night. Darryl was not impressed by the plumbing standards at the holiday park. This area is one of the most arid in NZ, but still looked pretty green to us. The farmer's markets were on in Cromwell on Sunday morning. They were held in the historic old part of town. We bought some delicious cheeses, one a Silver Medal winning sheep's cheese called Balfour, from Gibbston Valley Cheeses, and the other a Haloumi. We were disappointed that there were no fruit and vege stalls.
Just before you get to Wanaka is the very interesting and challenging Puzzling World, where we whiled away quite a bit of time doing puzzles. Across the road was Mount Iron, a 545m glacier-formed mountain which we walked up for beautiful views of Wanaka, Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea and the Mt Aspiring Mountains. Wanaka also had markets, but these also turned out to be fruitless! They were art and craft markets. At Hawea we called in on Nicholas (one of Geoff and Gay's sons) and Ingrid, his wife, who live in a house facing the lake and mountains. It was a spectacular place to enjoy a cup of tea.
Our pull-up spot for the night was at Cameron Flat, in the Mt Aspiring National Park. We took a short walk down to the Blue Pools, over a couple of suspension bridges, where we were amazed to see huge wild salmon swimming in the intensely blue waters. The river rocks here fascinated us, with schists having twisted, and sometimes even criss-crossed, veins of quartz. Although our campsite was high and exposed, we were still inundated with swarms of sandflies. Any cm of skin not protected by clothing or doused in Darryl's mix, ended up with a bite – they even got m in the web of my fingers where I had missed.
Fantail Falls and the Gates of Haast, (where the river roared between sheer rock faces of the gorge), were scenic features before hitting the west coast at Haast. North of here was Ship Creek, a lookout over a seal colony (but they were apparently all away for the day!), which was called that after the remains of an Australian shipwreck were washed up in the 19th Century. We called in at Lake Paringa, where Darryl caught up on some sleep.
When we first arrived at Fox Glacier (township) it was raining, so we went to the Info Centre, and then drove back to the Fox River, parked and walked to see the Glacier. Wow! It was a stunning tongue of ice almost glowing with aqua blue facets. Darryl walked as far as the public are allowed (without guides), and I viewed it from further back. Back in the township we checked into the Holiday Park, which was immaculate.
It rained during the night but the morning was clear and perfect. First destination was Lake Matheson, where we paced it out to the first lookout to get a magnificent mirrored view of Mt Cook across the lake. We paced back to the van and arrived back at the booking centre only to find that all the walks had been booked out the day before, (I wouldn't have wanted to book then in case it was raining and miserable), but still I was slightly disappointed. We drove back out to the glacier and walked to the leading edge. It was pretty cold but quite amazing. A sign on the road out there indicated that the glacier was at the point in 1750, and although it has retreated since then, it is has been advancing again since 1984.
|Franz Joseph glacier|
|Franz Joseph glacier|
We weren't quite sure whether to bother with Franz Joseph glacier as well, but all the information said that they were different experiences, so we decided to go. A short walk took us to Peter's Pool, a transient small lake left after the retreat of the glacier, where it was mirrored on the surface. We then headed to the leading edge. This was a much longer hike, but not as difficult terrain, and once again we were wow'ed. This glacier, although apparently smaller than Fox, was much steeper and more rugged, and hence more visually impressive. One side of the leading edge (which is advancing at about 1 metre per day), appeared to be pushing moraine debris, but closer up it proved to be a whole block of ice just covered in debris. The forward movement was causing continual rock and ice falls – you could almost imagine you could see it coming towards you. Darryl headed up to a rocky cliff to get a higher vantage point, and I was again delighted to see a Kea playing on the rocks. There was a constant stream of helicopters flying over, and at one point there were 4 circling.
The drive north varied through farmlands, and close to the ocean. We stopped for a break at the enchanting – especially in the warm afternoon sun – Lake Ianthe. The water was warm enough that I could have swum! Further north was Hokitika, where we visited the Jade Factory. Although beautiful, nothing that we fancied was in our price range (actually what we really wanted was just a stone, which they didn't have). But we really enjoyed having delicious fish and chips (and yes, my fish was battered in gluten-free batter).
Shortly after this we turned east along the road to Arthur's pass (our evening destination). Along the way were several features, including Otira Gorge, a vehicle rock shelter with waterfall spillway (at the viewing site a Kea got friendly with me, and as I was squatting down to take his photo, came up and started nibbling on my knee), and a viaduct (at the viewing site there were 3 Kea, and when one landed on the roof of the van, Darryl decided it was time to go before it started damaging the van). When we stopped we discovered that the second battery was nearly drained, and this will require some investigation.