The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

Rosemary Monk continues the story of her recent holiday in New Zealand and Australia.

We woke in Queenstown to a very cold morning - the Antarctic blast still blowing. We set off to the Britz depot, stocking up with croissants at the supermarket en route. Our van was whisked away for some efficient problem solving and we enjoyed our breakfast with their free coffee. They even changed our bedding to save us a trip to the laundrette.  A local lady apologised for the fact we were experiencing weather more usual in May (our equivalent of November) but the conditions did mean that the snow on the Remarkables was beautiful. We heard that the unusual conditions for the time of year had closed the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound for a couple of hours the previous day - a blow for those on a tight touring schedule as there is only one route in and out of Milford for the Milford Sound cruises.

Summer 2015

Kiwi Travels - continuing a journey across New Zealand

From Queenstown we drove in sunny conditions to Arrowtown, where we had a coffee break in a quaint French style café called Bonjour, before strolling along the attractive main street which still reflects the gold rush history. Then we drove through the Kawarau Gorge - stopping to watch the bungee jumping at Kawarau Bridge, but not being the slightest bit tempted! Lunch was at the Wild Earth winery with a wine tasting rack of five local wines (a pleasant re-visit). Cromwell called next but we were a bit disappointed. The town was moved and rebuilt when they dammed the river for hydro-electric power but it wasn’t as big or quaint as the write up suggested. So we continued up the lakeside and made a detour up the Linds Pass. It was now hot and sunny and the grassland very dry and brown, except where they were irrigating the lower pastures (a week later there was a devastating fire across the hillsides). Returning back towards Wanaka we stopped for tea at Tarras, famous for its Merino wool and Shrek, the ram that eluded capture for shearing for six years and became famous for his huge fleece. He became a star and spent the rest of his life raising money for charity.

We settled into the camp site at Wanaka and attended to the laundry and a bottle of crisp, white wine from Wild Earth.  Sunday dawned hot and sunny – perfect for the Kiwis who were enjoying a Bank Holiday style weekend for Waitangi Day. The lake front was lined with families enjoying picnics and there was a craft fair to wander. After coffee in town we drove out to the west of the lake to view Mount Aspiring and more Lord of the Rings sites. At the Treble Cone Ski area there was no snow but plenty of hang gliding to admire. Back through Wanaka we headed for Beacon point and decided to be brave and take a dip in the lake. It was surprisingly pleasant for a glacier fed lake so we felt very pleased with ourselves. Our final stop was back in Wanaka to see the iconic tree in the lake. Apparently everyone has to photograph it – something we achieved without the aid of wet suit or tripod, as some people seemed to need!

The weather continued to be pleasant for our journey north and we had fabulous views back to Mount Cook when we stopped at the Kakapotahi Scenic Reserve to admire the Gateway to Southland memorial to the pioneers who opened up the east/west crossing - as late as the 1960s! We also made friends with a Weka, one of New Zealand’s flightless birds, who was foraging in the undergrowth. We booked in to the camp site at Hokitika and then drove up the Hokitika Gorge to the swingbridge that crosses a stunning blue river. Another pleasant walk through the forest was rewarded with a paddle in the river and another Weka before we continued on a round trip past the Kowhitirangi Incident Memorial. This marks the area where a rather unstable local farmer killed seven policemen and local guardsmen after a row with a neighbour in 1941.  Sadly such incidents are always with us. Dorothy Falls and Sunset Point Lookout in Hokitika were much happier places. We could still see Mount Cook – a rare treat as apparently it is more usually hiding in the clouds.

The next day we had coffee in the old Fire Station in Hokitika while we waited for the museum to open. The museum has a good display about the gold mining in the area and makes the most of the connection with the prize winning book by Eleanor Catton – The Luminaries. I had read this on my Kindle and hadn’t realised what an epic it was until I saw the size of the book in the museum shop! I might not have started it if I had known. It is an excellent, if complex, novel and I was pleased that the lady at the desk agreed that the writer’s other book had been a confusing disappointment. We hit the road again, crossing the rather scary bridge that has the railway down the middle of the road, and headed on to Greymouth for another taste of Whitebait patties at Speight’s Ale House. (Up for sale if anyone fancies owning a pub!) On up the coast we revisited the Pancake Rocks and were rewarded with wonderful rainbows and surges through the blow holes as the tide was right for the full effect. The beaches and rolling waves were beautiful all the way up the coast and the roadsides orange with Mombretia in full flower. We settled in to the camp site by the beach at Westport and followed the advice to be on the beach at sunset. It was fabulous!

We followed the rules and “took only photographs and left only footprints.”

The following day we found ourselves in rain again – though it was still warm enough for jandles (kiwi for flip flops!) This meant that breakfast at a pavement café on the lakeside was not an option so we set off north. Lake Hawea wasn’t its perfect blue self (fortunately we experienced that last time) but the waterfalls along the way through the Haast Pass were subsequently fabulous. We stopped for Whitebait patties at lunchtime in Haast and then continued up the west coast, stopping to write on a white stone to add to the collection at Bruce Bay, but escaping as quickly as possible to avoid being eaten alive by the dreaded sand flies. The weather was clearing and the helicopters flying over Mount Cook from Fox Glacier. By the time we reached Franz Joseph it was fine and T shirt weather for a walk up to the glacier. The Rain Forest camp site is lovely once you are away from the hostel area where two Contiki coach trips (club 18 – 30) were settling in for a “Tight and Bright” party night at the bar. Being too old for that, we stayed “home” and enjoyed more Kiwi wine amongst the tree ferns.