A Travellerspoint blog

Gold Coast, Burrum Heads and Fraser Island

all seasons in one day 23 °C
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The flight back to the Gold Coast was fine but for a little bit of turbulence as the plane prepared to land. During these minor hiccups Joy took to bracing the seat in front in anguish which made Joy’s next seat neighbour laugh immensely. We got off the plane and got our baggage in no time at all before asking a bored-looking airport security guard the way to walk to the hostel. He was very friendly and helpful and we found our way back – it was a pretty quick stroll really but we were glad we’d both shed a few kgs of weight in NZ by giving our warm clothes to the Salvos!

We chilled out that evening and felt like we’d returned home! It was good to be back in Aussieland. The next morning we got a lift to Coolangatta central from the kind YHA folks, then proceeded to tourist info to book our bus. The very friendly Information lady found us good deal – about $30 less than we had been quoted on the internet and a later setting off time! We headed to Surfers Paradise and found the hostel recommended in Lonely Planet. It was a bit of a shithole but we met some super lovely people from Ireland, Germany and England and had some beers with them in the hostel and then by the sea before heading out, a little worse for wear, to a cheesy club.

In the morning we amazingly managed to catch the bus and we arrived at Hervey Bay dead on time. Marg and Ken pulled up just as the bus did – they had very kindly come to collect us at ten to 9 in the evening! We all headed back, had a beer then to bed we went as we were all pooped. The next day we had a wander to the bay near Marg and Ken’s house, it was very beautiful and there were lots of people fishing and relaxing in the sun. That night we had a lovely roast with fish Ken had caught a few days previously for Joy! The next day the luxury lifestyle continued as we went to the RSL club in Hervey Bay. We headed back and watched Marg and Ken’s videos from Egypt deciding we will definitely have to go there soon.

On the Tuesday we had a chill out day as Marg and Ken had to take Ken’s car to be serviced early in the morning. In the afternoon we nipped to the doctors to get our Malaria tabs sorted and had a lovely BBQ in the evening. The next day we headed out to Bundaberg and the surrounding areas including Childers where backpacker hostel fire happened almost 10 years ago. It was a touching memorial to this sad event – a resident of the hostel was kicked out due to owing rent and decided as an act of revenge he would push a burning wheelie bin into the hostel. Eleven backpackers died in the blaze from all over the world. We pushed on and saw lots of nice beaches including one named Elliott Heads and had lunch at Woodgate Bay on the seafront before heading back home.

On the Thursday went to market at Maryborough. It was nice to see but there was poor turnout probably due to a few rainy days in the days preceding. We looked around some charity shops but they left a lot to be desired! Richard got some new swimming shorts and Marg bought Joy a nice new dress! The Friday was relaxed as we spent it packing and readying ourselves for Fraser Island. The more perceptive of you will notice there have been no pictorial evidence of these past few days! Sadly whilst transferring the photos to the laptop Richard deleted these early snaps! It is a real shame but at least it wasn’t our lovely Fraser Island photos.

On the Saturday we were up at 6am to get the ferry for Fraser! It was a lovely sunny day and took only half an hour to get the island. We had to drive over some very bumpy roads to get to our apartment at Eurong but Ken managed it very well without any of us going through the windscreen. The apartment was big with a huge balcony looking over the complex, pool and out to the sea. Every day at 5am and 4pm hundreds of Rainbow Lorikeets would screech past our apartment and back for about two hours, the noise was deafening! After settling in to the apartment we drove to Lake McKenzie for a swim in the beautiful blue water. We timed it perfectly as when we got back to Eurong it rained like hell.

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Next day we drove North up the beach to a shipwreck, The Maheno. In 1935 the ship was being towed to Japan to be scrapped but came ashore where it still remains. It is completely rusted over but you can still make out the whole ship. We then carried on up beach but turned off to go to Knife Blade Sandblow lookout where you can view the huge sand dunes heading all the way to the ocean.

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We carried on up the beach past some cliffs known as The Pinnacles and Cathedral Rocks - both are multicoloured sand cliffs. We got as far as ‘Indian Heads’ for lunch and once we’d eaten we climbed up to the cliff edge overlooking the ocean. We saw two huge sea turtles and a group of 7 dolphins, a sting ray and 2 sharks which were circling a shoal of fish! We disagree on the size of the shark, Joy insists it was a ‘massive, two metre, man-eating shark’ and Richard believes it was only a metre long. We drove back down the beach before the tide came in and had a dip in pool too cool off.

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On the Monday we headed off at 9 again to go to Lake Wabby. Ken and Marg weren’t up for the trek from the beach so they cruised southwards on the Eastern Beach to have a look around. We walked through the forest for roughly half an hour before coming to a huge sand dune (or ‘sandblow’ as they are known locally.) We messed around in the dunes for a while then wandered along to the lake which appears below a 30metre slope. It was a little windier today so Joy didn’t swim, opting to sunbathe on the sand. Richard had a swim with the catfish and we watched people running down the dunes to dive into the water. One guy bodyboarded down the dune at great speed but as he got to the water the momentum was lost and he simply plopped in. Everyone around clapped his efforts though. Later we spotted him trying to surf down but he got about two metres before falling off the board and ploughing through the sand much to his friends’ amusement.

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We headed back to the car to meet Ken and Marg and had a little lunch on the windy beach before heading up the coast again to Eli Creek. Before we got there Marg spotted two Dingos near the trees! We pulled up and took some snaps of them sniffing around. Slightly further down the beach we spotted another eating some fish someone had obviously left on the beach. We got right up close to take some photos, the Dingo seemed pretty nonplussed - they must be fairly used to 4x4s. When we got to Eli Creek we went for a paddle upstream (much to everyone coming down the correct way’s annoyance.) We headed back to the apartment for ‘Happy Hour’ (our routine 3 o’clock beers, chips and dips). Before dinner we decided to check out the bar as our beer supply was running low! We had a nice few beers and a chat before heading back for fish and chips.

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On the Saturday we returned to Burrum Heads and began packing for the next stage of our adventure!

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We even managed to cull a few more items – some of which we posted home at great expense! It will be worth it for the sake of our backs. When we get to Asia internet access may be hard to come by but we will update the blog as soon as possible to let you know of our Malaysian and Cambodian adventures!

Posted by RichardJoy 03:58 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Banks Peninsular and Christchurch

sunny 14 °C
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The drive to the Banks Peninsula was a long one! We thought we would find a free camping spot on route to Christchurch and then head through in the morning. We didn’t like the look of one rest stop we found and carried on, realising the mistake as we quickly entered the city. We carried on through, misjudged a few turnings, but soon got free of the city. We then realised that we were running very low on petrol and decided to stop at a small town in the Peninsula called Little River. The petrol station was closed so we moved up the road to find a free stop. Sadly this was right next to the road on a huge hill but we didn’t really have a choice!

First thing in the morning we headed off to get our much needed petrol then onto Akaroa. On the way we stopped at a rest stop by the sea for a brew before entering Akaroa, the hub of the Banks Peninsula. When we got there we had a wander round the water and the town, stopping to buy some fudge at an extortionate price. It was delicious and well worth it though we had to ration ourselves. We began talking about it and arguing about how much the other was eating as if it were some kind of lovely fudgy drug.

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In the afternoon we headed to Le Bons Bay which was practically deserted! We sat in the sun and watched the tide go out for a while before trying to find a free camping spot. Our hopes were low as it is such a popular area and thought they would be wise to our tricks! As we were cruising along the scenic touring route however we found a scenic reserve without any ‘no camping’ signs! It had a view high up over the town on one side and the sea on the other. Absolutely stunning, second only to our free spot by the Lake Pukaki. We had some brews and watched the sun go down.

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The next day we headed into Christchurch where we stayed at Stonehills in the city. They offer decently priced inner city camping spots. Admittedly it is just an asphalt parking spot but at $15 for the two of us we thought this was fair enough. They still make you pay for the showers though! And campers aren;t allowed to use the pool facilities! (Probably to stop us bathing in the swimming pool instead of paying for a shower. Easy solution to that little pickle we thinks..)We camped up and headed into the city to have a look around, spotting the river ‘Avon’, the trams, many nice buildings and the Arts Centre.

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The Arts Centre was a collection of little shops selling crafty bits and bobs including jewellery, wool items, art, books, wooden toys and souvenirs. We got chatting to a man who was originally from Hull who owned a shop upstairs, he was very friendly indeed and after an hour or two we had learned about his ex-wife, his equity, holiday plans, past holidays, previous locksmith business, his vasectomy, his dog and most of his friends too! Very nice gentleman. Joy’s favourite shop here was a DIY bead shop where you pick all your preferences then put together your own jewellery! While Joy spent time choosing and making a gift for Grandma K, Richard went to look at the old part of the Arts Centre and took some arty photos.

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We went back to the camper and decided to get a Domino’s (cheap day Tuesday) as we were pooped! The next day we tidied the camper top to bottom ready to take it back in the morning, handed out 35 Onions, drank our final drop of duty free Jim Beam and got an early night ready to head back to the Gold Coast the next day...

Posted by RichardJoy 00:15 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Invercargill, the Catlins, Dunedin and the Otago Peninsular

all seasons in one day 14 °C
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After a longish drive we eventually parked up at a campsite in Invercargill – not the world’s most exciting city but the campsite – ‘Timbertops’ not far from the city centre was lovely. In the morning Richard made a friend named Troy who regaled us of stories such as the time he met Chris Ryan and Andy McNabb in a pub and the exploits of his friend who was a Ninja having trained in Japan for two years. The friend had sadly recently got into a fight with some Paramilitary men. Fascinating fellow. We said our goodbyes (as he was off to court that morning) and headed off towards the Catlins.

Driving towards the Catlins the sun showed up again! Yay! It was still freezing but it lifted our spirits. This area is really beautiful – not to be missed. Our first stop was Waipapa Point where we took a wander and saw the lighthouse there. Fairly standard, but as we wandered along the beach we spotted three sea lions! They were huge! We got to within about 15 metres of them – not daring to get any closer as apparently they are easily enraged by prying tourists! They really are spectacular creatures and we were chuffed to be able to see them as it’s never guaranteed.

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After getting our fill of sea lions we moved onto Slope Point – the southernmost point on the South Island of NZ. It was bitterly cold and windy here so we didn’t stick around long. We decided to move onto Curio Bay where we decided to stay on a really nice campsite right by Porpoise Bay where allegedly Hector’s Dolphins can be spotted. We didn’t see any in our time there but we parked up in an area of the campsite named ‘Penguin Point’ and sure enough in the evening we spotted a rare yellow eyed Penguin coming in from the sea to its nest! We were quite far away so the photos were a little blurry. Luckily we did spot another the next day. We’d gone to see the ‘petrified forest’ where you can see fossilised trees, which were alive around 180 million years ago. It was quite amazing to see huge stone tree trunks lying down within the stone! Apparently there were lots of standing tree stumps but had mostly been stolen as souvenirs. These lost appeal as soon as we spotted a little penguin legging it from the hordes of tourists there. It was really lucky to see one this close up and the DOC guy who was there gave us a little talk explaining about that particular colony. He told us that they have found no changes or problems with the penguins lifestyles having interaction with humans but to still give them space, despite this people seemed determined to run towards it and stand 5 metres away scaring it sufficiently that no one got any good photos!

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We moved on in the afternoon to Cathedral Cove - $5 entry as it is privately owned but a 15 minute walk through some forest takes you to an almost deserted beach where at low tide it is possible to walk into some naturally formed caves. They were really cool – many people were coming out soaked to the bone due to misjudging the tide. We managed to escape without getting soaked by being patient and judging the waves! Pleasing.

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Later we headed to Purakaunui Falls where we decided we would camp up for the night as it was fairly remote and was getting late. Apparently these falls were very popular along the tourist route and after a few minutes walk through forest we were at a loss as to the reason for this popularity – we have seen many better! An excellent free camping spot nonetheless.

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The next day we headed to Nugget Point to try and spot some dolphins. Sadly none appeared but we spotted plenty more seals frolicking in the pools made by the rocks. We then walked up to the lighthouse which warns ships away from the ‘nuggets’ - rocks stacks out in the ocean. It was a beautiful view but sadly the wind and rain clouds moved in so we headed back to the camper.

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We parked up just outside of Milton to sleep for the night then headed into Dunedin bright and early the next morning! We took a wander around the city and managed to get some snaps of the nice old buildings including St. Paul’s Cathedral, their statue of Robbie Burns (a nod to their Scottish colonial history) and the train station (most photographed building in NZ.) We also stopped off at Speights Brewery to have a look and contrary to what you will all be thinking we didn’t have a beer! Instead we’d heard you can fill up your empty bottles with some water from a ‘water spigot’ fed by the ‘same sweet tasting artesian water’ that is used to brew the beer! This sounded very good as we had run out. We donated a few dollars to the cause as any donations they receive they put towards environmental projects in the surrounding areas. Thanks Speights! Sadly it doesn’t taste as good as the beer, but not bad.

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Next we had a look at the world’s steepest street! Baldwin Street north of the city holds this title officially. We had a walk up which was painful but manageable. We also enjoyed watching people attempt to drive up and down it. Our camper would have swiftly plummeted back down, probably taking a few houses out with it if we had attempted such a feat.

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After the giddy thrill of Baldwin Street we cruised to the Otago Peninsula about an hour’s drive around the harbour from the city. We parked up at the Albatross Centre to try and spot some of these birds as this is the only mainland colony in the world. Richard spotted a few and got some good photos. We sneakily parked up down the road when it got dark as we had spotted a rest area with toilets that was surrounded by trees!

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The next morning we headed to the Albatross colony again to have a look inside the centre and got a few more photos though there were fewer around during the day. We decided to head on and made our way to Wakouati where we stopped at a nice rest stop by a river. The next morning, Joy finally persuaded Richard to let her cut his hair as it was sunny day and by his own admission he was beginning to look a state! It was a very good first attempt at hair cutting, ten points for effort. Richard loves his new 70s do.

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We decided to hit the road and headed for the Moeraki Boulders. The boulders were very interesting but were overshadowed by two schools of Hector’s Dolphins playing in the surf. Everyone was standing on top of the boulders to get a better look. Richard finally got his dolphin shot!

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We moved on to Oamaru where there are two penguin colonies, one of blue penguins on the shore close to town (also found in Australia at Philip Island, known there as the ‘little penguin’) and one of yellow-eyed penguins on Bushy Beach which to our approval has been left to the Department of Conservation to deal with, so no tat peddling shops or entry fees. We pulled up around three and saw several scampering across the beach to their nests! We also were lucky to see one who had climbed up the cliff face to have a rest in the bushes and we got some good photos of him/her/it. At one point the penguin became very scared and stood to attention as a cat sauntered by him. We got chatting to a Scottish gentleman named Colin, a sort of self-appointed penguin expert who comes down every evening to chase people off the beach as the penguins won’t come ashore if they see people. We did see him frogmarch two tourists off the beach so naturally we zoomed in on Richard’s camera to have a nosy at the action.

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When we were all penguined out we doubled back on ourselves a little to stay at a locally owned campsite near Oamaru as the only other option was a rip off Top Ten. Here we met an elderly gentleman who gave us a bag of 40 onions, which was very nice of him but we only had 5 days left to eat them. He also told us the life stories of his two Bichon-Frise dogs, Kasey and Lucy.

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In the morning we headed off towards the Peel Forest where we had a chill out day and night as we felt we’d earned it. We free camped just outside the DOC campsite and at one point a Ute stopped and shined a search light on us but luckily it just drove off! We certainly didn’t want a repeat of Wanaka! In the morning we headed to Rakaia Gorge as we’d been told it was a beautiful spot for some lunch and a wander. Indeed it was! We had a little wander round the water and some lunch before heading off to the Banks Peninsula...

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Posted by RichardJoy 23:47 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Queenstown, Routeburn Track and Milford Sound

all seasons in one day 15 °C
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The next morning we drove into Queenstown! Just on the outskirts however, we stopped to use the ‘facilities’ at the Kawarau Bridge and what we didn’t know when we pulled up was that it was the home of the AJ Hackett Bunjee Centre! We wandered in and watched a few brave souls doing their jumps for a while but decided it was too expensive for roughly 10 seconds of fun!

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As we drove closer to Qtown we were amazed to see the Remarkables which loom over the town. They really are remarkable (cue many jokes of a similar standard to our ‘it’s GORGEous’ joke.) We decided to treat ourselves to two nights in a posh campsite in town as we wanted to be where the fun was and we had reached a point where it felt necessary to inform people of our whereabouts via email. When we were settled into the campsite we went for a wander round the town and treated ourselves to some new playing cards (plastic ones!) and a chess set which was to cause myriad arguments in the future. That night we decided to hit the town for a couple and managed to enjoy two nice bars – one on the lakefront which had a live covers band on and then Dux de Lux round the corner which had another live band on. On the beer menu we saw a homebrew called 'Ginger Tom' so in homage to our friend (who didn't come to meet us in Australia) ginger Tom we had to have one, sadly it was disgusting and we spent the rest of the night cursing Tom! We had lots of fun but sadly after a couple of pints managed to persuade ourselves it was a good idea to go to a backpackery bar not far from the campsite. We had a dance and a couple more drinks but it was a bit of a meat market – though entertainingly some geeky American guys were having a good dance on the bar. This kept us entertained for twenty minutes or so before we wandered back to the campsite to hit the hay.

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The next day we weren’t up to much but we did see a biplane doing some cool tricks in the air above the campsite! We also popped back into town to get Richard a billy-can for his 3 day walk.

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On leaving Queenstown for Glenorchy (where Richard would begin his walk) we stopped off at Arrowtown which is recommended in our Rough Guide. It was terribly dull – the only shops there were for souvenirs. Despite its attempts to seem quirky with all colonial style facades on the shops we don’t recommend going there! We couldn’t even summon the interest to take any photographs! Apparently there was a significant Chinese settlement there at some point so if this floats your boat then maybe it is worth a look. We decided to cruise to Glenorchy fairly swiftly, opting to stay overnight covertly at the beginning of the Routeburn track. We said our goodbyes and Off Ricky went!

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Joy’s events:

When left on my tod by Ray.. I mean Richard I decided to clean out the camper as it was starting to grow mould and where there wasn’t mould there was sand and general detritus! I stuffed all Richard’s belongings into his allocated cupboard and cruised back to Queenstown to enjoy a few days of leisure and peace! On the first evening I parked up at the more pricy caravan park in Qtown which offers spas and saunas for a half decent price. However, as the campsite cost the same for one person as the other had cost for the both of us I decided to give this a miss! I wandered into town to have a look around but much to my dismay (as there was no-one there to tell me off) I couldn’t find anything I wanted to buy!

The next day I decided to wander to the Queenstown Gardens to watch people playing Frisbee golf. I didn’t fancy a game as a billy-no mates but got some good photos on my little digital camera. I then decided to start the drive towards Milford where I would be picking Richard up, stopping at a little DOC campsite about 30km away from the end of the Routeburn track. I cruised to the end of the track early in the morning in case Richard turned up early and watched Rebel Without a Cause on the laptop ‘til I was rudely disturbed by a grubby and rather malnourished looking Richard.

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Richard’s events:

The start of the Routeburn was characterised bylight rain and fog through Beech forest and the weather was to stay the same for most of the trip in varying degrees. For the first hour the track climbed steadily through the forest always in earshot of the river, the Routeburn, but never quite in sight. The main interest was some tiny birds I kept seeing, not much bigger than a squash ball, darting about the rocks and ferns. I later found out they were a Rock Wren and were very hard to catch in a photograph due to them flitting about.

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After a very steep climb the sound of the water was overpowering and eventually a water/gorge came into view which was roaring due to the amount of rain over the last few days. The track levelled out for a while as it followed the river and I plodded along taking photographs of a mass of trees carried downstream during a flood all stacked up and a waterfall which fell almost directly onto the track. I crossed two swing bridges over the river and eventually the Hollyford Valley came into view which is the site of the first hut, Routeburn Flats Hut. My back was killing by this time even though I had only been walking for 2 hours. This was due to using a Joy’s bag which isn’t meant for walking with! Unfortunately I wasn’t staying at this hut but I stopped for lunch as the rain had got heavier and when the clouds cleared there were nice views over the valley and river.

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Over lunch I met a Dutchman named Kees who would turn out to be my bunk mate that night. We had a chat about the day but I decided to get going after half an hour to get the walk out the way. During the second section of the walk I met more people on the track and was getting some funny looks due to wearing shorts and a t-shirt while everyone else seemed to have waterproof trousers, waterproof coats, hats and gloves on. It really wasn’t that cold and in the cover of the forest you didn’t really get that wet so I was probably giving equally strange looks to them!

This section of the track was a lot steeper, the only thing worth noting was a Lorikeet I saw which was green with a red head and yellow ‘eyebrows’, it was really small and it’s apparently quite rare to see them but by the time I had got my camera ready and looked back up it was gone, merged into the forest. The next landmark after about half an hour’s climb was Emily’s Creek, noted as the halfway point to the Routeburn Falls Hut, the site of my bed. Shortly after the creek was the site of a landslide in 1994 which had destroyed a 200 metre section of the track and a lot of forest. It did however offer good views down into the valley with all the trees gone. Due to being quite exposed the rain was worse here but I did manage to get some photos including one of myself looking stupid!

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After this it was a relatively short walk to the hut which just loomed out of the forest much to my joy. I was the second person to arrive and had free choice of beds and drying spots next to the fire. The hut was very new and was situated at the top of the tree line next to a huge waterfall, I imagine it would have been a very nice scene if I could have seen it! I had been walking for 3 hours and it was only 1pm so there was a lot of time to kill that afternoon, I decided to use this time eating a huge amount of food to make my pack lighter. It was nice to be sitting in dry warm clothes with cuppasoup in hand and watching lots of sodden people arrive (mainly those who had walked the opposite direction across the summit).

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The night the hut warden came round about 7pm to give a talk on weather and safety. I had seen a huge banner on the wall which contained the saying ‘Happy Christmas, enjoy your time on the Routeburn’ in 34 different languages and at the end of the warden’s talk we were given the task of figuring out 25 of the languages in return for a block of Cadbury’s. Me and Kees teamed up with Doron (an Israeli) and Ronald and Peter (two other Dutchmen) to take on this task. Luckily they were very clever and figured out all of them, I got English and Welsh! We won in the end by getting exactly 25, we shared it with everyone as we had had a lot of help getting ones such as Swahili and Basque. It made for an entertaining evening anyway but sadly everyone retired at about 9pm and I was left feeling wide awake so I listened to some podcasts and read until about 1am.

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The next morning I was rudely awakened at 7am by 47 people all rushing about to get wet again. I groaned, got up and walked into the kitchen to brew up and eat a cereal bar. As soon as I smelled it I screamed “WHO IS COOKING BACON?!?!?!” This received a few laughs and groans and we all went back to our cereal bars. In hindsight I should have organised a lynch mob.

For some reason I had lots of energy on the second day and set off around 9:30 towards Harris Saddle where the track reaches its highest point and there is a shelter to get out of the rain and eat lunch. I got my head down on this section and took a few pictures before deciding it was not good for my camera. As it was raining heavily I decided to put a podcast on and opted for Stephen Fry. This was about an hour long and it finished about 2 minutes before I reached the shelter. Perfect timing! I stopped for some crackers and Laughing Cow and salami sticks and continued on my after chatting to Peter, Ronald and some Aussies doing their Duke of Edinburgh award, I was pleased to see the Aussies were also in shorts!

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So far the $39.99 boots had held up in the puddles but on this day the paths had turned into streams almost all of the way. I had avoided the puddles up until the shelter but shortly after my left foot got swamped and I decided to just go for it from then on. The boots were so poorly made that the water was squirting out with every step. For some reason I had boundless energy (maybe it was the scroggin) and was running the less scary sections when upbeat music came on the iPod. The track rounded a bluff and there was the hut (Lake Mackenzie Hut) next to a beautiful emerald lake but unfortunately it was 500 metres below me and I had to zigzag down the hill for half an hour entering once again into forest.

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I arrived at the hut to find it empty but the warden had kindly started the fire which I stoked up and put my wet clothes in prime position on the racks. I secured one of the bunk beds as most of them were in a row with no dividers which didn’t really take my fancy. Me and my cuppasoup were joined after half an hour by a dripping English man Ben, he had carried all his travelling belongings in a 90 litre bag and was looking very tired, later he sliced his finger open cutting cheese with his penknife, a clumsy man indeed!

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Slowly people began to arrive and I read my book and took photos of the lake until 7pm when this hut’s warden was due to give a speech. Doron (the Israeli) had met someone walking the other way who warned him the warden liked to talk for a long time. We prayed there had been a shift change but sadly not. He rambled on about the local flora and fauna for an hour and then attempted an April Fool (it being April 1st) which was scuppered in the first 20 seconds. His speech ended at 8.30 after a harrowing story of a party of school children, two had died of pneumonia, whilst on the zigzag section I had walked earlier that day.

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After this ended Doron invited me to play some cards and drink sweet tea with him and 3 other Israeli’s which was interesting and added a new card game to our repertoire called Yanev. We played until the lights went out at 10 and everyone retired. I decided once again to stay up reading by the fire by headtorch but again was unable to sleep very well because it was so early!

Unsurprisingly in the morning I was awakened at 7am. I had no reason to hang around today as Joy would hopefully be waiting for me at the end of the track so I got ready, opting to wear my walking shoes instead of the wet boots and set off. The rain wasn’t so bad today and again the trees were offering cover so I made good progress. The main highlights were Israeli creek, aptly named after an Israeli couple who fell and were stranded on a rock precipice for 2 days before being spotted by a walker, Earland Falls which was huge but there was so much spray it was hard to get photos and an area of forest which looked like something out of this world, like an enchanted forest or something similar with orange moss growing everywhere.

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I stopped at Howden Hut for lunch before the short half an hour walk to the car park. Towards the end I could hear a strange rumbling noise and then something white appeared out of the fog... I eventually realised it was a lorry. Back to civilisation then! I walked out into the car park at The Divide and knocked on the camper much to the annoyance of Joy who was watching something on the laptop.

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On the road again:

When Richard arrived back from his walk safe and sound we decided to cruise up to Milford Sound to have a look! It was a pretty grim and overcast day – Milford Sound is one of the rainiest places on earth! We had a little wander around the bay and we imagine it would have been really nice on a fine day to take a boat cruise but as it was thick with mist and fog we decided to forego it. Driving back we stopped at an area called ‘The Chasm’. We also stopped at ‘Mirror Lake’ but for the umpteenth time on our trip it was too foggy and rainy to get any good photo ops on this so-called Mirror Lake.

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So ended our time in Fiordland! Next stop would be the Catlins and hopefully some sunshine!

Posted by RichardJoy 22:35 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Marlborough Sounds, Abel Tasman and the West Coast

all seasons in one day 17 °C
View Asian and Australasian Adventure on RichardJoy's travel map.

On Monday 15th March we caught our ferry to the South Island. The trip went very smoothly and there was even the option of watching some films whilst on the ferry! When Joy noticed this she sat down and realised a little too late that she was watching Beverley Hills Chihuahua. This didn’t stop her watching it through to the end though! Richard spent the journey dolphin spotting and saw three (or the same one three times). It was an endless quest for the perfect photo of a dolphin jumping over the waves created by the ferry. Sadly the dolphins would not put out that day.

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We arrived in Picton on schedule but as it had already felt like a long day we only made it to Aussie Bay, a DOC campsite on the Marlborough Sounds. It turned out to be truly stunning and we were right by the water. Despite this it seemed to be some kind of bee and wasp paradise, they were everywhere! The next day we cruised to Abel Tasman National Park, opting to camp for free at the entrance to the big walks. We set off early in the morning to walk to some of the beautiful beaches on offer, stopping at Appletree Bay for lunch in the sun. It was a beautiful walk even though it seems we had to pass about a thousand schoolkids who were out on a trip. There were 92 in reality but it took about 10 minutes to overtake and then we were fearful of stopping in case they caught up and we had to overtake them all again! They were very polite and well behaved though, if they were British schoolkids we imagine they’d have flicked their cigarette butts at us or stolen Richard’s camera and pushed us over the cliff.

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After the walk we decided to head to ‘pupu springs – the largest freshwater spring in Australasia! It was about a 100 kilometre round trip to the springs, and while it looked very nice it wasn’t particularly worth it! Due to the spread of Didymo (a nasty algae which sucks the life out of rivers and covers everything in green slime) they no longer let you swim in it or fill bottles up with the fresh water incase you accidentally spread it. We took the obligatory snaps, sighed our way through the walk through the woods and headed off to find somewhere to camp. We opted for ‘Bob’s Lookout’ on the Motueka Valley Highway – a little rest area with a nice view of the Victoria Forest (partially obscured by pylons, but what the hey).

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The next day we headed to Buller Gorge. It was gorgeous. (We like to recycle this terrible joke every time we go to a gorge.) We camped up for the day quite early as we were both feeling carsick from the windy roads and needed a rest from the driving. At the campsite a kind Kiwi lady offered us some cockles. Joy (because she is a simpleton) at first thought she was offering her the shells so was very enthusiastic about the offer. On closer inspection she was offering cooked cockles as she’d made too many. We sat in the camper for a while staring at them. Joy managed to eat two but has to admit they just taste like salty, fishy rubber. Richard wouldn’t touch them. Joy later decided to draw eyes on one and annoy Richard for a while as he was trying to finish off reading ‘Mr. Nice’!

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Next on our agenda was a quick stop at Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki. These are a series of craggy rocks which were formed from marine organisms which became fossilised amongst the sandstone over millions of years. As the sea wore away the sandstone, the strange cerrated rocks became apparent. Again, a fairly interesting detour to break up the journey but at the end of the day, rocks is rocks. We decided to head towards Hokitika and camped up at a DOC campsite just south of town on Lake Mahinapua. Apparently when the weather is good you can see the Southern Alps reflected in the lake, but unfortunately it was completely overcast so we couldn’t see squat.

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The next day we woke up to driving rain so we attempted a bit of window shopping in Hokitika as it is famed for its arts and craft, especially Jade and bone carving, weaving and glass blowing. As it was a Sunday not all of the shops were open and we would have preferred some smaller independent retailers as the prices may have been a little more reasonable. Nonetheless it was great to be able to see the Jade carvers in action. As the rain was relentless we decided to move on to the ex-goldmining town of Ross where we stopped briefly to have a gander in the hope of the rain subsiding. Joy decided to have a poke around in the little boxes of stones where for a fee you can ‘pan’ for gold. She didn’t rent a pan, she just used her hands but didn’t find any gold. She did find a piece of jade in one of the boxes which she swiped (later realising it a box on a low down table, probably intended for the children to get excited when they find something in the stones). Thankfully there were some stocks there for gold thieves so a just punishment could be given.

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We parked up for the night at a derelict ‘Tourist Recreation Area’ by the river. The rain was hammering down and the river was swelling at an alarming rate so we decided at about 10pm to move and ended up parking at the Visitor Centre in Franz Joseph ready to see the glacier in the morning.

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The rain didn’t stop all night and there were regular showers during the day. As a result of the weather the walk up to the glacier was cordoned off so we had to make do with a few ‘view’ walks instead. It was fairly impressive but we were still gutted we couldn’t see the Alps or walk up to or on the glacier. On the way we stopped for some lunch at Lake Ianthe where the views again were pretty limited but we got some nice moody photos! We retired for the night at a free DOC campsite near Fox Glacier on Gillespie’s Beach where we were mauled by sandflies – for the first time realising what a REAL sandfly is like! These ones bite you and in the case of Joy (who always pooh-poohed Richard’s whingeing at his mosquito bites) a big hive comes up on your skin and itches for days! OUCH!

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The next day we drove from Gillespie’s Beach towards Fox, stopping at Lake Matheson to see if we had a prayer of seeing any reflections of the mountains in the lake. The weather was even worse on this day and the thick, low clouds didn’t clear however long we waited. We got a few photos of the lake with the reflections of the forests below the mountains in it but they’re not as impressive as they would be on a fine day! We drove into Fox and went to have a look at Fox Glacier. The good climbs and walks were all closed due to the weather so we cut our losses and decided to drive to Wanaka, passing some amazing waterfalls in the hope there would be more to do there on a rainy day. So all in all after driving alongside the Southern Alps for 3 days with them but 20kms away we saw nothing, not a peak!

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To cheer ourselves up when we got to our next stop in Wanaka we got ourselves a Pizza and parked up where we thought we were out of town. Sadly at roughly 4.20am(!!) we got the dreaded knock! Joy slid open the window and peered out, bleary eyed to get a 10 minute lecture from a gentleman named Jim working for Wanaka Council telling us to move and generally letting us know how sick the council are of having freecampers littering the streets! (Insert your own ‘Jim is a Wanaka’ joke here). It turns out in our haste to get parked up and enjoy our pizza we’d actually done a circuit and wound up about a street away from the main part of town. To Jim’s credit he let us know that if we head back out of town on the SH85 we could probably park up for the rest of the night and be fine. He did threaten that the police were following behind him and that if we didn’t move we might get a $500 fine! Not good! We’re not sure if this was true but we were never going to risk a fine and accepted that we would have to move, we were fairly awake by this point!

The next morning we headed into town to stay at a campsite. As it was a sunny day again we decided we wouldn’t go to Puzzling World (our rainy day option) and would take a walk around the lake near out campsite – Outlet Lakeside Motor Park. The park is set a little way out of town and has beautiful views of the mountains and we finally got to see the Alps, much to the delight of Richard’s camera! Unlike almost everything else in our ‘up to date’ guide book (the one that neglected to tell us that Wanaka has long been a strictly a non-freecamping town) the park is still $12 per person for camping regardless of whether you want power or not. We would recommend this campsite to anyone heading to Wanaka as all the amenities are of a very high standard and the views can’t be beaten.

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The next day we awoke to another sunny day despite having been told that rain was forecast. We decided to go to Puzzling World anyway as we had woken up too late to get a good headstart on any of the nearby walks. It was great fun to just wander around and be entertained and we’re glad we opted for this instead of a gruelling 16km hike! We did the maze in good time then wandered around the displays before sitting down in the cafe to try some of the puzzles and games. When thoroughly frustrated with the harder ones we gave up and left and headed towards Mt. Cook, stopping at a free campsite known locally as ‘The Pines’ overlooking Lake Pukaki. It is not signposted from the road but is on the SH8 just after you get the option to turn off onto the SH85 towards Mt. Cook. The views were absolutely amazing and we finally got to see Mount Cook in all its glory just behind the lake! We both agree this is probably the best campsite we’ve had since being in New Zealand and we spent the whole of the afternoon and night taking photos and admiring the view.

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The next day we did the Mount Cook Hooker Valley walk which takes you over two bridges and through to the Hooker glacier and its lake. It was a beautiful walk with great views of the mountain. We finished the walk in good time and so headed to Lake Tekapo, just further up from the campsite we stayed at the previous night. We were fairly nonplussed with the town and its lake. It boasts the clearest air in the Southern Hemisphere but as we’d stayed on the campsite near Lake Pukaki the night before we’d say we preferred this as there were less people milling about! We took some snaps of the small church erected by the early settlers and the brass collie dog statue – dedicated to the dogs who have helped local farmers over the years control the stock in this rough terrain! Joy decided to sit on it to liven up our time at Lake Tekapo.

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Next on the tour was a stop off at the Clay Cliffs, some clay formations. They were very grand structures and we admired them for a while before moving on to a free campsite nearby just out of the town of Omarama. There was a great sunset that night and Richard caught some excellent pics of it before we retired for the night.

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Posted by RichardJoy 17:53 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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