Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200001 New Zealand-S

Summary for 1999
4 countries visited – England, Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand
Distance travelled in a motorhome 27484 km – 17079 miles
Saturday 1st January 2000  Welcome to the new Millennium which has started here 13 hours ahead of GMT  Back at the club house hot sausage rolls are waiting.  The numbers start to dwindle and we end up playing Canasta with Jeanny and John until 3.00am.  Watch some of the world celebrations on TV then drift off to sleep.  The planned early morning hill climb to watch the sunrise is definitely cancelled as rain starts.  Re group at the club house at 9.00am for breakfast.  The charge for last night also includes the strawberries and croissants for breakfast and we take along our own bubbly.  On T.V. it’s strange watching the rest of the world move into the Millennium. We are particularly impressed with Paris and London at which point I become tearful thinking about everyone.  Manage to get through to England to speak to a few people but lines are busy and connection poor.  Golf is rained off and the afternoon Queen’s garden party at 3.00pm is moved inside.  I have been asked to play the Queen and the ladies are expected to wear hat and gloves and the men black tie which Steve has almost forgotten how to do.  The Royal car collects me along with my two ladies in waiting, twins Jenny and Rebecca.  Afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches is served on the best china.  I have to hand out the awards on the New Years honours list.  Roger had an accident the other day on the golf course and tripped over a club then landed on the flag which cut his stomach and down his willy.  For this he is awarded the R.D.T. – Roger’s Dodgy Todger.  They laugh when I return from the toilet with my skirt tucked up in my knickers.  I leave the party but return appropriately undressed to become the Queen of Nude Zealand.  Catch up on some sleep late afternoon then join others at Peter & Marcia’s to watch the video of the afternoon party.
NELSON SUN CLUB 8
Sunday 2 January  Heavy rain all day.  If this is a New Zealand summer thank goodness we didn’t come in the winter!  Spend a lazy day intermittently sleeping, reading, watching T.V. and doing a few jobs. 
NELSON SUN CLUB 9
Monday 3 January  A brighter start to the day with Steve getting a 35 on the golf course followed by 39 against my 45.   Back into Nelson for the fridge repair tomorrow.  Another Canasta evening with Marion & Chris.
NELSON
Tuesday 4 January  The repair cannot be done until tomorrow so we stroll into town and up South Street which has all the lovely old original houses.  After lunch we visit Founders Historic Park $5 (£1.70) where many old buildings have been re-sited.  I have great fun in the children’s 3D maze which ends on a flying fox.  Visit Ruth whom we met at N.S.C.  They live on the hillside and have a fantastic view over the boulder bank a natural formation which protects the harbour.  Stop on the way back at the Miyazu Japanese gardens created on the site of the old refuse tip.  A 19 year old ex convict was given the project as part of his parole and he did such a good job that the scheme was expanded and the Japanese have now copied the plan and created a mirror image in Japan.  Test out the local deep fried scallops for tea.  The film festival is on in town and tonight they are showing "Eyes wide shut" $9.50 (£3.20) at the local Suter theatre. We enjoy it and find it more straightforward than expected.
NELSON 2
Wednesday 5 January  More rain.  Call at the "fridge" place at 8.00am but he wants the fridge taking out of the van and leaving with him.  At the tip recycling shop we pick up a sun lounger for $5 (£1.70).  It’s unbelievable the stuff they have here and we know many people who would have a field day amongst the computers, gadgets and general bric a brac.  Collect the fridge and finally leave Nelson at mid day.  Spot a sign "at the roundabout indicate or crash" which is pretty hard hitting like their Christmas drink drive advert "Drive bloody carefully this Christmas".  Yes the Kiwi’s don’t mince words although they do pronounce some rather differently with "e’" being said like "i" so Ben becomes Bin and "a" often as an "o" or "er" so Wanaka is Wonoker and even worse "Wh" if "fu" so Whakatane sound like fuckertarnee!  Anyway first stop for lunch in Wakefield where I just had to buy some postcards having come from there myself.  Next we pass a sign to "Spooners Top Road" and begin to feel quite at home.  St Arnaud on Lake Rotoiti is similar to a swiss alpine village with the chalets.  There are ski fields nearby for the winter and in summer the lake is great for water sports.  The rains has stopped so we tramp around the peninsula which is pretty boring as we are in forest and can’t see much.  Park at Kawatiri old railway station for tea then press on to Lake Rotoroa also in the Nelson Lakes National Park for overnight.  One advantage of it being light until after 9.00pm.
KAWATIRI
Thursday 6 January  Spot a leaflet in the hut advertising white water rafting here.  Phone and arrange to be picked up at Gowan Bridge for the full day trip $100 (£33).  At the Lake we are kitted out in wetsuits, kagouls and helmets looking rather like the Telly Tubbies.  Start with a briefing and practice.  Commands such as duck, all fall left, everybody down are soon learnt but many people have problems with left and right.  Into the Gowan River with 9 in our raft and 8 in another.   A grade 2 River with Grade 5 parts it involves lots of hard work rowing through the faoming white water.  11km long it is the fastest white water river in Australasia and we reach Gowan Bridge in time for a BBQ lunch.  The Gowan joins the Buller River here which we continue into for the next 14km.  More white water and opportunities for me and another girl to be pushed in before everyone leaps overboard to enjoy floating through the rapids.  "Boxy" our guide takes great delight in deliberatly beaching us and wrapping the boat around rocks.  At one point we are wedged against a rock with the raft completely flooded, one guy fallen out and Boxy nearly getting left behind when he pushes us in.  Paddle upstream into a waterfall to surf in the raft with the water flooding through like a jacuzzi.   Water fights and races with the other raft complete the fun.  Arrive exhilarated on the banks of the river by the Owen River Tavern.  Time for a beer before returning to Gowan Bridge. What great fun on a nice sunny day.  Driving towards Westport we pull of the road just south of Murchison (the centre of the 1927 earthquake) to a lovely spot in the forest on the side of the Buller River.  Walk down to the river and find a nice sandy beach where we can bathe just upstream from waterfalls which lead into the gorge. 
BULLER RIVER
Friday 7 January  A dry warm but cloudy day as we set off towards Westport on the West coast.  On the minor roads bridge crossings are all single track.  Pass the longest foot suspension bridge in New Zealand which Steve is non too keen to cross.  At Inangahua Junction we visit the information centre to learn about their 1968 earthquake.  Enjoy lunch by Westport’s North Beach watching some locals in the water.  Park at Pete & Jennie Crawley’s whom we met at N.S.C.  The local show is on tomorrow and we help them selecting produce from the garden to enter the competitions.  5 month Emily seems quite happy to have me looking after her and I get to keep my hand in as a Grandma.  Eat a meal with them and visitor Leah.  They are a religious family so we all join hands and pray before eating.
WESTPORT
Saturday 8 January  A lovely sunny day and we stroll into town.  One shop has reduced clothing from up to $35 (£9) to $5 (£1.70) and I leave with a bag full.  The A&P (agricultural and pastoral) show $2 (70p) at the race course consists of a fun fair, produce, flower, craft and pet competitions, vintage car and motorbike displays, a house truck arena and woodcutting competitions.  Pete & Jennie are delighted to win  first prize for their pom-pom Dahlia, plums, lemons and a photographic entry.  They are not keen gardeners but bought the house from a lady who was.  All their prize winning goods just happened but everyone else is keen to ask them what compost they use etc!  The housetrucks are quite amazing being more like gypsy style wooden caravans attached to lorries and very ornate inside.  You can pay and have a look around so I take the video into one.  They have a bedroom upstairs which leads out onto a sun balcony complete with BBQ.  The wood chopping competition is fun and they are setting up a challenge for entry in to the Guiness Book of Records.  Manage to get back just before a heavy downpour.  Chill Pasta makes another appearance when I cook for us all. 
WESTPORT
Sunday 9 January  Happy 40th Birthday Netty Spooner and welcome to the middle ages!  Clear blue skies and lots of sun.  Up the coast to Denniston incline where the old mining trucks followed a steep slope up from the coast to the coal face on the hill.  Nearby are Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale which remind us of Telford.  Walk around the historical area then return to the coast for some time on Waimangaroa Beach.  Back through Westport, showering at Pete’s then on to Cape Foulwind and a walk to the seal colony at Tauranga Bay.  Last stop for the day is Constant Bay, the port for Charleston ex gold mining town.  A great free camping spot with a dark sand beach mingled with alluvial gold sparkling in the sun.  One of the many walks highlights the views and numerous craggy inlets.  House trucks from the show are also here.
CONSTANT BAY
Monday 10 January   A beautiful day and too nice to leave this lovely spot where we can stroll to the sea for a dip or take in more rock hopping walks.  At night we are serenaded by one of the campers playing tom tom drums.
CONSTANT BAY 2
Tuesday 11 January   Down the coast to Punakaiki famous for the unusual shape "Pancake Rocks".  In the same area we explore inside the dark Punakaiki Cavern and then follow the Truman track to a beach with a waterfall and cave.  Lunch by the Punakaiki River before pressing on and finding a lovely beach down a track.  The back of the beach is pebbly but in the sea there is sand.  We are visited by a Weka which is a bush duck and we read that they are prone to steal your food or anything that sparkles.  A couple of vehicles roll up at dusk with shark fishermen laying their nets for the night in hope of catching some of the 1 1/2 metres ones.  Watch our first sunset over the Tasman Sea.
BEACH SOUTH OF PUNAKAIKI
Wednesday 12 January  Another good day so we spend the morning on the beach and in the sea in the knowledge that the fishermen didn’t catch any shark last night (maybe the sharks are waiting for us).   Leave at 2.00pm continuing down the coast with nice scenery and the blue sky in competition with the sea set off by numerous rocky outcrops.  Greymouth is a nice little town with a recent increase in the population following the building of a flood barrier to protect it.  Just out of town we reach the Taramakau bridge which is single lane traffic combined with the rail track.  We succesfully negotiate it and then come upon a roundabout with the railroad going through the centre.  Kumara Junction is another good beach spot but this time the sandy beach is  backed by lots of driftwood. 
KUMARA JUNCTION BEACH
Thursday 13 January   A warm but cloudy day so we press on into Hokitika.  Complete the town historical walk which takes us past numerous jade factories where they process the stone found in this area.  Nearby Hokitika Gorge has the most amazing blue water and would be a wonderful spot to stop if only the sandflies didn’t think so also.  Anywhere there is running water the sandflies hover and seem more profuse and bite more viciously than mosquitoes.  The bites takes a long time to heal up and stop itching but at least there is no danger from them.  Ross goldmining town is where the 99oz nugget "Honourable Roddy" was found in 1907.  The beach has another good parking spot between a field of cows with a mountain view beyond and the beach on the other side.
ROSS BEACJ
Friday 14 January  A lie in until 10.00 results in us finally hitting the road at 11.00am.  The road is now edged with dense tropical rainforest.  Return to the coast at Hari Hari to do the coastal pack track 3 hour walk.  Walking through the forest we stumble upon a stoat preening itself and are also stunned by the noise the cicadas make.  Emerge on to the beach with many baches (holiday homes).  The beach here is heaving with driftwood which comes from the forests and is transported in the wildly flowing rivers after the heavy rains which they get in this region.  Climb the "Doughboy" for a tremendous 360 degree view and a rest on the seats after the 240 steps up.  Back over the mud flats and past the whitebaiters huts to the car park.  Lake Wahapo makes a scenic overnight stop but we are plagued by sandflies and mosquitoes to the extent that we hardly sleep.  We don’t know where they are getting in but we keep hearing one buzz and having sprayed or flattened it we get about half an hours sleep before the next one. 
LAKE WAHAPO
Saturday 15 January  Inland to the Southern Alps region and Franz Joseph alpine village by the glacier.  Steve has a bad headache and isn’t too keen to do the helicopter flight so I go it alone.  $150 (£50) gets you a 30 minute flight over both the Franz and the Fox glaciers with a snow landing on one.  Waiting for departure I chat to the couple next to me and it turns out they are from Wakefield but the lady was born in Keighley.  Reel off lots of familiar names but nothing clicks.  The flight is excellent and we set off over the forest to the Fox Valley before flying up the glacier.  Although dirty looking from all the grey shingle spilling onto it I still find it impressive.  We were spoilt by the pristine Svartisen Glacier in Norway and when we land in the snow I realise it is the first snow I have seen since then which was June 1998.  Take off and fly over the mountain then down the Franz Joseph Glacier.  Although it receeded for many years it has been moving forward again since the 60’s.  Walk to St James Anglican church as the alter is backed by a big clear window which frames a great view of the glacial valley.  Steve’s a little better so we drive up the glacier road then walk first to Sentinel Rock for a view and then get closer on the Glacier View walk.  Down the valley Lake Matheson is famous as a mirror lake. Steve gives up shortly into the walk but I complete the 1 1/2 hour circuit which is nice but the reflections are spoilt somewhat by the low clouds.  On to the Fox Glacier for the Glacier Valley Walk which is great.  We walk below rock landslides and over a glacial river to get right up to the ice face.  The ice is blue (between the grey rocky bits) and the river flows from a cave opening.  Excellent and well worth the hike.  Back in the car park we spot a Kea bird which is a native parrot with an orange underside to it’s wings.  Find a nice overnight spot in the valley with a grandstand view of the Fox River.
FOX VALLEY
Sunday 16 January  Quick drive up the other side of the glacial valley for a photo.  Lake Paringa makes a nice coffee stop before we reach Haast where the road heads inland.  At the visitor centre we pick up Tim & Jules who are hitchiking to Wanaka.  Explain we do a lot of stopping and may not go that far today but they are happy to join us for part of the trip.  Landscape gardeners from Auckland they ask us to visit when we go there.  Lunch stop by the river then over the Haast pass where we feel very sorry for the red faced cyclists which we just about have enough speed to pass.  Thunder Creek Falls at 99′ are lovely with a pool at the bottom which would be inviting on a warmer day.  Fantail falls also warrent a stop before we reach Makarora.  There is a Wilkin jet boat trip leaving at 3.30pm so we book it.  Tim & Jules find out there is a bus to Wanaka in about 10 minutes time so everything works out well.  The 1 hour jet boat $49 (£16) takes you up the Makarora and Wilkin Rivers at great speed.  The jet boats have a draft of 8cm and can turn in their own length having no propellers on the outside but a V8 engine which sucks water.  Two boats go out and we head towards river banks then swerve at the last minute giving us a good soaking.  Bump up some rapids and do lots of Hamiltons (360 degree turns).  Brilliant fun and quite exhillarating with scenic views to add to the pleasure.  Our drive takes us to beautiful Lake Wanaka with the sun making the water a fabulous blue topped off with scenic mountains surrounding it.  Free camp right on the edge.
LAKE WANAKA
Monday 17 January  A windy night with the van rocking about a bit.  Mainly sunny day and we scramble down the side of a waterfall to a sheltered gravel beach on the lakeside.  Leave after dinner and head into Wanaka.  First stop the famous "Puzzling World" which I have really been looking forward to.  Outside is the "Leaning Tower of Wanaka" which balances at 45 degrees. It  has a clock which goes backwards and was started at midnight this year so is taking time back into the 20th century! $7 (£2.30) gets you into the giant 3D maze, crooked house, hall of following  faces and puzzle room.  Posters on the walls show seemingly impossible things such as never ending staircases and rooms which appear inside and outside at the same time.  The hologram hall is excellent.  Enter the cooked house and Steve has to back out as he feels quite ill.  It’s fascinating to see a stair chair going upstairs on it’s own, snooker balls rolling up the table and to stand on a ladder and lean forwards without falling off.  The hall of following faces is spooky with 4 layers of faces which follow you as you walk around the room.  The maze is incredible with four different coloured corners to be reached over 1.5km of paths on 2 levels.  Steve gives up after the first corner and leaves me for another hour or so to complete the course.  Return to the van where Steve is happily dozing and gives me free rein in the puzzle room.  I’m like a kid with a new toy hopping from table to table to try out the different challenges.  Can’t believe it’s 6 o’clock when Steve comes to drag me out.  Wanaka is a lovely lakeside town which reminds us of Austria.  Tragically last November the lake flooded and the main street was under 1 metre of water.  The only legacy is that the water is still undrinkable but everything else has been quickly restored.  Enjoy fish and chips on the lakeside before heading back 4km out of town to Albert Town DOC (Department of Conservation) camp site $4 (£1.30) p.p.p.n.  Settle  into a nice spot beside the Clutha River.
CLUTHA RIVER
Tuesday 18 January  A hot day with clear blue skies and perfect for lazing besides the stream.  I build myself a pool using the rocks and then find a natural deep sandy one downstream which is perfect for a swim.  Into town late afternoon and tonight we splash out on a Chinese take away $8 each (£2.70) eaten by the Lake once again.  Paradiso cinema $9 (£3) is showing "The Haunting" but we have come to see the cinema itself as much as the film.  You enter through a cafe where the tables and toilets are decorated with old cinema posters.  The cinema seats are old armchairs and sofas and also an old car which you can sit inside to view the movie.  The owner comes in to tells us a bit about the film and forthcoming films, he points out a box full of cushions to use and says we may have to wait a moment for the start as a lad is still waiting outside for his girlfriend to turn up!  The film is good even though you can tell when the old projectors are changed over.  At the intermission the owner says the movie will start again when everyone is ready and no rush with the drinks etc!  What a brilliant place where we enjoy stretching out on a sofa and feel even more at home than in the motorhome.  Drive out to Wanaka airport for the night as we want to enquire about tandem Skydiving.
WANAKA AIRPORT
Wednesday 19 January  Steve goes to the Skydiving offices and returns to tell me we are booked to jump at 9.45 and the price is down from $225 (£75) to $195 (£65) by booking here.  I now start to read up and find out that what we are going to be doing is jumping in tandem with an instructor out of a plane 9000 feet above the ground.  You free fall at 200 kph for 30 seconds before opening the parachute at 6000 feet.  In other words a parachute jump.  We are shown an instruction video and introduced to Grant who will be my personal instructor and Phil who is Steve’s.  Kitted out in jumpsuits and harness we are led out to the small aircraft along with another girl.  The views are spectacular as we fly over Lakes Wanaka and Howea and spot the top of Mount Aspiring and Mount Cook covered in snow.  9000 feet approaches and with our hats and goggles in place the door is opened.  I’m going first and Grant nudges me forwards so I am actually hanging out of the plane.  He tells me to take up the "Big Banana" position which involves me tucking my feet back under the plane, gripping my straps and pressing my elbows and body backwards leaning my head back against his shoulder.  Next instruction is "Let’s fly" at which point a big rush of cold wind hits me as we tumble forwards.  We roll around for a few seconds and then level out stomachs towards the ground.  The wind rushes past and it seems to be ages before the parachute jerks us upright.  At this point I am told to relax and enjoy the ride.  I get my camera out in time to catch Steve’s parachute opening as he approaches us.  It is now a very slow and quiet descent until Grant starts to do some stunts.  Spiralling and Sasheying follow until he tells me to prepare for landing as we near the airport.  Feet held forward and upwards we gently land on our bottoms and slide for a couple of feet.  Absolutely unbelievable, amazing, exhilarating, adrenalin pumping, can’t believe we did it stuff.   Back to town and I feel extremely light headed as I am still so hyped up.  Head out towards Queenstown stopping for lunch by Lake Dunstan.  Call at one of the many fruit factories in the area where we buy our produce and watch the production line at the same time.  Cromwell is a nice town dominated by a fruit statue like Carman Miranda’s hat and a pretty shopping mall which has a stream with small waterefalls running through it.  In the 80’s a dam was built to create Lake Duncan and much of the old town was lost under water.  Cromwell Old Town has some of the original old buildings and others than were taken down before the flooding and reconstructed. In Kawerau Gorge we walk over a narrow bridge to the area of an old Gold mining town.  At the Gibston rest area sign we are amazed when we go down a track into what looks like someone’s garden.  A man is watering the lawns and says that although it is the council rest area his neighbour takes care of the area but is on holiday so he is just helping out.  By the side of a stream there are flower beds, picnic tables, BBQ, toilets and a proper lawn.  A small sign asks you to keep it tidy and donations are welcome – no problem.
GIBSTON REST AREA
Thursday 20 January  Wake at 10.00 to clouds followed by a few spots of rain.  Enjoy a cooked brunch then laze around reading and doing the diary etc.  Some brights spells in the afternoon.
GIBSTON REST AREA 2
Friday 21 January  Happy Birthday Mum.  Set off towards Queenstown and notice many places where the road was washed away during the November rains and is still being put right.  Kawarau Bridge is where A.J. Hackett did the first bungy jump and we stop to watch the crazy people throwing themselves 142 feet off the bridge.  Steve pays his $110 (£37) for the priviledge.  I stand poised with the video camera and feel quite nervous watching as he has his ancles bound.  He hops to the edge of the platform before the countdown begins.  He’s away with more of a fall than a dive but the elastic soons tips him up and his fingers just touch the water.  He begins to spin and that is when he starts yelling!  Eventually the dingy reaches him and he grabs the pole to be pulled on board.  He claims his certificate and free T-shirt then watches it replayed on the showroom video.  Back on the road we detour to Arrowtown an old gold mining town where the main street is still as it used to be.  There is an area which used to be the Chinese settlement and remains of the humble dwellings are still in evidence.  Queenstown is the adventure sport capital with great appeal to the young back-packers.  We preffered the more sedate Wanaka.  Call at the doctors for some Polio drops as it is 10 years since our last ones.  Find out that New Zealand has full reciprocal medical agreement with U.K. citizens which means we won’t need to re new our travel insurance at the end of the month.  The Sky Line Gondola $13 (£4.30) takes us up to Bob’s peak for some splendid views over Lake Wakatipu, the town and surrounding mountains.  Just make it back into the van before the heavens open up. Copthorne Hotel do an early bird buffet $15 (£5) and Steve manages to get through about as many main courses as I do deserts.  By the time we leave the rain has stopped and we drive along the lake shore to free camp at Wilson Bay near Closeburn.  Heavy rain starts in the night.
WILSON BAY NR CLOSEBURN
Saturday 22 January  Heading towards Te Anau we pull over at Fairlight rest area for coffee.  Our timing is good as the old steam train the Kingston Flyer is just pulling in to the station.  Continue into an area called the Tussocks after the grassy clumps surrounding us.  The Scots originaly settled in this area and the Scottish accent is evident.  Te Anau on Lake Te Anau is a very pleasant place especially as it is 25C.  Gather lots of information before driving towards Milford Sound.  See many good parking places but we always have a vehicle close behind us.  Manage to turn around but get caught up in the procession of coaches in the opposite direction.  When you slow down and indicate to let them pass they ignore you, if you indicate to go right they are so close that you daredn’t make the turn and when you finally pull over they give you the "V"’s.  This seems to be typical of the intolerence in New Zealand of motorhomes and slower drivers.  About turn and stop by the lakeside.  More heavy rain through the night.
ROAD TO MILFORD SOUND
Sunday 23 January  The torrential rain shows no sign of letting up.  Fortunately the guided walk we had booked along part of the Milford Tack is cancelled.  As we cross the great Divide en route to Milford Sound the scenery changes dramatically.  Because of the heavy rain the sheer rocky mountains are teeming with water creating hundreds of waterfalls.  It’s absolutely breath taking.  The Homer Tunnel took 17 years to build and allows the road to pass through the mountains to reach the sound.  The tunnel falls steeply downwards and we are fortunate not to meet anything coming towards us as it is quite narrow.  The rain is so bad that we drive under a waterfall whilst in the tunnel.  Emerge to even more dramatic scenery and what must be thousands of waterfalls standing out as white lines agains the polished grey stone mountains.  Walk to "The Chasm" where the raging white water has worked holes through the rocks.  Return 10 minutes later soaked through.  Milford Sound consists of a backpackers lodge, hotel, cafe and visitor centre combined with tour operators desks.  Check out the boat times but we will sit it out to see if the weather improves as you can’t even see the other side of the fiord. Walking back to the car we spot a rare fiordland crested penguin sheltering under a bush.  They are moulting at the moment and can’t go in the water and it looks so sad with half it’s wet bedragled feathers poking out.  Rain stops mid afternoon so we walk to Bowen Falls dropping 160m from a hanging valley and pushing sprays of water into the fiord.  When we walk towards it we get absolutely drenched but it is great fun.   Get back to the van just before the rains starts again.   Chat to neighbouring motorhomers Mike & Marion and decide to go for the 10.30am cruise tomorrow and stay overnight on the car park.  They joins us for cards in the evening.
MILFORD SOUND
Monday 24 January    A brighter morning with the rain having stopped a few hours ago. Take the Red Boat cruise $59 (£20) which includes a visit to the underwater observatory.  Lady of the Sound passes many nice falls and rock formations en route to the Tasman Sea. Mitre Peak at 5,560 feet is one of the highest mountains in the world to rise directly from the ocean floor.  Originally called Milford Haven it was changed to Milford Sound which is strange as it was formed by a glacier which makes it a fiord.   The observatory is fantastic and unique with a floating pontoon going 8m underwater.  Viewing windows allow you to see coral formations which are suspended as hanging gardens.  Due to the area’s high rainfall (7 -9 metres a year) the fiord has a layer of freshwater floating on top of the saltwater allowing deep sea animals to thrive just a few metres below the surface.  Back on land our return journey is very different as most of the waterfalls dissapear within 1 hour of the rain stopping.  Notice an area of rock landslide onto the road which is a problem in summer.  In winter they have the snow avalanches to contend with.  The Homer Alpine nature walk takes us through an area with many alpine plants and flowers.  On the car park the Kea (the worlds only mountain parrot) is playing to the crowds and posing for photo’s.  One sits on the roof of our van and looks dangerously close to hopping in at one stage.  They are naughty birds and will pick the rubber from around the windows and steal anything they can.  Further along we walk over a very wobbly low sided swing bridge towards Marian Lake to see some waterfalls this time not steep but fast and furious.  Gunns camps was where the road crews used to stay and the huts are now used as accomodation for travellers.  Owner Murray Gunn is a bit of a card with lots of wise cracks.  He has tins of er’s and um’s and as Steve goes to enter the museum he calls out "Stop don’t go through that door – open it instead".  Not content with the water falls we have seen we drive further and then walk to Humboldt Falls which are very narrow but extremely high.  Boyd Creek is our final stop for the night and yes you’ve guessed – there is a walk to some waterfalls which are very pretty in a glade like setting.
BOYD CREEK
Tuesday 25 January     Pause in Te Anau to do the nature walk en route to Manapouri.  Marion (who’s van it is) has a friend here so we call in on Don & Joy who also have a B&B.  She offers use of her washing machine and computer and it is brilliant to see the first pictures of Natasha courtesy of Paul.  Don tells us of a good spot to free camp nearby at Safety Bay.
SAFETY BAY
Wednesday 26 January    The Doubtful Sound trip $160 (£53) leaves at 11.30am and we cruise the crystal clear waters of beautiful island-studded Lake Manapouri. Explore some interesting bays then disembark at the West Arm of the lake.  Travel by coach down a 2km spiral tunnel to the Manapouri Power Station machine hall deep beneath the mountain.  This is the biggest hydro power station in New Zealand.  The coach then takes us over the scenic Wilmot Pass.  The forest is initially Beech and they get 4m annual rainfall around the lake.  From the highest point of the pass heading towards Doubtful sound the trees change to fir and they get 9m rainfall – the highest in the world.  There are lots of white scars on the mountainside from tree avalanches.  The mountains are rock and everything that grows only has an initial base in the moss.  Once one tree starts to fall everything in the same carpet of moss goes with it.  Join the Commander Peak at Deep Cove for our 3 hour cruise on the sound.  The only other access to Doubtful Sound is via the Tasman Sea so the beautiful scenery is much the same as when the Spanish came 200 years ago.  Blanket Bay Hotel (for the fishermen and on a pontoon) is the last thing you expect to see in this wilderness. Yesterday Joy & Don told us they lived here for about 16 years but Joy only stuck it for the first few.  Fur seals abound on the Nee Islets where we about turn to explore crooked arm on the way back.  Spot 3 dolphins who come quite near the ship  Spot another pod of dolphins nearer Deep Cove and one swims along in our wake which is wonderful to see.  Coach and another boat finally get us back just before 8.00pm. The motorcaravan book leads us to a good spot on the Waiau riverbank en route to Invercargill.
WAIAU RIVER
Thursday 27 January  David’s 21st Birthday, hope we can get to speak to him later as we believe he is in Keighley.  Stop to look at the 100 year old Clifden suspension bridge which looks like a minature version of the Clifton one.  Pass lots of sheep in the fields and also cows, geese and deer.  At Aparima we manage to find the Southern Sun & Health Club and having tooted our horn Doreen appears in a car.  She is a member and lives nearby.  The southern most nudist club in the world it is run down and has few members.   For $10 (£3.30) we get the place to ourselves with a powered site, basic but hot showers and use of the cold but fairly clean swimming pool.  My hair has been driving me nuts so I grab the clippers and proceed to give myself a 3/8" number 3 cut all over.  What a shock to find that I am now quite grey (soon to be put right with a colour).  Steve is non commital on the style but admits it looks better than when it was a mess before!  How come it looked so good on Demi Moore and Sigourney Weaver?  Walk to Ray & Doreens and manage to speak to David on the phone.
INVERCARGILL, SOUTHERN SUN & HEALTH CLUB
Friday 28 January  Hot day so we sunbathe until late afternoon.  As we are leaving Doreen raids her garden and provides us with eggs, lettuce, onions, potatoes, carrots and flowers.  Thornbury rest area proves a nice stop on the banks of the Aparima River.
INVERCARGILL, SOUTHERN SUN & HEALTH CLUB 2
Saturday 29 January  Invercargill is quite a big town and the southern most one on mainland New Zealand.  There are many nice old buildings and we start by visiting the Southland museum at the tourist office.  Entry by donation it has a Subantarctic section, roaring forties gallery, art gallery, history and technology rooms and tuatara housse.  Tuatara are rare New Zealand reptiles living up to 150 years old and look like lizards.  By the time we emerge the heavens have opened up so we grab the brolly to walk the streets.  The Zookeepers Cafe is an interesting place for lunch.  "Tart of the day" would have appealed to Pete Scott!  Ten pin bowling $10 (£3.30) for 2 games with Steve getting 153, 176 and me 105, 155.  Bluff is the port area of Invercargill and busy in season with oyster and whitebait fishing.  Fred & Myrtle have decorated their house with paua (abalone) shells and for a donation you can visit.  Fred is 96 and they have been married for 71 years.  He sits in the lounge and talks at the visitors as he is deaf as a post.  The view from the lookout would probably be good on a clear day but we go for it anyway.  Rejoin the southern scenic route to take us round the coast in the Catlins area.  Fortrose bay makes a nice stop but it rains all night.
CATLINS – FORTROSE BAY
Sunday 30 January   Bright morning and we begin the many detours at Waipapa point lighthouse – scene of the worst shipping disaster in New Zealand in 1881.  Walk through heavily sheep soiled fields to Slope Point the southern most point in mainland New Zealand marked by nothing but a sign post where we pose for the obligatory photo.  Porpoise Bay is fantastic with the rare Hector’s dolphins frolicking in the bay amonst people clad in wet suits. The water is freezing but temptation takes hold and we force ourselves into the water.  Steve has the snorkel and goggles on as two dolphins swim within inches of him.  They swim all around us and surf on the waves, it’s fantastic.  Curio bay has a petrified forrest 180 million years old and you can make out the tree stumps and logs at low tide which is quite amazing.  Niagara Falls are a joke having been named for fun by an american.  They are the smallest falls we have seen so far!  It starts to rain but we plod on up the muddy track to park $5 (£1.65) for Cathedral Caves.  Walk for over half an hour to the beach and then along it to the caves.  The tide is still going out and we keep getting splashed as we turn into the high arched cave entrance.  It is aptly named and at the back of the cave you go around a corner and out into an adjoining one which is equally magnificent.  We want to look into the next cove but each time Steve tries to make it round the headland an enormous wave crashes in and he gets even wetter.  Give up and return soaked to the skin but grateful for the warmth of the camper and a change of clothes.  Settle at Tautuku Beach for the night.
CATLINS, TAUTUKI BEACH
Monday 31 January  Heavy rain all night and as our coats are still wet through we abandon thoughts of the other scenic detours.  The road is flooded at the MacLennan River and we wait until we see a truck come through.  We make it but the cars will have to wait for the level to drop with the tide.  Flooding in the area is terrible with many fields and gardens submerged.  Dunedin is where the first Scots settled and has some nice grey stone buildings.  Pick up a package from Claire with more of our Christmas cards and letters from friends and a video of "The Royales" from Netty.  Otago is another donation entry museum but not as good as the one in Invercargill so we only spend an hour there.  The rain has stopped to be replaced by strong winds.  The Otago peninsula is a famous wildlife haven.  Our drive takes us right along the shore of the Dunedin harbour with great views.  On Pilot Beach we walk amonst enormous fur seals and hundreds of birds.  There is a Royal Albatross colony here and we see some flying in the very strong winds.  Overnight on Pukehiki church car park.  It’s very cold and although the free standing gas heater looks a little un safe we are cold enough to use it.
OTAGO PENINSULA, PUHEHIKI CHURCH CAR PARK
 
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