A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand - March 10 2013

Day 20 - Franz to Queenstown

Left Franz Joseph to journey towards Fox Glacier. The day was cool with low cloud. Another day of up and over hills with winding road and magnificent views of glacial streams. We passed over rocky riverbeds, through thick green forests and very high hills. Some were snow covered. Agricultural land in the valleys looked very marginal  with trench drained paddocks and hedgerows and piles of either rock or decaying timber. A lot of the flattish country is old swamp so that practise humpin' n hollown' where they create mounds and trenches - not ideal for cropping but the animals dont mind. 
Stopped  at a salmon farm for coffee. This morning we passed over the point where the Pacific Plate meets the Tasman Plate. It was clearly defined by large slips and deep cuts in the scree slopes on both sides of a stream.  New Zealand is a country of rocks and trees with the built environment running a very poor second to the magnificent landforms and varying greens of the subtropical forests. 
We went on a jet boat on the Haast River. The boat maneuvered over very shallow water and submerged logs as well as doing 360 degree turns. Scenery was beautiful.
Mount Hooker looms 8000 ft over the Landsborough river which flows into the Haast River. Moved into the Otago Region, beautiful bare mountains dipping steeply into big blue lakes, mountains so high in contrast to the valleys. Very little vegetation in the dry intermountain valleys. Lunch at a little road cafe in between the Haast and Young Ranges. 

Through the magnificent Haast Pass (Mt Brewster 2516m) and down to the NE end of the massive Lake Wanaka -  talk about an inland sea! Then across to the mid-west edge of Lake Hawea, continued south to the lovely holiday town of Wanaka on the southern end of Lake Wanaka for afternoon tea and then onto more magnificent bare hills, deep rocky river beds and  rapids of azure blue water. 

Queenstown  is very impressive. Our accommodation at the St  Moritz is very luxurious with kitchenette, sitting room, washing machine / dryer, 2 TV's, and our outlook is a beautifully manicured garden with an outdoor setting and wooden garden seat. Dinner at another Irish Pub. We are impressed with the town. It has a very special feel, a little like Banff with high mountains surrounding a very tourist oriented town.

Posted by suengarry 14:23 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand March 9 2013

Day 17 - Ashburton to Franz

overcast 19 °C

Another big travelling day but what a vista!
Left Ashburton in the coach and went back toward Christchurch before turning west for Darfield to catch the Trans Alpine Train through the Puketeraki and Craigieburn Ranges up to Arthur's Pass. Train a bit like the Rocky Mountaineer without the restaurant car. Aaaaah! How to run down a camera battery in a short time. Simply awesome. Schist, greywacke and sandstone rock screes tumbling down massive slopes. There doesn't seem to be any 'real' soil - just rocks, pebbles and sand.
The train continued on down the other side to Greymouth but we rejoined our coach for an even better look at the amazing scenery and roadworks. Out of the mountains and onto the delta of the massive Taramakaui River. Out to the Tasman coast and further south to Hokitika where there was a 'wild food' festival on this weekend. People apparently pay to go into an enclosed area where they can then purchase just about anything considered edible from the wild. But in reality it appeared to be an excuse for masses of uni students and other young people to don fancy dress and drink themselves into a stupor. We were there for lunch but it was apparent that many had already partied hard.

Hokitika is the home of NZ Jade (Ponamu). The local iwi (tribe) have sole rights to go up the Arahura river in search of the rock. We had to buy some pieces of course! !

Back on the coach and heading further south through the gold mining areas around Ross. All pretty tough marginal agriculture country but new blocks are still being cleared and opened up by the lands department. It is surprising how quickly the grass cover grows.

At Whataroa we come to the first glacier fed river with the characteristic turquoise water. Dairy and Deer farming country. Past Lake Mapourika and on to Franz. The Te Waonui Forest Retreat - our accommodation - tonight is the best we have experienced in terms of location and room set up. We are in for a four course meal tonight and suspect it will be up there with the best but more on that later.

After a quick check in and welcome it was off in the coach to Franz Josef glacier which is just 4 km through town. Couple of walks but sadly it was not possible to get really close to the face of the glacier in the time available -that would have taken a couple of hours. We had booked for the helicopter ride and snow landing but that was cancelled because of low cloud. .... One that will have to remain on Sue's bucket list! Sadly Franz Josef like many glaciers is a shadow of its former self. The current car park is about where the face was when first photographed in the last century. It has advanced and receded by small amounts over the last thirty years but it is now a long way away from the car park. The amount of melt flowing down the river at this time considering the lack of rain and snow does not augur well even though it is supposedly advancing at 1 metre per day. Our photographs will not even compare with those taken by Paul and Luke back in the 80s.

Posted by suengarry 21:09 Archived in New Zealand Tagged franz josef Comments (0)

New Zealand March 8 2013

Day 16 - Nelson to Ashburton

sunny 27 °C

Another day another coach ride. Bit of a nothing day today as we had over 500 km to get from Nelson down to Ashburton. This required to backtrack almost all the way to Blenheim before swinging off down the East coast through Sneddon on Highway 1 past Clifford Bay and on through Clarence to the Kaikoura Peninsula for a lunch stop. Black basalt rock beach. Coastline a bit like Big Sur or parts of the NSW South coast with the road running right along the wave line and a rail line inland. Both cars and trains, (particularly the trains)spend quite a bit of time in tunnels. Locals apparently try to overtake trucks by going through the train tunnel. Big seal colony at Oahu Point. Back inland then across the flood plains of the Waiau and Hurunui rivers with the Seaward and Inland Kaikoura Ranges providing a backdrop. Rivers look glacial even though they aren't. Very wide and shallow and very rocky with very blue water. Our first sight of a snow capped peak.
A return to the very European looking farmland with paddocks surrounded by tall pine hedges. Lots of irrigation along here. Massive vine plantings. One area of 1100 hectares. Classy looking cellar doors. But also the usual fodder farms, dairy and sheep. We followed the ring road around Christchurch to our hotel in Ashburton. Apparently the nearest hotel of acceptable standard as all the 5 star establishments in Christchurch are in the Red Zone.

Posted by suengarry 00:11 Archived in New Zealand Tagged seal colony ashburton Comments (0)

New Zealand March 7 2013

Day 15 - Nelson and Abel Tasman National Ark

sunny 23 °C

Picked up by shuttle for sea shuttle supercat across Tasman Bay to Kaiteriteri which is the gateway onto to the Abel Tasman National Park. The park was originally farmland but not surprisingly too difficult to farm and has been bought back by the government. As a result there are still some squatters rights. Now a bushwalking/backpacking paradise with lots of well defined tracks of differing distances/difficulty. The trouble from Garry
's perspective was the one hour shuttle ride to get to and from which only runs once in
the morning from 8am and return 5.30 pm. Pretty long day away from all but basic national park amenities. We followed the walk and relax option. Entered the park at Anchorage walked over to Te Pukatea Cove for lunch and a close encounter with a NZ fur seal before returning to Anchorage beach for a quiet time on the beach before our shuttle pick up. Beautiful golden sands dotted with backpackers, kyakers and Trekkers. Another 1.5 hour shuttle ride with about thirty noisy K/Y 1 kids on excursion. Dinner down town.

Posted by suengarry 10:23 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand March 6 2013

Day 14 - Picton and Nelson

semi-overcast 19 °C

Early morning rise to go down to the port to catch the Inter-Island ferry to the South Island. Ferry like those between the Greek islands carries trucks, cars and bikes as well as walking passengers. Ours was originally named The Pride of Cherburg but now called the Karatai. Scenic had us in the Karatai Lounge. Cooked breakfast, tea coffee, newspapers, magazines and free wi-fi for the journey. Free alcohol also for those who could stomach it. Total journey took about three hours.

Ferry into Queen Charlotte Sound to Picton. South Island - 5 provinces - 1 million people. Sybil met us on arrival for quick hello. Border collie in back of the ute.

South on highway 1 towards Blenheim through Koromiko and Tuamarina where the only war on the Sth Island between Maori and pakeha took place with the resultant revenge death of seven Europeans. Turned right at Spring Creek and then through the Richmond Range to Nelson. First stretch through the Marlborough wine country. Stoneleigh, Wairau River, Hertzog, Winslow Estate, nautilus, Giesen and Brancott Estate. Beautiful straight plantings most with white netting to protect the fruit from birds.

Next spot Havelock - the home of the green-lipped mussel that we have been consuming in copious quantities. Bluff oyster season starting up this week but the cost of these may limit our consumption. And into Nelson -- the sunshine capital of the South. Booked into an upper standard motel. Walk uptown for lunch and look round. Swim in heated pool and tidy up before complimentary drinks and three course dinner in-house.

Posted by suengarry 10:15 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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