Saturday, 30 April 2016

NZ: Welly (Take 2) to Napier

Our ferry trip was uneventful though we did spot a pod of dolphins in the distance, and we headed off to our accommodation via a trip to the supermarket.  Anja had a family friend connection who’d offered to put us up for 2 nights, which was very kind of them, especially as Anja had never met either of them!  We turned up to dinner being cooked for us which was an added, unexpected bonus.  Our room even had its own bathroom – bliss!

We spent the following day doing a self-guided ‘highlights’ tour of Wellington – we walked into town through the Botanic Gardens down to the harbour, spent 2 hours in the Te Papa museum (where this time I actually stayed and absorbed information from the Gallipoli exhibition – which is really very good, though did leave me with a huge sense of sadness.  It’s easy to forget that whilst your country is having its own wars, other countries are suffering similar losses.  And also crazy to think that NZ, even though it’s the other side of the world, had to help with the world wars just because of it being a commonwealth country).

This is why Welly reminds me of Bristol

the incredible models in the Te Papa Gallipoli exhibit, think I talked about them in my previous Welly post

Afterwards we picked our mood up with food – we had a supermarket picnic by the sea, then a stroll through town to Cuba Street, which is probably the trendiest street in Welly.  After that we headed to the Beehive, where we managed to squeeze onto the last parliamentary tour of the day.  This was much more interesting than I imagined it would be and I am glad they fit us on the tour – we got to see the parliamentary chamber and where the PM sat.    Personally I think the building leaves a lot to be desired, designed by Sir Basil Spence in 1964, I think it looks a bit like a huge wedding cake….I didn't even take a photo because it's so ugly.

Cuba St

Welly dusk on our walk home

We finished our ‘highlights’ tour with a trip back to the Botanic Gardens via the Cable Car, then back home where Anja cooked schnitzel for dinner as a thank you to our guests (I chopped stuff and kept our hosts entertained by talking non stop).  We had a really lovely evening with lots of interesting conversations about social media, travel, Europe and the EU.  I felt quite intelligent by the end of the evening. And a bit buzzy with wine.

After abusing the wifi to write blog posts, we bid our farewells and  travelled North to Masterton, via ‘Rivendell’ – just off the state highway is a forest where they filmed a lot of the Rivendell LOTR set.  We took a quick walk around the area, discovered I was definitely taller than a dwarf, and headed back on the road.  

See? Definitely taller than a dwarf. Nearly wizard height in face. 

Gorgeous Autumnal colours

Justine had recommended a place to stay - she had been cycling in the middle of nowhere when she came across a farmer moving cattle, they got speaking and he offered her a place to stay.  She’d written him a postcard which we were to deliver and hope they would also offer us a place to kip…cheeky!

Unfortunately there was no room at the inn, and the farmer was out, but their son, Hunter, offered to show us round the farm and we fed the pet pig, sheep and ducks, asked some questions about sheep farms, and headed on our merry way.  Hunter is moving to London soon so if any of you come across him, be super nice to him as he’s lovely!

We ended up at a brilliant little campsite in Eketahuna, run by an old couple where you get your camp spot, unlimited hot showers, free cold washing machine and a fab little kitchen all for the princely sum of 7$, bloody bargain.  The old lady even apologised for charging us, bless her.   We made the most delicious risotto (straight from a packet, add hot water!) and chilled out for the rest of the evening.

The next day we drove 5k south to Pukaka Mount Bruce bird sanctuary.  We had been debating whether to go to the Zealandia sanctuary in Welly, and had decided against it, but this was mentioned in the Lonely Planet book as being THE place to go to, so we coughed up 20 bucks each and headed inside.  It was 20 bucks well spent – we learned loads and were fed some pretty scary facts, such as so far in NZ the list of known species that are now extinct includes one bat, 51 birds, 3 frogs, 3 lizards, 1 fish, 4 plant species and an unknown number of invertebrates.   We are the cause – early settlers bringing in pests such as rats and possums who eat eggs and fauna that the native mammals ate, chopping down bushland and forests for settlements and mining, and of course hunting.  One bird was hunted to extinction just because people in the UK thought it fashionable to wear a brooch made of the birds beak….Urgh humans….

The Tuatara. It's prehistoric!



a baby kiwi!!!!

The bird song in the sanctuary was pretty incredible, especially seeing as the sanctuary is completely open bar 9 aviaries hosting some protected birds.   One of the highlights was seeing a baby Kiwi chick being fed – it was pretty adorable.  They also have 2 adult Brown Kiwi (though confusingly one of the Brown Kiwi is actually white as it has a rare recessive gene and is the only white kiwi in existence in captivity).  Kiwis are weird – called the ‘most un-bird-like bird’ because they have whiskers, nostrils at the end of their beak, hair like feather and 2 ovaries. Weird little things – I say little but they’re actually really quite big, the size of a basket ball!

Our next stop was Cape Kidnappers, via the longest place name in the world. We are SUCH tourists. This was an hour out of our way just for a photo opportunity, and the Maori name for this hill is Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu.  Locals just call it Taumata Hill…

and for scale...

At Cape Kidnappers we considered doing the walk to the gannet colony which I had heard from a friend was well worth doing, but the tides were at funny times and meant we would have been walking back in the dark, so instead we drove to Napier.

Napier IS AMAZING. My favourite city, just nudging Oamaru out of the top spot. An earthquake razed it to the ground in the 1930s, so when they rebuilt the city they decided on an Art Deco theme.  It’s pretty awesome, all the architecture is art deco, even down to the street lights and road names.  I felt like I was in the 1940s.  There are some vintage shops so we tried on some hats – I’d love to go back there one day and attend a vintage ball or something in full fancy dress.  We spent the morning wandering around and in the afternoon started an estuary walk, but we quickly got bored as it was dull compared to the rest of the walks we have done, and instead lazed on the beach for an hour, trying to spot Orca and reading books. 

Napier port

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

NZ: Heading North with Anja

With Anja and Gandalf (the car) along Lake Wakatipu with Glenorchy in the far far distance

We extended our time at Kinloch by one day as I wasn’t feeling too well and we wanted to climb Mt Alfred on the way out, and the weather was looking much better the following day. 

Mt Alfred was amazing – only 1375m but deceptively difficult mainly due to the weather conditions – the first ¾ of the climb are in the bush and pretty easy but the last ¼ is a scramble up a gulley, which when the rocks are covered in a layer of ice makes it pretty difficult!!! I was genuinely scared at points but all I can say is thank god for the grass as we were using that to haul ourselves up – it’s strong stuff! 

Tiny mushrooms growing in a rotten log

Scrambling to the top

Fear on my face!
Views are getting better

The view at the top was worth conquering my fears for, you can see for miles in all directions! It was nice seeing where I had spent the last month from above. 

Woweeeeee amazing views

Rees Valley and Lake Wakatipu.  Kinloch is on the bottom right of the lake

We ate 2 semi cold toasties then headed back down the mountain to the Trading Post where we said our goodbyes to the girls in the shop and had one last hot chocolate (the best hot chocolate ever, if you ever end up in Glenorchy you have to get one).

Our original plan had been to drive all the way to Fox but it was a bit of an overstretch – after running errands in Queenstown we only got as far as Wanaka before light was falling, so we settled in at the Albert Town campground for the night.  We woke early the next morning, surrounded by fog which was a bit eerie. 

We packed up and headed back on the road for our drive to Fox, where we decided not to stop in the end – our intention had been to do the Lake Matheson walk but as the clouds were down we wouldn’t have been able to see the famous reflection in the lake, so continued onwards to Franz where we did the walk to the glacier terminal.  We drove onwards to Hokitika and camped at the Lake Mahinapua campsite and the next day was spent being tourists in Hoki. 

A nice waterfall we stopped at

You'll find one way bridges like this all over NZ, on 'state highways'

Lake Mahinapua

We bought souvenirs, sat on the beach and did a Jade Factory tour which was fairly interesting.  I had wanted to catch up with Wayne (of the dairy farm) and had been trying to get hold of him for the last 2 days but to no avail.  We decided to rock up at his house anyway and wait until he had finished work, so we sat in his drive playing with his dog Blue until his neighbour turned up and told us he was down in Haast on a job and wouldn’t be back till Friday – bummer! So back to the campsite it was, via the Glow Worm dell which was pretty awesome, and we picked up a French guy called Vivian who shared his crisps with us and then pitched his tent so close to ours I couldn’t peg our tent down on one side.

Blue's smiling!

We paid for a hot shower at Hoki swimming pool the next day as we were getting pretty stinky, and started the drive to Nelson Lakes National Park via the Pancake rocks.

Again having underestimated the amount of time it takes to drive places, we reached Nelson Lakes after night fall and pitched our tent in a freedom camping spot there.  Tired and lazy we made cheese sandwiches for dinner and had an early night as the next day we were attempting our first multiday tramp, wahoo!!

At Justine’s recommendation we’d decided to do the 2 day Lake Angelus tramp, where you walk 12km up and along the ridge of Mount Robert, then back down the Speargrass Track the next day.  We spent the morning preparing and packing our bags full of food and water, left our valuables at the i-site then headed off on our walk.  We met some paragliders on the way and I secretly hoped they’d let us paraglide with them but no such luck…

Happy to have reached the top of the zigzags

The 'relatively flat' mountain ridge

Me looking like a professional

it went on and on and on....

and on....

and on!

The first part of the walk was a steep zigzag up the mountain side, then 6ks or so walking along the ridge.  The last 5ks were spent scrambling along rocks and scree slopes in high winds which was pretty hairy at times but we made it to the hut alive, yay! I have probably never been so happy to see a hut. 

Getting a bit treacherous now

Yessss only 30 more minutes to go 

and we found the hut!!!!! (to the bottom left)

We settled in for the night, making friends with 4 kiwis and playing cards until we were too tired to keep our eyes open (8pm, haha!).  We slept well considering you’re lying on a plastic mattress next to 6 other people, and woke early ready for the descent.  The clouds had come down and it looked pretty miserable outside – I wasn’t looking forward to leaving the hut!! But we had places to be, so we manned up and left the comfort of the hut.  It actually wasn't that bad outside – the wind looked gustier than it was and my swanky new rainjacket is really warm and windproof so I was quite toasty. 

setting off in the misty morning

Two of the kiwi boys we were playing cards with caught up with us when we got stuck at a creek and couldn’t decide on the best way to cross – having much longer legs than us they just hopped over, but with a bit of bravery we also managed to hop over without incident.  They walked faster than us and soon disappeared in the distance, but at the next creeks we found they’d left us little piles of rocks where they’d crossed to indicate the best crossing, which was such a lovely thing to do!!!  We caught up with them at a much larger creek where they had waited for us as they weren’t sure we’d make it across without their help, ha!! Very sweet of them and we ended up walking down the rest of the way with them.

We had booked into a more upmarket campsite (a whole $4 extra!) so that we could have a shower and shelter – even though we had only showered 2 days previously we were so stinky it was gross – the shower was much enjoyed!!! We saw one girl who'd been in the hut with us and her hair still looked perfect and luscious, and my hair was a dirty little greaseball. I just don't understand. We spent the afternoon sat in a lodge to abuse their wifi and have some well deserved dinner!

View from our campsite

Stinky and tired and sweaty and gross but happy we are alive haha

The next day was spent driving to Picton where we had a pleasant stroll around  and I realised that even though I have been there 3 times now, this is the first time I have actually wandered around the shops.  At 1pm we boarded our ferry and I said a sad goodbye to the south island!  I love it so much, I have had some amazing experiences and met the best people and I hope I have just as much fun on the north island!!