Category Archives: South Island

Farewell Spit-Foxton Fizz-Day 15-17

Farewell Spit-Day 15

As we leave Wharariki and the Puponga Farm Park I say,

“Stop the car! I see a face”

There is a an old man’s face in a natural rock formation  across the valley. I managed to see this without realizing it was there, which made it that much more fun. There are signs for those that need them.

Old Man Rock
Old Man Rock

We soon feel the need to take a small detour to a visitor center located on the hill above Farewell Spit. There is a sign at the center saying it is no longer in operation, it is for sale, but you can still walk the track, plus there is a skeleton in the yard. I believe it is a Pilot  whale from one of the many strandings that occur in this shallow bay.

Random Marine Skeleton at Old Visitors Center
Pilot Whale Skeleton at Old Visitors Center
Above Farewell Spit
Above Farewell Spit

We climb the hill for this view to the north. The tide is out and the mudflats are huge here. We look the other way, towards the west and see the spit. From the air it looks like a slender scythe blade, curving around a bay.

Farewell Spit in the Rainy Distance
Farewell Spit in the Rainy Distance

If we were staying longer I would like to walk the spit to the end, but that is not going to happen this trip. There are so many multi-day tracks to do here it is a little frustrating when we have to leave each place. So many places to go…

We get back in the van to retrace our route back, stopping at Takaka town for groceries. When we come out, in the pouring rain again, we have a totally flat tire. Great. We call the Spaceship people for advice as we are supposed to but there is nothing they can do. It is Saturday night, everything is closed. Shops are closed Sunday as well. We eat some cheese and crackers and wait for the rain to let up, which it does, eventually. At least we are in a parking lot with lights and not on the side of a shoulder-less mountain road. After reading the tire changing instruction card, we manage to install the temporary tire, and get back on the road. We have way more kilometers to go than the limit of 90 km stated on the tire, and we have to go back over that steep mountain with all the switchbacks yet, which makes me really nervous. On the way we see evidence of the coming Christmas. I think today is December 12.

Santa Clause Riding an Irrigation Line
Santa Clause Riding an Irrigation Line

New Zealander’s seem to have a sense of humor when it comes to things we see along the side of the road. Apparently Santa rides  his irrigation line in where he can’t find reindeer.

We made it over the mountain, with little fog and no rain, and all the way back to the Mapua Holiday Camp by about 10:pm.  We parked in the same spot as the night before, and didn’t even bother to tell them until the morning. They had a nice laundry house so we washed and dried our clothes before we left, and played with Joey, the bird. Onward to Picton!

Getting Near Picton
Getting Near Picton

The sun has actually decided to come out and warm us up! There are all kinds of bays, islands and peninsulas on the way.

Sawmill Port
Sawmill Port
Ferry Route
Ferry Route

We bought our ticket for the Inter Island ferry Line for $152. I think that if you plan ahead and know when you will want to sail, you can get discounted fares. We didn’t plan like that.

While we waited for our departure time, we found a service station that was actually open (on Sunday) and he fixed our tire up right. Then we spent a little time in the Aquarium ,right on the docks,  which had live animals.

Little Blue Penguin
Little Blue Penguin
Long Necked Turtle
Long Necked Turtle
Tuatara
Tuatara

There was also the Edwin Fox Museum, which houses the oldest surviving merchant ship on earth, next door. We had to go line up our van for the ferry though. We were out of time.

It takes 4 hours to cross the Cook Strait and it can be a rough ride. The ferry we were on was so big it had 10 levels, held 1600 passengers, had movie theaters, food, recliners, you name it. We did not feel the water at all, but we spent a lot of the time on the top deck and it was super windy up there. It wasn’t cold though, and it wasn’t raining either.

Our Ferry
Our Ferry

We couldn’t stay inside and relax. We had to wander the top deck the whole time, going from side to side for the best views. Occasionally we hunkered down behind a bulkhead to get some relief from the wind. There were Salmon farms, Mussel Farms, mountains, sailboats…

Floating Salmon Farm
Floating Salmon Farm
Last of South Island
Last of South Island

You could always see some little piece of land. The mountains are big enough to see from very far off. There are windmills strategically placed in the windiest spot. I am surprised we did not see more windmills on the South Island, but they generate most of their power from water melting off the mountains.

Wind Farm in a Good Spot
Wind Farm in a Good Spot
City of Wellington looms Large
City of Wellington looms Large

As we enter Wellington harbor we see it is surrounded by what looks to be quite a large city, so we  drive off the ferry and get away as soon as we can. I know there are good museums there but now the sun is out again and I do not want to be inside.

The road hugs the west coast for a bit as we head north, with flat coastal farmland on our right. There is a whole lot of beach , more traffic than we are used to, and we keep driving until we reach the little town of Levin, where there is a camp site for us.P1010573

There is also a Rosemary Hedge taller than me outside the very nice kitchen block.

Levin Rosemary Hedge
Levin Rosemary Hedge

Foxton-Day 16

We had a good nights sleep and continued on our way in the morning with the sun still shining. I spot a big Dutch windmill as we drive by the village of Foxton and we stop to check it out.

Foxton Windmill- built in 1972
Foxton Windmill- built in 1972

We took the self guided tour through three levels and then went around the outside on the upper deck. This working flour mill  was built in 1970-72 using high quality craftsmanship  and impressive handmade wooden cogs and gears.

Wooden Gears at Foxton
Wooden Gears at Foxton

It also housed a little museum of sorts for a local soda pop, The Foxton Fizz, which has a humorous advertising campaign worth clicking on the link for.

Foxton Fizz as Molotov Cocktail
Foxton Fizz as Molotov Cocktail

We bought a small bag of freshly milled flour, had a piece of carrot cake down in the adjoining shop and then started noticing all the murals.

Foxton Flood Mural
Foxton Flood Mural

P1210772  Some of the Murals were about  earthquakes. Foxton and all of New Zealand, gets earthquakes regularly. I don’t know how we managed not to feel any while we were here.  Click the green link to get the latest on that. Apparently Foxton has experienced  29 quakes (above mag 1.5) in the past year and Christ Church just had a 5.8 magnitude earthquake a few days ago, on February 14. That is a little unnerving.

There is a blog by KiwiDutch with some more good photos of the Foxton Murals and other travels as well.

The Town of Bulls

I had forgotten about this little town called Bulls. They have a big sign as you enter that says “Welcome to Bulls-A Town Like No Udder!”

A little Kiwi humor for you.

Volcanics

So, onward towards the volcanics!

Ugly Town, Pretty Mt
Ugly Town, Pretty Mt

 

 

Sorry. I had to include some real world ugly roadside with the gorgeous mountain in the background. There was an I-site here and we made reservations for a hike on the Tongariro Track tomorrow, along with two nights at base camp and a shuttle back and forth from the trailheads. I am not really looking forward to this seriously exhausting  hike but I am trying to be positive about it.

Gorgeous Mountain with No Ugly Added
Gorgeous Mountain with No Ugly Added

 

Jeff got a speeding ticket through here but we didn’t find out about it until after we got home. The road was really straight and the scenery was a bit distracting.

We  made a quick stop at at  a bridge over a crevasse called Tree Trunk (video link) where  really good kayakers manage to run Waikato gorge .  We looked down at it and thought NO WAY, but obviously we are just novices and chickens besides. Oh, well.

Tokeanu Hot Springs

We went on up the road and stopped at our first thermal pools instead.

wild Tokeanu Thermal Pools
wild Tokeanu Thermal Pools

NZ frenzy says you can get into some diverted hot pools here but they look totally uninviting- dirty cement bath tubs with hardly any water in them-that you have to sneak onto private property to get to.

Cement Troughs with Hot Spring Diversion Channel
Cement Troughs with Hot Spring Diversion Channel

So we did the walk path around, checked out all the bubbling mud pots and hot springs, and then went inside the building there and rented a really nice (private, clean, and open to the sky above) hot pool  for 20 minutes. It was heaven and more than 20 minutes would have cooked us to mush. You don’t get pictures of this…

Tongariro Mt
Tongariro Mt

There were two Maori historical sites we visited. One was Opotaka village/ campsite and the other was a battlefield where they first used firearms to kill each other. The island in the lake is a sacred site and the mountain in the background is where we will be hiking up to the volcano tomorrow.

There were some friendly ducks and pretty flowers at the Maori site.

Duck
Duck

 

 

Nice Flower
Nice Flower

 

 

 

 

 

We are staying near Lake Taupo and there are black swans and small lava rocks floating on the edges. Pocket size and not heavy. Steam vents are visible on the hills all around the lake.

Base Camp Cooking
Base Camp Cooking

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we have to be fed, packed and ready for the shuttle bus. The camp kitchen is packed, so I am cooking on the Coleman stove tonight. Our friendly German neighbors  are  also going on the Tongariro  hike and we all turn in early.

Wendy Lee- Writing at Edgewise Woods Gardens and Crtitters

Kaikoura to Wharariki Beach-Day 14-15

Kaikoura-Day 14

We finally reach Route 1 North, headed towards Kaikoura on the East Coast, with the clouds doing their best to follow us. Fingers of solid rock would block the coastal road  if not for all the single lane tunnels they have built. Update: On November 14, 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake wiped out much of this road.

Route 1 Near Kaikoura-Many Tunnels Coast Road
Route 1 Near Kaikoura-Many Tunnels Coast Road

It looks like the weather is going to break enough for us to go out on a Whale Watch boat. We had our doubts with all the rain in the mountains yet.

Grey and Blue
Grey and Blue

When we get to the launch site, the water has turned a turquoise blue and we are warned that the sea is a little rough today, but still safe to take the boat out.

South Bay
South Bay

We will be going out pretty far into open water and will have to stay inside the cabin until we get to the whales. I usually ride standing in the bow of a boat when it is rough to avoid getting seasick, so this makes me somewhat apprehensive. The tour costs $145 NZ each and takes about two and a half hours.

Whale Watch Boat
Whale Watch Boat

The boat has nice padded, car type seats and the guide is a Maori woman who entertains us with stories and slides while we motor out on the water. There for awhile the waves are crashing over the boat and we are slamming down into the troughs and it is all I can do to not lose my breakfast. I manage to wait until we are allowed outside before I finally spew over the side, just missing a guy downwind. After that I feel a little better and can concentrate on the one whale we finally spot.

Whale
Sperm Whale

This is a Sperm Whale about 40 feet long. Individuals are identified by the shape and markings of their tails. They come up for air and to rest about once per hour for 10-15 minutes .

Whale Tail
Whale Tail

This one is a male named Tutu. The females stay in warmer waters because they do not have as much blubber to keep them warm. The males who reside near here dive to 1000 meters  into the cold Kaikoura trench to eat large fish and giant squid.

Kaikoura
Kaikoura Bay

Coming back in, the light on the water raced ahead of the clouds. The next place we stopped, as we headed north, was at Oahou Point, near Halfmoon Bay, to see a bunch of Fur seals. They were all over the rocks.

Oahou Point
Seals at Oahou Point
Oahu Seal Colony
Oahu Seal Colony

The seals like to hike up a freshwater creek  to a waterfall and hangout there, napping. It seems like it would be a hard trek on flippers.

Fresh Water Falls on Seal Hangout
Fresh Water Falls on Seal Hangout

It is very strange for us to see Seals in the woods.

What? You've Never Seen A Seal in the Woods?
What? You’ve Never Seen A Seal in the Woods?

 

Seal With a Tree Pillow
Seal With a Tree Pillow
Closeup of Fur Seal
Closeup of Fur Seal

One seal had just given birth to a pup.

Seal Mama and New Pup
Seal Mama and New Pup

The seals don’t seem too bothered by people watching them and mostly nap the day away. We leave them to it and continue our trip North towards Blenheim.

Organic Winery Gate
Organic Huia Winery Gate

I am impressed by an organic Winery along the way. Growing grapes organically is a hard thing to pull off in the states with all the diseases and pests we have. I hope it is easier here.

Organic Winery
Organic Winery

We are heading inland again and the hills are looking dry.

Looks Volcanic
Looks Volcanic

This mountain has that volcanic blow-out shape. The house has the typical metal roof and low profile we have noticed just about everywhere.

Extremely Steep Clear Cut
Extremely Steep Clear Cut

I don’t know how they manage to keep the mountains from sliding down when they clear cut such steep hills. I am also glad I am not the one planting it back or operating the equipment on these slopes.

We skirt around Picton, where we will be catching the ferry in a couple of days, and head towards Nelson, which turns out to be a major seaport town. The weather has turned cold and rainy again and it is getting dark fast. We were thinking this would be a good place to eat fresh fish for a dinner out but it was a weekend night and everything was booked. We finally found a little place right on the water as we left town. It turned out to be quite expensive,  but the food was delicious, and we went all out and had wine and desert too. The fish we had was called John Dory, and there was fresh asparagus, a scalloped potato side, and fresh greens, with  a lemon curd and raspberry tart.Fish House on Water -NelsonRestaurant on the Water’s Edge

Mapua

We left the restaurant very full and finally found a  camp for the night  at Mapua. I think we found the camp listed on our GPS. We drove across a private causeway and stopped at the office, but no one was there. They had left a note to call their cell phone as they were at a party nearby. When we called we were told to just park somewhere near the kitchen block and catch up in the morning.

There were signs in the showers telling us that no togs were allowed in the showers, and that during  February and March,  clothing was optional in camp.

Joey
Joey, the Yellow Crested Cockatoo

In the morning we met the resident Yellow Crested Cockatoo, Joey. His one phrase was “Hello Joey” and he loved to have his head scratched. So far, it was not raining and soon we were on the road again, headed towards Abel Tasman Park. The farmland we passed on the way was neatly lined with wind breaks.

Valley Farms
Valley Farms

Riwaka Spring

We have a thing about springs and waterfalls, so we stopped at the Riwaka resurgence, a sacred Maori Spring coming out of the base of Takaka Mountain. No one is allowed to touch the water where it first emerges but there were some kids further down stream taking a quick dip in the really cold and clean water.

Resurgence Pool
Resurgence Pool

As we continued our journey up the mountain,  fog was starting to flow downwards. It got darker and darker towards the top.

Fog on the Mountain
Fog on the Mountain

It was like driving in the middle of the night, except our headlights hardly made a dent in the dense fog. And the road was a windy mountain road. We even came across a poor guy on a bike.

Ziggy Mountain Road
Ziggy Mountain Road

We finally came down out of the clouds, drove through the little town of Takaka and then stopped at Waikoropupu Springs. it was raining hard as we walked the pathways around to the huge springs there.

Waikoropupu Springs Walk
Waikoropupu Springs Walk

These giant springs flow  at an average 11.5 cubic meters per second and are considered some of the cleanest springs in the world.

Huge Spring
Huge Spring

Our goal today is to get to the sea caves on Wharariki Beach  and then the  Cape Farewell spit, at the northern tip of the South Island. As we drive through the more level land  on this side of the mountain there are huge  pipes irrigating  alfalfa fields in the rain, which seems like a waste. There are also acres of red and white bird netting installed over the Kiwi and grape vines and cherries. Flocks of birds are really bad for eating fruit.

Netting Over Fruit Crops
Netting Over Fruit Crops

 

 

 

Wharariki Beach

When we arrive at the Puponga Farm car park for our hike to Wharariki Beach, we are greeted by a peacock from the tiny Holiday Park there. This would have been a great place to camp if the timing had worked for us. The guy who runs it is very creative, and has built a magical outdoor bar with hammocks and tree tables.

Wharariki Peacock
Wharariki Peacock

As we step over the stile, we meet a welcoming committee of sheep,

Sheep Pasture Greeters
Sheep Pasture Greeters

Our narrow track runs right through the middle of this gorgeously green and picturesque sheep meadow on the way to the beach.

Lush Green Pastures
Lush Green Pastures
Winding Track
Winding Track

 

Hello. Who are Ewe?
Hello. Who are Ewe?

More sheep wonder why we are passing through.

It's Over That Way
It’s Over That Way

 

 

 

We wind through dunes covered in wind blown looking coastal trees, through sandy tunnels,

Sand Dune Tunnel Trail
Sand Dune Tunnel Trail

over a small creek, and eventually emerge on top of the last dune for a view of the beach.

First Beach View
First Beach View

 

 

 

The sand has been blown undisturbed with very few signs of people out here.

Endless Beach
Endless Beach
Big Flat Wharariki Beach
Big Flat Wharariki Beach

Some of the stacks are surrounded by water.

Sea Stacks
Sea Stacks

Others have slots you can get into.

Skinny Sea Caves
Skinny Sea Caves

There are seals laying about, tucked into sheltered corners.

Seals Stashed in Nooks
Seals Stashed in Nooks

There was one one big male seal perched way up on a huge rock, overlooking his domain.

Grandfather Seal Looming Over Young Buck
Grandfather Seal Looming Over Young Buck

An obviously younger male seal,  tried very hard to climb up the steep rock face to him, which looked extremely difficult using flippers. When he finally got to where he could peer upwards,  the old Alpha  male just shot him a disgusted look- daring him to take one more step. The young one slowly slid back down the rock, slumping exhausted onto the sand, closed his eyes, and went back to sleep.

Colors and Textrues in Rock
Colors and Textures in Rock

Some of the rocks had fantastic colors and layers of fossils.

More Colors
More Colors
A Wharariki Sea Cave
A Wharariki Sea Cave

There were sea caves all over the place.

Whaririki Stacks From Cave
Whaririki Stacks From Cave

It is wonderful how so many dunes are wild and intact in New Zealand.

Wild Dunes, Wild Beach
Wild Dunes, Wild Beach

The wind blows the sand into patterns, wildflowers grow…roadside horses say howdy on the way out …

Roadside Muncher Says Goodbye
Roadside Muncher Says Goodbye

We could stay here a long time but need to start back. We have to get as close as we can to Picton and the ferry tonight so we can catch a ride to the North Island  tomorrow. Good bye Wharariki Beach.

Wendy Lee,  writing at Edgewise Woods, Gardens and Critters

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pancake Rocks to Hanmer Springs-Day 12-13

Day 12 on the South Island

It is day twelve of our four weeks in New Zealand and we already wish we had more time here. The South Island has so many tempting mountain tracks to tramp and such a variety of beaches to explore that we could easily spend months here. We like to play the “what if we lived here” game and imagine what it would be like, but so far have not found any place here that would make us leave home permanently. The oceans are beautiful but too cold, the mountains are gorgeous but many are treeless, some because of the snow and ice, others due to clear cutting ages ago and then sheep farming. I love coming home to our Appalachian mountains after being away, no matter where I have traveled.

The past few days, the sky has colored itself a stormy grey and the rain keeps coming and going but it is not enough to get in our way. I am glad to not be traveling on a bicycle though. We made sure we brought good rain gear on this trip and it has kept us dry and comfortable. We wear quick dry hiking pants and  breathable  rain pants with side zips that slip on easily over our hiking boots so we can adjust to weather changes quickly. I wear a long sleeved T-shirt, my many pocketed travel vest, with a breathable rain jacket/ wind breaker on top as needed . When it gets colder, I add a fleece jacket underneath and gloves. I have not needed my long johns, but it is the beginning of summer here and I have not trekked any serious mountain tops. I have a set of ear pops to keep the wind out of my ears, which I love so much that I bought my daughters each a pair for Christmas this year. They are made of fleece and have a tension spring built into them that holds them onto your ears without touching your hair, making them almost invisible, and are so comfortable I forget I have them on.

Today, we start from our camp north of  Greymouth and continue heading  up the west coast in search of cool rocks, wildlife and vistas.

View From Kaipakaki Point
View From Punakaiki /Pancake Rocks

The morning starts off grey and drippy again but it stops raining as we get out of the van at  Punakaiki and the limestone layered Pancake Rocks, just a little ways up the coast from camp.

Stacks of Pancake Rocks

Stacks of Pancake Rocks

The rocks really do look like stacks of pancakes and the path winds through some of the rocks, using the natural ledges as steps, reminding me of the stone Appalachian Trail steps going through Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

Pancake Stone Walkway
Pancake Stone Walkway

The trail winds around up on the cliff, with a view of rocks jutting out of the Tasman Sea and seals  hanging out relaxing on just about every rock down below.

Rocks in the Tasman
Rocks in the Tasman

At first they look like rocks themselves, but then your eye gets tuned to seeing them and they are everywhere.

Seals
Seals
Mama Seal with Babay
Mama Seal with Baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One rock was covered in black birds that I was hoping  may have been Westland Petrels, which nest nearby in burrows, but they are  probably a more common shag.

Petrels
Rock Full of Birds

If we had come at high tide we could have seen Blowholes in some of the sea caves here. Thunderous surge pools bring in waves of kelp and mermaid grass, swirling around and ebbing back out.

Surge Pool at Pancake Rocks
Surge Pool at Pancake Rocks

 

 

 

New Zealand Flax is blooming red along the pathways, and someone has woven a  frond into a cool shape.

Woven Flax Frond
Woven Flax Frond

There is a ground dwelling bird called a Weka hanging out near the path. New Zealand has a lot of birds that don’t really fly, which is why many of them are endangered. It is too easy for predators to grab them on the ground and where dogs are even allowed in a park, they must be kept leashed.

Weka
Weka
Pancakes
Pancakes

We wander back out of Pancakes along a path that looks a lot more tropical than it feels at the moment. I can’t seem to get used to the palm trees that show up everywhere we go.

Tropical Looking Trees
Tropical Looking Trees

The next stop is at the Fox river where there are sea caves and a tunnel that locals used to get to a hidden beach on the far side of this point, before there was a road and bridge built.

Sea Cave
Sea Cave

 

Old Tunnel Road at Fox River
Old Tunnel Road at Fox River

After walking through the tunnel we crossed back over the road and were searching for the trail head to the sea cave. It looked like you had to walk right through the private gardens of some little  cottages to get there, and I did not want to be trespassing. I saw a guy walking across the road bridge, so I back tracked to ask him about the way to go. He turned out to be the caretaker told us to go ahead, it was a public path. The three cottages were tucked away and very private except for that, but it turned out no one was in residence just then, so  we didn’t end up bothering  anyone anyway.

Hidden Public Pathway
Hidden Public Pathway

 

Entrance to Sea Cave
Entrance to Sea Cave
Sea Access to Cave
Sea Access to Cave

The cave was open to the sea on two  sides and to land on the third, so it wasn’t too dark inside, and it was much larger than I expected.

Looking Out
Looking Out

 

 

A very well hidden path around back of the smallest cottage went through a crack in the rock, over a pile of driftwood, and came out on a well hidden beach. We would not have seen this if folks were about.

Over Driftwood to Hidden Beach at Fox River
Over Driftwood to Hidden Beach at Fox River

 

It started raining hard again as we read the sign for the nearby Inland Track.

Fox River Tracks
Fox River Tracks

A major portion of the loop was closed due to a recent Typhoon so we did not feel too bad about not hiking it this trip.

Inland Pack Track Conditions
Inland Pack Track Conditions

We got back in the van, stopping at Cape Foulwind (where the wind and rain was really very foul) for views of large seal colonies, before heading inland towards the mountains once again.

World Distance Signpost
World Distance Signpost
Seal Point
Seal Point at Cape Foul Wind

Even the seals couldn’t find any sun to bath in. They were in the water out of the wind. We decide to drive East into the mountains in hopes of escaping the heavy rain that is forecast for the West coast for the next few days. The West coast of the South Island gets most of the rainfall because the clouds come from the west and get hung up on the mountains. Milford Sound averages 264 inches of rain a year, while Dunedin, on the East Coast, only gets about 28 inches. We are hoping to get ahead of the clouds.

Mountains Under Cloud
Mountains Under Cloud

Every now and then a little patch of sunlight pokes it’s way through.

Glimpse of Sun In Mts
Glimpse of Sun In Mts

The higher ( and closer) the mountains get, the more naked they appear.

Treeless Mts
Treeless Mts

Still trying to get ahead of the clouds. At least the roads are dryer and the wind is less.

Blue Sky Ahead
Blue Sky Ahead

Finally we come out into a wide valley with the clouds not quite making it over onto our side.

 

Into the Clear Valley
Into the Clear Maruia River Valley

Once we reach the Maruia River Valley follow it upstream and south along Rt 65 heading East again and crossing the mountains south of Nelson Lakes National Park. It was a shame to miss that whole park but the rain was unrelenting at that point. We did get a chance to check out a wild hot spring on the way over, which was situated at the base of a fresh rockslide. I still would have gotten in except that as soon as I knelt down to feel the water, a humongous cloud of biting sand flies descended on my head.I had to give it up. No way was I getting naked with that many hungry sand flies. The water felt nice though and it was a shame to walk away.

Wild Hot Spring Near Shenandoah Creek
Wild Hot Spring Near Shenandoah Creek

As the sun was getting low we entered Hanmer Springs, which is a resort town with fancy golf courses and hot springs. We took a risk and checked into a Top Ten Holiday Park because there did not seem to be much available near there and we were tired. It had good showers and a decent kitchen but not much else going for it. We slept and left first thing in the morning, before anybody else even got up.

Tomorrow we continue to head East and then we’ll swing around North and go back West towards Able Tasman. We might go whale watching if the weather holds off long enough.

-Wendy Lee writing at Edgewise Woods, Gardens and Critters

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fox Glacier to Rapahoe Beach-Day 11

Lake Wanaka to the Glaciers and Beyond- Day 12

After emerging from the long road to Rob Roy we drove down the entire length of Lake Wanaka, which got less and less inhabited, and stopped at Boundary Creek for this late afternoon view.

View of Lake Wanaka from Boundary Creek Overlook
View of Lake Wanaka from Boundary Creek Overlook

We were traveling up towards the Haast Pass, following the river valley, and  pulled into the Makaroa Camp as night fell. There were a fair amount of hikers but none of them seemed very friendly.

Makaroa Holiday Park Kitchen
Makaroa Holiday Park Kitchen

The kitchen/ dining building was a  great space  and the showers were appreciated. I cooked up some Ramen noodles with fresh veggies thrown in, had a glass of wine, and went to bed.

Butterfly Falls
Thunder Creek Falls

In the morning we packed up and started up the valley to the Haast Pass.

 

Clouds Hanging On the Southern Alps at Haast Pass
Clouds Hanging On the Southern Alps at Haast Pass

The clouds hugging the peaks looked cold but it was nice and warm in the valley.

Cold Water and Warm Air Equals Fog in Valley
Cold Water and Warm Air Equals Fog in Valley

Melting Glaciers and snow pack from the mountains up ahead make for some seriously cold water. This valley floods in a big thaw but we are past that time now.

 

The Road Through the Mountains Narrowed
The Road Through the Mountains Narrowed

We climbed the last peak and everything started to flatten out, the types of trees changed and we crossed the Haast River one last time.

Another One Lane Bridge
Another One Lane Bridge

We appreciated the clear  signage on all the single lane bridges. This one means those on the left heading towards the coast must stop (small red arrow) and yield to those coming at them Big Black Arrow). This was a rare bridge with a lay by in the middle in case you got caught out there.

Windswept Coastal Vegetation
Windswept Coastal Vegetation

The West coast loomed up suddenly and the trees changed again, into salt tolerant layers that leaned away from the wind.

Tasman Sea at Tauperikaka Marine Reserve
Tasman Sea at Tauperikaka Marine Reserve

The sky cleared off as we followed a walking trail through the dunes and reached a white sandy beach covered in driftwood.

The sand turned to pebbles as we walked North towards the point.

Tauperikaka Beach
Tauperikaka Beach

This beach was formed by runoff from the glaciers as they retreated into the mountains behind here. The stones on the beach have many different origins and have been worn smooth by first glacial grind and then ocean wear.

Ship Creek Meets the Tasman Sea
Ship Creek Meets the Tasman Sea
Glacial Beach Pebbles
Glacial Beach Pebbles

This whole area is now a Marine Preserve and a small kiosk at the car park tells of finding bits of wreckage of an old wooden sailing ship, the Schomberg, lodged in this creek.  The ship went down in 1855 just shy of Melbourne Australia, and parts of it floated 2000 km east, across the Tasman sea, to land here.

Next stop is at Fox Glacier, about 2 hours North.

Avalanche Debris on Way To Glacier
Avalanche Debris on Way To Glacier
Warning Sign at Fox Glacier
Warning Sign at Fox Glacier

You don’t need to be able to read to know what this means. Glacial runoff can be quite unpredictable.

The Long Walk to What is Left of Fox Glacier
The Long Walk to What is Left of Fox Glacier

The glacier has retreated so far that it is a long walk up to it theses days.

Fox Glacier-Further Than It Looks
Fox Glacier-Further Than It Looks

The glacier creates its’ own weather and there is a cold head wind blowing off it as we walk in. The ground is all gravel wash.

End of the Trail At Fox
End of the Trail At Fox

This is as far as you are allowed to go without a trained guide and special equipment. People die trying to get too close. Look at the tiny mouth of the drainage in the distance, zoomed in below. People actually try to get in there even though it is constantly collapsing.

Closeup of Ice Cave Drainage Under Fox Glacier
Closeup of Ice Cave Drainage Under Fox Glacier

Even Jeff was not tempted to do that.

Looking Back at Last Climb With Sign That Says-"Don't Stop for Next 400M! Rocks Falling"
Looking Back at Last Climb With Sign That Says-“Don’t Stop for Next 400M! Rocks Falling”

By the time you decide to visit here, the glacier may be totally gone. The only way to see what is left these days is by helicopter. They fly by every 15 minutes and are  loud and obnoxious.  You might want to arrive before they start flying for the day, or be in the helicopter yourself.

The next Stop is at Franz Joseph Glacier.

We are greeted by a sign.

No Bikes, No Drones
No Bikes, No Drones

After walking down the trail to where it crosses the river, we get another sign.

Trail to Franz Joseph Closed Due to Flooding and Storm Surge
Trail to Franz Joseph Closed Due to Flooding and Storm Surge

So much for that. We drive back out to the coast, go over yet another single lane bridge…

Pretty Red Steel One Lane Bridge
Pretty Red Steel One Lane Bridge

…and arrive at Rapahoe Bay Holiday Park , a private oasis set up in an old one room schoolhouse right on the beach. It is run by a woman who lives in a tiny building connected to the camp who obviously loves to garden. She has a handyman on site as well. There is nothing fancy or upscale about the place but it is  welcoming , restful and full of charm.

Rapahoe Camp FlowerBed
Rapahoe Camp FlowerBed

Our site was tucked away in a corner and surrounded by tall green hedges with a wild sort of path through the shrubs onto the beach.

Private Pathway to Rapahoe Beach
Private Pathway to Rapahoe Beach

It was only a few steps through the brush to reach the pebble beach.

Stepping Out to Rapahoe Beach
Stepping Out to Rapahoe Beach

The entire beach is covered in super smooth grey rocks, which makes me think that the sea is really rough here and it might not be such a great place to swim, if it was warm enough, which it is not.

Stormy Sky Over Rapahoe Bay
Stormy Sky Over Rapahoe Bay

The school house has a well outfitted kitchen, easily set up to share pots and pans and all kinds of hanging utensils. We join the other folks in there and get to talking as we cook. One woman is by herself and this is the first time she has ever gone “camping” or even away by herself. She is hesitant to join in the group conversation but warms up after awhile.

One woman of a couple has stories to tell about being the 111 operator in Christ Church during the big earthquake a few years ago. She tells us that if we knew how limited the emergency services on the South Island were we would not want to come. She had to pull help from anybody she could think of to get people help. If she knew somebody with a good tractor or a chainsaw or a winch, she lined them up. Friends with 4 wheel drives became ambulances, people who knew somebody with a helicopter got called in. She ended up leaving her job because of the stress, 12 hour shifts, and low pay, and is much happier now. But she says just about everybody quit and now help gets routed through the North Island and they don’t know any neighbors who can help down here.

There were nine of us at dinner, sharing tables to eat. The ex 111 operator brought out a homemade banana cake and shared it all around. We sat, drank wine and talked until way past bedtime.

The sound of ocean waves on the loose stones rocked me to sleep.

Next Post- Pancake Rocks and beyond.

-Wendy lee , writing at edgewisewoods