A Travellerspoint blog

Punanaki

sunny 12 °C

After a late start, we headed up to Punanaki to see the pancake rocks. It’s Chrissy’s turn to drive and Tom had his fair share of panicked moments along the way. The Pancake Rocks & Blowholes are best viewed at high tide so we waited about 30 minutes for the show to begin and then sat back and watched. Nature really does supply some cheap entertainment sometimes and the DOC did a nice job of making them accessible to everyone while retaining the natural elements. The favourite blowhole was the ‘Chimney Pot’, which was exactly like a kettle on the stove when it’s boiled. It was also much more active than the other two blowholes while we were there.

After the pancake rocks and a deep craving for pancakes, we headed towards the coast and to Cape Foulwind where the NZ Fur Seals have a colony. After the short hike to the top of the lookout we watched the seals below for quite some time. There were a lot of pups as they had just been born around February and they were busy playing/sleeping/swimming around their base. They were absolutely adorable!! We also found a distance post with cities around the world and they had Vancouver so the mandatory photo op was a must.

We were feeling especially adventurous today and decided to try out some of the things we bought on our first grocery trip: Wattie’s Macaroni & Cheese and NZ Mr. Noodles. The Mac & cheese was the most revolting thing this side of the planet and should be used to make concrete while the Mr. Noodles were not that bad surprisingly enough. On a trip to the bathroom, Tom was followed by a local bird (who’s name has been forgotten but starts with a ‘w’) that was quite curious and came incredibly close to him!

We continued our drive and must to Chrissy’s thrill, three separate penguin-crossing signs were spotted but alas no penguins were spotted. We filled up in the town of Westport and continued the drive onwards. This next part is not for the weak-hearted and should be avoided by those with a weak stomach.

For those who have driven the Hope-Princeton, the Buller Gorge Highway is 150 times worse. And Chrissy was driving. We were hugging cliffs like it was going out of style, climbing steep hills and trying not to look down, oh and the ever mandatory one-way’s were still involved. These were operated by stoplights that controlled which side had the right of way although we are both sure of the reliability of such. The first crossing was easy enough as it was a bridge, on a corner, and everyone paid attention to the correct right of way. The second was a bit more terrifying as it involved a road that had been literally carved into the side of cliff and had barely enough clearance for a bus to get through. The next terrifying moment came as we rounded a corner (on a section with no guiderail between us and the cliff) only to see a large motorhome barreling towards us, half in our lane. Our mirrors were millimeters from the others and there was a moment of sheer panic in our little van-a-ram. Soon after this incident, Chrissy declared defeat and scurried into the safe confines of passenger much to the relief of Tom.
We stopped at an old mining village called Lylle, which no surprise here, was built into the side of a cliff. The old establishment is long gone but a DOC campsite now resides on the land and it was quite serene although it took a lot of imagination to imagine the town there a hundred years ago.

After deciding that we wanted to get as far to the north as possible, we stopped in Motueka where we decided to pick up some takeaway. Chrissy is happy to report that the ‘Flammin Chippie’ serves their fish & chips wrapped in paper and its delicious! Tom’s cheeseburger was also wrapped in paper and equally delicious as was evidence by the lack of remnants.
As if we hadn’t decided to torture ourselves enough, we embarked on ANOTHER road from hell, this one leading to the DOC site for the night. It’s a good thing it was dark or else there would have been some frazzled nerves. The road leading to the turnoff for the DOC site was nothing, however, compared to the road INTO the DOC. This one had a sign proclaiming that the road was narrow, windy, and impassable at points. Narrow was an understatement; it was one lane. Windy was also an understatement and impassable?! We encountered one car coming towards us but someone took pity on us and made this meeting occur at the corner of a cliff with a pullout spot which the oncoming vehicle gladly took advantage of. There was a car in the cliff which was not a good sign and when we eventually reached the site (11km of bumping along), we both agreed it was better we didn’t eat our dinner before we left.

Our fun times with the roads were not at an end yet however as we learned our toilet was inoperable. This led to the tinkering with it until it was discovered the change in pressure (we went from sea level to 741m above sea level) had caused the pressure to build up and “seal” our toilet shut. It was easily fixed and we only had to worry about Orks coming to kill us during the night.

Orks you say?! Well yes, we camped in the middle of LOTR’s Chetwood Forest and so yes Orks were a major concern for us. And hobbits. And talking trees. It’s time for bed; the stress is getting to us…..

Posted by tc2009 15:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Hokitita

sunny 11 °C

Before setting off this morning we had to deal with an unexpected problem – the centre console was leaking all over the dash! Tom fixed this problem and determined the buildup of condensation over the area probably wasn’t helped by the lack of a proper seal. Dripping aside we headed to Hoki, a cute little town, which is known as the ‘Arts & Crafts Capital of NZ’. Not surprisingly, there were multitudes of crafty little shops here and there. We popped into the iSite to find a Laundromat and ended up booking tickets to Shantytown (similar to Barkerville).

The Laundromat ended up being a tiny little room opening up onto the street on the bottom floor of backpackers with two (full) washers and two (full) dryers. Deciding that Greymouth would be more successful with laundry, we abandoned the efforts of clean clothes and went wandering. Wandered in and out of a variety of local craft stores and several of the jade shops. Hoki is also the capital of NZ for greenstone (jade). The one was ridiculously overpriced and very few of the pieces indicated NZ greenstone while the other shop had assigned tour bus parking out front but all their greenstone was NZ greenstone and the prices were much more affordable. One can guess where Chrissy spent a far amount of time….

Tom suggested lunch on the beach we picked up some bakery goodies (Lamington for Chrissy, apple turnover for Tom), made some sandwiches, and headed over to the beach. It was delicious and tasted even better while watching the tide come in.
We cleaned up and headed off to Shantytown where we spent a good part of the day exploring the mock town, striking it rich on a gold claim, and dressed up in old-time costumes for a photo. Upon figuring out the amount of time spent, we booked to Greymouth where we found laundry and left choked. Laundromats in NZ are not the Laundromats we are used to at home. Here they are tiny and often shoved into the most random of places. The one “recommended” by the iSite was situated at the back of a used car lot, which also doubled as a holiday park – only $20 for two to camp with power, and was hideously overpriced. It cost $3 to do a single load of washing (there were three machines) and $2 for 10 MINUTES in one of two dryers. Chrissy was beyond p.o’ed with this as the clothes ended up wetter than when they went in and money was wasted trying to get them to a decently damp state. Tom took this opportunity to leave her to her fury and filled up the LPG and scouted out the second Laundromat that was no better - a shack in the middle of a lot.

With a sour taste regarding laundry, we headed out of Greymouth and ended up at a random campsite at the side of the road. Apparently, an old school, the property had been transformed into a little holiday park with some spots having beachfront views! We nabbed one of the prime spots and settled in for a serene night amongst the stars and pounding waves. Walking along the beach after dinner was especially nice with the exception of the rapidly advancing high tide.

Posted by tc2009 15:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

The Glaciers - Take Two

overcast 8 °C

Had a good night’s rest last night with the exception of late arrivals that feel the need to be as loud as physically possible. Putting that negative aside, we headed off to Fox Glacier. The road between the two towns on the map is only about 20 minutes but the never-ending turns and steep hills makes it feels much longer than twenty minutes! It’s a good thing Tom got to FG when he did or else Chrissy would have lost her breakfast halfway between the two!

Our first stop was to look into skydiving. The skies were a beautiful shade of blue and it was shaping out to be a gorgeous day. After a minor map misread, we arrived at the “airfield”. This “airfield” was nothing more than one strip of pavement surrounded by a falling apart hanger, a derelict “office” and four or five little caravans. Ever the risk management assessor, Chrissy decided she was probably going to give this one a pass while Tom was stoked to get on with it. Unfortunately, the skydivers had taken advantage of the weather forecast and booted it up in the (one and only) company plane to Nelson for some optimal downtime. Chrissy breathed a sense of relief while Tom was only a bit disappointed and decided the next best option would be a helicopter ride over the glaciers.

Upon arrival at FG, we discovered that there would be no excursions to see the glacier up close because there had been a rockslide, which demolished the walking track. Not willing to give up, we found a suitable trail that led to an equally stunning glacier lookout and involved a swinging bridge and a rainforest hike. Back in town, we set out to refill the LPG (propane) but found out the only person in town qualified had gone off and they weren’t sure if and when she was coming back anytime soon. Right.

Lunchtime saw the adventure of trying out a café Chrissy read about in Lonely Planet that only served NZ foods. It was however, a little bit of a letdown, as it didn’t seem authentically NZ and the service was crap. Regardless, Chrissy had her first fish & chips of the trip while Tom opted for the Cottage Pie (Sheppard’s Pie). The local dog and some birds offered to help Chrissy finish up her chips but she & Tom took care of it themselves.

With every family in FG appearing to own at least one helicopter and some semblance of a helicopter pad in their backyard, we thought it would be easy enough to get a flight over the glaciers. While this one was true, there were more helicopters than residents, the weather at the top of the glaciers was proving problematic and all flights were cancelled for the time being. Deciding there was nothing left to do in FG, we departed on the treacherous road back to FJG.

Back at FJG, we walked over a semi-dried riverbed to the face of the glacier where we marveled at the wonders of it all and debated where the giant tunnel at the bottom of it led it. We also took part in some extreme hiking as there was no set path and we instead made our own. Not as bad as it sounds. After this two hour hike and exhausting all things of interest we decided to move on to the next stop of our journey; Hokitita.

The drive took us through some beautiful countryside and over more than enough one-way bridges. Including a fantastic car/train bridge. With this, you have the usual one-way rules in place however; a train trumps the car in the right of way and goes over the bridge leaving both sides to pray it’s a short train. You better hope you don’t play chicken with that one! We stopped outside of Ross and checked out a gorgeous sunset alongside the beach. Tom took some amazing pictures and they will eventually make their way here. The coastline is very similar to that of Oregon.

We arrived early, by our usual standards, around 5.30pm at the DOC just outside of Hoki. Chrissy was exhausted and after dinner of leftovers settled in for a nap while Tom cleaned up. She did eventually wake up long enough to watch Madagascar Two before we both retired for the night.

Posted by tc2009 15:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

The Glacial Duo

rain 7 °C

Today we were planning on going for a jet boat ride but upon the advice of the holiday park staff, we gave it a miss and instead got to work driving. The locals say if you can’t see Mount Aspiring then a pretty bad storm is heading over the pass. Considering we couldn’t see Mount Aspiring it was pretty safe to say we didn’t want to remember how to use the snow chains. After a quick grocery stop we headed towards the ominous dark skies.

Chrissy was in charge of driving today and drove through rain, heavy rain, rain, rain/snow, and eventually handed the wheel over to Tom after being buffeted all over the road by the wind. Sporadically, the weather would clear just enough that we could see the beauty of the Haast Pass and take it all in but those moments didn’t last long unfortunately. There were dozens of waterfalls, courtesy of the rain, and created tons of photo opportunities for Chrissy as they twisted along.
We stopped at the Gates of Haast or tried to at least, the visitors before us need lessons in parking so we ended up parked on a tiny pullout 500m down the road. The Gates of Haast were a 1930s depression-building project, which saw the creation of a giant iron bridge (think the old lift span) over a tumultuous river below. It was really neat to see and well worth the drenching from the rain to get the pictures from underneath the bridge. Also stopped to see some waterfalls, which were impressive, and the history behind each of them even more so.

During the constant winding along, we noticed that all the culverts/streams/creeks/waterfalls are named and have little road signs for each side to see. Our favourites to date are Random Creek, Trickle #1-3, Horseshoe Corner, and Hairpin Curve.
Finally popped out at the village of Haast or as Tom found out, Haast Village or Haast Beach or just Haast. The place has three names! After a quick trip to see the beach and ocean we encountered the largest one-way bridge to date. This bridge was so long that it had three pull out lanes along the way! And because the other end has the right of way, they don’t have to wait until you finish crossing they will just drive along and either wait or force you into one of the pullouts!
The scenery towards the Glaciers is fascinating as it goes snow capped mountains, temperate rainforest, beach. All in one go and the camera lens isn’t big enough to take it all in. That said, the windshield isn’t big enough either. We stopped alongside the road where there was literally thousands of little rock stacking all along the roadside. Chrissy added one to the heaps and even added a little rock border around it. Hopefully it survives the vicious winter storms!

We reached Fox Glaciers but because it was later in the day, we decided to give it a miss and just head straight on to Franz Josef Glacier with the intention of returning tomorrow to explore. After stopping at the FJG and picking up the weather report (clearing up!) we headed over to the closest DOC site where we nestled the van-a-ram into a little clearing and settled in for the night.

Posted by tc2009 15:03 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Wanaka

overcast 5 °C

Woke up with the sun shining and plans to do nothing at all today. Just soak up the beauty of the area. Presently, at 3.30pm we still have yet to do anything touristy other than read Lonely Planet & Tripadvisor posts. Chrissy hasn't actually made it out of her pjs and sheepskin booties while Tom was a little bit more proactive and managed to get dressed. We are considering walking to the grocery store but the weather has turned ugly and so think we will give that a pass. Oh well, its a good day to recharge the batteries!!!

Posted by tc2009 20:28 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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