A Travellerspoint blog

Wanaka Wwoofing Continues...

...in hot and sticky weather.

sunny 26 °C

We arrive to Frankie and Dom's beautiful property just minutes away from Wanaka. After a lovely risotto dinner with freshly picked broad beans, we take the grand tour of the property. They have put forth a lot of effort over the years to build their home, and set up goat and cow paddocks, a predator proof chicken coop, and easily accessible veggie gardens. They practice bio-dynamic and permaculture techniques on their property. Bio-dynamic techniques involve gardening on the lunar cycle, and permaculture techniques minimize the work load and maximize the yield. Everything on their property is situated in the most convenient location. For example, the gardens are right next to the house, so they are always walking through them and can pay more attention to them.

Frankie and Dom designed their house and helped the building process in anyway they could to cut down on costs. They are very innovative and imaginative people when it comes to reusing and making waste a function item in their home. Using plastic disposable cutting boards and baking paper they created the most desirable wall sconces we have ever seen. Dom also made all the door handles out of leftover copper pipe by bending them and pounding the ends flat to fasten to the door. Another fabulous part of their home is the kitchen and its concrete countertops. But our favorite part is their outdoor shower, which seems a little exposed to surroundings, but we have no problem scrubbing after each days' garden duties.

Cooking in Frankie and Dom's Kitchen

Cooking in Frankie and Dom's Kitchen

The work here was laborious including working up soil, turning compost, transplanting seedlings, weeding overgrown gardens, releasing native plants, and mulching newly planted sections of garden. Frankie is very particular in every job we take on, but quickly realizes our vast knowledge base. The evening chores are Julie's favourite part of wwoofing here. Part of this includes bottle feeding “baby girl” one of the 3 baby goats, which was orphaned at birth. As we enter the paddock the cute little goats come running toward us and start to nibble on our shoes and clothing. We separate the babies from the 2 older goats for feeding and leave them separated over night. This is to allow Frankie and Dom to milk the goats in the morning taking the amount they need. The babies are then put back with their mothers during the day to feed. After playing with the baby goats for a while we then enclose the chickens in their predator proof pen, gather up the freshly laid eggs, and check on the new born baby chicks. Mommy hen is very protective always tucking them safely under her.

Rounding Up Goats

Rounding Up Goats


Baby Goat

Baby Goat

While staying at Dom and Frankie's we met another wooffer, Matilda. She is a German woman in her 60's, living in the moment. She just completed skydiving and loved it. She has travelled the world and is currently living in Australia. She tells us all kinds of inspiring stories, including becoming pregnant during 2 years of travel with her husband at the time and having the baby in Sri Lanka and then continuing to travel for 10 more months! It is fun working with her and listening to her stories.

One of the highlights of our stay with Frankie and Dom is hosting a dinner party for the Green Party at their house as they double booked the evening and weren't going to be around until 10 pm! Around 20 Green Party members arrive, some running for Members of Parliament for their district, including Sue, one of the owners of Wanaka Waste Busters. Sue is super friendly and really easy to chat with. Julie has a great time mingling and learning about New Zealand's current environmental issues and the Green Party's course of action. After a huge meal and more chatter the group disperses. It was a great time hearing about their politically strategies and opinions on various issues.

During our time at Frankie and Dom's we keep a low profile, having lots of afternoon naps and watching gorgeous sunsets. Julie enjoys getting her fill of goat dairy products, as Dom makes a variety of amazing cheese including goat feta, and soft cheeses. The food here was fabulous and most of it came fresh out of their gardens. This will be truly missed but it is time we pack up and move onward. Frankie is feeling under the weather but Dom thanks us for looking after the place while they had the busiest week of their lives. As a thank you, he allows us to take a bottle of goats milk and a container of his homemade goat chevre.

Dom Milking Goat

Dom Milking Goat

Leaving Wanaka we head onto Crown Range Road climbing up through a mountain pass, labelled as the highest elevation for a sealed (paved) road in New Zealand. The road drops in elevation quickly beyond the pass and we head through the beautiful (but touristy) Arrowtown. It is a historic town with a cobblestone main street, lined with many shops, cafes, courtyards, all of which look historic. We take a walk through the historic Chinese settlement in Arrowtown which was the result of the mid-1800's gold rush times. Many Chinese came to escape the poverty in South China with hopes of striking it rich. But life here was tough with the local hostility towards them and the harsh climate which claimed the lives of 1 in 7 Chinese men.

Arrowtown Cafe

Arrowtown Cafe


Homes in Historic Chinese Goldmining Settlement

Homes in Historic Chinese Goldmining Settlement

While in Arrowtown we also stop in at a few galleries, where Julie finds a favourite quote of hers, “Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been poisoned, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.” New Zealand is a country full of beauty but it has its problems too, just like the rest of the world....money.

For a scenic afternoon drive we take the daring road into Skippers Canyon through daunting country. The narrow canyon road was sculpted along the side of the mountain and through rocky outcrops by hundreds of Chinese workers. During the drive there are times we have to reverse to a wider place in the road, so that the oncoming car can get by. We pass by only 3 homes in the canyon and it is hard to imagine this was once the location of four main hotels and many Sly Grogs (tent pubs) back when this area was booming during the gold rush. The car clings to shingle road winding around the steep rocky walls of the canyon until we find a safe turn around point. On the return trip we pass over gorges full of rushing water on rickety wooden bridges where bungy jumpers get their kicks.

Road Through Skippers Canyon

Road Through Skippers Canyon

Wooden Bridge over Shotover River

Wooden Bridge over Shotover River

We drive through Queenstown we realize that it is the Whistler of New Zealand, being filled with young 20 year olds and thrill seekers. The next wwoofing host lives in Bob's Cove, just pass Queenstown, the bustling tourist mecca which we try to avoid for now.

Posted by ontarions 15:51 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Wanaka Wwoofing

...so many weeds

sunny 26 °C

Today is our first day back wwoofing after a week of holidays exploring the robust west coast and the area along the Haast Pass. Ruth explains how this area, Wanaka, is in a rain shadow and the normal climate is hot, dry and windy. And this is exactly the type of weather we receive for the week. She starts us out with removing invasive South African grasses from around the native plants in her gardens, she calls it “releasing the plants”. She has just come back from a 3 month holiday and the native plants are being choked out by the invasives. To top it off, she can't weed because she broke her back during a slight tumble off a mountain. The size of weeds we a pulling out are around waist height and the native plants are hiding somewhere in the undergrowth. After the first day, Julie notices some allergic reaction on her arms and legs from the grasses, so she gets assigned a new job constructing cages to protect rows of veggies from the rabbits. After a few days hard work releasing the natives from their captors the gardens look amazing. We also help Ruth make Gooseberry Jam using the oven sterilization process rather than the water bath. This seems so much easier and we are sure to try it when we return home.

Ruth's House

Ruth's House


Ruth's Native Flower Beds

Ruth's Native Flower Beds


Remove Head and Tails from Gooseberries with Ruth

Remove Head and Tails from Gooseberries with Ruth

One lazy hot Saturday afternoon Wanaka Waste Busters held their 10 year anniversary party. Waste Busters is a mix between Value Village and The Re-Store. Their goal is not to make money but to divert as much unwanted stuff from the landfill as possible, and encourage RE-USE. They seem to be thriving and leading the way in NZ with their “reduce reuse recycle” innovations. It seems that the entire community is at the event and we enjoy the entertainment, including listening to Minister of Environment, Nick Smith's opening speech. But mostly, I dig the whitebait fritters.

Whitebait Fritter

Whitebait Fritter

Whitebait season just finished here but is still a main draw at many restaurants and markets. Whitebait are little fish of a variety of species and are caught with nets as they make their way in droves to the ocean from their breeding waters inland. They are a high demand and selling your catch can fetch you anywhere from NZ$30 to NZ$100 per pound depending on where you are selling. So I pay 10 bucks for a whitebait fritter, which is pretty much a fish omelet on bread. I will say it was worth trying, the tiny fish just melt in your mouth.

Wanaka is home to Paradiso Theatre, an independent cinema with some very unique ideas. We read the reviews of a movie called “Skin”, looks interesting, so we set up a date night to the movies. One of the main actors, Sam Neil, lives in the area. The theatre is small and filled with couches, lazy-boys, and even an old Beetle with the top chopped off. Each couch and armchair has extra pillows for added comfort. The theatre is really hip and extraordinary, filming their own low-budget comical previews, and showing some advertisements for local businesses only. While buying the tickets you have the option to order dinner which is prepared for intermission. So being a good sport I order a personal pizza. We curl up on a couch and enjoy the show, eating my mouth-watering pizza during the second half of the picture. A theatre like this would totally fly in Guelph!

Ordering Foods at Paradiso Cinema in Wanaka

Ordering Foods at Paradiso Cinema in Wanaka

Paradiso Cinema in Wanaka

Paradiso Cinema in Wanaka

While staying with Ruth we learn that she is an avid tramper and we use her vast knowledge to tell us about hidden gems to explore. She suggests a day hike to Rob Roy Glacier in the Mount Aspiring National Park which sounds intriguing and off we go. After an insanely rough gravel road we reach the trail head. The 3 hour hike to the glacier passes boulder-strewn Matukituki River and climbs through native bush towards the tree-line. As we enter the alpine area our eyes feast on the Rob Roy glacier sitting atop a gigantic wall of rock and numerous waterfalls funnelling towards the valley's base. We embrace the magnificent splendour before us while eating lunch and shooing away keas that want to nibble our gear and food. After roaming about the alpine vegetation, we casually descend to the parking lot.

Rob Roy Glacier

Rob Roy Glacier

Nate and Julie at Rob Roy Glacier

Nate and Julie at Rob Roy Glacier


Rob Roy Glacier

Rob Roy Glacier

Alpine Plant - Spaniard

Alpine Plant - Spaniard

After staying with Ruth for 5 days, she is sad to see us move on to the next wwoofing hosts who are located only 20 minutes away. She thanks us for all the help, and we load up and hit the dusty trail.

Posted by ontarions 15:10 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Touring the West Coast!

...in the face.

sunny 24 °C

The highway south from Westport is a tough stretch to concentrate only on the winding road. I pull over to let our eyes feast on the rugged coast of crashing waves, cliffs, and arches. The coastline is beautiful through the thick morning fog.

The first city we arrive in is Greymouth and it is buzzing with news reporters as a result of the recent mine explosion. With cameras rolling the reporters huddle under their umbrellas conducting interviews. Greymouth is home to the head office of the mining company that is dealing with the tragedy. Everyone seems to be on edge waiting for answers about what exactly happened. Continuing south to Hokitika, Julie has the need for shopping, so we pull over for a wander. She finds a pair of possum/merino socks to keep her feet cozy during the chilly nights in the tent. We continue south, and as we near the campground Julie spots a hitchhiker staggering along the road in need of a ride. Chris, another German, has been hitching and wwoofing around NZ for a year. He fills our car with the smell of many days in the back-country, but it feels good to help him out.

Our camp is located beside the Okarito Lagoon, which is the largest unmodified wetland (3000 hectares) in New Zealand. The lagoon is made up of shallow water and tidal flats and the surrounding coastal rainforest is made up primarily of native kahikatea and riu trees. The area is also home to many bird species including the White Heron and the rare Brown Kiwi. The wind howls non-stop as we seek a semi-sheltered spot for our tent and huddle in for the night.

Okarito Lagoon from Okarito Trig Track

Okarito Lagoon from Okarito Trig Track


Umbrella Fern on Okarito Trig Track

Umbrella Fern on Okarito Trig Track

We rise in the morning with slight regret for not trekking the forest trails last night to hear and maybe spot a rare Kiwi, but our tent was just too cozy. The skies are clear and the sun is just rising, so we hike the Okarito Trig Track for views of the Okarito Lagoon and the Southern Alps. From this trail we continue on to the Three Mile Lagoon track, rushing so that we beat the incoming tide on the way back. We trek through the forest coming to a beautiful lagoon with mirror reflections of the southern alps. We take the track down the beach heading back to camp. We are pinched between the pounding waves and the steep cliffs as the tide slowly comes in, nipping at our heals.

Three Mile Lagoon

Three Mile Lagoon


Three Mile Lagoon Sunrise

Three Mile Lagoon Sunrise


Three Mile Lagoon Bridge

Three Mile Lagoon Bridge

After a short drive further south we arrive at Franz Josef, home of the glacier with the same name. Early Maori called the glacier The Tears of the Avalanche Girl, as legends tells of a girl whose tears froze to form the glacier after her lover fell to his death. The two glaciers in this area (Fox being the other) cut through valleys and flow down through temperate rainforest with their terminal faces being located only 300 m above sea level, making them easily accessible. These glaciers continue to flow while many glaciers worldwide are retreating, as a result of the West Coast's high annual rain and snowfall. Approximately 30 metres of snow falls on the glacier's catchment area every year. The snowfall on the particularly steep Franz Josef glacier pushes ice down the valley, moving a crazy speed of 1.5 m per day (up to 10x faster than most valley glaciers). We set out on a short walk to the Franz Josef along a flat rocky trail on the glacier's river bed, what was once covered by the glacier. This trail takes us to within 100 m of the massive tongue of ice. We observe the glacial melt water running down the terminal face into the massive milky grey river below. The river of melt water is filled with finely ground rock and flows from the glacier's base washing its way down through the valley. Rain moves in fast and we get soaked in the 30 minute walk back from the terminal face and past gloomy grey waterfalls. Luckily the sun is blazing 30 minutes away at Gillespies Beach, where we set-up camp and take in the sunset along a driftwood scattered coast with the westerlies howling.

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier


Franz Josef Glacier Terminal Face

Franz Josef Glacier Terminal Face


Southern Alps from Gillespies Beach

Southern Alps from Gillespies Beach


Sunset on Gillespies Beach

Sunset on Gillespies Beach

We rise early to catch some breathtaking “mirror” shots of the southern alps from picturesque Lake Matheson. We watch as the morning mists rise from the serene lake and collect on the countless species of ferns which blanket the forest floor. The sun caresses the snow-capped peaks of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, reflecting in the calm water. We trek around the peaceful lake, which was formed from the Fox Glacier's last significant advance 14 000 year ago.

Reflections in Lake Matheson

Reflections in Lake Matheson


Lake Matheson and Southern Alps

Lake Matheson and Southern Alps

Unfortunately, we are rushed around the lake to make our 9:00 am appointment with Fox Glacier Guiding. We splurged on a heli-hike adventure up to Victoria Flats on the Fox Glacier for some real glacier trekking. This glacier is 300 m deep and 13 km long. The brief heli ride up the glacier provides us with a spectacular vantage point of roaring Victoria Falls (a glacial waterfall) and jagged blue ice formations scattered across the glacier. On the sides of the mountains we can see where the glacial retreats have occurred over the past hundred years from the various ages of forest growth. Our guide leads our group safely around the ice fields, checking the consistency of the ice which we are to walk on, carving steps with a pick where needed, and ensuring we are far from deep crevices. Using his axe the guide tests the ground and listens for hollows and weak points. The sun reflects off the bright snow and ice, causing small streams to form, some of which funnel and splash down deep eroded chasms. We stop to fill our water bottles with pure glacial water – lets just say it is not room temperature. (Despite the surficial melting of the glaciers, they are still growing.) The pressure of the moving glacier forms large arches of ice which we slowly climb through. The walls and ceiling of these arches are constructed of fantastic blue ice and frigid water drips steadily finding its way down our backs. After a few hours exploring the ice, we climb back into the heli and Julie gets the front seat and a superb view of the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area below. The lakes, rivers, forests, and beaches viewed are untamed yet pure.

All Smiles Heading Up the Fox Glacier

All Smiles Heading Up the Fox Glacier

Arriving on Fox Glacier from Heli

Arriving on Fox Glacier from Heli


Embrace the Fox

Embrace the Fox


Blue Ice Formations

Blue Ice Formations


Slurping Glacial Water on Fox Glacier

Slurping Glacial Water on Fox Glacier


Blue Ice Formations

Blue Ice Formations


Trapped in Ice

Trapped in Ice


Inside Blue Ice Arch on Fox Glacier

Inside Blue Ice Arch on Fox Glacier


Blue Ice Formations

Blue Ice Formations


Blue Ice Arch on Fox Glacier

Blue Ice Arch on Fox Glacier


Julie Riding Shotgun

Julie Riding Shotgun

On the way back to camp, we stop once again at Lake Matheson as we didn't have time earlier to take photos of some of the amazing ferns. However, Julie's camera battery dies, and better yet our car battery dies! Good thing we have CAA because after asking a dozen people for boosts we determined that everyone here is a tourist in a rental car with no booster cables.

We make dinner and camp another chilly night at Gillespies Beach and then pack up in the morning, heading into the town of Fox Glacier for a hike and a different angle of the glacier. The River Walk leads us through more lush rainforest, over pristine creeks, past ferns we have never seen before, and ends at a huge suspension bridge over the boulder-strewn glacial river.

Julie Cooking at Gillespies Beach

Julie Cooking at Gillespies Beach


Yoga on Beach with Southern Alps

Yoga on Beach with Southern Alps


Gillespies Beach Sunset

Gillespies Beach Sunset


Kidney Fern on River Walk at Fox Glacier

Kidney Fern on River Walk at Fox Glacier

River Walk at Fox Glacier

River Walk at Fox Glacier

Heading further south down the west coast past Bruce Bay, we stop at a driftwood tangle of a beach. There is every shape and size imaginable, and the driftwood is utilized by many locals to create beautiful fences around their properties. Further along the road a Salmon Farm catches our attention as a new dinner item.

Bruce Bay's Maori Beach - Driftwood Madness

Bruce Bay's Maori Beach - Driftwood Madness

Julie has been itching for a penguin sighting and Monro Beach sounds like a great opportunity to spot the Fiordland Crested Penguin. Before heading to the beach, the slab of salmon goes perfectly with the homemade pumpkin stew cooked for dinner at our tailgate. After a 45 min walk to the beach we immediately spot a penguin waddling up to the nesting site returning from dining at sea for the day. We sit down on the beach to watch the penguin activity from a distance to prevent disturbing these rare species. More penguins show up from the sea some being knocked over like bowling pins by crashing waves. Nimbly, they hop onto the rocks and cliffs and 2 penguins commence with their complex barking sounds – the call of courtship. The others seem to watch from a distance as these 2 penguins show affection towards each other. Julie's finger begins to ache from the number of snap shots taken, so we decide to explore the amazing beach and head back to the car.

Fiordland Crested Penguins on Monroe Beach

Fiordland Crested Penguins on Monroe Beach


Fiordland Crested Penguins on Monroe Beach

Fiordland Crested Penguins on Monroe Beach


Monroe Beach Boulders

Monroe Beach Boulders

We continue driving south towards Haast and the sun is setting as we make our way over the incredible Haast River and its enormous gravel bed. The bridge over this river must be nearly a kilometre long, as there are pull-offs on the bridge where other cars can pass. As we drive along the Haast Pass and into the mountains, we pull over to find ourselves standing on top of our car's roof watching the sky fill with reds and oranges behind towering mountains. Another amazing day of NZ wonderment comes to a close as we reach Pleasant Flat. The sand-flies force us to pitch the tent asap and toss ourselves in for relief.

Crossing Haast River

Crossing Haast River

Sunset in Haast Pass

Sunset in Haast Pass

The morning light filters through the tent with ease and by 6:30 am we are out cooking up breakfast with the sand-flies again. I add lots of pepper to our food to camouflage the flies which had a tendency of bombing into boiling pots of food. We roll up the tent, squishing heaps of flies within. They are so numerous they coat our clothing and you can't help but breath some in.

Once we are packed up we head down the Haast Pass highway following the Haast River through the mountains. This area is littered with waterfalls flowing into the mighty river. The river is swarmed with whitewater rapids and is very intimidating. We take the short hike into the Blue Pools to gaze at the stunning deep azure blue colours caused by the light refraction in the clear glacier fed water. Large trout in the frigid pools swim about taunting us, knowing that fishing is forbidden in the reserved area. Again, back to the car, our destination is Wanaka and our next wwoofing host Ruth.

Blue Pools

Blue Pools

Before reaching Ruth's home we take the road less travelled heading east along Lake Hawea to Kidd Bush Reserve. After a quick lunch and lay down, we climb the Sawyer Burn Track for a view of Lake Hawea. The entire climb is an incline with few places to give your quads a break. Past the tree line we enter into sub-a;pine scrub with a variety of grasses and alpine flowers and we continue to the peak. The view is an impressive sight to say the least, with the crystal blue lake below surrounded with rugged mountains, few have snow remaining on their peaks. The view was very rewarding for such a short hike (3 hours round-trip).

Lake Hawea from Sawyer Burn Track

Lake Hawea from Sawyer Burn Track


Sawyer Burn Track

Sawyer Burn Track

We reach our host's unique home, designed by her daughter, located on a hill over-looking a valley and surrounded with mountain views. Ruth's friend Mary was also staying for a couple weeks for a vacation from Auckland. They show us around and we settle into our basement room with walk-out french doors onto a patio. After a much needed shower and dinner we hit the hay to rest up for wwoofing duties at 8 am.

Herding Stock up Makarora Lake Hawea Rd

Herding Stock up Makarora Lake Hawea Rd

We had an amazing time touring the west coast in between wwoofing. The average annual rainfall on the West Coast is 2575 mm which is quite substantial compared to the rest of NZ. This usually occurs in downpours and keeps the forests lush. Fortunately for us, we only experienced 30 min of rain while trekking to the Franz Josef Glacier. Unfortunately, however, the area is in a severe drought in dire need of the rain.

Posted by ontarions 15:18 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Westport...

...or like the Kiwis say Wespor

all seasons in one day 25 °C

From Abel Tasman our journey takes us south-west past just a few mountain ranges, including Hope, Braeburn, Lookout, Muntz, Lyell, Marino, Gordon, Lyell, Pinchback, Brunner, Mount Williams, Paparoa, and Matiri. Too bad clouds completely cover the views of the mountains. We crash in Murchison for the night, which was a very quiet, farming town with little going on. Julie's belly, still in a damn crazy rumble, keeps us up in the night and we didn't get the rest we needed. From Murchison we travel the road which follows the massive Buller River, that has cut itself deep gorges over the years. By noon we find ourselves in Westport on the wet west coast. This town was first a gold town and then a coal town with New Zealand's only bituminous coal mining still in operation.

Iron Bridge over Buller River

Iron Bridge over Buller River

Buller River

Buller River

Our afternoon was pretty chill after a stop at the Westcoast Brewing Company for samples of their line of beers. They brew a tasty organic lager named “Green Fern”, but I opted for their dark brew to quench the wwoofing thirst. We took a short walk to Cape Foulwind, Julie's new nickname, to stretch out on the rocks and catch up on travel planning. The area was named in 1977 by Captain James Cook, not as a result of odour but as a result of experiencing particularly bad winds.

Sampling at Westcoast Brewing

Sampling at Westcoast Brewing

Cape Foulwind Relaxing

Cape Foulwind Relaxing


Flightless Weka

Flightless Weka

Later on in the afternoon, we head over to Jeremy and Ruth's house, our next wwoofing hosts. They have 3 children Timo, Cauiva, and Lennox (5, 3, and 1 year old). After arriving, and before even getting out of our car, we are greeted by Timo, who gives us the grand tour and shows us where we would be sleeping. He is an eager, excited, and very intelligent boy. He leads us into the kitchen, where we meet Jeremy and Ruth, who are about our age and love to cook with fresh whole ingredients. During our stay we are treated to some of the best flavours we have had in a long time, including a fabulous Pad Thai. One of the reasons why the food here is so good is because they use raw grains like whole grain rice and buckwheat along with their stone grinder to make amazing fresh flours. The grinder is quite impressive, as it was originally a hand grinder but has been made into an electric grinder using various engines and gear boxes. They have 9 hens and a rooster, which means fresh eggs every day. In exchange for feeding us, most of the work we tackle is garden related and it is very rewarding to help prep for the season ahead. Julie also gets some lessons on pruning native Flax.

Cauiva Always Smiling

Cauiva Always Smiling

Timo at Breakfast

Timo at Breakfast

Jeremy Cooking

Jeremy Cooking

Gardening on the West Coast is different because instead of trying to get water to the plants, its all about methods of removing water from the plants. The West Coast receives such high amounts of rainfall that Jeremy and Ruth have built each garden on higher ground, with drainage ditches between. Their compost requires a roof because it gets too moist and will not breakdown. It's interesting to learn how each wwoofer specializes their property for ideal garden conditions under their climate.

There is a ton of sightseeing in the area, so we work two, so very long and tiring eight hour days in order to get 2 days off. On our first day off we cruise up the coast through Karamea to the Opara Basin to check out the limestone caves in the area. Moa (a native New Zealand bird, now extinct) bones still remain in a few caves but they can only be seen on a crazy expensive guided tour. So instead we explore the primitive rainforest surrounding the trail to the caves. The rainforest is lush and diverse with layers of native mosses, lichens, ferns, tree ferns, and huge trees such as Rimu. We explore the Moria Gate Arch, which is a huge limestone formation arching over the Oparara River. We also explore Crazy Paving and Box Canyon caves.

Inside Moria Gate Arch in Oparara Basin

Inside Moria Gate Arch in Oparara Basin

Inside Moria Gate Arch in Oparara Basin

Inside Moria Gate Arch in Oparara Basin

Moria Gate Arch in Oparara Basin

Moria Gate Arch in Oparara Basin

Hanging Spleenwort Fern in Oparara Basin

Hanging Spleenwort Fern in Oparara Basin

Another stop includes a walk down an old railroad route called Chasm Creek trail, near Seddonville. An amazing wall of thick moss, dripping with moisture and radiating with colour, climbs the steep cliffs. This short walk also provides us with amazing views of the Mokikinui River.

Heading back to Jeremy and Ruth's we make a stop in Denniston, an old coal mining community located high in the hills. It was NZ's largest coal producer in 1911 until the industry dried up. Part of the town is a historical reserve with walking track around old mining relics. Today the town is a ghost town, consisting of only a handful of homes.

Coal Relics At Denniston Incline

Coal Relics At Denniston Incline

On our second day off we head south to Punakaiki and the popular Pancake Rocks. These magnificent natural sculptures are limestone formations carved into intricate caverns and columns as a result of millions of years of weathering and pounding by the Tasman Sea. There is supposed to be a huge blow hole here but the winds aren't blowing from the right direction to create the action in the caverns. There are endless choices for sightseeing and trekking in this area within the Paparoa National Park. We follow Ruth's advice and take the short Truman Track through subtropical coastal rainforest to find a gorgeous beach with a waterfall, and unique rock formations.

Pancake Rock at Punakaiki

Pancake Rock at Punakaiki

Pancake Rock at Punakaiki

Pancake Rock at Punakaiki


Pancake Rock at Punakaiki

Pancake Rock at Punakaiki

Stone Formation at Truman Beach

Stone Formation at Truman Beach

Truman Beach

Truman Beach

We are still feeling energetic and so we make our way up the Fox River on the Inland Pack Track, heading for the Ballroom Overhang. The trail winds back and forth over the river with eleven river crossings on the way to the Overhang. The crystal clear, cold water gave us goosebumps as we crept across the streams, some section being more than knee-deep. The steep cliffs on either side of the river cast large shadows over us. This limestone gorge is indescribable and our pictures just don't capture its beauty. After two hours we reach the grand overhang that was formed by the scouring river winding through the limestone cliffs. After a ballroom dance under the cliffs, we head back down the trail.

Fox River Crossing

Fox River Crossing

Up the Fox River

Up the Fox River

Fox River Fording

Fox River Fording

Fox River Fording

Fox River Fording

Ballroom Overhang

Ballroom Overhang

Limestone Cliffs up Inland Pack Track to Ballroom Overhang

Limestone Cliffs up Inland Pack Track to Ballroom Overhang

Wwoofing and eating wholesome gourmet meals at Jeremy and Ruth's was great. Besides from having a 24 hour bout with the flu, and being laid up in bed for a day, it was very rewarding. Their children are bright and full of knowledge about everything from gardening to playing cricket. I must mention that Jeremy and Ruth are home-schooling them and we think they are doing an exceptional job. We really enjoyed the good conversations about music, organics, permaculture, and gardening.

The West Coast is a pristine place with more protected land than in any other part of NZ. So the next few days we are tourists again heading down past the Southern Alps to check out some amazing landscape. It's back to tenting for a change of pace.

Tree Fern

Tree Fern

Posted by ontarions 17:43 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Dutchman Discovers Coast

...oh no, not Nate

sunny 25 °C

We spent 10 days at Reg's and it is time to shove on. We pack our things and eat breakfast consisting of an omelet with the leftover cockles from last night`s dinner and some spring onions. Reg is sad to see us go and requests updates from us in the future. We leave the beautiful landscape and fabulous accommodations and head to Abel Tasman for a 3 day coastal hike.

On the way to Abel Tasman National Park (named after Dutch explorer to discover the south island in 1642) we make a stop in Takaka for food supplies. Julie`s upset stomach is the main topic of discussion. She sleeps most of the drive with the odd groan and finally we arrive at the start of the hike. Complaining of being very exhausted and not feeling well, Julie continues to nap in the car. After about an hour of napping, we debate on whether we should cancel the trip but she pulls it together and we start out on the 3 day/47 km trip.

Our first night's stay is at the Anchorage campsite. Despite it only being a short 12.4 km to the site, it proved to be a struggle to reach. We make regular stops, Julie for her queasy stomach, and to relieve my numb legs. My right foot hadn't been right since after the Boulder Lake trek. Now the numbness was spreading up both legs! After what seemed like an eternity, we spot the cove and our campsite. Our packs hit the ground as we let out simultaneous groans. I quickly set up the tent for Julie, who curls up for a sleep to recoup. Deciding to continue, I trek on without a pack to explore another secluded bay. As dinner rolls around Julie still isn't feeling well, so I brew up a cup of ginger tea to settle the stomach pains. Almost immediately after finishing the tea Julie starts spewing. One benefit of barfing is the feeling of relief that comes over you afterwards, and Julie was able to sleep soundly for the rest of the night in comfort.

Julie and Nate at Anchorage Bay

Julie and Nate at Anchorage Bay

We had discussed staying our 3 nights at Anchorage and heading out the same way we came but the next morning Julie wakes up with new energy and is willing to continue onto Onetahuti Bay. We head out of Anchorage Bay with the tide in our favour allowing us to take a short cut through the mudflats of Torrent Bay estuary. This shorter route cuts an hour and a half off our hike time for the day. Today`s 17.5 km of hiking takes us past rocky coastal views, valleys of manuka trees, over a few saddles, a 47 m suspension bridge, and finishes at Onetahuti Bay. We take the afternoon to soak up the sun and snooze the day away, what else is there to do? Julie practices some yoga on the beach with Tonga Island and its surrounding marine reserve sitting offshore. The sleeping bags call to us early and our tent provides us with a sanctuary away from the pesky sand-flies which are mangling our ankles.

Leaving Anchorage Bay

Leaving Anchorage Bay


View of Torrent Bay Estuary

View of Torrent Bay Estuary


Torrent Bay Estuary

Torrent Bay Estuary


Falls River Suspension Bridge

Falls River Suspension Bridge


Waterfall Stream

Waterfall Stream


Onetahuti Bay from Track

Onetahuti Bay from Track


Afternoon Nap

Afternoon Nap


Sunrise at Onetanuti Bay

Sunrise at Onetanuti Bay

We awake in the middle of the night to creatures scurrying around our tent. Julie shines her head light out to find a possum. A common introduced species in NZ that is devastating the foliage of their native trees. We decide to move our packs inside the tent to protect them from being chewed by possums. But it is too late, somehow the possum opened the front zip of my bag and got into Julie's kilo of trail mix. We've learned our lesson. There are no bears or raccoons or squirrels to worry about here, but there are other creatures that we need to be aware of.

We start out the next day crossing the Onetahuti tidal crossing which has to be trekked 3 hours on either side of low tide. The tidal charts we are carrying show low tide at 8:00 am which is perfect as it gets us up and rolling early. After crossing the inlet, we ascend the Tonga saddle providing suburb panoramic views at 100 m elevation. We then drop back down to sea level to cross the Awaroa inlet, a beautiful tidal crossing 2 km long. We take off our hiking boots and ford the stream. Our packs are feeling heavy, so we take it slow in the hot sun.

Onetahuti Bay

Onetahuti Bay


Awaroa Inlet Lowtide Crossing

Awaroa Inlet Lowtide Crossing

Julie Trekking

Julie Trekking


Nate Just Past Awaroa Inlet

Nate Just Past Awaroa Inlet


Lacing Up After Tidal Crossing

Lacing Up After Tidal Crossing

After passing much of the same landscape as the previous days we reach quiet Anapai Bay, a tiny campsite just off the beach for only 12 campers. Julie is feeling stinky since she didn't brave the frigid ocean waters the day before like I did. Without thinking twice she plunges in to freshen up. She lets out a few yelps while me and some onlookers have a good laugh. Once again the sand-flies are insane, and so we take cover in the tent at dusk. But tonight we sleep with the fly off for a nice view of the twinkling stars and nearly full moon.

Julie Taking a Much Needed Bath

Julie Taking a Much Needed Bath


Anapai Bay Rock Weightlifting

Anapai Bay Rock Weightlifting

During the night Julie starts the groaning again. This time her belly is bubbling up something vile. I could tell by the lack of fresh air within the tent. It was enough to seriously consider sleeping outside with the sand-flies. After a sleepless night for both, Julie was still groaning in the morning and makes a b-line to the long drop to relieve herself. Lets just say she didn't have to push too hard. Over the course of a few hours, she makes frequent trips to the bathroom before we decide it is safe for her to strap on her pack without exploding. We make it safely through the hour's hike to meet the water taxi at 11 am.

Quail at Sunrise

Quail at Sunrise


Marahau Water Taxi at Totaranui Beach

Marahau Water Taxi at Totaranui Beach

We pile onto the boat which shuttles us south along the coast, back to our starting point in Marahau. Along the way we receive the reverse angle of all the bays, estuaries, rock formations, islands, and beaches. We stop in a shallow bay to view 2 sting rays in the crystal clear water. The highlight of the shuttle came when a pod of at least 20 wild bottlenose dolphins put on a show for us. They are feeding but having a great time of it, as they leap and flip in the air, and play in the wake from our boat.

Playful Bottlenose Dolphin

Playful Bottlenose Dolphin


Cruising in the Water Taxi

Cruising in the Water Taxi

There wasn't a cloud in sky for our entire trek and we saw dolphins! Besides that, we were in pain most of the way. I played with my pack to see if it was the cause of my numb legs but had little luck. I don't know how Julie was able to trek without passing out from the loss of all her bodily fluids. But we made it and it was another amazing NZ experience.

Petting Tree Ferns

Petting Tree Ferns

Posted by ontarions 22:14 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

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