A Travellerspoint blog

February 2011

Forest Gardening in Riverton

...loads of fruit with little work.

sunny 19 °C

Julie nudges me awake from a deep sleep in our roomy car. We have slept the night across the road from Taramea Bay in Riverton. Relocating further south, after re-arranging our belongings from the front seats back to where we had slept, we end up at Howell's Point. As we relax and eat our breakfast, a pack of Hector's dolphins glide into the calmer waters of the bay to rest before heading back out to sea.

Today is the kick-off to Riverton's 175th birthday and the town is buzzing with excitement. The main street is closed off for festivities and residents crowd around live music being performed on the back of a vintage truck. As the parade makes its way through town, Julie notices a family dressed up in settler type clothing and riding antique bicycles. It turns out that they are our next wwoofing hosts, the Guyton family. After the parade we make our way through the busy street to the Environment Centre where we meet Robin Guyton. She is busy organizing a scavenger hunt for the town's folks. Later we are introduced to Robert, her husband, and their children, Terry, Adam and Holly. After some quick small talk, they all have duties to attend to and we are left to further explore the sites and sounds of Riverton. Riverton turns out to have an interesting history as New Zealand's old whaling harbour.

Arrowtown Miners Band in Riverton Parade

Arrowtown Miners Band in Riverton Parade

We return to see if there is anything Robin needs a hand with and she instructs us to jump on the bikes and hurry to the start of the second parade. Yes, we road the old bikes, with their handmade detailed leather seats, down the main street with Robert and Holly, waving and laughing all the way. Funny thing is, due to some misunderstanding, half of the parade started from the north end of town and the other half started from the south end of town! So the two parades met in the middle, laughing at the circumstances.

Guyton Family in Parade

Guyton Family in Parade

Once the festivities die down, we make our way to the Guyton's house to settle in. They live on approximately an acre of land that they cleared of gorse and broom (invasive plants) around twenty years ago and slowly built and grew their dream. Robin always wanted an old rustic house with character but they couldn't afford to buy this. So piece by piece they salvaged and reclaimed building materials from houses being torn down in the area to build their amazing home which is full of character. They have an old toilet with the tank located close to the ceiling, and there are stained glass windows, antique light switches, and beautiful old wooden doors. Amazingly they don't have a fridge, instead they have a neat old “cold box” which they place ice packs into. Yes, they do have a freezer.

Their property is based on permaculture principles. They have planted a vast array of fruit trees, berries and native plants all coming together to form the “Food Forest” that surrounds the house. No weeding is involved, no lawns need to be mowed, but every few days a stroll through the forest is taken to pick fresh, organic fruit and nuts from the trees. This is the life! And they have veggie gardens placed within a clearing in the forest which need additional care.

Food Forest and The Guyton Home

Food Forest and The Guyton Home

After getting to know them over the course of the evening we learn that they are very driven people and have their hands in many different community projects. Robert was a teacher turned writer and plays an active role as a Riverton Councillor that truly cares for the environment and the future of the town. Robin was also a teacher and started the Riverton Environment Centre. The Centre is a place where people can shop for organic products and learn how to live a sustainable and wholesome lifestyle from their extensive library and project display boards. Their children, Adam and Holly, are extremely knowledgeable and are very in tune with the earthy ways taught by their parents.

Throughout our stay we pick up heaps of red and black currents, raspberries, plums, and apples. We help plant new gardens, harvest their organic vegetables, remove overloaded apple tree limbs, and transplant black current cuttings to propagate for sale at the Environment Centre. Julie also helps out at the Environment Centre, learning all about the multiple projects happening in the town. I get the task of laying slate tile in the laundry room to finish a job that Robin has wanted to complete for 15 years. While working with Robert, conversation about his hobby of collecting non-electrical old tools peaks a lot of interest in Julie. They are collecting these tools because human's have a huge reliance on electricity and therefore oil and oil is unsustainable and will run out at some point. Even sustainable energy, such as wind farms, rely on oil to be built. Non-electrical tools are important as they use human energy rather than unsustainable energy and will become essential once again in the future. The Guyton's are one step ahead of everyone else on this planet! Sounds like work around our house might take a bit more elbow grease when we return.

Picking Red Currants in the Food Forest

Picking Red Currants in the Food Forest


Wwoofing - Tile Work

Wwoofing - Tile Work

The Guytons have many projects on the go, all linked to sustainability. Two of the projects include saving heirloom seeds and saving heritage Southland apple trees. To save the apple trees, they take cuttings and graft them onto root stock suitable for the growing conditions. The purpose of both of these projects is to prevent the species from going extinct. Most of the varieties of vegetables grown in the 1900's are now extinct. There are many reasons to explain why this is occurring, one of them being monoculture farming.

Julie Grafting Heritage Apple Trees

Julie Grafting Heritage Apple Trees

A third project, which is more Robert's responsibility is called Te Wai Korari Wetland Reserve. He takes us to the property along the estuary that they saved from becoming farmland. Restoration efforts such as planting native vegetation, creating wetlands, and realigning the stream have taken place with the help of a hydrologist's expertise. This restoration was completed to provide fish habitat, especially to provide breeding grounds for native fish. It was a giant effort and the results have slowly become successful as the area bustles with life.

Te Wai Korari Wetland Reserve

Te Wai Korari Wetland Reserve

One sunny afternoon I finally feed my urge to stroll along Gemstone Beach, since I have a serious problem of collecting rocks throughout our travels. It is a neat area, rich with tumbled stones ripe for the picking. I find and select only the best gems to keep, since Julie isn't fond of loading down our car with my habits. The beach is flanked with sandstone cliffs marbled with orange and yellow colours. On one such cliff a cottage is carved into soft stone with a window facing the ocean. We watch a local hunting for gold flakes with his elaborate homemade sluicing set-up before heading back to the Guytons.

Gemstone Beach Cliffs

Gemstone Beach Cliffs

During our last night spent with the Guytons we resurrect a 120 year old candle lit magic lantern. It has small glass slides consisting of old nursery rhymes in coloured images that become projected quite vividly onto the wall of the darkened living room. The antique slide show is hilarious with the Guyton's commentary. This slide show is an unbelievably simple form of watching a movie and put us back in time.

They are a very inspiring bunch and love to educate anyone who is willing to listen. On our last day an opportunity arises for Julie to educate them while moving chooks. The Guytons usually carry chooks upside down by the legs causing the chickens to go wild. When Julie shows them how to hold multiple chooks in one hand, while the chooks remain calm they were ecstatic. Robert blogged this new found knowledge immediately! http://robertguyton.blogspot.com/2011/01/how-to-hold-hens.html

Over our days with the Guytons we spend tons of time talking about their past and future plans and projects. With lots of laughs, due to their never ending puns, we feel blessed to have wwoofed for them.

Jacobs River Estuary in Riverton

Jacobs River Estuary in Riverton

Posted by ontarions 20:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Glowing Skies over Stewart Island

semi-overcast 20 °C

Leaving the lush rainforest of the Fiordlands, we quickly enter into rolling pasture land along the southern NZ coast. Our mission, as we head towards Invercargill, is to find a third person to fly to Mason Bay, located on the western side of Stewart Island. Mason Bay is a huge stretch of remote beach that is only accessible by 3 days of hiking or the easy way, via an hour long plane ride. The entire island is kiwi central and Mason Bay is one the easier places to spot the rare nocturnal bird. Part of this is because it is one of the few places in NZ where the birds are also active during the day. We can't find anyone for the Mason Bay mission after a few quick stops at a couple of Invercargill hostels. So our plan for Stewart Island is quickly changed to plan B, the Rakiura Track.

There isn't much choice for campsites in Invercargill so we decide to head further south to the Catlins region. But before leaving Invercargill we watch the nearly extinct native Tuatara bask in the sun at the Info-Site. It's looks like a lizard but is the closest living relative to the dinosaurs. It is one of the few living relics to have survived since the Jurassic era.

As we get closer to the south coast we cross over the Titiroa River lined with small whitebaiting huts along the shores. Whitebaiters are extremely territorial and most have been fishing the same area for decades. Our map shows a sea lion colony at Waipapa Point so we head in this direction. Upon arrival the incredibly windy beach is void of these large creatures. Moving on with aching ears from the howling winds, we arrive at Slope Point Backpackers to camp for the night. Slope Point is the most southerly point on the South Island. Chatting over dinner with a friendly gentleman that just explored the Catlins area, we get the low down on must-sees and locations of dolphins, seals, penguins, and the fossilized forest. We are eager to walk around the fossilized remnants of a 170 million year old forest at low tide tomorrow in Curio Bay.

Low tide is early, so up and out we go. The fallen trees of the petrified forest are frozen in rock with the wood grain visible in logs and the rings visible in stumps. The trees were turned to stone by silica in the ash-filled floodwaters, a result of steady, heavy rains on ash-covered volcanoes. The entire logs and stumps were preserved because the silification took place within the space of months after the flood, before decay had set in. It is incredible to be able to view such a significant forest completely frozen in time.

Fallen Petrified Logs

Fallen Petrified Logs

When You Gotta Go...

When You Gotta Go...

Julie and I meander up and down the coast taking pictures of the pre-historic when suddenly a yellow-eyed penguin, a Hoiho is its Maori name, pops up before Julie. This species is one of the rarest penguins in the world, so Julie snaps on the zoom-lens. The penguin must have a nest in the coastal plants along the cliffs past the rocky shore. The parents take turns feeding at sea, while the other stays near the nest to protect and nurture the chicks.

Yellow-Eyed Penguin at Petrified Forest

Yellow-Eyed Penguin at Petrified Forest

We move on to Porpoise Bay searching now for Hector's dolphins, sea lions, and elephant seals. The magnificent sandy beach is lined in part with steep cliffs over-looking the sea and is perfect to spot marine life. I suddenly spot something moving across the bay, so we grab the binocs and race to the edge of the water hoping for a sighting of the rare Hector's dolphin. Nope, just snorkelers. We leave the area without any signs of marine mammals. Our next stop is at Niagara Falls, named by a comical explorer familiar with the Niagara Falls in Ontario.

Blow Hole at Curio Bay

Blow Hole at Curio Bay

The day is flying past and we need to get back to Invercargill to stock up on supplies before heading to Stewart Island. We have decided to take the ferry in the morning to the small island. We pick up groceries and head south from Invercargill towards Bluff, stopping along the way to scope out a good freedom camping area to transform our car into a luxurious hotel on wheels. We decide on a perfect beachy spot before continuing on to a look out point of Stewart Island in Bluff.

End of the Road in Bluff

End of the Road in Bluff

For some strange reason, we get thinking about just hoping on a ferry today and staying in a hostel on Stewart Island tonight. The last ferry leaves in an hour, so we scramble about stuffing our bags with four days worth of gear, food, and supplies. The ferry is only for people and not cars, so we had to make sure to bring everything necessary. It was stressful but Julie did a wonderfully calm job of sorting out meals and making sure everything we needed was checked off. We only had to make one last minute dash to the car before jumping on the ferry for the hour long voyage.

First thing I noticed as we took our seats was that everyone had plenty of barf bags. The Captain quickly warns of high swells as we leave the calm harbour. Julie's stomach isn't tossed about so easy and she falls fast asleep. I, on the other hand, focus on the horizon when I could see it to keep from queezing. I check my watch repeatedly before Half Moon Bay (Oban) on Stewart Island was in focus. We gather our bags and walk across the small town headed for Stewart Island Backpackers Hostel to set up our tent.

Stewart Island or the Maori name Rakiura, means land of the glowing sky, and the sun is setting on the small sub-antarctic island. We decide to check out the sunset from Observation Rock overlooking a tranquil Horseshoe Bay. The skies are lit up as the warm sun drops behind the rugged hills in the distance leaving us shivering in strong cool winds. We make our way back to the hostel along the cute side streets of Oban and through a damp dark forested area. We notice signs posted along the roads warning drivers to watch for kiwis as this island is supposedly full of these birds. We head to our tent to rest up for our three day, two night trek around the Rakiura Track starting in the morning.

Fishing boats in Halfmoon Bay

Fishing boats in Halfmoon Bay

Stewart Island Wharf - Halfmoon Bay

Stewart Island Wharf - Halfmoon Bay

Sunset over Golden Bay and Watercress Bay from Observation Rock

Sunset over Golden Bay and Watercress Bay from Observation Rock

We rise to light rain sprinkles before the cloud passes and the weather becomes mainly fine. Before removing ourselves from society for three days, we have to stop at the DOC office to fill out an intentions form so they know where we are tramping and when we are emerging from the bush. With our packs loaded we follow the road to Lee Bay and the start of the Rakiura track. The Rakiura National Park comprises 85% of Steward Island, enclosing lush native rainforest and beautiful beaches. I talk to a pair of trampers that experienced a kiwi popping out of the bush and across the trail right at their feet just hours ago. After an easy three hour hike through lovely native rainforest along the coast the trail spits us out onto Maori Beach. I really wanted to fish the mouth of the river flowing into the north end of the beach, so Julie relaxes on the gorgeous waterfront while I go and attempt to catch dinner. Fishing was fun and that's about it.

Filmy Fern

Filmy Fern


Maori Beach

Maori Beach

Julie on Maori Beach

Julie on Maori Beach


Maori Beach on Rakiura Track

Maori Beach on Rakiura Track

Later in the evening we walk the beach and hang out in the woods listening for the high pitched kiwi call. The forest is thriving with life and we listen to many unique birds, including the parakeet. New Zealand has no native land mammals apart from a few species of bat. Birds have ruled this landscape, many evolving to be flightless. The large Moa and other species were driven to extinction as a result of humans arriving on the islands. In addition, introduced mammals such as stoats, rats, and possums have drastically plummeted many other bird species populations causing them to be extinct, endangered or at risk. The native birds are very plain and colourless but their extraordinary song greatly exceeds anything we have ever heard. One bird's song sounds like part of the song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star! As we come out of the bush the only bird we haven't heard seems to be the kiwi. It's about 10:30pm as we curl up in the tent but it is still very light out. As we fall asleep the sound we have been waiting for vibrates through the night air and we listen to the high pitch whistle of the male kiwi and coarse rasping notes of the female far off in the dark of night.

Fern along Rakiura Track

Fern along Rakiura Track

Day two takes us through virgin podocarp forest, with some sections which were logged in the early 1900's. A few relics from mills and log haulers still remain and are slowly rusting away as the track follows old tramlines once used to carry logs to their various destinations. It is a long hike to Sawdust Bay (about 17 km) and much of the track is under construction. The rainforest along the sides of the track have been cut and disturbed and in only a few places is the forest lush and beautiful right to the track's edge. We also notice that the current trail improvements include covering up the natural track of soil, mosses, and tree roots with gravel. Thus, in our opinion, changing the track from a wilderness tramp that is quiet and soft under the feet, bringing you closer to nature into an easier walk that is noisy and arduous on the feet. It seems that most of the Great Walks in NZ have been 'improved' in this way. As we tramp nearer to our destination the old boardwalks which lead us above thick muddy track sections have been removed. We are very lucky the last few days have been void of rain because while at the hostel we had heard of knee-high mud in places. We walk through with no crazy mud-engulfing stories to share with you.

Crown Fern

Crown Fern

Huge Tree along Rakiura Track

Huge Tree along Rakiura Track

Sawdust Bay is very shallow and has a very gradual slope which creates a huge tidal swing and a great opportunity to search for cockles. Julie opts out of my cockle feast so I share them with Dave, a new friend we just met at Sawdust Bay camp. His family of 6 has been tramping the North-West Circuit for seven days and this is their last night. They are a friendly bunch from Auckland and invite us for dinner when we are in their neck of the woods. Dave also mentions that they've seen eleven kiwis and they give us a couple pointers on how to spot one. The sunset over Sawdust Bay is phenomenal with glowing skies reflecting off small tidal puddles left from the receding tide. Throughout the night the call of the morepork echoes over the bay in an orchestra of sound.

Sawdust Bay on Stewart Island

Sawdust Bay on Stewart Island


Sawdust Bay on Stewart Island

Sawdust Bay on Stewart Island

Rakiura (Glowing Skies) at Sawdust Bay

Rakiura (Glowing Skies) at Sawdust Bay

Our last day on the Rakiura Track is through more muddy sections of trail with the old boardwalks removed. Progress is slow as it is now raining and we are trying to avoid deep mud. After three hours (about 8 km) we hit a gravel road that leads us back to Oban and the hostel for hot showers. The rain gets heavier in the afternoon, as we dine on take-out fish and chips and relax on the couches. As the rain slows and the sun is dropping behind the mountains the cloud clears to reveal a magnificent double rainbow. We gaze at the complete rainbows from end to end, a perfect vision of colour.

Muddy Section on Rakiura Track

Muddy Section on Rakiura Track

The rain returns throughout the night and into the morning and threatens to cancel our fishing trip on an old vessel around Patterson Inlet. We use cash from various family Christmas presents to fund the outing and would like to thank our families again for this great gift. The sun finally breaks through the clouds by 8am and we are on the boat heading out of the inlet just past 9am. The skipper John and his son Daniel, prep the boat for 4 passengers including Julie and I, and we are soon off in search of blue cod. After a short demo we drop our fishing lines made of rope, garden hose, and massive hooks baited with octopus, caught the day before, to the bottom of the ocean. Soon enough we are hauling in cod. Heavy rain and wind come and go but the fish keep biting and we have a great time. Julie pulls up the only full house, catching three cod on her line at one time. These are added to the bucket of cod we catch, some of which are cooked up for our savoury lunch. We also enjoy devouring some raw blue cod seasoned with vinegar and lemon pepper. This is the freshest sushi we've ever tasted. As we fish, some of us pull up seaweed such as bull kelp and attached to this are sea tulips, an invertebrate. We decide to give these a taste test and Daniel scoops out the insides so we can indulge. The texture is mushy and it tastes like the sea. We didn't ask for seconds. Huge Mollymawks and gulls jockey for position along the boat waiting for fish carcasses to be tossed over board. Just before we're ready to head back to shore I catch something huge....turns out to be Spiny Dog Fish, a small shark! We have a great time on the boat with many laughs and we leave with a bag of fresh fish.

Morning Rainbow

Morning Rainbow


Julie catching a Full House!

Julie catching a Full House!


Mollymawks

Mollymawks

Flying Mollymawk

Flying Mollymawk


Mollymawks Fighting for Scraps

Mollymawks Fighting for Scraps


Cooking up Lunch

Cooking up Lunch


Spiny Dogfish

Spiny Dogfish


Feeding Gulls

Feeding Gulls

We head back to the hostel to pack up the tent before we meander through the artsy town and catch the 3:30pm ferry back to the mainland. The ride is choppy but Julie sleeps and once again I focused hard on the horizon to keep the cod down. After a quick stop in Invercargill for a few veggies to go with our days catch we look for somewhere to camp and relax for the night. An incredibly forceful south wind is blowing so we stop at a Holiday Park to use their kitchen to get away from the elements. We can't find anyone in the office to pay for the use of the kitchen, assuming this is an option, so we head in and start cooking and will pay on the way out. That was a mistake. The owner did not take kindly to us helping ourselves, she demands us to leave immediately and pay for a nights accommodations. After some crappy negotiating on our part we pay 15 bucks and get the heck out of there. We have a good laugh afterwards while eating another meal of cod and learn a valuable lesson. Our night ends sleeping in our car along the beach in Riverton, a friendly town west of Invercargill. Here we will be wwoofing for the next week.

Posted by ontarions 23:13 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Amazing Doubtful Sound

...mirror like.

semi-overcast 19 °C

The morning arrives and our tent is dry (which feels like the first time in weeks). We hang around the campground until 11:30am taking pics and wandering about the strange collection of kiwi antiques until it is time to catch the Real Journey boat on Lake Manapouri. We are heading to Doubtful Sound, the second largest of the Fiordland National Parks 14 fiords. It is a very remote place, as you have to take a boat to get to the road leading into the fiord. We catch the boat leaving Pearl Harbour heading to the West Arm section of the Lake. Here the West Arm Power Station (an underground power house) was completed in 1976. Electricity is generated via water from Lake Manapouri which drops 230 m over 10 km on its way to Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound through an underground system excavated from the granite.

From West Arm a coach bus shuttles us over Wilmot Pass on the most expensive road in NZ. This road was required in order to build the power station and cost two dollars a centimetre. This road is also incredibly steep dropping 680 m over 8 km. Finally through the clouds appears Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound. From the coach bus we board the beautiful 50 m long cruise ship, the 'Navigator' for New Years (holding 80 people). Everyone is given a quick briefing on today's schedule before we are ushered to our bunks. We are located on the bottom level of this 3 level ship. There are even showers on this boat – which was unexpected as it is just an overnight, small cruise ship. Our ship pulls anchor and we smoothly head towards the Tasman Sea through Doubtful Sound (which is technically a fiord).

Navigator

Navigator


Our Bunks

Our Bunks


Julie Enjoying the Beauty

Julie Enjoying the Beauty

Shortly after leaving Deep Cove, the Captain announces that we are heading into Crooked Arm and we have the option of either kayaking or taking an interpretive nature cruise on a small boat. Julie and I want to take photos, so we opt out of kayaking and hop into the small motor boat to get a closer look around the fiord. In our eyes the weather is perfect despite the clouds and cool temperatures because it isn't raining and this is one of the world's wettest regions receiving 5.3 m of precipitation annually. Our nature guide takes us up close to cascading waterfalls, fur seals (one of which is a male which has recently lost a battle for territory with another male), native birds along the shores, and many other points of interest. As we are admiring the pristine and wild landscape a call comes over the radio that dolphins have appeared, so we scoot towards them for a closer look. We keep a good distance to prevent disturbing these graceful creatures and watch as approximately twenty bottlenose dolphins (including calves) playfully make their way in the same direction that we are headed. These dolphins are larger than those found in temperate or tropical habitats as they require more blubber to stay warm in these southern regions. The bottlenose dolphins in Doubtful Sound are living close to their ecological limit. The amazing display of dolphins holds everyone's attention until the time comes to board back onto the cruise ship.

Bottlenose Dolphins

Bottlenose Dolphins

Now it's time to go swimming! I feel the urge for a dip into the cool waters, so diving off the rail of the ship seems to be the best course of action. The water is stained the colour of tea from tanins and other organic matter from the rainforest floor through which the rainwater runs. This freshwater is less dense than the sea water and forms a layer about 8 m deep (depending on rainfall) on the surface that floats and mixes only partially with the salt. The waters here average a bracing 11 degrees Celsius. I dive into the black abyss and it is exhilarating, so much so that I do it twice!

Cloudy skies begin to part and the suns gleams through as we cruise past colonies of fur seals basking on various rocky islands and our vessel pokes it's nose into the fairly calm Tasman Sea (the sea located between NZ and Australia). The ship returns to calmer waters in Precipice Cove located at the end of Bradshaw Sound and dinner is soon to arrive so we head to the dining room. The dining room is enclosed by windows and it is difficult to draw the eye away from the surrounding wildlife and rainforest especially since a fur seal is putting on a show. It is tossing a fresh fish around in the water as sea gulls try to snatch small bites. Back inside the dining room the feast is fit for a king, or two skinny Canadians. We definitely eat our monies worth, tasting everything from roast turkey to raspberry cheesecake. A friendly pair of Dutch travellers make good dinner company and even better monopoly players later in the evening.

Near Tasman Sea in Doubtful Sound

Near Tasman Sea in Doubtful Sound

Midnight arrives quickly and everyone heads out onto the deck to watch fireworks being set off from another boat. It is an amazing display in this remote location. We ring in the New Year with flutes of champagne and more munchies before heading to bed.

Precipice Cove - Doubtful Sound

Precipice Cove - Doubtful Sound


New Year Toast in Doubtful Sound

New Year Toast in Doubtful Sound

I don't sleep a wink and get up at the crack of dawn, only laying in bed for a couple of hours. The waters are calm as the sun slowly rises from behind the towering walls of the Fiordland mountains into a cloudless sky. The cruise ship's engines start up at 6:30am and breakfast is served early. We eat like we've never eaten before as the ship makes a southern turn into Hall Arm. The landscape is so pristine, a wilderness like no other in NZ, untouched and unaltered by human influence. The rainforest is dense, growing in the absence of soil. Beneath the trees, vines, and ferns are mosses and lichens clinging onto the smooth solid rock. The interlocking roots of the trees depend on the build-up of leaf mould for nutrients. It takes hundreds of years for the forests to grow this dense on such a steep and smooth rock face.

Navigator with Sails Up

Navigator with Sails Up


Hall Arm - Doubtful Sound

Hall Arm - Doubtful Sound


Hall Arm - Doubtful Sound

Hall Arm - Doubtful Sound

Waterfall in Hall Arm - Doubtful Sound

Waterfall in Hall Arm - Doubtful Sound


Hall Arm - Doubtful Sound

Hall Arm - Doubtful Sound

The Captain slows the ship to a crawl and finally stops dead in the calm waters reflecting the surrounding rainforest. Everyone is called to the deck and told to find a comfy place to be stationed for the next 10 minutes. The ship's engines are shut down to reveal true quietness never experienced before. Within our typical lives our ears receive a steady stream of noise from the time our alarm wakes us in the morning until we fall deep asleep at night. The quietness we experience in this incredibly remote part of the world is truly powerful. We reflect in silence on things we are grateful and fortunate for in our lives. This quiet moment in time passes too quickly and suddenly the ship's engines start up again and we make our way back to Deep Cove. The dolphins bid us a fond farewell before we dock and we thank the crew for an unforgettable voyage.

The clear blue skies make for excellent views of Doubtful Sound from Wilmot Pass as the bus climbs it's way up the steep road. Arriving back in Pearl Harbour after the cruise back across Lake Manapouri, we decide to head south to camp at Lake Hauroko. It is New Years day and being wise to every store being closed, we have already stocked our groceries for the coming days. Lake Hauroko's shores are teeming with sandflies but being off the beaten track, it should make for another quiet night. This is NZ's deepest lake and a sacred spot for the Maori. We relax by the water's edge after a short swim in the deep cooling waters.

Doubtful Sound from Wilmot Pass

Doubtful Sound from Wilmot Pass

The winds start to howl through the forest that surrounds us as dusk approaches. It is a very eery night listening to the heavy winds coming in gusts They seem to slowly seek out our tent through miles of forest. They get louder and louder the closer they get until their fingers grasp onto our tent shaking it wildly. I could not settle my imagination, thinking of supernatural Maori beings gusting their way around the lake. It is another sleepless night before heading off further south to the Catlins for a couple days.

Chilling on Lake Hauroko

Chilling on Lake Hauroko

Posted by ontarions 23:18 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Sunny Days in Milford!

...these sunny pics are for real...no photoshop

sunny 23 °C

The weather forecast is calling for sunny weather in Milford Sound over the next couple days. Since we've seen nothing but heavy cloud cover and rain that area we decide to head back to Milford Sound to see the sights with bright sun illuminating the mountains. As we close in on Milford for the third time, the sky darkens and the heavy rain is quick to follow. Our only option is to stay in a little hut at Hollyford Camp as it is now pouring rain and setting up our tent isn't doable. The friendly man that runs the camp has a good laugh that we returned in hopes of sunny weather and informs us that there is a major storm coming. We unpack our belongings in “Pop's Hut”, our cozy rustic hut for the evening. I start a roaring fire in the pot belly stove as Julie hangs our laundry to dry all over the inside of the hut. After a lovely lamb and parsnip dinner, we relax in the common room reading and watching the river rise.

Pop's Hut at Hollyford Camp

Pop's Hut at Hollyford Camp

Julie Drying Out in Pop's Hut - Hollyford Camp

Julie Drying Out in Pop's Hut - Hollyford Camp

Rain continues to fall through the night as Julie and I sweat like pigs in our hut, as I stuffed the pot belly stove with as much wood as possible before falling asleep. As we eat breakfast in the morning we notice that the river that runs alongside the camp has poured over its banks. We begin to wonder if we will ever see sunshine in this area. I return to the hut to play with fire while Julie reads in the common room. Again I stuff the stove and end up falling asleep for an hour from the heat until suddenly Julie comes barging in with excitement. The sun has broken up the clouds revealing the new found world of towering mountains and never ending valleys. It is 3 PM in the afternoon and we have plenty of time for one of the many hikes in the area.

First we stop at Lake Marian, an alpine lake on a hanging valley, but the trail is closed as a result of a slip from the heavy rains. So we head over to the Key Summit (918 m) for a quick trek into the alpine wilderness, for the second time. The panoramic views are phenomenal and worth the repeated climb to the summit. Lake Marian, the Hollyford Valley, and surrounding snow peaks are all on display. Without packs we make short work of the trek and return to camp for dinner.

Alpine Bog on Key Summit

Alpine Bog on Key Summit

Lake Marian from Key Summit

Lake Marian from Key Summit

Key Summit

Key Summit

Mossy Beech on Key Summit

Mossy Beech on Key Summit

We decide to stay another night at Hollyford Camp since it is a really nice place with all the amenities and there is much more to discover in the Milford region. Unfortunately, we find out the 1000 year old hollow beech tree we climbed during our last visit here was blown down in a storm only 2 days later. As we processed this news it brought a sadness that couldn't be explained. We felt very fortunate to have met the tree before its death.

Bright blue skies greet us in the early morning, so we bolt up to Milford Sound to gaze upon Mitre Peak before hundreds of tourist arrive off buses. The steep mountain rises from the fiord forming a sharp point at 1893 m. It is a breathtaking site and is almost surreal looking at the photos Julie took. We feel fortunate to see the mountain with such great weather, since it has rained for the past 10 days here.

Homer Tunnel

Homer Tunnel


Mitre Peak in Milford Sound

Mitre Peak in Milford Sound


Kidney Ferns in Milford Sound

Kidney Ferns in Milford Sound

After satisfying our senses on views in Milford Sound, we head back south to hike up the Gertrude Valley to Gertrude Saddle. A “saddle” is a low ridge connecting two peaks. The valley collects and funnels water to form the beginning of the Hollyford River, which on this day is still quite high. From the car park we dodge flooded sections of the trail and reach a so-called bridge across the river. Unfortunately, the river is flowing approximately a foot over the bridge, so off go the boots and we cross on the submerged structure. Our boots don't stay dry for long as the water levels have risen high enough that the trail has been incorporated into the river. We make a gallant effort to avoid the icy blue waters by heading off trail and through the forest but it doesn't get us far and we end up trudging through the water in the end. On higher grounds rock cairns lead the way through sub-alpine grasslands dotted with stunted shrubs and beautiful flowers. Beyond the grasslands we stumble over rocky intermittent river beds studded with boulders. The views ahead and behind are one-of-a-kind, impossible to capture fully by camera. The cairns we follow take us skyward along a ridge then across the river in front of a cascading waterfall. We stop for lunch to look back on our progress through the rocky valley and marvel in its beauty. Noticing the changing temperatures at these higher altitudes, we throw on warmer clothes and switch from sunhats to toques. Continuing along the steep path we quickly scramble across a few huge patches of unmelted snow which could break off and slide down the mountain at any time. Using steel cables bolted to the rock we ascend huge rock slabs and across a small ridge to find Black Lake. This small alpine lake is in a hanging valley enclosed by bedrock. It's sole water source is from the melting snow above. Some interesting alpine ferns gain our attention as do some unique flowers growing in this predominately rock and harsh alpine environment. We also discover an alpine weevil, large and dark in colour. These adaptations help it to absorb as much heat as possible in this cold and windy environment.

Crossing Hollyford River

Crossing Hollyford River


Lunch in Gertrude Valley

Lunch in Gertrude Valley


Melting Snow on Gertrude Saddle

Melting Snow on Gertrude Saddle


Acending to Gertrude Saddle

Acending to Gertrude Saddle


Black Lake at top of Gertrude Valley

Black Lake at top of Gertrude Valley

Alpine Weevil on Gertrude Saddle

Alpine Weevil on Gertrude Saddle

Finally we reach Gertrude Saddle (1430 m) and immense views on the other side taking our eyes all the way to Milford Sound. The tree line is far below us and beyond that are the gravel beds of river systems in the base of the valley. Along the mountain sides slips can be seen, both old and new. Moss spreads across the rocks on the older slips indicating the beginning stage of regenerating forest. I continue up Barrier Knob to the north a little further before returning to where Julie is exploring. We watch clouds rolling our way and decide its time to return to the car. The total hike takes six hours and held our attention for every second. It is one of the greatest day hikes we have completed to date and can't stop talking about what an amazing place it is. We ring out our socks at the car before heading further south to Knobs Flat, a DOC campground. The flats have interesting glacial moraine deposits (looking like lady lumps and humps) scattered throughout the wide valley which is otherwise very flat.

View of Milford Sound from Gertrude Saddle

View of Milford Sound from Gertrude Saddle


View of Milford Sound from Gertrude Saddle

View of Milford Sound from Gertrude Saddle

Black Lake at top of Gertrude Valley

Black Lake at top of Gertrude Valley

Alpine Fern - Gertrude Valley

Alpine Fern - Gertrude Valley


Gertrude Valley - Facing South

Gertrude Valley - Facing South


Dinner at Knob's Flat

Dinner at Knob's Flat

In the morning we stop in Te Anau for supplies before heading to Lake Manapouri to tent at Lake View Chalets. It is a strange place littered with house trucks, antique cars, and rustic cabins. We hit the arcade to play some vintage pinball before calling it a night. In the morning we have to catch our boat to Doubtful Sound via Lake Manapouri for our overnight New Years cruise in one the most picturesque fiords in New Zealand.

Vintage Arcade at Manapouri Lakeview Chalets

Vintage Arcade at Manapouri Lakeview Chalets

Vintage Arcade at Manapouri Lakeview Chalets

Vintage Arcade at Manapouri Lakeview Chalets

Posted by ontarions 16:17 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

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