A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand

Queenstown...

...night clubbing and adrenaline

all seasons in one day 25 °C

Arriving at Sue's sprawling property, we have a feeling that we are in for some high end wwoofing duties. She owns and runs guest accommodations called Punatapu just outside of Queenstown. The rooms are furnished with rustic antique pieces and are fit for a king or Land Rover Executives. In a few days there are people from Land Rover coming to find accommodations during the Rugby World Cup in September 2011. Sue is very calm and mild in preparing for the possible deal. She knows her amazing property with spectacular views and well maintained suites will do the talking for her.

Sue's Property

Sue's Property

Sue shows us our accommodation located at the back of the goat/deer paddock. At the foot of a small mountain sits our very own restored cabin with heaps of character and rustic appeal and with 300 degrees of mountain views (I'll let the picture do the talking). We absolutely love it!

Our Little Cottage

Our Little Cottage

Front Entrance

Front Entrance

Our Bathroom

Our Bathroom

Front Porch View

Front Porch View

The work at Sue's consists mainly of keeping her native trees alive, weeding the lavender garden, removing invasives from the native pond area, repairing various items, and once again feeding a baby goat its daily milk. Sue has a bunch of Angora goats which she has left to shed this year instead of having them sheared. The paddocks are strewn with goat hair and that also requirs our attention to gather. The baby goat is a handful to say the least. Sue doesn't seem to mind the fact that he can escape under the fence and roam about freely to munch on various rose bushes. I fix that problem quick, since most of our first couple days are spent finding him causing trouble and luring him back into the fenced in area with another bottle of milk.

Julie Weeding Pond

Julie Weeding Pond


Julie Weeding Lavender Patch

Julie Weeding Lavender Patch


Julie on Feeding Duty

Julie on Feeding Duty


Angora Goats

Angora Goats


Kitchen at Sue's

Kitchen at Sue's


Mountain at Sue's - Lake Wakatipu

Mountain at Sue's - Lake Wakatipu

On one lovely hot afternoon we venture into Queenstown to have a wee nosey about the shops and wander through the Gardens on the peninsula. The TSS Earnslaw gives tours of Lake Wakatipu from the harbour, but we didn't feel like supporting the coal industry. The century old vessel is the last remaining coal-fired boat still operating in the southern hemisphere today. Queenstown is very touristy with endless shops, cafes and late night clubs to blow our savings very efficiently. We resist all temptations this round and return to Sue's for a hike up the small mountain at the back of her lot with big views of Lake Wakatipu.

Queenstown Harbour

Queenstown Harbour

The bustling town beckons Julie on Saturday morning for the weekly art and craft market. It turns out to be outstanding and very reasonable to purchase some one-of-a-kind souvenirs. After the market we make a crazy stop at the Salvation Army where rich weekend visitors to Queenstown donate their unneeded clothes. Julie buys a new wardrobe of mint condition merino wool sweaters and t-shirts. Lets just say she was quite pleased with herself as she is slowly trying to build her wardrobe with natural materials rather than synthetics.

With our extra wwoof hours we've been adding up each day, we take a couple of days off to explore the Glenorchy area. We decide to head to the Rees-Dart Track to the Kea Basin. The weather over the past week has been dry and hot resulting in low river water levels which is convenient for us as the upcoming river crossings on the track shouldn't be a problem. Sue gives us the forecast before we take off in the morning, and unfortunately they are calling for heavy showers in the area but that doesn't deter us. It is a beautiful drive north along the shores of Lake Wakatipu towards Mount Aspiring National Park and some of the greatest treks in NZ.

As we pull into the cleared parking area deep in the forest at the trail head of the Rees-Dart Track tiny drops begin to hit our windshield. The drops get bigger and bigger and fall faster and faster. Julie forecasts a raging Rees River in the near future. Our plan was to ford the Rees and hike up to the Kea Basin on an unmarked side trail to a magnificent glacier and curl up under a rock bivy for the night. But with the heavy rain forecasted we may not be able to get back across the river tomorrow. So we err on the side of caution and change our focus to reaching the summit of Mount Alfred.

The rain is off and on during the steep zigzag through dense beech tree and fern growth. As the trail emerges from the grasps of shady overgrowth to open alpine grasslands the rain becomes heavier. Like usual, we are prepared for any type of crazy NZ weather so we put on our rain gear and press onward looking for the cairns leading us up the loose rocky path to the rounded summit of Mt. Alfred. A rocky outcrop provides us with shelter from the wind and rain allowing us a quick nibble while we gaze below at the braided Dart River emptying its frigid glacial contents into Lake Wakatipu. As we are resting our legs, the clouds start breaking up and the hot sun suddenly emerges. With new energy we press on to the summit, passing deadly sharp spaniard plants and waving tussocks. After a short scramble up loose rocky scree, we reach the exposed, flat top of Mount Alfred (1386m) and a 360 degree view. The Dart River valley is to the west with the snow capped Humboldt Mountains beyond and the Rees River valley is to the east at the base of the Richardson Mountains. Both of these magnificent braided rivers flow into Lake Wakatipu to the south. The winds howl across the top of the mountain forcing plant life to grow horizontal to the ground. We spend an hour exploring and photographing all corners of the peak and its views until it is time to descend back down the mountain.

Lake Wakatipu from Mt. Alfred

Lake Wakatipu from Mt. Alfred

Facing North from Mt. Alfred

Facing North from Mt. Alfred

Facing South at Lake Wakatipu from Mt. Alfred

Facing South at Lake Wakatipu from Mt. Alfred


Top of Mt. Alfred looking at Dart River and Humbolt Range

Top of Mt. Alfred looking at Dart River and Humbolt Range

After a speedy hike back to the car, we drive over to Kinloch to fix dinner along the shore of Lake Wakatipu at the DOC campsite. After eating, the skies turn evil on us once again and the thought of setting up and taking down a wet tent lead us to try to drive out of the rain. We drive back up to the trail head of the Rees-Dart Track to sleep in our car, hoping the rain will cease and we will make it to the Kea Basin in the AM. Well, the rain pounds down most of the night and there is no way that the river will be passable. The small creeks that we forded with our car to reach the trail-head last night are now raging rivers as we drive out of the forest putting the Kea Basin off for another day.

River Fording

River Fording

We head to Glenorchy to get a weather update, eat breakfast, and check out the town's waterfront. Luckily, there is an endless list of multi and single day hikes in the Glenorchy area, one of which is the popular Routeburn Track, a NZ Great Walk. With our time we decide to hike up to Hawea Flats which is home to the first or last hut depending on which end of the track you start. It's a gorgeous walk through rich rainforest, past waterfalls and mountain vistas, but with the cloudy sky most of the peaks are hidden for now. We just can't capture how rich with life the forest is, the lichens, mosses, fungi coat every inch of the beech trees. Hawea Flats is an amazing wide valley engorged with grasses and a stream pinched between towering mountains. After taking in the amazing scenery, we return to our car. The decision is made to lay the backseats down again and bunker down for the night in the Routeburn parking lot. It's a good place for the night as there are decent bathrooms (so Julie says) and running water.

Routeburn River

Routeburn River

Routeburn River

Routeburn River

Hawea Flats on Routeburn Track

Hawea Flats on Routeburn Track

Waterfalls on Routeburn Track

Waterfalls on Routeburn Track

In the AM, being very determined people, we head back to the start of the Rees-Dart Track for the third time. The weather is perfect, so it's on! Our packs are light as this is just a 6 hour day hike. We make our way along the marked Rees-Dart Track reaching areas where the track runs alongside the Rees River demonstrating evidence of massive flooding and erosion along the banks. Parts of the trail alongside the river are completely gone. We've been hiking about an hour and I realize that I forgot the topographic map showing the unmarked Kea Basin trail and its trail head. We have a good idea where the trail starts so we continue onward. Knowing we have to cross the Rees River to get to the Kea Basin trail we begin our attempt to pass through this large roaring beast. As we reach the middle of the powerful river the numbing glacial water creeps above our knees and we decide to turn back. The water levels were still very high from the recent rains and combined with the river's power it isn't safe to cross. We continue down the track and end up totally over shooting the turn-off to Kea Basin. We figure it just isn't meant to be. We decide to start the hike back to the car. Julie is hiking in front of me through a marshy area and she takes one step with muddy water reaching her ankle, but with her next step she sinks up to her knees. The recent heavy rains have made this one of the wettest hikes we've done and inside our boots our feet feel like they are getting a water massage. Despite our prune-like feet the hike up the Rees is very rewarding. This is our first tramp up a massive river valley flanked with soaring peaks and views of glaciers.

Start of Rees-Dart Track

Start of Rees-Dart Track

Rees River and Lennox Falls

Rees River and Lennox Falls

Lacing Up Wet Boots Beside Rees River

Lacing Up Wet Boots Beside Rees River

So, after three failed attempts reaching the basin we return to the comfy confines of Sue's place. She is happy to see us return safely, as she was watching the weather closely while we were gone. The next morning Sue has a few odd jobs for us to complete before saying goodbye and parting ways. We make the quiet drive to Te Anau where we meet Linda and Nathan, our couch-surfing hosts for the night.

Tui on Flax

Tui on Flax

Posted by ontarions 13:41 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

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)

(Entries 26 - 30 of 38) Previous « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 8 » Next