Published: March 23rd 2007March 23rd 2007
It's been at least three weeks since our last update and we have moved all the way up the west coast during that time. We've moved on every two or three days and continued to stay in a whole range of accommodation - it's been absolutely brilliant.
So. let's pick up from last time Monday 5th March - Doubtful Sound - wow - what a fantastic day we had. We set off across Lake Manapouri on a grey, overcast morning with a promise of rain. The mountains were shrouded in low cloud, which was a shame, but it all added to the atmosphere. On reaching land an hour later we were picked up by coach and taken 2km underground to the Manapouri Hydro electric power station - perhaps not quite what we expected on a cruise - but very interesting all the same - 10% of the electric produced is enough to power all of Auckland or the whole of the South Island!
Once back on the road it was over the Wilmot Pass through rainforests and steep sided valleys to Deep Cove where our catamaran was awaiting our arrival. We spent the next three hours enthralled by
the towering peaks and bush clad islands of the Sound. Total isolation (no other boats to be seen), total wilderness and a huge conservation area. Lots of seals, but no dolphins on this occasion. It was a brilliant day out and one we will not forget.
It was into gold mining country next - Arrowtown - the town was straight out of a wild west movie - but without the cowboys -we really like it here. We donned walking boots and tramped the 'Sawpit Gully Track' taking us up and over the hills following the route of the logging that took place in the area. Brilliant local musuem - oh and we didn't find any gold while we were here.
From Arrowtown to the Kawaran Bridge - home of the first bungy jump - we stopped and watched, were tempted, but the queue was too long - shame!
We drove over the Crown Ridge to Wanaka - the highest tarmac'd road in Australasia! It hairpinned its way up the side of the mountain - the views were fantastic!
We spent a couple of days in Wanaka, doing some more walking and then drove the Haast Pass
- have I mentioned the scenery here - round every corner there is a new vista - another photo opportunity - another lake, mountain, forest - it is amazing!
Our next highlight was to take place on Monday 12th March - Fox Glacier - we had no idea what to expect or why Fox and Franz Joseph were unique - but we were soon to find out. On arrival at Fox wer made enquiries about the glacier walk (well, you have to do these things don't you!) - 'today would be good' we were told 'the weather is due to deteriorate tomorrow!'. So at 1.45 we reported to be kitted out with leather boots, crampons, waterproof jackets and overtrousers and evern thick woolly socks - did they know something we didn't? They did!! What an experience.
A short coach journey, an hour's tramp up a 'secret' track through bush regenerating from previous glacial advances took us high up to where we were able to step out onto the frozen world of Fox Glacier. Wave-like formations of solid (blue and white) ice surrounded us, we couldn't see the top nor the bottom and had to keep to the path
that was chipped out for us by our guides. We weren't able to spend long on the ice due to the heavy rain that had been with us since the beginning of the trip. The Fox runs 13km from top to bottom down the valley terminating amongst temperate rainforest. The glacier advances and retreats depending on the accumulation of snow at the top and the speed of melt at the bottom. Overall the Fox has been advancing since 1985.
Overnight snow fell and covered many of the lower mountains with a dusting and it turned really cold. The low cloud meant that there was no sun and mirror qualities of Lake Matheson weren't very good - but we managed a couple of piccies.
From Fox on to Hokitika - glow worms and wetland forest walk and then on to Punakaiki. We stayed at the Beach Hostel - a real beach bummers shack - it was like home from home!! We sat on the verandah watching the rollers as they made their way inland - and hot muffins for $1 - brilliant! We had one day where the rain just did not ease all day, but this
was definitely the place to be on a wet Saturday - we read and played cards and just soaked up the atmosphere - this travelling is quite tiring, so it was nice to have a day of rest!!
On the Sunday we visited the Pancake Rocks - rock formations that look like stacks of thin pancakes - apparently even the geologists don't know how they were formed - we visited at high tide and experienced the various blowholes too - the sea would spray up at various points ie the chimney would like as though it was smoking- cool (as they say).
Moving on from Punakaiki and the rain to the sunshine and the warmth. To the apple orchard and vineyards.
To come - Marahau and the Able Tasman, then on to Nelson .......
There are more photos below