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Published: January 17th 2016
On the way to the blue penguin colony
Hi all now in Fjordland.
Left Lincoln and the dogs early as had severe sinus allergy. But ok now.
Drove down to Omarau where the blue penguins colony is. Omarau town has wide streets of an old Victorian town, cast iron filigree around the buildings. Waited until 9pm to watch the blue penguins swim in to the hides. 4 rafts came in, rafts terminology meaning groups of penguins. Over a couple of hundred came in overall. They swim to the beach, then waddle up the bank into their purpose built hides. This works well as keeps the vermin away. All spectators had to be quiet, and no photography was allowed. But earlier on, spotted all these penguins, shags, cormorants sitting on this abandoned pier in separate groups as though they were waiting for dusk so they could go to bed. A few seals had dozed on the footpaths. Later on when driving away, it was madness, these penguins that hadnt t made it to the hide, and were lost, were waddling round in the road..
Next day set off to Mount Cook to meet up with Sue's brother and family who have been holidaying in Wanakka for 6
Very beautiful drive between the mountain Range. And driving the last hour the scenery of Mt Cook with an aquamarine blue lake running alongside the road was spectacular. Apparently lucky with the weather, blue skies. Usually it's swathed with clouds.
Had taken food with a view to camp, but the weather for the next day was forecast strong winds and rain, so luckily managed to find room in the lodge. Did a walk to the Hooker Valley crossing over 2 swing bridges, very dramatic. Then all met up at the mountaineers cafe. Fun had by all. In the night the wind and rain was horrendous, thought the roof was going to blow off. Made breakfast in the camp kitchen with the food I thought was going to use for supper. Said goodbye, they fly back to the uk, and set off.
6 hours later arrive at Te Anau.
It had rained all day, so it makes sense to do a big drive. Driving through Queenstown, was nearly at a standstill, didn't realise why at first. UB40 Red Wine tour at the local winery, thousands expected. Found out later had to be cancelled at the last
minute because of the heavy rain. By the time got to Te Anau, blue skies, chilly southerlies, still in shorts.
Always been on my bucket list to do a float plane. Sue had said there's only one place in NZ you should do this, and that is over the fjord land to see the sounds and mountains. Called in at the tourist office, the woman was so friendly in there. And guess what, Adam the pilot who owns wings and water has a passenger that needs to be dropped off at Hauroko Burn Hut on the Dusky track, she then said would you like to have an extra hour or so flight, at no extra cost. Answer YES..... These trampers (walkers) just seem to go off with there rucksack ladled with noodles, tent and sleeping bag and walk for several days. It's normal?? Some of the peaks are over 1000 metres. Booked it for the following morning at 9.30am. Went to the local pub called The Ranch and had ribs, then went to the local cinema. This cinema was built by the local helicopter pilot. He had helped film Lord of the Rings, realised what a beautiful scenery he
On the road
flies over every day, and made a dvd with the help of the Lord of the Rings crew. An amazing dvd. Google Fjordland Ata Whenua hopefully it's on YouTube.
9.30am next day. Where we are staying is a 2 minute walk away. Adam the pilot, Kylie his very pregnant wife and little 18 month Ellie May were having coffee and breakfast in the office. The cowl was off the floatplane engine, with a mechanic inside it. ? Pavel a 60 something Lithuanian with a large rucksack, claiming it weighed 25 kilo, (35k I reckon) was also there. This was the tramper. A lot of cloud cover in the mountains, it wasnt boding very well. A magneto problem on the plane. Hung around abit, a decision was made to fly at 6.30pm. So took the 2 hour tour over to the glow worm caves. This is a sight that has to be a must. All these worms that glow in the dark. Again total silence and you walk on these walkways, ducking under very low caves, huge waterfalls in the cave, screaming streams, then they put you on a little boat with an electric boat that seats 14 people, this
is the max each time. No hard hats, no health and safety. Just so natural. A real feel good factor. There was thousands of glow worms just looked like stars within touching distance. Again no photographing was allowed. Only New Zealand and Australia have these.
Dashed to the float plane, blue skies now, the cloud had lifted and really excited. Pavel and his large rucksack got into the plane, and we were off. Adam the pilot has been flying since he was 14 and prob in his mid 30's. His wife flies as well. Extremely competent, knowledgable, friendly, the biggest smile all the time, a great guy. Full of information of the area, cloud formations, etc and more etc.
You didn't feel at all like a tourist. Took off and straight away into the mountains, seeing waterfalls, tarns, vegetation so varied as you go over the snow line, up to the snow peaks, through the gorges and ravines at times quite close - stops the plane from being buffered.
Such an amazing sight being so close to the proximity of the flora and fauna on the mountains. It's just so surreal.,
Flying over lake Hauroko and
descending, Adam is looking for debris on the lake, floating branches etc, then he lands. He taxis round for a few minutes looking for the hut, then starts heading up a river that was lined with fallen trees. The water was about a metre deep as clear and had an innocence about it. There is a Maori queen as legend has it habiting there, who seduced people to stay there, then they disappear. Adam beaches the plane and we hop out to have a look at the hut. Sand flies attack you straight away. The Maori legends say in beautiful places they don't want tourists, so the sand flies keep you away. The hut reminds you of a Maori Marae (meeting house) a gigantic bunk bed that will fit prob 10 mattresses on each bunk. A cooking area and a large wood burner. Different never seen anything like this before. This is the norm for trampers. You do need a permit though, and Pavel seemed to think I would be interested in getting one. Maybe I am starting to look more like a kiwi? Helped Adam turn the plane round, then made our way down stream avoiding the Floating trees
and branches till we got to the open lake for a take off. Dipped the wing as we flew over the hut and set off to the Doubtful Sound. I can't begin to describe the experience and the scenery. It is something that will always be with me. It was incredible. Nearly 2 hours later we landed on lake Te Anau. Adam loves his job, loves people who love the scenery and wanted to show off his country to those who appreciated it. Would recommend this to any traveller, and it made me think, do you know what ' I would like to do a tramp for a few days'. Gets you back to the rawness of nature.
Slept in this morning with yesterday's excitement. This turned out well as have managed to avoid the 50 million tour buses/Asians going into the Milford Sound. Drove to Homer Tunnel 1.2k long a very basic tunnel, originally started by hand, took 19 years to complete. This type of tunnel would not be allowed in the uk. Drove through it and the drive down to the sound of 24k can take up to an hour. It's hair pin bends constantly and then
View from the room
full of Asians at the bottom. Did a u turn at the end of the tunnel and 10 minutes later parked up at the Routeburn Track. This is one of NZ scenic walks. Walked the Key Summit 919metres fabulous 369 degree views of the mountain range. Took 3 hours return,and every single person you saw had one great big smile on their face. Even the groups of Asians that got up there, they turn up everywhere.
Off to Queenstown tomorrow for 3 nights. Sue is meeting up with an old friend. Wifi can be quite intermittent here and not downloading properly. Will put photos on, but expect more to follow.
Queens town 18 - 20 Jan
Lake Tekapo 21 Jan
Mount Cook 22 Jan
Wanaka 23 -27
Then start heading up the west coast to Franz Josef glacier, then Abel Tasman 2/3 overnight kayak/camp
I don't need to say this is an experience of a lifetime.
Next blog as and when
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