New Zealand, stage two of our global travels. Saying our farewells to Fiji we flew to Christchurch on 17th February on an easy four hour flight. Landing at Christchurch was a relief . Firstly, the temperature was a pleasant 20 degrees; secondly, customs and immigration was quick, pleasant and efficient ( well obviously we didn’t declare the possum!); and thirdly, our bags arrived the same time and place as us.
After picking up our hire car it was an easy two hour drive to Tony and Kerri’s near Geraldine (Tony is colleague of Dave’s from BTCV days). What a fantastic house, surrounded by farmland and with big garden. We were made to feel very welcome in their great house and huge garden and after a few beers, chatting about old times, we were able to unwind. We spent couple of days at Geraldine, shopping , sending emails, washing clothes and planning, before packing the car and heading off.
Our first stop was Mount Cook National Park where we pitched the tent amidst stunning views of ice-clad mountains. It was very peaceful except for the occasional rumble as a large lump of ice and snow detached itself from the side of Mount
The view of NZ's highest peak from near our campsite
Sefton towering above us. The weather was fantastic and we managed some good walks including a day hike up to the Mueller Hut (bright red mountain hut at 1800m) and Mount Olivier (1900m). This gave us exceptional views of Mount Cook, mountain ranges and Glaciers. Evenings were spent sitting outside the tent, sipping a few beers and watching keas dismantle camper vans, camping furniture and the new campsite toilet block.
After an overnight stay in the Ohau Valley we were definitely feeling beach withdrawal symptoms, and after a short stop at Wanaka, we hit the West Coast. This area has quite a reputation for wet weather and fierce sandflies. It did not let us down. We bought industrial quantities of fly repellant and anti itch creams (one amusingly called Itchy and Scratchy- well maybe amusing for any Simpsons fans out there). Call us wimps if you like, but we opted to stay in a cabin for a couple of nights at Haast Beach. Haast was only linked to the rest of the west coast by road in 1965 and it does still feel very remote and wild. We managed a few walks avoiding the rain- the beaches are magnificent with
huge driftwood (a rustic furniture makers dream!) and rainforest dripping with mosses and ferns. Then northward along the coast spending a night camping at Hari Hari. Not many tourists and campervans stop here- most are on their way from Hokitika to Fiordland -but the Hari Hari Motor Lodge Bar served a decent beer, magnificent pizza and humungous bowl of chips whilst we were surrounded by stuffed wildlife, various axes and saws mounted on the wall, along with the propeller of the Southern Cross Junior which, in 1931, piloted by Guy Menzies, made the record books flying from Sydney in 11 hrs 45 mins. The plane just so happened to crash in a marshy field next to the pub. We shared the campsite with two huge coal trucks (the motor inn also does vast meals for truckers!) which set off at 3.45 and 4.45am
Next it was on to Arthur’s Pass National Park. This is still part of the Southern Alps and has some magnificent alpine scenery- mountain beech forests, deep gorges and snow on the tops. The weather was again very sunny so we managed to do some more tramps/hikes up mountains, including Avalanche Peak (1833m) where we met a
couple of really friendly keas.
This is beginning to sound like a mad dash around South Island, and yes, we were getting a bit tired and the laundry was starting to build up. So we decided to head back to civilization at Geraldine, gather our thoughts, plan the next stage of the trip and hand back Tony’s guide books and maps. We stopped off at Mount Somers on the way for a short hike into the foothills and grasslands that overlook the Canterbury plain. There is such a stark contrast between the mountains which are very wild and rugged, and the flat agricultural land which is intensively farmed for dairy cattle and red deer.
Thanks for all the messages on our previous blogs....it is nice to know that someone is reading this stuff at the other end!!
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