South Island West Coast... Sounds, Jetboats, Cotter's, Glaciers and Kayaks!

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February 21st 2012
Published: February 22nd 2012
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Hi Guys!

We left Invercargill after our mamouth blog writing session and travelled to Te Anau before night fall. The next day we were up early as we had booked a trip to Milford Sound. It was raining so we weren't hopeful for beautiful views! Ferg, our bus driver, picked us up from our campsite and drove us about 2hrs to Milford. On the way we stopped to look at different points of interest. Our favourite spot was called 'The Chasm', where the river rushes down over the mountain and creates lots of weird and wonderful shapes in the rocks. The last part of our journey took us through a tunnel in the mountain which connected us to Milford. It was hard to believe that it was dug out by hand and before it was made, people used to climb the mountain in order to deliver mail and goods. The road down to Milford was really steep and windy; it reminded us of a road that would be used on an advert to advertise a 4 wheel drive car. Once we were in Milford we boarded our boat, 'The Lady of the Sound' and were welcomed with a BBQ lunch. Anton and I piled our plates high and enjoyed our food as the boat left the wharf. About 10mins later we realised we were suitably stuffed; Anton even had to leave some of his food!!! We made our way up onto the top deck to take in the scenery and were so pleased that the sun decided to come out and show us what Milford Sound should really look like! We were able to see some seals and were then taken to an underwater discovery centre to see the fish and wildlife than inhabit the sound. Due to the tannin in the water, it is quite dark and therefore a lot of fish that would normally live in deep waters, can live in the shallower waters of the sound. We liked seeing the strange shapped coral that they had managed to cultivate. After our time in the discovery centre we headed back on the boat for the trip back to the wharf. The skipper took us under a waterfall that apparently had magical powers, that if you got sprayed with the water and rubbed it into your skin, you would look 10years younger! Needless to sat, Anton and I donned our raincoats and headed right to the front of the boat! We both got the spray of the waterfall and rubbed it vigorously into our skin! (we are still waiting for the results!!) Once we were back in the wharf, Ferg took us back to Te Anau. We weren't able to eat any dinner that night as we were still too full from our massive lunch!!

The following day we drove to Queenstown and spent the afternoon looking around the town. The next day we were booked onto a jetboating trip on the Dart River, so we spent the morning in Queenstown and then boarded a bus to take us to Glenorchy. We were the youngest people on the bus and were a bit worried that we had booked a trip that was meant for pensioners! Once we got to Glenorchy, we were split into two groups; the first group went jetboating and we went for a drive to see the backdrops of films such as 'Lord of the Rings', 'Vertical Limit', 'The Hobbit' and 'Wolverine'; as I hadn't seen any of them, it didn't really mean much to me but Anton was pretty enthralled. It was beautiful nonetheless. Next we were taken on a walk through a beech tree forest (We could now understand why we were with a bunch of pensioners!). There were three species of beech tree in the forest but none of them were actually beech trees! When the botanists came to name the trees, they were in such a hurry that they didn't look at them in detail and just thought they looked like Northern Hemisphere beech trees, so that is what they called them. In reality, these trees look nothing like beech trees, they even have tiny leaves with no resemblance to the beech leaves. However, it was too late to unname them and so it stuck. Following our walk we were taken to the jetboat. We had to wear a big waterproof jacket and life-jacket but unfortunaltely, Anton missed out on getting a jacket. We boarded the boat and went on a thrill seeking ride down the Dart River. Our guide, Shayle, did 360's which managed to keep soaking our side of the boat. Poor Anton was absolutely wet through! Once the jetboat adventure was finsihed, we had a soggy drive back to Queenstown and made our way to Lake Wanaka.

We only spent an evening in Lake Wanaka before driving to Lake Hawea to visit Paul Cotter's (my boss) dad, Dick. He was so thrilled to see us and made us feel so welcome. He is 85 but is like a 65 year old! After a lovely lunch of whitebait frittas (made by Dick), we went to look at his garden and all the lovely fruit and veg he grows. Anton cannot wait to start a vegetable patch when we get home! Dick then took us around Lake Hawea. We visited the holiday park that he owned until 2009 and then went on to visit his son Jimmy and his wife Rebecca. jimmy was about to head off to work on a flat that he owned and Rebecca had to go and pick up their boys from school, so they said that they would come by for a drink later that evening. Next we went to visit Dick's other son Michael and his wife Michelle and ahd a cup of tea with them. They also said that they would pop by later that evening. We spent the afternoon talking to Dick about his family of 6 children and his life in Lake Hawea; he was so interesting and told great stories! Anton and Dick prepared some nibbles and Jimmy, Micheal, Michelle, Rebecca, Patrick (Jimmy and Rebecca's 9 year old son) and Ollie (Jimmy and Rebecca's 4 year old son) came over for a drink. We had a lovely evening chatting to them and I had to smile at how all the men share the same laugh (even Paul). After the visitors left, we had a steak dinner and Dick persuaded us to stay an extra day!

The following day, we packed up a flask (Dick was still using his stainless steel flask from 1952!!) and went and picked up some sandwiched from the local shop before heading on a day trip to Arrowtown and Skippers. We were going to see the places that the Cotter family inhabited. Arrowtown was so lovely and quaint. All the shop entrances still had an oldy worldy feeling to them and it was very picturesque. Dick took us to a tree called the 'Mary Cotter Tree'. When they planted the trees in 1867, a 3 year old Mary Cotter (I think this may be Dick's Auntie) was told that if she danced around the tree, they would name it after her! Ever since, it has been Mary Cotter's tree! I had a little dance just to try an reinact the moment!! We had a cup of tea and cake in Arrowtown and Dick so made us laugh by noticing the girl in the cafe had very large lips! He said he couldn't take his eyes of them and when we left he said, 'I must go and say goodbye to the lips' Anton and I were in stitches. Next we drove to a place called Skippers. It was a very long, dusty, steep and bumpy road (we were glad we weren't in our campervan!) but luckily Dick had a 4 wheel drive. Our first stop was Skipper's School which Dick's dad (Pat) attended in 1901. The school hasd been restored and is now open to the public. Inside were photos of the residents of Skippers and some photos pf the school children. Pat and his siblings were in some of the photos. We had lunch on the table in the school grounds and listened to some more stories of the Cotter family and how they came to live in Arrowtown and Skippers. Next we went to Skippers Bridge and collected some big flat rocks. Dick told us that his dad used to throw rocks from the bridge to to river below and the sound used to sound like a gun shot. Of course we had to have a go, so Anton, Dick and I climbed onto the railings of the bridge and threw our rocks into the river; it was great fun and did sound like a gun shot. A passer by even asked us what the noise was he had heard! Following that we went to see the foundations of the house that Dick's dad lived in from 1901-1913. There wasn't much left but it was still interesting to see and imagine the family living there. We could see the school across the valley and imagained the children walking to and from there everyday. Lastly, Dick showed us how to pan for gold! Unfortunately we weren't lucky and didn't even find a slither! We didn't get home until gone 6pm but Dick was still full of beans and booked a table for us at his local restaurant, Sailz. We got ready and went for dinner and had a wonderful evening. It was the end to a brilliant day. The next day, Dick was up and ready for Mass and we got ourselves packed up to leave for Franz Josef. We said goodbye to Dick and are looking forward to his next visit to England!

We drove to Franz Josef and had a quick lunch before being picked up for a glacier climb. When we reached the tour shop, we were given a jacket, trousers, socks, boots, cramp-ons, gloves and a hat. Next we were taken on a bus to the glacier and had to walk about 45mins to reach the base it! We had so many layers on that we had to remove them as we walked because it was so hot! We were then taken up a steep, loose rock pile by our guide Rooke, which was hard work! I was worn out before we even started the glacier climb. We had a quick snack before putting on our cramp-ons and being split into two groups. Anton and I ended up in a group with a guide called George. We were a bit annoyed as he spent ages asking us our names, where we were from and what we liked to do, whilst Rooke's group were already on the glacier. Once we finally got going it was good fun. We climbed up ice-steps that the guides had made and were able to see an ice-hole that had been formed in the last few days. The ice was melting quite rapidly though and the actual glacier had receeded vastly over the last few years. They are worried that it may go completely in the next ten years! Lots of the ice was covered in a grey silt which didn't look too pretty but on our way down, we were able to go onto some white ice which was much prettier! By the time we reached the bus to take us back to the tour shop, our feet were very sore; we were glad to get our boots off! We got back to the tour shop about 7:30pm and were then taken back to our campsite. With our trip we were given a free trip to the glacier hot pools, so we packed out swimming things and headed to the hot pools. When we got there the lady asked us if we wanted to upgrade to a private pool for $24 instead of $42. We decided to treat ourselves and opted for a private pool! We were not disappointed! We had our own heated changing and bathroom, with heated towels and then walked outside to a lovely glacier hot pool all to ourselves! It was very romantic.

The next day we had a 6.5 hour drive to Motueka. We shared the driving and stopped a couple of times and managed to make it before dark. We went to bed early in readiness for our kayaking trip in the morning. We were up early the next morning and were picked up at our campsite to be taken about 30mins down the road. It was the scariest 30mins drive we had had! The driver drove so fast and was taking corners that almost made the bus go on two wheels! I think we felt safer in Thailand! Luckily we made it one piece and were greeted by our guide, Roy. It wasn't great weather and they had forecast rain but we were hopeful that it would hold off! We were in a group with two other people, Sahida (pronounced Cider) and Jonathon who were from Birmingham. Roy told us he was from Bedford originally but had lived in New Zealand for 11 years and his wife was originally from Devon (small world!) We got our life-jackets on and were taken to the Aqua-Taxi, which drove us to Awaroa Bay, where we were going to set off on our kayaks onto the Abel Tasman Sea. We put on spray-skirts and got in the two-man kayaks. I was at the front and Anton was at the back and in charge of the rudder! We headed out onto the sea and paddled to our first point. We soon realised that Sahida and Jonathon were not that great at steering and were zig-zagging their way to the point! We managed to see some cute seal pups and loved being out on the ocean and the sun even started to shine!! Roy took us into a place called Shag Harbour which was so quiet and peaceful; the water was so clear that we could see fish swimming under the kayak! Next we stopped for lunch at a little bay and had a rest for about an hour. By this time the sun was really hot and everything looked so pretty. After lunch we paddled out to sea and on the way we spotted a little blue penguin, it was so cute! Once we were out to sea in the wind, we were able to do some kayak sailing; it was great fun but the waves coming up over the kayaks made us quite wet! We headed back inland and near to the beach that we were going to finish, Anton and I challenged everyone to a race back to shore. As we were so competitive, we won the race hands down! (Aching today though!) We took the Aqua-Taxi back to the base and said goodbye to Roy and our new friends! We were a bit worried when the same bus driver got on the bus to take us back but he actually drove a bit slower on the way back! When we got back to our campsite we had a shower and then had a small dinner before making some pancakes! We had a jolly good tossing session and ate the pancakes with our favourite toppings!

This morning we headed to Nelson. It was tipping down with rain so we decided to find an internet cafe to write our blog. This afternoon we are going to go to the cinema and then we are spending the evening with Hugh (Liz's husband who works here during the week). We get the ferry to the North Island tomorrow morning. Our adventure in New Zealand is nearly over :-(.

Lots of Love to you all, Kate and Anton xxxxxxx

xxxxxxxxx for our special little people

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23rd February 2012

Wonderfull time in South Island
My haven't you both done so much recently, i did enjoy this latest blog. The photos to are so colourfull, it all looks so clean and bright out there, especially the mountain scenery. I bet that was a great experience having the hot pool to yourselves and not everyone can say they have done that whilst in NZ. Everyones fine at the mo, the usual colds and bugs are doing their tour of duty as we are in that winter mode and looking forward to spring which we hope is just around the corner. We are pleased you eat pancakes like we did on Shrove Tuesday. You take care now and make the most of the time you have left. Love Jackie and John xxxx

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