Saturday, November 18, 2006

Franz - Makarora - Queenstown - Te Anau - Steward Island - Christchurch - Kiakoura - Nelson - Motueka

Well – we’ve had a little more luck with the weather! As soon as we got about an hour or two from Franz the skies started to clear and the sun proved it was still there. We stayed in this backwards out of way place with only one bar (what a change!) called Makarora, which in itself was very pretty. We work up early to go jet boating only to find out that they won’t go unless there are four of us (there was just Rob and I) so we ended up going for a walkabout in the forest for an hour.

Makarora in the morning

Ferns in the forest

After a quick stop in Wanaka we headed to the ‘extreme’ capital of NZ – Queenstown! Last time I was here in Queenstown I didn’t do any of the activities (apart from drink and eat) so this time we decided to cover the Shotover river as neither of us were that fussed about bungying. We did a jet boat and then took a helicopter up Skippers canyon and white water rafted down.

The jet boat was awesome. It goes stupidly fast and spins around and goes scarily close to the canyon walls. All good fun! It was freezing though – not that it made much difference to us as we were going to be in a raft within the hour! The helicopter ride up the canyon was wicked – especially as the pilot pointed out the road we would have had to take otherwise – a windy skinny dirt track on the edge of a very steep cliff face! Then it was about an hour and a half of white water rafting down – after the Tully the rapids were fairly tame, but the fact that the water is 4oC makes you super scared of being flung in the water (unlike the Tully where you get in voluntarily several times!), it was fun, but it cold and an hour and a half was just the right amount of time! One of the reasons we wanted to raft the shotover was the 170m tunnel at the end that you raft through – it was the best bit!

After this we met up with an old school friend of Rob’s and had a few more drinks than we needed and then got on the bus at 7am the next day to get to Te Anau – a good place to start if you want to do any of the walks in the area.

How cool do we look?!

After finding out the Milford track was booked until about March, and the Routeburn was waiting to be bombed to remove the risk of avalanche, we settled on the Kepler. We cheated on the first day and instead of walking along the beach from the start we took a water taxi to the end of the beach and started on what is known as the ‘grunt’. Straight up for about 3 hours from sea level to 1000m. After we popped out from the trees we had great 360 degree views of the surrounding area (Te Anau Lake & Manapori Lake) – from here it was a short 45 minutes to the hut – our first NZ hut experience! The hut was awesome! It was quite quiet (we are at the very start of the ‘tramping’ season really) so we had a section of bunks to ourselves – I can imagine it gets quite nasty when it’s full of hairy sweaty snoring hikers! We cooked ourselves some dinner and then went off with two fellow walkers to find the nearby caves. All natural and not restricted the caves we wicked – I was having Harry Potter flashbacks and therefore didn’t go too far in to explore but Rob and others went right in and they went on for ages! Very cool.

First hut of the walks!

The second day was the worrying day – the weather hadn’t been forecast that great and we weren’t exactly the best-prepared people out there! Because you were fairly high (around 1000-1400m all day apart from the last bit), any rain forecast for the area would have been sleet or snow where we were – great! We were very lucky with the weather though, and although it was SOOOO windy (I think I actually got blown over about 3 times due to the extra weight of the pack and gusts of wind coming exactly when I lifted one leg!!) we – thankfully – didn’t get too much rain / snow / sleet. We took the 10-minute side trip minus packs to the summit of Mount Luxmore and then spent most of the day struggling along in the wind. It was extremely dramatic scenery – snow covered saddles between two mountains that you knew you had to walk along – some of them had very long drops either side and with the wind I was constantly nervous of getting blown off the track!

The mighty Mount Luxmore waiting to be climbed!

It's very windy, very cold, and we are very tired - but we at the top of the highest mountain as far as we can see!

Look closely on that snowy ridge. People. This is when we realised we'd have to walk along that snowy ridge!

Look closely on this photo too and you can see the track

We did a side trip after dinner again – to a waterfall this time, we got to see a nasty possum on the way back to the hut – all very pretty, all very peaceful. The last day we decided to skip the last hut and walk straight out – it made it a really long day (23km) but it was worth it to know that at the end we were going to get a nice dinner and more importantly – a shower!! By the last hour we had both had enough and the aches and pains had got worst but we made it to the end and got the bus back to town.

A nice waterfall

By far the hardest bit of the walk was from reception of the holiday park to our room – all of about three and a half minutes, but after having sat and waited for the bus for about 45 minutes and then sat in the bus for another ten, both of our bodies had decided we had walked enough and didn’t want to walk anymore!!!

It was a great trek, and we covered about 50km in the three days and gave ourselves a huge confidence boost to do more walks. How very quickly you forget the agony it was to move about the day after we got back!

We spent the next few days recovering and then hopped back on the bus for the Milford Sound cruise and onto Tuatepere. We had THE best weather for the Milford Sound cruise, blue skies and hardly any wind – made a lovely change!

Me on the boat.

One of a million Milford Sound waterfalls.

We stayed overnight in Tuatepere and managed the early start to get to the farm to shear a sheep, play with a lamb and a calf and watch the working dogs do their stuff. A very entertaining morning and well worth getting up early for!


After the farm we went down to catch the ferry over to Stewart Island for our next walk – The Rakiura Track – another one of NZ’s Great Walks.

It wasn’t as good as the Kepler and it was a lot harder on people who have bad knees (i.e. us) because of all the steps you have to go up and down. Most of it is a boardwalk type track so we spent a lot of time looking at our feet as it was wet, muddy and slippery – I’m sure we missed some of the scenery because of this!! We had all sorts of weather – luckily whenever it was snowing or hailing or raining we were under the trees so we didn’t get too wet! The morning after staying in the first hut we walked along the beach for a bit and saw dolphins!!

On the beach!

Me crossing the first of three extremely scary bridges!

One of the huts.

Rob looking dashing in his hiking gear!

One of the many beautiful bays!

We then spent a couple of nights on Stewart Island not doing all that much before heading back on the bus.

We expressed from Stewart Island to Christchurch – with an overnight stop in Dunedin. We then slept on Steve’s floor for a couple of nights before heading off again on the bus (our free tickets allow us to go around the South Island as many times as we want in a year) up to Kiakoura for a stop (we didn’t do anything apart from decide that next time we come through Kiakoura we would do the dolphin swim) then got the bus to Nelson.

I'm ashamed to admit i've forgottne where this is.. somewhere between Dunedin and Chrstchurch that's stormy. ;)

Moraki Boulders on the beach...

A few yellow-eyed penguins on the beach - these guys are really rare so we were super lucky to have seen them!

Now – Nelson is the one place in NZ that gets the most sun of all NZ. And – just like last time we got to Nelson, it was pissing down! Not just a shower, but a full on, good 48 hours worth of heavy rain. We were supposed to head through to Marahau, but we hopped off in Nelson as the place the bus stops in Marahau is a bit…. Primitive (to say the least) so we opted for a warm cosy backpackers instead. We then hopped back on the bus the next day and we are now in Motueka.
We’re booked onto the kayak trip (3 days up the coast, then a water taxi back) starting tomorrow 8am – very excited, the weather is perfect right now (sunny!) and if the wind drops just a little then it will be the best weather ever! So fingers crossed it blows itself out tonight.

We got back to Christchurch about 3 weeks before we planned to, so we might do a couple of extra things on this go round. Next big stop is the glaciers to do the heli-hike, another weather dependant thing. I predict some more waiting coming up!

Until next time, keep smiling!

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