Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Motueka – Collingwood – Heaphy Track – Westport – Punakiaki – Franz Joseph – Makarora – Queenstown - Christchuch

Able Tasman was at it’s best for two of the three days, the weather was awesome – and it was probably for the best that the majority of day two was cloudy as otherwise we would have had some serious sunburn! It was a great three days – and although the company we went with messed up our booking and instead of staying in the huts we ended up camping, we both ended up thinking that it was probably best that they did mess it up as by camping as we got to stay in some small campsites that you could only access by the water. Very cool.

Me and the kayak!

Split Apple Rock.

View from the lookout at campsite number one.

Both very glad that we waited for the weather to clear up as the scenery was stunning in the sunshine. We saw some gorgeous little bays, lots of seals, lots of birds and finally – some lovely sandy beaches. It’s the first time in months (and literally months) that we have been able to wear our boardies for 3 days in a row!!


View from campsite number two...

Beach - a real beach!!

After some recuperation in Motueka we decided that we would do the Heaphy Track (another of the great walks) – it’s the longest out of all the great walks (~85km) and takes a good four days to complete. We arranged with Stray (after three phone calls) to pick up our bags in Motueka and us in Westport (460km away) in four days time and started the walk. The first day was quite easy – the second day was long (27km) but an awesome walk through the red tussock fields that seem to go on forever. The third day was a nightmare of 6 hours of solid rain, where we discovered: 1) why most people walk in waterproof boots, 2) that the ‘waterproof trousers’ we had bought could only live up to the ‘trousers’ part of their name and 3) we did not like hiking in the rain… especially for 6 hours. But despite 1, 2 & 3 we also discovered that we although we didn’t like walking for 6 hours all soggy - we could, and weren’t that worst for wear of it afterwards. The last day was a nice easy walk and because we left early we got the best of the weather (it was nice and sunny for when we walked along the beachy bit and then we were under the trees when it started to rain!) and a lift to Westport by another couple that left early too – saving us a nights stay in the little town you end up in after the walk and $80 in bus fares! Result!

Red tussock land.

Lush west coast.

West coast inlet.

After a brief visit to the brewery in Westport we got picked up by the Stray bus and then managed to persuade the driver to drop us in Punakiaki rather than Barrytown for the night. A lovely little hostel by the beach, a nice pub meal and a sleep, then we were off to Franz Joseph for our second attempt at the Heli-Hiking.

After waiting two days the sun finally came out – which transformed a dreary little town into a stunning alpine village. Finally we could see why people would choose to live there! We booked onto the last heli-hike of the day and sat around watching films & the weather until check–in time.

It was all very ‘cattle’ like – everyone in – everyone pay – everyone out, but once up onto the glacier I think it was worth the money. Although almost everyone I’ve spoken to who has visited New Zealand has hiked on the glacier it’s still one of those things that you rarely get the chance to do (especially if you live in Europe). It’s also one of those things that won’t always be there for you to do either. I can highly recommend it to anyone who gets the chance – the photos don’t nearly do it justice.

Me with talonz on...

Climbing up an ice crevice...

The Mighty Glacier...

Me in a frozen tunnel..

From Franz we went to Tuatepere for the night again – via Lake Matheson see photo below! - and then onto visit Wanaka quickly before heading to Queenstown for the next couple of nights. We found a very nice little hostel (by accident) that charged the same price for a double as most of the other places in NZ rather than the extra $15 they seem to put on everything because it’s Queenstown! After an evening of pizza and beer we were ready to do something adrenalin creating the next day and Rob got to pick the activity. He wanted to paraglide off of Coronet Peak (one of the mountains around Queenstown), but when we called the company it was a mainly handgliding company who had one paragliding pilot. So I decided I would handglide having already had a go at paragliding-ish post sky-dive a few years back.

Lake Matheson

It was all very strange, you get set up and then run quickly off the edge of a ridiculously big mountain. I hadn’t really thought about handgliding before so I made the assumption that the handle/bar in front of you was where you ‘hold on’. It’s actually the ‘steering wheel’ and you are harnessed from your middle to sort of dangle. Very weird as it was a natural instinct to hold on and felt really silly when you didn’t! We had perfect conditions and actually climbed up to a higher altitude than where we jumped off at one point. The landing was very scary as you just sort of go head first towards the field and your feet drag along the grass. I wouldn’t say that I’m about to run out and buy a handglider – but it was fun and the views we had that day were awesome. The few photos and video that they took for us are pretty funny; we both went at the same time so we are in each other’s videos too!

Me running off hill...

Just after take off..

Me flying and smiling.

So now we are back in Christchurch trying to figure out what we are going to do for the next four weeks before flying out to "we're-having-a-military-coup-Fiji". Christmas and New Year are looming ever closer and we still don’t know what we will be up to! Diving sounds like an appealing option as long as I keep my mind off the water temperature! It’ll all work out I’m sure.


Frances Coxon said...

Your Nan and I (Frances) have spent a happy half hour looking at your pictures. They are great. You seem to have done so much. Hope you are both well. Your Nan says Happy Christmas to you both. Looking forward to seeing you when you get home (whenever that is!)
Love to you both,
Nan Coxon and Frances Ron and the rest. x

nick said...

hi, is there a website which shows the bus from queenstown to franz joseph ? thanks