Monthly Archives: February 2020

A Loop through the North

We headed up the east coast to catch up with friends at Kaikoura. A walk along the shore showed how the shoreline has changed when it was lifted by a metre in the 2016 earthquake. We continued to the north west past the vast vineyards in the Marlborough region and across to the Cobb Valley from where we set out on an overnight walk.

We started under clear skies but the cloud quickly rolled in and we completed the day’s walk past the atmospheric Lake Peel in fog. It lifted for a moment and we were pleased to see the hut appear. We were dismayed to arrive and find that there was no longer gas supplied to the hut so we had to light the stove. It did an excellent job of heating water but it also heated the hut which we didn’t need. A family arrived in the late afternoon and shared their gas stove with us so we didn’t have to warm up the hut. We decided to head out the next day and were pleased to have beautiful weather with the bonus of fog in the valley.

We made for the west coast to revisit Wharariki Beach with the attractions of sand dunes, photogenic islands, caves and seals.

It was then time to start back southwards and after a night near Nelson Lakes where we were swarmed by sandflies it was good to head up to Arthur’s Pass where the shelter ensured we could hide from the much reduced numbers. After visiting the spectacular waterfalls we headed inland. I was hoping to walk through Cave Stream but as I waded in and it quickly became apparent the cold water was going to be at least waist deep I chickened out and we just visited both ends of the cave.

Staying at Lake Tekapo gave me the opportunity to photograph the lake and famous Church of the Good Shepherd in pleasing light though I couldn’t escape the crowds.

We then moved on to Mt Cook where we set out on the Hooker Lake walk in good weather. Unfortunately as we headed up the valley it started to haze over and we soon realised we were once again under smoke from the Australian fires. With rain in the evening it cleared for a clearer view in the morning. We also had our closest encounter with keas as they had a lovely time trying to pull an awning to pieces.

One last night at Arrowtown and a stop to watch the drama of the Shotover jets and we were on the plane back home.

Walking down south

After the other visitors had left us we picked up a small camper and were free to camp as we pleased. I finally got to stop and photograph some picturesque ruins I had spotted on our numerous trips up and down Lake Wakatipu then headed for Mavorra Lakes, a locals’ paradise, and we soon found out why. There were two lakes with a river between and lots of beautiful scenery.

On our way to the Divide to begin our walk into Howden Hut where our daughter is the summer ranger, we stopped to enjoy the scenery along the Milford Rd. A rainbow showed off the end of the showers and the many places to pull into along the road provided lots of varied scenery, mossy forests and reflected mountains.

It was a misty walk into Howden Hut which showed off the mossy forest to perfection. As the weather cleared in the evening Jess and I ducked up to Key Summit so she could clean the toilet and make sure the puddles were draining properly. It was my first visit of three over our stay, seeing the panorama in different light every time.

Rather than make the trip along the Routeburn Track on our day trip which we had walked before, we headed off along the Caples Track to Lake Mackellar and then up a well-made, gentle track to Mackellar Saddle. Back at Howden Hut we enjoyed the changing light over the lake as the sun lowered.

With the clear skies, Jessica and I headed for Key summit for sunrise and were well rewarded. As Ray and I walked out we also headed up and I saw it in full sun with blue skies – the postcard shots.

Five days after we left New Zealand Fiordland had a massive flood that knocked out roads and stranded many people. Howden Hut was hit by a landslide in the middle of the night but luckily there were no major injuries to the 32 people at the hut though the hut is written off. Jessica was not on duty and has now been relocated to repairing infrastructure on the Milford road. Here is an article about the ordeal.

We joined Jessica, who now had 6 days off, at Wanaka and walked into Aspiring Hut while her husband was on a canyoning course. It was an easy walk through farmland to the hut but the heat and lack of shade made it seem longer. Unfortunately the side trip to the impressive Rob Roy glacier was closed so we just had to peer through the gap.

We had two days to explore so we chose the easy options while Jessica climbed high. While we walked to the head of the valley she climbed 1000m to French Ridge Hut and then once back in the valley ducked up to Liverpool Hut, only 600m higher. It was our turn to climb the next day as we headed up to the tree line on the Cascade Saddle track. Naturally Jessica climbed all the way to the saddle!


Dunedin to Wanaka

We had time to ourselves before picking up our son and girlfriend and delivering them to the airport. We headed for the east coast beginning with Moeraki Boulders as the tide came in. a visit to Kapiti Point saw us miss out on seeing yellow-eyed penguins as we did last time but lots of sea lions and a nesting colony of gulls.

Dunedin is full of beautiful, granite buildings, especially the railway station which is the most photographed building in New Zealand.  Tunnel Beach was made by a father excavating a tunnel through the soft sandstone to a beach to provide a private beach for his daughters to swim.

We had a last night in Wanaka before dropping the young ones at the airport. We made the most of our visit with fish and chips from a van and a visit to the famous Wanaka tree. The next day it was over the amazing road across the Crown Range.

A belated Christmas

As Jessica and Nick were in NZ for Christmas we decided to join them with the family. They were working on Christmas Day so we all headed over for the New Year. We flew into Queenstown and drove down the lake to stay the night as the tourist town is so expensive.We took a side trip to Glenorchy the next day before finding our historic accomodation at Bannockburn Post Office.We awoke to find the fires from Australia had caught up with us in the form of smoke. We could smell it in the orange haze as we read the papers and kept up with the heartbreaking news.On this day we visited a couple of old gold mining areas – Bendigo with deep shafts into the hillside and Bannockburn where all the soil had been sluiced out by water to find the gold.Next destination was the Catlins where we wished we could send some of its rain back to Australia. The showers alternated with sunshine but we managed to stay dry on all our walks – mostly to waterfalls and the coast. Cathedral Cave did get us wet though as we tried to sneak around the corner as the waves rushed in.A night at a lighthouse was our final night together as we stayed in the keeper’s cottage overlooking the impressive location of the light.

For another viewpoint please read my daughter Sara’s blog.