2019 New Zealand

30th January
Canoe trip down the Whanganui River
On Saturday we set off south to Ohakune hitting holiday traffic. We stopped for coffee at an Irish pub and a very poor sandwich en route. Gavin ran us through some formalities and then took us to the ski chalet where we were staying. He gave us a waterproof barrel and black box each to pack our stuff in. We bought some pasta at the local supermarket and cooked it for dinner. We turned up at the yard at 7.30 next morning and watched as they finished loading the canoes and gear onto a trailer. We met Cohen who was to be our guide and virtual slave for the next few days. After an hours drive and a bit more faffing about we were on the water on the Whanganui River at Ohinepane in our Canadian canoes laden with our barrels and other gear aboard. Cohen made us sandwiches for lunch, preparing them on a folding picnic table at Poukaria. We arrived at camp at Maharanui about 1700 and set up camp. Cohen carried up most of the stuff from the river and cooked our dinner, even providing a table cloth. We were woken early next morning and it was overcast. We lunched at Mangapapa and overnighted at Ohauora. Next day we had coffee at John Coull meeting the volunteer wardens and overnighted at Mangapura, walking up to the Bridge to Nowhere. The family we’d shared the previous camps with were lovely and their lads helped carry our gear up and down next morning. On the last day we had coffee at Tieke Kainga camp meeting a paid warden who was a rough diamond but kept the camp spotless. We managed to get through the frequent rapids successfully but on the final day we were cast out of our boat twice – the first time together with Cohen and the second time our canoe was submerged in the rapid for some time before a jet boat helped Cohen rescue it. Sue cut her leg on the second drenching but neither of us were suffering from shock. We were picked up from Pipiriki and spent that night back in the ski chalet.
New Plymouth
After saying goodbye to Cohen we set off for New Plymouth where we’d booked accommodation. We chose to drive down the Forgotten Highway which was very twisty and had a gravel section but was beautiful, particularly down the gorge. After checking in and unpacking we drove to the nearest supermarket and stocked up for the 5 of us. Kane and Jo arrived at 0130.
1st February
We drove into town, had a short walk along the coast walk then ate our sandwiches on a bench in town. We went into the museum where we saw an exhibition of tromp d’oile and another of domestic items from the 30s. We walked along a river walk and then drove to the beach. The facilities were amazing, paddling pool, children’s playground, showers, changing room and a great surfing beach. I tried to body surf but the waves weren’t right. Jo had bad stomach pains.
Drove to town and had coffee in surf/frisbee golf cafe, then drove for miles and had a short walk to some swamp. After a further drive we had lunch in Stratford where we found some slides for Ollie. Then we drove Dawson Falls where we walked up the slope of Mount Taranaki to a viewpoint. There was still some snow at the top of the volcano and the mosses and epiphites clinging to the trees were amazing. We called at a beach on the way back and Kane had a surf and Ollie a paddle.
Back to Auckland
We visited a market, had a coffee and walked over the whalebone bridge before setting off as the borrowed buggy couldn’t be returned before 1300. We had lunch en route and visited the 3 sisters beach taking Ollie for a swim.
Washed out and spent the day relaxing and looking after Ollie. We’re both feeling a little homesick and apprehensive about our South Island trip.
Very hot and we were very lazy-went shopping on Tuesday and to the beach in the late afternoon on Wednesday. In charge of Ollie Tuesday afternoon and evening.
Took the hire car back, shuttle to the airport and flew to Dunedin. We took the shuttle bus to our quarters in Geeky Gecko Backpackers. This was basic but the bed was comfy, the shower hot, Netflix on the TV and an adequate kitchen and spacious lounge. On Friday we walked a long way to the botanic gardens where we had lunch. It was sunny. We cooked a basic dinner and then went to a bar to listen to some average jazz. The centre of the city was packed. Sue is panicky about out future travels.
We hired a car on Saturday after moving our stuff to the Manor House Backpackers and drove down the Otago Peninsula and did the albatross tour. We went out for a pizza in the evening. It was again very hot on Sunday but Sue took me round to see the city’s street art which was amazing. We also visited the art gallery which had a display of modern Chinese art. We bought food for the next 3 days and then found the accommodation we had booked was unavailable so went back to Geeky Gecko backpacker.
We drove to Port Chambers, a sleepy place with a bustling container port where we had a coffee. Then we went to the Orokonui Nature Sanctuary where we had our picnic lunch watching birds like the kaka on a drinking table. We had an iced coffee and smoothie watching a DVD on the origins of NZ life. Social evening at dinner time.
Walked to the railway station-a Victorian edifice and then on to the museum which had a spectacular display of Māori items and a sad display of all the extinct moa birds-killed off by the Māori. We drove to Glenfallock Gardens where we had a picnic lunch and explored the valley. From there we drove to St Clair’s beach where we watched the surfers and had an ice cream.
Otago Rail Trail
On Wednesday we drove to the botanic gardens and had a coffee before returning the hire car. They kindly drove us to the bus station where we waited. The 3 hour bus journey to Clyde where we were met by Pat from Cycle Surgery and taken to our smart lodging. We had a lovely meal and then walked round the town which had a number of early buildings from gold rush days. Neither of us had a good nights sleep but Sue gave me a Valentine present. After breakfast Dave met us with our hire bikes. We cycled to Alexandra where we had a coffee and watched a video about the local geology. It was hard going to Chatto Creek where we had lunch. It was still uphill and into the wind after lunch and then we hit a rain storm. We were able to wash and dry our clothes and managed almost to dry our cycling gear.
A second day on the Trail. It was sunny but cool and my worry of sunburn didn’t materialise. We ate the half of yesterday’s lunch that I’d over ordered. Some of the going was hard and we’d both had enough by the end of the day but the scenery was magnificent. Our lodgings were magnificent and we had a session in a hot tub. We were picked up and dropped off by our dinner hosts and ate with a couple from Wellington. We had an upsetting night.
An easy day but cold. Wedderburn Tavern wasn’t open so we cycled all the way to Ranfurly where we had coffee, then lunch then browsed a few places before cycling to our accommodation which turned out to be a wing in a lovely Edwardian house. The hostess we found out had been high in NZs art world and she had adopted a Vietnamese baby after the war.
The best day on the Trail, mostly downhill, and through the upper Taieri George. We stopped for lunch by the river. Our accommodation was in an old school house with some self contained units built on and our meal a communal self service one of a high standard.
A shortish ride – about 2 hours arriving at Middlemarch at coffee time. After returning the bike and getting changed we had lunch and then waited for our transfer to Pukerangi to pick up our train. The journey was beautiful and I spent the whole time on the open air viewing platform. We walked our luggage to the Backpackers and had another meal of pasta and sauce, mostly with ingredients from our previous stay. The atmosphere in the kitchen/dining area was lovely with a few of them sharing pumpkin soup.
The Caitlins
Waited outside the Backpackers for our hire car. After booking in at the depot we set off north and visited Shag Point and Maraki Boulders before stopping in Oamaru at another Backpackers. We bought food and after dinner walked to the harbour.
Called in at the iSite and booked accommodation at Kaka Point and a visit to Stewart Island. Then we did one of the town walks which included a viewing point and the gardens. Unfortunately it was not very exciting and was tiring. We had a good time in the Backpackers talking to a young girl from Germany and a slightly older one from Bristol. Then a drunk started shouting and banging the side all directed at a lady who had asked him to turn the sound down on his phone. He kept coming back and shouting and swearing and upset everybody. The manageress was summoned and a mate escorted him to bed.
We left Oamaru and drove south to Tunnel Beach, which was a long climb down and very long climb back up. We ate our sarnies down there. Then we drove to Kaka Point and found our chalet. After a cup of tea we drove to Nugget Point, a spectacular promontory. Both places were very busy. We called at the hide nearby and watched the shore for 45 minutes but failed to see any penguins. We stayed in a cabin on a campsite.
Another day of sightseeing visiting waterfalls and a boardwalk. Stopped in a Backpackers at the most southerly point of South Island. We had a luxury en suite room.
Although it was raining the next morning we walked to Slope Point then on to see a petrified wood. We ended up in Bluff where Kate gave us a walk and voluble welcome. We had filled up with petrol and bought food for 2 nights and 2 lunches.
Stewart Island
On Sunday we were up early preparing lunch in time to catch the ferry to Stewart Island. I’d been worried about seasickness but unnecessarily and enjoyed the hour-long trip. We had a coffee on arrival and booked in at the Backpackers which was large and purpose built. Then we did some of the local short walks until I was too tired to want to continue and the rain came down. After a cuppa we went to the pub which was heaving and had fish and chips and joined in the quiz which was great fun.
On Monday we were up early and had tea and 2 ginger biscuits for breakfast before walking to the water taxi to Ulva island. We did all the prescribed walks and saw virgin forest, beautiful beaches and very tame birds. On our return we had a coffee and waited for the ferry back to Bluff. There was a very cold wind but it was dry. I cooked dinner in the company of 4 young Germans who had walked the 3000k from Cape Reinga.
Checked out and drove to Invercargill where we spent some time in Queens Park which was very impressive. After stocking up and filling the tank we drove to Riverton where we stayed in a cabin and had sweet corn and beans on toast and played table tennis. We had a lovely walk before dinner.
Poured with rain much of the day with high winds. We stopped at a couple of places on the coast after visiting an art gallery in Riverton and arrived in Manapouri early afternoon. We managed a short walk by the lake in between showers.
Up early and walked to the jetty for our trip to Doubtful Sound, collecting our lunch boxes. There was a boat trip on Lake Manapouri, a coach trip down a road constructed for the hydro electric power station, then a boat trip right down the Sound into the Tasman Sea. A highlight was when in the Crooked Arm we stopped and had 5 minutes silence, hearing just the waterfalls and a bird call. I cooked a BBQ.
1st March
We had a lazy day today driving the short distance to Te Anu, just visiting the DOC and iSite displays, eating lunch in the car by the lake, watching a short film about Fiordland before booking in at Barnyard Backpackers where we had a cabin high on a hill with views to the mountains.
3rd March
We had a lazy day just enjoying our surroundings then next day we were up for our most expensive activity. For some reason I was in a bad mood all day but once we boarded the Milford Mariner this evaporated. After the usual safety stuff and meeting the crew we cruised down the Sound in beautiful sunshine and anchored just inside. We opted to go kayaking and were lucky enough to come upon a substantial pod of dolphins who did acrobatics for us. We also took a brief dip in the icy (16^C) waters. The buffet meal was very impressive and then we had a slide show.
We cruised out to the Tasman Sea early and disembarked by 0915. A long drive to Queenstown in strong winds arriving at Damien and Suzanne late afternoon. We had a BBQ and conversation with David Croston.
We drove into Queenstown and parked in the gardens. After perusing them we had a coffee and then walked up the hill to the cable car station where we had lunch before getting the cable car back down. On We drove to Arrowtown in the morning and walked along the river after a coffee. From there we drove to return the hire car and on to the airport. Kane picked us up and we did a shop and then had a BBQ.