South Island

A Taste of the South Island

After out trek in the North Island, we stayed for a few days in Wellington in order to get ourselves used to civilization and to get our clothes clean and dry.

Then we took the ferry across the Cook Strait to Picton, picked up a hire car and headed for Nelson. After one night in a motel we moved on to a B&B near Motueka. This was Fraser Highlands run by a New Zealand couple with Scottish connections and in a house with Scottish Baronial touches.

Fraser Highland B&B

Fraser Highland B&B

It stands in a magnificent location, overlooking Tasman Bay and the local mountain ranges. It was our first New Zealand B&B and convinced us of their merits.

While there we decided to continue our love affair with kayaking and went to the nearby village of Marahau to see what we could do. That was no problem – Marahau exists to get people doing outdoor pursuits – and soon we were being told the basics of sea kayaking.

Preparing our kayaks

Preparing our kayaks

The weather was very good – sunshine and light breezes – so we had it easy. We went to look at some of the islands in Tasman Bay then headed for a beach in Abel Tasman National Park.

Our kayak on a beach in Abel Tasman National Park

Our kayak on a beach in Abel Tasman National Park

You can walk to these beaches but it is much more fun to paddle there. Chris certainly enjoyed being on the beach.

Chris enjoys the beach in Abel Tasman National Park

Chris enjoys the beach in Abel Tasman National Park

But if you have a nice day and nice weather you will not be on your own, and so, by New Zealand standards, the place got rather crowded.

The bay becomes crowded

The bay becomes crowded

But we had a lovely day. Sea kayaking is more difficult than on a lake. The sea is seldom perfectly calm and getting ashore and going back to sea can be exciting.

Another excursion we had was to Wharariki Beach, near the north western tip of the South Island. On our way we called in at Te Waikoropupu Springs, which are natural fresh water springs with exceptionally clear and clean water.

Te Waikoropupu Springs

Te Waikoropupu Springs

You walk through the forest until you get to the springs and see a large river, You look around and see that the river does not have an upstream – all the water is coming out of the ground into the pool at you feet.

Te Waikoropupu Springs

Te Waikoropupu Springs

At Wharariki Beach, when you get to the end of the road you still have a 20 minute walk to the sea, much of it is through sand dunes. Those further from the sea have been stabilised for many years.

Photo from the Wharariki beach path

Photo from the Wharariki beach path

Nearer the beach the dunes are not at all stablised and are very difficult to walk up.

Sand dunes at Wharariki Beach

Sand dunes at Wharariki Beach

Chris thought the beach was pretty good but not as good as some of the West Australian ones.

Chris with a critical eye on Whirariki Beach

Chris with a critical eye on Whirariki Beach

I thought it compared well.

Whirariki Beach

Whirariki Beach

After three days of sunshine we set off for Fox Glacier, and weather to suit the name. This was a journey of 500 km over winding roads. New Zealand specialises in single track bridges, even on major roads. They are not really a problem as the roads are empty. But you do have to slow down as you approach a bridge to make sure that nothing is coming towards you. Some of the longer bridges bridges have passing places!

The famous view from Fox Glacier is from Matheson Lake and is the Southern Alps reflected in the waters of the lake. We went to the lake and went to the best viewpoint. We were there, the lake was there, the mountains were there but the weather was not. So here is a photo of some mushrooms we saw as we went round the lake. They are blue naturally, not as the result of the temperature, which was not very cold.

Mushrooms at Matheson Lake

Mushrooms at Matheson Lake

Our purpose in coming to the southern Alps was to look at one of the glaciers. Despite staying at Fox Glacier we went for a half day walk on the Frans Joseph Glacier. Both the Fox and the Frans Joseph are unusual in that they come down to the level of temperate rain forest. So much ice is made at altitude and the glacier is so steep that the ice comes down so fast that it reaches a low altitude before it melts. A normal glacier takes 800 years to transmogrify a snow flake at the top of the glacier to a lump of ice at the bottom. The Frans Joseph takes 80 years to do the same. But even these glaciers are retreating. The Frans Joseph ends 2.2 km short of where it was 100 years ago.

The Frans Joseph Glacier

The Frans Joseph Glacier

The glacier is vast – look at the photo below and note the size of the people below the rocky outcrop.

People on the Frans Joseph Glacier

People on the Frans Joseph Glacier

Walking up the glacier

Walking up the glacier

Our guide demonstrates how cool he and the glacier are

Our guide demonstrates how cool he and the glacier are

I indicate the direction from which the ice is coming

I indicate the direction from which the ice is coming

The glacier is steep

The glacier is steep

After our look at the Frans Joseph Glacier we moved on, but not before having a photo opportunity at the Fox Glacier.

View of the Fox Glacier

View of the Fox Glacier

We were on our way to Wanaka in the lakes area of the South Island. It is a very beautiful area, somewhat like a more extreme version of the Lake District.

Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea

But like the English Lake District there is a high rainfall and this we certainly experienced. The best view we got from our B&B is that below, for almost all the rest of the time it was lost in mist and clouds.

View from our B&B, Wanaka

View from our B&B, Wanaka

That day we went to Queenstown, where there was heavy rain, but on the way we stopped at the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump where the weather was quite good. Neither of us had any inclination to jump but there was no shortage of jumpers, some more eager than others, providing thrills and entertainment for the onlookers.

Recovering the jumper at the Kawarau Bridge Bungy

Recovering the jumper at the Kawarau Bridge Bungy - part I

Recovering the jumper - part II

Recovering the jumper - part II

It is a 43 m jump

The end of the jump

The end of the jump

The people jumping ranged from young, macho, backpackers to little old ladies.

The start of the jump - or was he pushed?

The start of the jump - or was he pushed?

But after that the weather settled in wet so although we found lots to do – Puzzling World was very good, and the Wanaka Cinema is well worth a visit – there was little opportunity for photography.

It was while we were in Wanaka that the Christchurch earthquake struck. We didn’t feel a thing. Chris was in a supermarket at the time and noticed that some of the hanging placards were swaying but it was only later that we connected the events.

New Zealand has a very British ambiance, where exciting things should not happen; and when they do the shock is so much greater. It will be interesting to find out what is to happen to Christchurch – will it be built somewhere else or will they continue in the same place.

Anyway we had to get to Christchurch Airport 2 days after the quake and on our way over the Lindis Pass we found one of the great unchanging things – sheep need looking after earthquake or no. Cars halt for the sheep and one senses ones importance in the world.

Moving sheep on Lindis Pass

Moving sheep on Lindis Pass

Waiting for the sheep to pass

Waiting for the sheep to pass

Christchurch Airport was very busy but certainly not chaotic. We were on our way to the Coromandel Peninsula in the North Island and that will be the subject of my next blog.

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