Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Week That Plans Changed

We had a great weekend in Okarito. Our hope had been to spend some time on Saturday exploring the glaciers at Fox Glacier and Franz Josef, but once we'd driven over to the towns we found the cloud base to be really low along with frequent showers which made the idea distinctly unappealing! We headed back to our quiet seaside spot and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon fossicking for greenstone on the beach, enjoying a coffee at the local coffee shop, and (unsuccessfully) hoping to hear a kiwi at dusk.
Mt Tasman over Okarito lagoon

Sunday dawned much brighter allowing us to enjoy a morning kayaking on the lagoon at Okarito. We didn't see as many of the wading birds as we'd hoped, but did at least get to watch several of the white herons that are unique to that part of the world. Sunday afternoon we finally got to see Fox Glacier which was fairly impressive, though the camera battery was dead so we don't have much to show for it!

Some of the best weather we saw all day at Wanaka

We took the opportunity of another wet day to get a lot of driving done, skipping down to the very south coast and some time in the Catlins including a trip to the most southerly point on mainland New Zealand. The hills here are a much bleaker landscape than the mountains we'd become accustomed to on the west coast, but very pretty in their own way. The wind was rather viscous along this coastline as we found out to our detriment as we tried to pitch our tent on Tuesday night. Caught in a gust mid pitching we ended up with one of the poles snapped and forcing it's way through the canvas in a way that would make you wince if it was someone's arm, on top of which the other two poles were bent too. We cut our losses and drove on to a hostel for the night while we could work out a plan.

The most southerly point of New Zealand

Resigned to the fact that our tent isn't fixable we decided to cut our time on the South Island a little short as we couldn't sort an alternative in Christchurch so going north was the was way forward. While this has meant not seeing quite as much here, it should enable us to see areas of the north we were going to have to skip over initially so the loss isn't huge. We've found this week that most larger campsites here also have a set of basic cabins containing simply a couple of beds and access to the communal kitchen and bathrooms which has been an ideal short term solution, though we're now looking forward to having a bit more flexibility again. 

One or two red billed gulls nesting

With only a few days to see the highlights of the east coast we've been doing a bit of a whistle stop tour. We spent a morning at the Royal Albatross Observatory where the birds were just arriving for their breeding season. One male was sitting fairly close to the hide making his nest, which was great but hard to get an idea of the size of these enormous birds. We did also finally manage to see one in flight where it clearly dwarfed the neighbouring gulls.

Feeding time with the disabled penguins

An afternoon at the International Antartic Centre provided us with much amusement, complete with a ride in an Haagland (overland all terrain vehicle), time in a blast chiller to get the true Antartic experience (!), and feeding time at the penguin rescue where they look after various blind and lame birds. We also stopped in at the Ashford Craft/Factory shop where Joe got some advice on how to adjust part of his spinning wheel and resisted the urge to just buy a new flyer, or any wool for that matter! Thoughts of excess baggage are doing wonders to curb shopping tendencies!

Near Hanmer Springs

One of our overnight stops was in the town of Hanmer Springs, so naturally we went and spent some time unwinding in the thermal waters - a great way to unwind before continuing the next leg of our journey. We made it back to Picton on Friday evening and then took great pleasure in doing as little as possible on Saturday morning before checking in for our ferry at lunchtime. I say as little as possible... there might have been quite a bit of knitting involved! Our ferry crossing turned out to be an hour late and a rather choppy crossing, much less pleasant than our outward leg, but after a good two weeks on the South Island we're now back to the north and the next stage of our journey.



  1. It sounds as if you are having an amazing time! Call it living vicariously but I love reading your updates. Alison Griffiths

  2. Reliving our trip to New Zealand through your posts!

  3. The scenery is just fabulous! But hopefully the weather will improve as you go further north. Have fun.

  4. How thrilling it all is, despite ruined tents and rain! Wonderful pics, great that you saw an albatross....and how cute is that little


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