Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Thursday 31 January 2008 - Fun around Queenstown

We are now installed at Kinloch Lodge, at the end of the road north of Queenstown, ready for a 9.30am lift tomorrow morning to start the Routeburn track, making it into a circular walk by returning via the Caples track.
Today has been another hot day, although there were a few drops first thing as we ate our breakfast outside! Much as we both would have liked to climb Ben Lomond (around 1700m) behind Queenstown, there wasn't time due to scheduled afternoon activities. So, we walked up to a small summit using the Millenium walkway. Once through the dark pine woods, we emerged to views across Lake Wakatipu, over to the gondola with Ben Lomond behind, and to mountains surrounding us. ...And only three other people all morning (high season?)!

A full afternoon has been had on a rafting trip on the Shotover river, which started with a scary bus ride over the Skipper's canyon road. Single track, this dirt road has precipitous drops below which is a downhill mountain bike track. Having survived this, the rafting was a pleasure. We were one of nine rafts on the 2-hour, 14km section. The river was clear and blue, at the bottom of a steep-sided canyon most of the way. The first half involved practicing the techniques that would be required, then the second half saw us on grade 3-4 rapids with names such as 'the squeeze', 'the toilet', etc. In places there was only just space to get a raft through the rocks on either side and we got wet several times. At the end was a 170m tunnel, with a rapid that caused one of the other rafts a problem, when it got stuck!
Since then, we've eaten great fish and chips at PJ's, and driven north for over an hour, with more glaciers coming into view.
Looking forward to using the hot tub here when we finish - so, no more from us until monday evening!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Monday to Wednesday 28-30 January 2008 - Mount Cook Lifts its Veil

Monday morning - woke to clear skies and fine views of the Southern Alps. Paid our farewells to Pam and Rob, and whilst they set off to work we spent all day over 330km in search of new horizons. Rewarded by fine views en route and a nice camping spot near Mt Cook Village. Short walks and a camp meal were followed by a lovely sunset. Mt C had just about poked its snout out of the clouds.

Tuesday - woke to the competing sounds of a flock of Kea birds and an insomniac JCB. The JCB won. So it wasn't long before we were up at the Tasman Glacier, the longest in NZ, from where Mt Cook's snowy summit towered above its sharp final ridge, radiant below a vermilion sky, over 3000 metres above us. Icebergs disintegrated noisily on the lake below us. Then it was back to camp and up a 500 metre Alpine Thrutch to Sealy Lake, with more fine views to Mt Cook and several stupendous hanging glaciers. Sue swam vigorously before a late lunch. It was about 30C up here, a hot day. Then down via Kea Point (no Keas) then along the Hooker Valley to beyond the second suspension bridge from where we got yet more (and our closest) views of the highest point in NZ - 3754 metre Mt Cook. We blame the Heat; we felt a bit tired, so it was a welcome early night after a fine home cooked salad and local wine. The day had been hot and cloudless.
Wednesday - Milky Way views overnight made way for a cloudy but bright morning for our leisurely drive to Bowness on Windermere, sorry, Queenstown. En route I was not tempted by the low flying attractions of the old Kawarau Bridge's bungy industry. Sue was attracted, but will save her aerial adrenaline for later in the trip. Deco Backpackers here in Queenstown has a fine view and good facilities to set us up for the next phase.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Sat & Sun 26 & 27 January 2008 - Weekend in Christchurch

Our remaining day in Singapore was spent exploring the Chinese quarter, with the added flags for the Chinese New Year celebrations (2008 is the Year of the Rat), then climbing a hill! The hill in question was Mount Faber, 116m high, and overlooking Sentosa Island and the harbour. Despite the size of the hill, the humidity resulted in a sweaty walk up through the forest, which was alive with the sound of birds and insects. It rained at the top, but, strangely enough, it was quite pleasant! From the summit, the enormity of the city is obvious. Time had now run out and we used the efficient MRT to transport us back to the beautifully cool Chiangi airport.


Tomorrow we head off into the Southern Alps from Christchurch, but our trip has started on a high in this 'garden city'. Our hosts, 'Pam the artist' and 'Rob the surfer' have been generous with their insider knowledge and their home in Sumner. What a place - we have eaten breakfast on the deck with a view over the city, Avon estuary, Pacific ocean, curving away with its white surf into the distance, and the Southern Alps on the horizon, which have become more defined as the weekend has progressed. Nights have been perfectly quiet, producing deep sleeps only halted by the mewing of Mogglet who wants to jump on the bed once the morning is light.


Christchurch's botanic gardens were a feast for the eyes (and nose!) after landing on Friday, and Cathedral Square was buzzing with crowds enjoying the sunshine and the entertainment as part of the World Buskers Festival. Our hearts were in our mouths as 'Space Cowboy' firstly swallowed two swords, then proceeded to juggle two jungle knives and a fire torch, whilst blindfold on the top of a 3m monocycle!

Saturday dawned overcast but the weather improved all day. 'Silver Bullet', our hire car, was thoroughly tested on the Summit Road to Akoroa. Hundreds of mountain and road bikers were out, seeking the thrills and views from the rim of the volcano that makes up Banks Peninsula, despite the low cloud. Our destination was the French-influenced village of Akoroa on a harbour, which we reached at lunchtime, having scared ourselves on the dirt road leading to Pidgeon Bay, with its precipitous drop on the climb up!
Low tide was essential for the afternoon's walk along a narrow peninsula near Barry's Bay - the orange volcanic rock contrasted well with the blue water of the harbour and the green of the surrounding hills and by now, the cloud had broken up, producing a fine afternoon.

Today, we had the pleasure of paying a surprise visit to Sarah, Anthony and Lara, who have now lived here for five years. Thanks for the coffee! Godley Head gave us another excellent walk, from the car park at Taylor's Mistake (why is it so named?). Our route involved a 100m tunnel to a gun emplacement built in 1939 at the entrance to Lyttleton Harbour, Christchurch's port. Windows in the tunnel meant that torches weren't needed.

Our New Zealand lamb dinner has just made a lovely end to the weekend, despite the view from the deck being obscured by our washing hanging out to dry! We head to Mount Cook village tomorrow where we're intending to camp in the light of a reasonable forecast.