Martin

Martin

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Saturday 9th February 2008 - Rob Roy Glacier walk

Yesterday, after visiting the Nature Reserve in Te Anau, which looks after injured birds, such as the rare Takahe, we drove north in the Silver Bullet (pictured above) to Wanaka, to the aptly named Mountainview Backpackers. At Kingston, at the south end of Lake Wakatipu, we picnicked on the shore, with the whistle and hiss of the Kingston Flyer, a black steam engine, just ready to depart.

In Wanaka, enjoyed more warm weather in the garden till about 9.30pm.

Today, we drove to Mount Aspiring National Park along 20km of unsealed road, with my legs wobbling as the car juddered over the uneven surface. The Rob Roy Glacier was the object of today's walk, along the track towards the Aspiring Hut, then across a suspension bridge and up a side valley, through fine birch woodland with splendid ferns. At first the path was great, then we came across a notice suggesting that the path had been 'upgraded'. Mmmmm. In actual fact, the Department of Conservation, had, in my view, been the Dept of Destruction, in producing a motorway through the native bush, completely ruining a lovely woodland walk. I steamed up it, to escape its clutches above the treeline, where views of the glacier took my mind off the dreadful path. Actually, the glacier hung just above us, with a number of waterfalls below. The Hawkweed (very similar to a profusion of dandelions) created a carpet of yellow.
I prepared an a la carte lunch whilst waiting for Martin, who arrived in time to spend a happy hour admiring the views towards Rob Roy Glacier and elsewhere:

At last, a Kea! These parrots are green, with red under their wings and have very sharp bills. This one was intent on investigating the contents of two rucsacs that had been abandoned near us! They have been known to pick out the rubber of car windscreens around Mount Cook - when the driver sets off, the windscreen falls in!!!

Nice lunch spot, then we followed a very narrow path up the hillside. Martin turned back but I continued, over a few precipitous areas, until the path ran out, with an excellent view of the upper part of the glacier and a lovely waterfall.

It was my turn to drive back along the horrible dirt road, but speed did the trick! The car was happier over the surface and Martin even managed to sleep, woken by a jolt as I hit a hole in the road - oops! Today we learnt that 'cattle grids' are 'cattle stops'.

The evening has been spent outside, over a dinner of garlic mussel salad washed down with a bottle of Marlborough Chardonnay, hence the rambling. The overcast sky has cleared this evening - blue skies prevail.

Will tomorrow be 'Sky Dive Day'?

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Thursday 7th February 2008 - Sea kayaking on Doubtful Sound

5.45am alarm, 6.20 pick up by Blake from Fiordland Wilderness Experiences for a 20km drive to Pearl Harbour at Manapouri - fantastic bright red sunrise over the mountains to the east. Seven of us on the day trip. Ferry across Lake Manapouri takes another hour, then it's a 45 minute drive over Wilmot Pass, the most expensive road in New Zealand, despite it being unsurfaced ($6 per inch!!!). It was built to bring in turbines for the massive hydro scheme here. Finally, we are in Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound and soon after 10am we set off in four double kayaks to explore the inner reaches of the Sound. Actually, its not a Sound at all. Its a fiord, the difference being that sounds are created by the sea flooding a river valley and a fiord by the sea flooding a valley created by glaciation. It's definitely the latter here.

On the way to our lunch beach opposite Elizabeth Island, we spot some of the pod of Doubtful dolphins, and Blake spots a penguin, one of those rare ones. We only hear its scream. The high green walls of the fiord tower above us, with signs of tree avalanches as everywhere in the fiords. Splashes of water douse the cliffs, much less than normal due to the dry weather. Sandflies are a feature of the launch and lunch spots but thanks to Daphne's advice on the use of Ultraguard (DEET), they rarely land on us. Lunch was on a small shingle beach, which became smaller as the tide came in! Just about room for us all and the stove for a brew. A river flowed in nearby - no need to treat the water here, as no humans around to cause giardia.


After half an hour, we're back on board to a sea with greater swell and an escape from the clouds of sandflies. Still many kilometres from the sea, the swell, together with the mushroom clouds, indicates bad weather on the way but we return safely, with winds only just strong enough to enable us to sail. Sailing is done with two kayaks side by side, front paddlers holding the bottom corners of the sail and keeping the boats together, those in the rear holding the rigging high aloft, fastened to their paddles. When the wind dies, one of the front paddlers gets covered in a wet sail!

On return, Deep Cove is full of Real Journey's day trippers but they are gone by the time we have packed our gear and set off back up the steep road. En route, we visit we visit the hydro tunnels, two 10m wide tunnels and stop for the magnificent view of Doubtful Sound from the Wilmot Pass road.

Back at base soon after 6pm, gave us plenty of time for a welcome beer on the veranda of the Redcliffe Cafe, and good meal at La Toscana. Now to Wanaka.....

Ken - Good luck in the Canadian Ski Marathon. May the wax be with you!

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Tuesday 5 and Wednesday 6 February 2008 - A night on Milford Sound

Our evening at Kinloch Lodge was spent relaxing over a very nice meal - thanks Dot!

Tuesday was mostly spent in the car on the extremely scenic drive between Kinloch, an hour north of Queenstown, and Milford Sound, via Te Anau, which proved to be a nice lunchspot for a sandwich overlooking Lake Te Anau. As we arrived at Milford in the late afternoon, so the crowds were leaving. We boarded the Milford Wanderer (along with a Kontiki coachload of young people!) and headed out on the Sound under skies that were blue with a layer of high cloud, gazing at Mitre Peak at 1600m that rises straight out of the blue water.
Unfortunately for us, the waterfalls weren't at their best, since, instead of having the usual 2 out of every 3 days with rain, they had experienced only one day's rain in the last 14! At Anita Bay, on the edge of the Tasman sea, the yacht anchored and some of us went sea kayaking whilst others went out on a launch (this included Martin who saw a rare fiordland crested penguin). Dinner was served on board before we motored back to Harrison Cove, seeing bottle-nosed dolphins on the way who were playing with a large eel, to spend a very comfortable night. The crowd were not party animals after all!

Only a few of us were up for sunrise about 6.30 this morning and were treated to red clouds for a couple of minutes over the glacier towering above us. Worth getting up for! After motoring out to the Tasman sea again, it was back to harbour, via a couple of New Zealand fur seals and the tall Sterling falls.


Now, we're in Te Anau, enjoying a super-warm evening, but feeling a little disappointed - our 2-day sea-kayaking trip is now only a day. The reason? There are 45 knot winds due on friday, our second day, which means that if we kayak in, we may not be able to get out! So, its only a day out tomorrow with five others and a guide. At least we have another 3-day trip planned later on!!

Monday, 4 February 2008

Friday 1 to Monday 4 February 2008 - The Routeburn and Caples Tracks

Friday
Three hours to cover 9km and 500m of ascent in forest on a well built and busy track in increasingly intense rain, to Routeburn Falls Hut. Full of dripping people with dripping clothes, rucsacs, sleeping bags etc. Our mapcase leaked. Riflemen (the local bird) flitted beside the path, which passed over a good number of narrow suspension bridges. [Note to Betty: you wouldn't like it!] Very slippery in the hut! Impressive waterfalls. Bush dripping with lichens, liverwort and ferns.
Saturday
A cloudy start. Alpine path to Harris Saddle past Lake Harris, a remnant of glaciation. A side track up Conical Hill is in cloud. Eric, descending, says "no view, 4 degrees C", so we decide to ascend the steep 250m slope. Obvious viewpoints reveal nothing. Reach the top after 40 mins. It is blue above us now. We are just above the cloud, with mountains poking out all around. 19 degrees C, rising over the next 2 hours.

We spent that time brewing, lunching, chatting to others and watching the cloud inversion slowly and completely disappear.
Superb views along the Hollyford valley, all the way out to Martin's Bay on the coast, and across to glacier-draped mountains. Finally drag ourselves away to return to the Saddle, then a 3-hour belvedere walk at around 1200m, before dropping to the excellent Lake MacKenzie Hut. But the lake was too cold, even for Sue to wash in (Ed - but I paddled!).
The last steep section is being desecrated in the interests of tourism. Huge white bags full of stone chippings are to be used to pave the lovely woodland path so that the tourists on this 'Great Walk' won't trip over the roots and sprain their ankles. More about this in a later edit...

Sunday
Sunny again! Despite forecast rain (now postponed till tonight) we enjoyed a bright day for our stroll through green grottos and past the huge 174m Earland Falls to Lake Howden Hut, where we brewed up and said our farewells to various people, including Mr YHA Borrowdale and Tattoo-Tony and Kate, the unlikely barristers. Now very much on our own, we strolled down to the grassy junction between the Caples and Greenstone tracks. An excellent lunch spot, sandfly free, before our first taste of a great walk as opposed to 'A Great Walk'. We spent the next hour and a quarter thrutching up a well-marked path through trees and streams, and over roots, scrabbling a bit at times (very sweaty indeed). Eventually the McKellar Saddle was reached.
Very Scottish scenery apart from the trees. Fine views, briefly, as we motored along a board walk before entering more, less aggressive, trees for the pleasant descent to Upper Caples Hut. This hut has no resident warden. Ten occupants of diverse origin, some communicating better than others, spent a happy evening here before bedtime at sunset (around 9.30pm) as usual.

Monday
The morning's walk out to the scheduled bus at 2pm was a delight. Heavy dew on the long grass made us grateful for bringing gaiters but the sky was blue, the birds were singing and the insects humming. The forecast rain turned out to be a forecaster's unfulfilled dream! The path wove in and out of beech forest into meadows, in which cattle and sheep were grazing further down. Always accompanied by the wide, shallow Caples river meandering down the valley. Nice views to mountains all around. Our last teabags were used to brew at the Mid Caples Hut, only half full last night with four occupants, all of whom were still there when we arrived.

Now, we're back at Kinloch Lodge where their hot tub has been enjoyed, with its views over the head of Lake Wakatipu and the mountains. It looks more like the sea, with waves crashing into the beach nearby, due to the brisk wind. The wind is useful - our washing is drying and there are fewer sandflies!