Dunedin Railway Station. Tour of New Zealand Tuesday 31 st Jan. We were on the road again today travelling 167 miles to Invercargill. The morning part of the journey was in brilliant sunshine with yet more stunning views. We stopped for lunch in Owaka. During the afternoon we had hoped to visit the “Cathedral Caves” on Waipati beach but had to abandon this idea when the weather suddenly changed to very heavy rain and extremely strong winds. We stopped and put our wet suits on and continued with the hood down (A big mistake). By the time we arrived at Invercargill we were soaked and cold. Wet in Invercargill. As it was a free night we had an evening meal with other members of our group in the hotel and there was much joviality. Wednesday 1 st Feb. The weather was dry but windy so we mopped out the Lagonda prior to visiting the Richardson Truck Museum which has a vast array of commercial vehicles. Whilst interesting it was not really Hazel’s or my “cup of tea”. In the afternoon we drove 20 miles to Bluff this being the most southerly point of the New Zealand mainland. The trip there was wet and windy but luckily whilst we were actually at Bluff the rain stopped and we took some pictures in the dry. (See below) Too costly for a ride in this Moth. The drive was unusual as the road was virtually straight and flat although it did go downhill significantly as we approached the hotel close to the stunning Te Anau lake. Friday 3 rd Feb. Another early start today as we were picked up by coach at 9.15 to take us on our “Doubtful Sound Wildlife Cruise”. This was a full day event which involved a coach ride to the lake, then crossing “Lake Manapouri” on a ferry, followed by a scary bus ride over the 21 kilometre “Wilmot pass”, a mountainous unmade road, before arriving at Doubtful Sound where we boarded another ferry for a tour of the sound. The sheer size of the mountains, the waterfalls coupled with the tranquillity and the remoteness, made it a very eerie place especially as it was wet and misty. It rains here for over 300 days a year! Saturday 4 th Feb. Off to Queenstown today and it is only 106 miles. The weather was damp and overcast to start with but brightened up as we drove along. There was much more traffic around as it was the start of the bank holiday weekend. A very easy route and we only used 3 different road numbers. Sunday 5 th Feb. Today we went for a 40 minute trip across lake “Wakatipu” on steamship “TSS Earnslaw” to Walter Peak, a sheep ranch where we were hosted to a spectacular barbecue followed by a sheep shearing demonstration. Later in the afternoon we went into Invercargill town centre and found it a desolate place and decided we did not like it, so went back to the hotel. Thursday 2 nd Feb. Today started in an unusual manner when Hazel accidently dropped one of her earrings into the wash basin and it fell down the plug hole. As the earring had sentimental value I retrieved it by dismantling the wash basin U bend trap, recovering the offending item prior to reassembling the hotel plumbing. Today we are travelling 136 miles to Te Anau. A lunch stop had been pre-arranged en route at “Miss Cocoa Cafe” at Mandeville airport and aviation museum. We arrived mid morning and looked around the museum before lunch in the cafe. After lunch some members of our group paid for flights in a Tiger Moth but we decided this was too expensive so set off for our hotel. Afterwards we had time to look around the farm with its variety of different sheep and walk around the very colourful gardens. There was a pianist on board the steamship and we had a good “sing song” on the return journey with Hazel taking a lead role. Monday 6 th Feb. We took the public bus to “Arrowtown” this being a restored gold mining town with touristy shops and a fascinating museum giving a good insight as to the way of life when gold mining was in progress. The bus trip was also interesting as it called in at many of the small hamlets and we were able to see a combination of old and new housing.
Tour of New Zealand Tuesday 7 th Feb. We are now moving on to Franz Josef which is 241 miles away so an early start on a cold but dry day. The first part of the journey was on a yellow minor road to Cardrona. This was a very steep bendy climb, with many extremely tight hairpin bends with large drops over the edge. When we left the hotel we were 30m above sea level and after about 20 miles we were at 1258m. On Franz Joseph glacier. Sat-Nav warns of bendy climb. We were told afterwards there were many stunning views as we wound our way up the hills but sadly neither of us was prepared to take our eyes of the road and look! We continued to Wanaka where we stopped for coffee. There is another amazing lake here and lots of new house building going on. The rest of the journey was on predominantly flat roads with vastly differing mountains on either side. Wednesday 8 th Feb. Another early start as we needed to be at the Helicopter office for 8.30 prior to a trip up to the Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers. The weather was perfect with brilliant sunshine. The road to the Fox & Franz Hoseph helicopter office. Neither Hazel nor I had been in a helicopter before so with a little trepidation we climbed in. As soon as we took off our fears disappeared as we were surrounded by stunning views of the snow covered mountains. After about 15mins we landed on the Franz Joseph glacier and got out of the helicopter where we walked around taking pictures and admiring the views. The return flight took us over the Fox glacier and all too soon we were back at the Heliport after a most amazing experience. In the afternoon we drove about 20 miles to Lake Matheson where we walked around the perimeter of the lake. Normally this walk enables you to see views of the mountains reflected on the still waters of the lake but whilst we were there the wind was blowing so sadly the reflections did not appear. The car park at Franz Joseph hotel. Thursday 9 th Feb. Time to move on this time to Greymouth a further 126 miles north. We had a coffee break at the “Treetop Walkway” at Hokitika but did not go on the attraction as it was very expensive. Instead we continued our journey and visited the Shantytown Heritage Park a leading culture and heritage attraction located 28 miles south of Greymouth. The Park consists of over 30 historic buildings which faithfully recreate the 19th century pioneer town, inspired by the West Coast gold rushes of the 1860s. We then drove to the hotel for a one night stop. In the evening Hazel and I had a meal on our own in a local restaurant. Friday 10 th Feb. We loaded up the car again, by now we are getting good at this, and set off for Nelson 210 miles further north. We took the coast road and after 30 miles we arrived at Punakaiki to view Pancake Rocks which are limestone formations that began forming 30 million years ago, when lime-rich fragments of dead marine creatures were deposited on the seabed, then overlaid by weaker layers of soft mud and clay. The result is a very impressive sight. We then drove a further 35 miles along the coastal road before turning inland and driving in the valley with the Kahurangi National Park on our left and Nelson Lakes National park on the right.