Everything you know is wrong...
Trip Start Jun 15, 2004
105Trip End Jun 15, 2005
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Caught the Lynx ferry, for what seemed an high price just to cross between the islands of $55 - though at least it wasnt one of the other ferries recently banned from taking passengers due to its poor safety record (you should see the TV pictures of it crushing a fishing boat!)
Three hours from North island to South, and arrive to the sunshine in Picton - and apparently lucky to have such a smooth crossing. Pick up my nice Mazda car, and I'm off - first stop Nelson, nothing much of interest here, then straight to the Abel Tasman national park, and stay in some really nice accomodation at Marahau - set in woodland, with balcony views of the valley below.
Monday 14th February 2005
Catch a water taxi, where we first see a seal colony basking on the rocks, and then to the "Big Tonga" beach, beautiful beach accessable only if you walk or boat there, and with just a few other walkers there. Few technical hitches with the boat meant we were dropped off late, so the walk is on a tight timescale.
Reach Bark Bay, which has two routes across - across the sand bars at low tide, and the land route at high tide - not knowing which, I chose the low tide option, only to find the route flooded by the sea further down, and despite trying, couldnt find a place that I could wade across - it was too deep. Beautiful bay though, sand bars and blue / green water made it similar, on a smaller scale, to the Whitsunday islands in Australia. Have to walk back up to join the main track around the bay, which is steep and hard at times.
Cross bouncy pedestrian swing bridge, and reach pick up point for the water taxi at 3.20...it was going at 3.30. Weather for the walk was generally good, bar one thunderstorm, where the clap of thunder in the distance made you fell you were going to get wet!
Tuesday 15th February 2005
Long drive today, from Marahau, through Motueka, Murchison and then to the Buller Gorge - New Zealand main roads tend to be two lane roads, with the occassional passing lane - motorways are limited to the big cities!
Buller Gorge has the longest swingbridge in New Zealand, and I was persuaded to take the "Superman" option to return. The walk across was nice enough - looking down on the gorge below whilst the bridge gently rocks, and then a brief walk the otherside.
At this point you do realise that you have become lunch for sandflies - and I learn in the days following they are the more vicious than mosquitos - so many bites and they last for so long!!
Anyway, back to me being Superman - you get strapped in a harness, run of a ramp, er, superman style, and fly, superman style, across the gorge - really exhilerating, and well worth the money.....bet I didnt need a harness either.....
Drive onto Greymouth, very grey town, and stay in a very quaint hostel
Wednesday 16th January 2005
Was raining when I left Greymouth, and it just got worse, heavier and heavier - the west coast of South Island is renowned for its rain, and it was trying to keep up its reputation!
Drive through the empty landscape - not many people live in South Island (or New Zealand now I come to think of it - 4 million last count), and reach Franz Josef Glacier - a rare glacier that is accessible - drive to the Glacier, and you can walk for maybe an hour and be at its face - but as the rain was so intense, decided on the 15 minut walk to the lookout - where my pictures were mainly obscured by cloud and mist.
The scariest thing about the glacier was the markers showing you where it was 50, 100, 200 years ago.....at this rate of loss, it will dissappear soon.
Also drove to the Fox Glacier, where there was a far better view, and better pictures.
Had intended to stay here the night, but as rain stopped play, decided to attempt the long drive to Queenstown.
Pass the Haast Bridge - major rushing white water - eventually reaching Wanaka, and hour or so north of Queenstown, and stayed just overlooking Lake Tawae - having failed to find any accomodation in Wanaka - lesson for NZ - you must book accommodation ahead!!
Thursday 17th February 2005
Reach Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, and it is very alpine - scenic snow topped mountains, buildings that look as if they should be in a ski resort (it is a ski resort in the winter).
Wade through the tons of brochures deciding what to do.
Friday 18th January 2005
Booked for white water rafting today, along the Shotover river, the more dangerous of the two main rafting rivers, with rapids up to grade 5 (I'd done up to 3 before!).
Driven up the very narrow, gravel,single lane and high road, that had sheer drops, with no railings - if the driver made a mistake, you were dead! - I guess the water must be cold as well - we are given wetsuits, wetboots, then another layer of wetsuit, then a splash jacket.
I was volunteered by the guide to be one of the people at the front (ie the wettest part), and you soon realised just how cold the water was when the first waves hit. We were then given the opportunity to swim a calmer stretch - I thought about it, and then dived in - and god was it cold!! - at that point I did of course realise that I was the only one, out of four boats, that had gone for a swim. I did benefit though - back in the boat, my body has warmed the water in my wetsuit, and I'm nice and warm!
Through various rapids - "squeeze", "toilet", "mother in law", "pinball", "cascade" and finally, theough the Oxenbridge tunnel - a 170m tunnel built by miners, that is very tight, and sharp, followed by a large fall!
Have a final swim, before reaching the end, and a hot shower. Some of the rapids were hard, but the guide was good and kept us in the boat, and the pictures look amazing - but at an extortionate $30 a picture, I wasnt buying!