Travelling through New Zealand
with Happy Bussy (part 2)
In "Travelling through New Zealand with Happy Bussy" we have described the first part of our holiday in New Zealand. We now continue with the sequel.
The Haast pass
We leave beautiful Lake Paringa and via the Haast pass we leave the coast and set off for the lake area around the popular town of Queenstown. In the Haast information centre, where you can read everything about how the road over the pass was built, we also read the famous poem about the rain for the first time, and since it's pouring outside, we hang about for a bit longer before we continue on our way. We find a spot on the shore of Lake Wanaka for the night. Dressed in rainwear we eat a sandwich under a shelter and we crawl into bed as soon as it gets dark. The next morning the weather is gorgeous and we discover that we have a wonderful view of beautiful snowcapped mountains across the blue lake. It feels as if you would like to stay here forever, but unfortunately we don't have enough food so we pack our stuff again and drive to Wanaka to get some groceries. This time, we buy more canned food so we can stay longer at unexpectedly beautiful locations. From Wanaka, we drive along the Matukituki river and we pass a kilometres-long camping site which is absolutely crammed. We don't want to stay there, we continue and are treated to a paragliding competition. We place our 10-dollar camping chairs in front of Bussy, take out the thermos filled with coffee and over a nice cup of coffee we see about eighty paragliders gliding down. A little bit further down the river we find a beautiful spot where we can camp in the wild. The toilet smells horribly, but the scenery is gorgeous. We light a fire and we spend a romantic evening with Hans playing the guitar.
New Year's Eve in Queenstown
It's the last day of the year. "They say" you have to make reservations if you want to spend the night anywhere. We don't like making reservations, so we'll just see. We drive through the touristy town of Arrowtown, where we bake pancakes on a picnic table in the city park and where we look at the small restored houses where Chinese gold diggers used to live. These foreign gold diggers had a tough life and were only allowed to look for gold in places where the European adventurers couldn't find any more gold. In the afternoon we arrive in Queenstown, the place to be if you are looking for adventure. Here you can experience bungee jumping, white-water rafting, parachuting and many more expensive adventures. Around six we find a spot on a camping site in the middle of the town. Reservations? What reservations? Before midnight, a great band plays in the town centre which has been fenced off. Admission is free. Backpacks are checked for alcohol and people who are slightly drunk are refused entry.
Waterfalls in Milford Sound
After we have camped for another day in the area of Glenorchy, we continue to Milford Sound, one of the major sights on the South Island. The 80-kilometres long road meanders through beautiful hilly forests which become more and more rugged and through mountains decorated with waterfalls. We stop halfway to spend the night at a so-called DOC camping site. DOC stands for Department of Conservation and their cheap camping sites are always in the middle of the countryside and have few facilities, usually only a toilet. Our fire crackles in the barbecue, the river gurgles in the distance and the snowcapped mountain tops look down on us from afar. Camping in New Zealand is very special.
The next day we arrive at the Milford Sound in the pouring rain. It's a beautiful fjord with (unfortunately) hundreds of tourists who want to take a boat trip. We think these boat trips are very expensive. The view from the shore on a part of the fjord with waterfalls several dozens of metres high is fantastic, and especially when the sun breaks through we feel like we are walking around in a fairyland. But we cannot resist the temptation and decide to take a boat trip at the end of the afternoon. We sail under the waterfalls which create rainbows, we pass seals, we sail all the way to sea and notice how the bay cannot be seen from there. It must have been quite an experience when, in the old days, a ship would discover this bay for the first time during a storm.
We travel further south and at the advice of the Lonely Planet guide we pick up a brochure at the Te Anau information centre containing all the information about the Catlins, the area on the southern coast of the South Island. Via Invergarcill, a boring big city, we reach the sea again. We stop at Curio Bay and look out over a calm sea with dolphins. It also has a touch of the Jurassic era, because this is where you find the remains of an ancient forest which is now petrified. It's as if we're walking over tree trunks which have been sawed down, but when you touch them, you find they are made of stone. We drive on via the so-called Southern Scenic Route, stop at several beautiful waterfalls and finally arrive in Dunedin, a charming college town where the pleasant town centre offers lots of good shopping. We spend the night at a beautiful camping site just outside the town centre. The next morning we go in search of Tunnel Beach, which is described in the brochure but which is not signposted. Searching and wandering through residential areas we finally find it and it's definitely worth the trouble. From above, we see an enormous arch in the water with a huge patch of grass on top. Via a small tunnel in which steps have been carved out we end up on a small beach with rocks and it doesn't require a vivid imagination to see all sorts of figures in them. We enjoy the view for a while and then we climb back up again.
On Hans' birthday we are at the boulders on Moeraki Beach: huge stone balls lying on the beach, sometimes partly buried into the sand. There are two theories about how the boulders ended up there, the first one being that it's a freak of nature and the second one that they originated from ships from China on which they were used as ballast. We were hoping to swim with dolphins that day, but unfortunately it's raining and we continue on to Oamaru. Since there are no trees in this area, this town is built in sandstone. The beautiful buildings in Victorian and Greek style betray a flourishing and rich past in which Oamaru was a lively trading port. We have given up hope to see dolphins, instead we go to a place where yellow-eyed penguins live. From a high viewpoint we see little dots moving around in the water. The penguins have been fishing all day and arrive at the beach one by one.
We leave the eastern coast and drive towards Mount Cook, passing glacier lakes with their typical blue-green colour along the way. We want to camp on the shore of Lake Ohau and via a small road we arrive at a pebble beach along the lake. We spend the night here, we have a spot all to ourselves and over a beer and peanuts we treat our eyes to the magnificent panorama. Beautifully clear water, snowcapped mountains, a view you normally only see on postcards. The next day we drive to Mount Cook and we are disappointed that we cannot continue beyond the foot of the mountain. We walk to a grey, turbid glacier lake with ice floes covered in dust and sand. At night, Hans accidently punctures our air mattress and thinking back of Mount Cook, we can conclude that this wasn't the highlight of our holiday.
Via Geraldine we end up in Christchurch, the biggest city on the South Island. We have been invited by Fay and Graham, relatives of Tony whom we met in England in 2005. Fay and Graham show us the area around Christchurch. Via meandering roads we arrive, among other places, in Littleton where we look for fellow sailors, but without success. We are then treated to a barbecue and they decide we're not villains, so we can spend the night there. After a delicious breakfast we continue on our own the next morning and we explore Christchurch further. The public facilities here are amazing: in the city centre there's a huge park with a golf course and a tennis court where you can play for free, there is a paddling pool and we grill our deer hamburgers on a free barbecue in the middle of this park.
From Christchurch we turn north to Hamner Springs, a very touristy town where many scantily-dressed bodies fight for a place in the thermal springs. It doesn't appeal to us and we start on the 180-kilometres long clay road through Molesworth. We drive along a bare sand plain which is called the "Isolated Flat" and the sheep and cow farmers are the only people who live in this dry and barren landscape. We meet them on their horses while they drive their herds along the road to small patches with a little bit of grass. As much as it rains on the western coast, so little does it rain here and we are lucky enough to experience the hottest day of this summer. Bussy puffs and blows and gets very hot while we climb hill after hill, but he manages to take us safely through this desolate area. We spend the night under willow trees along a small stream where we play in the water with stones; building dykes is in our Dutch blood...
Since we missed it on the way in, we now finally visit de Marlborough Sounds, a beautiful area with fjords on the northern coast of the South Island. We meet Richard, he has a small sailing boat and invites us to go sailing with him the next day. Unfortunately, there is too much wind and instead we hike along a beautiful small peninsula and because he used to be a biologist and now teaches at a school, he can tells us a lot about nature. We learn, for example, that we are surrounded by Tea Trees, which are used to make oil which can cure all sorts of ailments. Here you can pick as much as you want, if you crush the leaves you can smell the typical fresh scent. He also shows us which leaves can be used as toilet paper and a lot more. When we spend the night at another location, we are called at dusk by a father and son: they have spotted wild deer. Through our binoculars but also with the naked eye we see a deer family frolicking through the field. Fortunately, they don't notice us. Our return trip with the ferry to the North Island has been booked long beforehand and that is the reason why we unfortunately have to leave the Marlborough Sounds after just three days.
We only slept for a few hours at the parking lot near the ferry and because this is cheaper, we cross the Cook Strait at night to go back to the North Island. The next morning we are practically blown out of our clothes when we go shopping in Wellington. We continue to the southern coast of the North Island right away. There we get a very close look of some seals with their cute little snouts. We spend the night at the Pinnacles. We take a long walk, not knowing yet what the Pinnacles are, we think they are a kind of pine trees. And then, when we've reached a high viewpoint, we suddenly realise these are not trees, but sharp stone towers. This also turns out to be one of the locations where parts of the "Lord of the Rings" film were shot and there is indeed a mystical atmosphere when you walk among them.
From there we slowly travel back to Opua, the end of our eight-week holiday is in sight. We feel rested and ready to start working on our boat. There's a long list of chores waiting for us. But first we visit New Plymouth at the foot of Mount Taranaki, a high mountain. Unfortunately, while we are there, its top is constantly hidden in the fog. We drive along lake Taupo again where we are pleased to be invited by Dave and Fay to spend the night in their house with an amazing view of the lake. The New Zealanders' hospitality is unsurpassed. We visit another place where hot mud bubbles up out of the ground as a result of volcanic activity. It's a funny sight, it sounds funny and smells awfully like sulphur. And then we arrive back in Auckland. We don't want to spend the night there but completely lose our way as a result of the poor signposting at a diversion. This reminds us of a phenomenon from a distant past: a traffic jam, you know, hundreds of thousands of wheels lined up on the motorway. Being surrounded by this many cars and lights switching from green to red, for which you have to stop... it contrasts sharply with the quiet roads on the South Island. We escape unscathed and we conclude our holiday with a few days' camping at beautiful locations. We finally arrive back in Opua and Happy Bussy has carried us for 8000 kilometres without a hitch.
And now: BACK TO WORK!!!!!
(Translated from dutch to english by Percy Balemans)