South Island 2017 B

These images are of the northbound part of the trip, as we worked our way through the lakes district, up the west coast and back over Arthur's Pass to Christchurch.


Camping at the showgrounds at Gore was refreshing. Much like Leith Valley was in Dunedin. We find we are now just really picky about motorcamps in general, spoiled as we are for solitude, silence and beauty.


So christmas was approaching and not feeling much inclined to celebrate in the traditional manner, sought an out of the way spot for the duration. That place was Mavora Lakes, and while it was pretty, was busier than we expected with more and more kiwi families opting, it appeared, to also get away from it all. This shot of north and south mavora was obtained by climbing 700m vertical from the lake up a random mountain in pursuit of cell service for some last minute emails.


There is a track around south mavora, and this lake, where we camped, at least has no motor boats. Our campsite is the grassy clearing at center.


The extent of our celebration was barbecued lamb, potatoes roasted in the coals, with a nice shiraz and the traditional strawberry cream pavlova. It was one of the few fires we had as most of south island is in the midst of a drought and total fire ban.


Not quite satisfied with our seclusion, we took a chance on a 50km dirt road that headed north toward the southern shore of Lake Wakatipu. It just felt like a suitable adventure. This image is the lake shore at Mount Nicolas Station.


There was pretty much zero traffic on the road, and there was also a couple of rivers to ford. A few cyclists and that was about it. Once out of the station, we found a place to lunch and enjoy the expansive views toward Queenstown and Glenorchy. Little did we know that this was to be as close as we would get to either place.


We found a beautiful spot to camp by a river in the new Eyre Mountains Conservation Park.


The next day we went to Manapouri, to find the kayak trips booked out, the power station closed, and wall to wall travelers. We settled for a swim in the lake, and headed to Te Anau for an early start up to Luxmore on the Kepler track. This is dawn looking toward town from the far shore.


As the sun came up, the lake was uncharacteristically flat, and was as yet free from the roar of jet boats.


As we arrived at the hut, a striking blue helicopter touched down briefly, dropping a equally vividly blue attired american whom we shall refer to as "Miss Georgia". The hut warden chastised her for her lack of water and warm clothing, while the rest of us just hoped she would take her extrovert verbosity some place else. Anywhere really.


A small mirror lake / mountain tarn behind the hut.


Fleeing high visitor numbers we headed up the road to Kingston on the southern shores of Wakatipu. We stopped at the quaintly named Fairylight.


Its an old old steam train station from days gone by. And one of John Keys cycle ways passes through here and it was a good chance to inspect one of the numerous swing bridges built.


I dont know what i was thinking but if i had, it would have been obvious that the Xmas/New year period was going to be busy with the combination of kiwi family holidays and with the European winter break. Thus it was to become straight away clear to us that Queenstown and Wanaka were going to be Te Anau times ten, and we chose to just skip both places. The bus rolled to a stop on the shores of the much underestimated Lake Hawea.


I think we stayed three nights in total on the gravel river fan on the west bank, where it felt rather like being on an island. It was a dramatic spot to spend the new year.


The panorama mode has flattened out the shoreline, but the bus is actually camped on the end of the point. The ever changing light and ever changing wind was to be our tv. (BTW we did have to share the beach with several others. Real patience was required to get this shot of us alone ;)


OK so we did make a day outing to Wanaka, where we watched the day go by at Glendu Bay and walked up to Diamond Lake, where the ripples in the lake caught my eye.


On New Years day we drew angel cards and made prayer flags. This ironically was one of only a couple of moments when the ever brisk wind eased, as it did when the wind changed direction.


The water in the lake is cool, clear and always refreshing.


One of our neighbors skipping stones on the lake at moonrise.


When we finally tore ourselves away from our latest "best place yet", we stretched the legs at the Makaroro Blue pools. Rated by tripadvisior as the number 3 thing to do in wanaka, its clear that this and many other visitor attractions suffer chronic under investment from DoC and the tourism industry in general. The car park was full by 9am, has no toilet, and the board walk carries foot traffic for both directions and yet is only 900mm wide.


It is a magic spot, bring your togs... if you dare.


We particularly enjoyed the drive over the Haast pass, with sunshine and no sign at all of the usually present sandflys. Having skipped the Queenstown area, we had a day or two up our sleeves, so we headed to Jackson Bay on the west coast, which as they say is 'where the road runs out'.


The little fish and chips cart there was definitely the best, but it was the start of several incredible days on the coast, and particularly for me witnessing i think for the first time the heavily forested mountains plunging dramatically to the sea in such clear conditions.


As we pulled up into this quiet little dirt track by the ocean, the sun set directly ahead of us. The west coast sure is the land of great sunsets and great moon rises.


After nearly getting the bus bogged in the sand, we ended up finding what was to be as near to our 'perfect beach' as we would likely ever find.


The Rimu dominant forest unusually falls all the way to the sea. At Jackson Bay it was explained that the settlers attempts to grow crops here failed because it rained too much and everything just rotted. However the Rimu extraction industry thrived until very recently, actually 1999, and its clear what remains is a mere fraction of what was originally here. So thorough was the logging campaign that no unlogged remnants appear to remain.


West coast kids, making a fire for the fish that dad might catch... or marshmallows.


Moonrise, our second full moon on the road.


When the locals make a fire, they make a fire. That's the moon not the sun so very bright in the background.


Dawn brings a particularly wild feeling to the beach.


As we head north ward we make the obligatory stop at Fox glacier, and with the dramatic glacial recession the most interesting thing we saw there was the Rata in full flower blanketing the hillsides. For 'safety reasons' you can no longer get near to or go on the ice.


We often saw popular freedom camps with dozens of jucy campers squashed in like sardines, and this always struck me as a basic failure of imagination. So we picked another random sideroad leading down to a random river mouth, this time the Wanganui River. Not only did we have the place to ourselves, and had some great conversations with the locals, but we were also well positioned to catch the early morning low tide for the walk along the coast to the Poerua River.


Its a popular whitebaiting location, but where we were camped was once in fact the site of an old sawmill. So dense was the forest here, that for 20 years this particular mill cut wood from just a 3 mile radius around the mill.


This is the Wanganui river mouth around 7am.


We thought the expansive views of the mountains here was really something... until we progressed south around the rocks to the Poerua.


Where the sand bar was stunningly beautiful, and pretty much untouched, as getting to it meant wading across the river outlet. Which was a little tricky.


Here there was also a clear warm freshwater lake, with a sandy bottom brimming with trout. In which we could wash off the salt after our swim in the ocean. Perfection.