A Travellerspoint blog

Dunedin to Milford Sound - Day 78

18 °C

I couldn't have my shower too hot this morning because the warmth burnt my ice cold hands and feet. It's safe to say it was pretty cold last night.

Baldwin Street is the steepest residential street in the world and it was mine, Andrew's and Mary's first stop for the morning. It was really busy, which I'm sure the residents love - maybe they get a discount on their council tax or something? - and some of the ladies and gents on Mary's tour were there walking up the street. It was really very steep, although the pictures don't do it justice. We decided to drive up as we saw a couple of people do it and it looked fun coming down!
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We then headed to Larnach Castle, billed as New Zealand's only castle. This is a little bit of false advertising if you ask me, because it would barely warrant manor house status in the UK. We should have known from the ticket booth that it wasn't going to be an imposing building when the seller said "Oh you're from England, where they have real castles".
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The building was very pretty though, with a cafe in a barn that had log burning fires, and the views were beautiful.
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And the gardens had an Alice in Wonderland theme, which was very cute.
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Mary had to rejoin her tour for the afternoon, so we dropped her off at the coach stop and set off for our own long drive to Milford Sound. We stopped in a small town for lunch and got an ice cream too. At the beginning of our trip we tried a Meltdown ice cream - pretty much like a magnum, but this first one had two layers of chocolate covering it and caramel in the middle, delicious! - and since then we've been trying all in the range. Hokey Pokey (honeycomb) and Brownie were the last varieties and today we tried Raspberry and Bikkie (Oreo style). They were delicious but none have yet beat the simplicity of the caramel. We'll update you if we have a breakthrough.
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Once we got to Milford Sound Road the scenery became fantastic, but with the sun low in the sky, pictures were difficult to take. We're driving back this way tomorrow, so I hope to get some better shots then. We stopped off at Mirror Lakes, to get some pictures of the mountains reflected in the water but its not much of a mirror when ducks are swimming through it!
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Arriving at Lake Gunn campsite we realised we were back to basics again! There was a lake to one side and a forest to the other with a long drop toilet somewhere inside (see the picture of me in the woods - I'm on the right in blue and the green hut on the left is the toilet!). A guy was trying to make a fire in one of the brick BBQs, like Andrew had on the North Island, but the rain had made all the wood wet so it was proving difficult. Andrew joined in, which led to almost 4 hours of trying to make the fire light properly!
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The guy and his wife were from New Orleans and were on a 9 month trip. Apart from their trip length, they were very similar to us - they'd sold their house, left their jobs and came away, to then go back to a new area in America and settle down. It's always reassuring to hear were not the the only ones who left everything!

Oh, and the fire did get going, sort of, eventually...I think it was the talk of Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:37 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes mountains lakes castles roads campsite Comments (0)

Dunedin - Day 77

Amazing Albatross

We were in need of a shower (don't worry, I'm not saying each time we've had a shower, so we are pretty clean I promise!) so when we arrived in Dunedin this morning we found they had a local swimming baths and went there. Moana Pool is a big place with a large standard swimming pool, diving pools, baby pool, a fun pool and a spa pool. There was a school gala going on in the main pool - although we did wonder whether it was a national meet considering the size of New Zealand?! - so we swam in the fun pool, rode the waves when they machine turned on and zipped around the wave tunnel on floats. You wouldn't think we were 27 and 29! But then we relaxed in the spa pool, which is quite grown up I think!?!

After lunch, we met Mary at her hotel room and we were so jealous of the massive bed in there! It's definitely life's little luxuries that you miss when on the road! Mary had a free afternoon, but before we started our exploring of Dunedin together, we stopped off at the isite to book mine and Andrew's Milford Sound trip for a few days time - we tried to get on the same time as Andrew's mum but it was all booked out by their coach trip.

In Dunedin, there is an albatross colony out on the Otago Pennisula - I didn't know until we got there but I definitely wanted to try and see them. At the isite we were told that if its a windy day we might see them flying around from the car park at the albatross tourist centre, but if not there are tours where you have a better chance to get a glimpse I think.

A short drive out to the Pennisula, with lots of twists and turns in the road though, we got to the car park. Almost as soon as we got out of the car, this bird with enormous wings flew right around the tourist centre. We didn't even have the camera ready at this point so I was disappointed when we waited for a while and didn't see any more.
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At the tourist centre they told us the last tour had gone, so we went back outside and waited longer. It was a windy day after all. We didn't have to stand too long before they came flying again, as many as three at once, swooping around the tourist centre. It was just awesome to see, they are so graceful, it really was spectacular. The pictures don't really do it justice but again I am hoping I can edit one or two when I get home.
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We then drove up, down and around more windy roads to try and see some seals and sea lions again at Allen Beach. We had to jump over a couple of turnstiles and walk down to the beach to get to the right spot but we were either too early or too late because there wasn't any there :( It was a very pretty beach though and the drive was lovely too.
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There were no DOC campsites in Dunedin so after dropping Mary off to get ready for the evening, we found a holiday park close by. It was freezing cold and so windy, being close to the sea, and getting ready for a nice dinner was difficult on two counts. One, the darkness and coldness in the van when getting changed and trying to put some mascara on to attempt a less dishevelled look. And two, the freezing cold outside when deciding what to wear when the choice is; sparkly flip flops (cold) or converse trainers (dirty), a button down vest (cold) or a tshirt (scruffy) and a 'north face' coat (not 'going out for dinner' wear) or a trespass fleece (not 'going out for dinner' wear plus scruffy). I decided on the sparkly flip flops and button down vest, plus the coat with a jumper and my butterfly sarong as a scarf for the journey to the restaurant because it was that cold. It's definitely impossible to pack everything you need for each occasion and weather type when you only have a backpack, but I think a black cardigan would have been really handy...I think I might do a post about what I should have taken once we return home.

Mary, Andrew and I went for dinner at a place called The Reef, which was recommended to us for good seafood. Andrew had steak and prawns, and Mary and I had the same dish - silver trumpeter and sole (because they didn't have two portions of trumpeter left, we shared) with a tomato and prawn bisque, roast potatoes, salad and crumbed calamari - which we ate with a bottle of New Zealand Pinot Noir called Kopiko Bay. It was delicious! I don't know if it was just really good, or whether it was made tastier by the fact we hadn't eaten out in the evening for a while!

We had a great dinner, chatting and catching up, Andrew's mum is really enjoying her trip around New Zealand, which were really happy about. We walked back towards Mary's hotel and stopped on the way for a drink in a craft beer pub - Andrew's choice of course! It was a nice place though, right on The Octagon, and it was a nice end to a lovely evening.
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What was less lovely was returning to the camper van. Despite us sleeping inside it completely, rather than with the tent attachment, and fully clothed in our now very familiar thermal wear, we were absolutely freezing...again!

Well, you can't have everything!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:24 Archived in New Zealand Tagged birds food camping albatross Comments (0)

Oamaru - Day 76

Penguins!

18 °C

We were up before 7am today because of the clock change, which wasn't ideal after a long day of driving yesterday, but it meant we had time for some travelling essentials - blogging, planning and washing!

Oamaru is a small Victorian town with lots of lovely old buildings, which seems a little strange after 3 weeks of seeing pretty much only 'new' buildings. It makes me realise how lucky we are in the UK to have such beautiful old buildings.
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We had lunch overlooking the town and while we were up there we spotted a jetty with about a hundred birds on there. Oamaru is known for its penguins, so from this high up we thought we might have come across a massive colony, but no! On closer inspection, they were just another sea bird. Still, I've never seen so many birds in one place.
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There was two chances to spot penguins here. One was to see the blue penguins, where you sat in the dark in a stand and waited for them to come out of the sea, and you had to pay for it and you couldn't take pictures. The other was from the cliff top looking down on the beach to see the yellow penguins, which was free. So we went to see the yellow penguins.

A couple came on to the beach while we were there, which was lovely to see, even if it was quite far away. I took a few videos of them walking up the beach - they walk so funnily!
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I didn't think we'd see one closely, because the beach was quite a way down, but then we saw this little fella in the bush just in front of us! How a penguin can get up to that height with those little legs and flappy wings is beyond me?!
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We were there for a long time, waiting for more to come, but then we saw a man on the beach. Apparently, you're not allowed on the beach because this scares off the penguins, so after seeing three or four penguins we didn't get to see any more.

It was getting late, because you have to wait until early evening to see the penguins, but we still decided to drive to a campsite closer to Dunedin, our destination for tomorrow. It was really difficult to find, with no signposts, and the sat nav took us to the wrong side of the road, so we went back on ourselves about 20km down an eerily quiet, dark, winding road. It was scary and I really didn't like it!

We took a chance on a sign for a reserve of the same name - even though most reserves showed from the outset that you could camp there with a little symbol - and in the darkness went down a long gravel path and over a ford, we found it. The campsite was tiny, but luckily had a few other campers there, which made it less terrifying for me. The toilet, the camp's only facility, was up a few steps in this scary little cabin in the trees. If you'd forgotten your torch, you'd have been lost...literally.

Needless to say, this is definitely not my favourite that we've visited. I am looking forward to leaving tomorrow morning!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:43 Archived in New Zealand Tagged birds penguins steep_roads Comments (0)

Lake Wanaka - Day 75

And more driving...

18 °C

After the glaciers yesterday we drove to a campsite on Lake Paringa, near Haast, so we could get a head start for today.
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We had a lot of driving to do to get to the East coast of the South Island today. The rural nature of New Zealand was never more evident than when we had a cow road block on the main road! A bit like cows being herded down the M6.
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Along the way, we saw Mount Aspiring. We almost missed this fantastic view because it was side on to the road, but we stopped to fill our water tank directly across from it and was hit by this really imposing mountain.
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I've also been desperately trying to get a decent picture of one of the many birds of prey that fly around here, but they're too quick. I did manage to get a couple of ok shots today though, which I hope I will be able to edit when I get home.
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On the way towards Lake Wanaka, where we'd stop for lunch, the scenery was typical beautiful. We've seen a lot of lakes and mountains by this point!
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Lake Wanaka is a really pretty town and probably my favourite so far in New Zealand. I am sure it is even better during the ski season. We had lunch by the lake and fed the ducks, which is where we spotted this massive fish in the water!
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There was a Gypsy Fair on in the town, so we had a walk around it. I expected Gypsy Rose Lee telling fortunes and pretty painted wagons but it was just caravans, stalls selling rose quartz and had a little stage for people to perform on. One young boy sang an Of Monsters and Men song while playing the guitar, which was quite impressive and he tried really hard.
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We were about to continue our journey when Andrew spotted yet another viewpoint, this time of Mount Aspiring, which ended up taking us ages to get to and the view was nowhere near as good as early. The first picture is of the mountain, the second of me looking impressed!!
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The rest of the day was spent driving to the Glencoe Reserve campsite near Oamaru, passing more mountains and we managed to get another picture of a bird of prey eating road kill!
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:18 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls mountains lakes birds fish views gypsy_fair Comments (0)

Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers - Day 74

Walking on Ice

Today we got to walk on a glacier! The day started with a beautiful view across the lake and a short drive to Franz Josef.
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After using the shower at the YHA because I wouldn't 'steal' a shower from the local holiday park (that was the woman at the isite's advice!), the sun was shining and we took a few walks to see the Franz Josef glacier from different angles. It was beautiful to see and the reflection of it in Peter's Pool during one of the walks was incredible.
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We then drove down to Fox Glacier to take our trip to walk on the ice. At the shop, the team talked us through what we'd be doing over the next few hours and gave us our equipment - walking boots, thick socks and crampons! We took the a bus to the beginning of the glacier, and one of the guides told us this is one of the few places in the world where you find a glacier right next to a temperate rainforest. She also showed us where the glacier had come down to years before and the rate of change is incredible.

It was an hour or so walk just to get to the ice in the glorious sunshine, which made it hard to believe we'd be walking on ice shortly. We got lots of information about the glacier, how it was formed, how its changed over the years and it's recent movements - including that it actually grew in size in recent years, but has now receded again.
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When we got to the ice, it was quite incredible - the sound of water running through it and the blue and white of the ice, despite the debris on it. This reminds me of a tripadvisor comment I'd seen, about these trips, where the visitor had said he was disappointed that the ice wasn't cleaner?! Obviously he wanted the 'Disney' glacier walk. It was time to out on our crampons, grab some walking poles and get on the ice!
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It was so exciting to be walking on the glacier and I think walking up the dug out steps was one of the best bits for me, because you could see the depth of the glacier, even at this shallow point. The change in temperature was remarkable, I went from wearing a tshirt and leggings on the walk, to adding a fleece as we got closer and then before we got on the ice, a windbreaker, hat and gloves. We walked across the ice, safely following the guide while she pointed out different parts of the ice, including the markings in the ice that showed where the snow had compacted. There were lots of cool crevices, some where you could hear the water running through again, and deep, blue pools of icy water that you could fit your whole walking pole in. The guide also told how they have found remnants of an old hut that used to be further up the glacier, beer cans from old adventurers and even tools this far down the glacier because of the movement over the years! This was the same for the rocks and debris on the glacier, it was rocks that had fallen years and years ago.
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There was a family who were the obligatory annoying group that you find on every tour - and as they say, if there isn't one on your trip, then it's you! The mum asked the guide questions and didn't bother to listen to the answer, and the dad and son kept walking off on the glacier despite the guide asking them to stop for their safety.

The trip was so much fun and interesting too. This time last year, I didn't think I'd be wearing crampons and carrying a walking pole, let alone enjoying it so much! And we only got to see the tip of the glacier really.

Once we were back at the shop, we took a short drive to see the Fox Glacier from another side and also get a glimpse of Mount Cook. It was so beautiful and the perfect way to end a great day.
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:20 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains lakes glacier Comments (0)

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