Sunday, 25 January 2015

Haarst Township

Thursday 22nd January 2015

Dear Futurest

I sit here enthused for the moment at the grandeur around me, on the south bank of the Paringa River. Currently it’s a shallow stream meandering across a wide river bed of white smoothed pebbles, deep in the West Coast Region of New Zealand’s South Island and the whole scene is quite magnificent.

Earlier this morning I was thrilled to witness the deep blue of the Tasman Sea again and to hear the roar as the surf hit the white sand and shingle beach.



The Tasman Sea with local inhabitants



From the beach across the dunes


The weather is perfect, as it has been for the whole period of our stay in New Zealand except for one day’s rain and I’m so glad I came.

I am sitting in a deck chair in the shade of a native Maruka tree, well protected from the intense heat of the early afternoon Sun and ahead of me, across a wide area of dunes covered now after generations with low vegetation, stretches a string of tree cloaked mountains. In the far distance I catch a glimpse of the snow capped peaks of the Southern Alps shining in the sunlight and I am inspired.

Luckily I remembered to bring along my laptop computer today otherwise I would have been sunbathing with Janis, after our picnic lunch of local smoked salmon sandwiches and tea brewed on Janis’s little camping gas stove. It’s been a delightful experience, another to add to the number that we have already shared so far.

Because of the rampart of high mountains running down this side of the South Island this area was until quite recently almost cut off from the rest of the country, being sustained by ancient cattle and sheep trails only. Even now there is just one main road, which, in a lengthy and roundabout way, connects all parts.

It is on this road that Janis and I have travelled since leaving her niece’s house at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu over a fortnight ago



Giant fern about to uncoil


After leaving Becky’s house we spent a few days at Te Anau on the lake of the same name at a comfortable family run backpacker’s hostel and spent our sunlit days walking the numerous tracks in the area. Most of our walks since arriving in New Zealand have been in the deep bush unique to this country and all have certainly been long enough for me to feel the healthy exercise. Every day we have walked more than five miles and though that appears to be nothing to the young mountain gazelle that accompanies me, I am very proud of myself on the accomplishment.



Reflections by a lake called Marian



The bush track up to Lake Marian


From Te Anau we motored across to Milford and joined a local ship, the ‘Milford Wanderer’, on an overnight trip along the breath-taking fiord. The Wanderer is a recently built modern ship but with many features to remind one of her Edwardian predecessor, such as dark wood panelled companionways and cabins, and sails which are set just for photographic show now on this powerful twin screw motor vessel.



Milford Sound with Mitre Peak on the left

And were able to



Seals basking in Milford Sound


We were served with a bounteous three course dinner in the evening after we were under way in the late afternoon, while an excellent full English breakfast the following morning couldn’t have been better. We anchored quietly overnight in calm waters in a cove and were able to admire the splendour of the night sky as well the mooring lights of the Wanderer’s sister ship nearby. On this trip we found ourselves close up to seals and saw many dolphins jumping in the sea ahead of us.



The majestic Stirling Falls on Milford Sound



From Milford we returned to Becky’s for two more nights and during the day in between, Janis and I experienced an exciting helicopter trip around Queenstown enabling us to explore a different thrilling aspect of the surrounding mountains as well.

Leaving the helicopter we were able to look around Queenstown, the largest habitation in the area, which thrives on tourists and while there we visited a below zero bar and enjoyed a cocktail in a glass made of ice; another unique experience for me.

The next day we set off for Haarst Township further north on the west coast crossing the high Crown Range of mountains to do so. The metalled, or sealed road as they call it in New Zealand was only completed in the 1960’s and before then the best way of contacting the region was via the sea, only the high mountain passes offering any sort of substitute. So even today there are few people here and Haarst itself, named after an early Victorian explorer and surveyor, consists only one or two single story houses, a backpacker’s hostel where we are staying for two nights and a number of corrugated roofed restaurants with the local delicacy Whitebait being top of the menu.

Even though Janis and I are very happy with the solitude here we move on north tomorrow to see the Fox Glacier, to which I’m looking forward. It’s all so wonderful.

Fifty years ago when I last came to New Zealand I was never able to experience all this grandeur and when I recollect actually in detail, all those years ago were only spent in the nearest pub in the ports on the east coast. I never saw this side of the country at all and working aboard ship I was never able to see the many amazing features all over. So I feel very privileged to be able to see it all now, the thoughtful planning of which I have to thank my splendid travelling companion. The whole trip has gone extraordinarily well to plan thanks to her.

There are so many amazing photos to show that I shall send you a good selection of these by separate mail.

And how are you old friend? I hope all goes well being on your own with only ‘Roots and Wings’ to keep you company, though even she is moored some way away. The winter weather doesn’t appear to have been too bad in Warwick so far and I hope therefore that you are not feeling it too badly.

After a couple of days at Fox Glacier we shall be returning to Christchurch to stay another few days with Janis’s Mum before flying on to Queensland to see Janis’s sister Sharon. Then during the first week in March we shall be flying home so it won’t be too long now before we are reunited.

Until then old chum all the best for now.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Lake Wakatipu

Dear ‘Futurest’

A very happy New Year to you and I hope all is well at home.

I did hear that England has had a layer of snow in parts recently, which is quite normal for this time of year I suppose, but difficult for me to imagine scorching in thirty degrees of sunshine here in New Zealand.



Typical New Zealand home



A local duck variety


Janis and I are now well established in our tour of the South Island. We are currently staying with Janis’s niece Becky at a delightful little hamlet called Kingston at the southern end of the vast Lake Wakatipu. There are a few typically New Zealand single story houses here with a corner shop that also doubles as a cafe and a post office. There is a derelict railway line with an old steam locomotive called ‘The Kingston Flyer’ sadly rusting away there and we are surrounded by vast ranges of mountains some of which are still covered with snow in parts even in this height of Summer.



Fields of wild Lupin on the Canterbury Plain





Myself posing at Lake Tekapo


There are few roads in the whole of the area, one main one runs the full length of the lake through the largest built up area called Queenstown and up as far as Glenorchy right at the northern end, where we visited yesterday.



Mount Cook in the hazy distance


Most tourists visit Queenstown but we have the benefit of Becky, who is an excellent tourist guide knowing so much of the countryside around here. We were in a four wheel drive Suzuki and were able therefore to travel to all the normally inaccessible parts, up dusty gravel tracks and dried up river beds through narrow ravines. The flies bite like mad but it’s all been very exciting.

I have seen lots of strange birds, like the Tui, called the Parson Bird because of its white collar with a ruff at the front. It also has a very tuneful song. Also there is the small Fantail, about the size of our Robin with a long tail that he keeps spreading like an open fan. But most fascinating and amazing of all are the tall mountain ranges that completely surround us. This is real Hobbit country.



At and In Paradise


We spent over a week in Christchurch with Janis’s Mum, who apart from being a kind host was also an excellent guide. She took us to see the sad ruins of that once great, proud and pretty city before we set off south to Lake Tekapo. Here we stayed at a Backpacker's hostel for two nights and viewed the southern night sky from Mount St John alongside the lake. 

All was perfect.



Dried up River bed or almost


Our next stop is Te Anau another little town at the southern end of the lake of the same name. We travel on there tomorrow, always hemmed in by mountains all around.

Even though we are enjoying a lovely time in NZ and everybody is so friendly and welcoming, I am missing you and will be grateful when we return safely home. Today by email I confirmed your dry docking with Tooley’s in Banbury for the beginning of April.

All the best old friend. I shall write again soon.