We were up early for a full morning exploring Lake Te Anau before heading off on our overnight cruise around Milford Sound.
We travelled in convoy to Milford Sound. Our driver / guide had a great sense of humour and kept us entertained for a full hour before one of the passengers put an end to his en route commentary. His hands free microphone headset was broken so he had to hold a mike in one hand, steer with the other and change gear with the third. We had a few stops on the way to Milford Sound, to stretch our legs and get bitten by sand flies.
We cruised into the breeze to visit the waterfalls up close then returned to Harrison Cove for either kayaking or nature cruises in the ship’s tenders. I paddled and Susan cruised. I spotted a few penguins on the shoreline, got buzzed by sandflies and soaked the sleeve of my jumper, but otherwise the expedition was uneventful.
That evening we dined at a table for 6 with two brits and two Aussies. The Brits, Sandra and Paul, had been travelling around NZ for twice as long as us. They were keen cyclists, finding 20 mile loops to ride every other day. Russell and Julie were from Queensland, just outside Brisbane. For the first time since arriving in NZ I had roast lamb.
That night I’d hoped to watch the stars but the weather was against us. We had to content ourselves with glimses of seals swimming around the stern.
We slept soundly and were up and ready for breakfast ( from 7am ) and the remainder of the cruise.
For breakfast we headed back into Queenstown and found an excellent place – Vudu Cafe and Larder on Rees Street, also opening onto the water front. We arrived at just the right time. 5 minutes later and we’d have been queueing. Susan had the Benedict Bacon and I had Scrambed on Sourdough with Sausage.
After another wander along the water front we headed off to Te Anau. It was the coldest morning to date.
We stopped for lunch at the Dome Cafe, Mossburn. Susan had a wrap and I had a very tasty sausage roll.
On arrival at Te Anau we confirmed our pick up point from the Lakeside Motel for the Milford Sound cruise the next day, watched the lawns being mowed, then headed into town.
By mid afternoon it was a lot warmer in Te Anau than it had been in Queenstown. We decided not to visit the glow worms, on the other side of the lake, but opted see a recommended film about Fiordland at the local cinema. We booked for the 4 o’clock viewing of Ata Whenua – Shadowland.
Then it was time for a bit of shopping. Since I’d nearly finished Lion, I bought Pigs Might Fly, the best biography of Pink Floyd, at a bargain price – $12.99.
Then, as it was happy hour, we found a nice bar, had a couple of drinks and bought a takeaway pizza from La Toscana; a large Campagniola with extra blue cheese.
After a short shopping / photography spree in Wanaka town centre we took the scenic route to Queenstown. While Susan went to get some essentials I went down to the lake to capture Wanaka’s scenic photo opportunity #1 – The Wanaka Wharf; #thatWanakatree ( already captured ) being number 2.
Once on the open road I noticed something flapping under the windscreen wipers. It was a $40 dollar fine for parking facing the wrong way – i.e. on the wrong side of the road.
When we stopped for a coffee, just outside Cardrona, the barista confirmed it was our fault for not checking, and that I could pay my fine online. Later, on arrival in Queenstown, we ensured we paid for our parking before visiting the lake. Graeme and Louise had suggested we try a Fergburger. It wasn’t hard to find. Since a) we had made a packed lunch and b) there was a big queue, we didn’t stop for a burger … perhaps later in the evening.
Instead, we headed out of town to find bungee jumpers.
That evening, after doing our laundry at the Colonial Motel, we went back to Queenstown centre for a beer, takeaway fish and chips and an evening wander along the lake shore. If we had gone for a Fergburger I’d probably have had a Sweet Bambi.
It was a damp morning at Wanaka; not particularly good for visiting the top 10 sights for photos. We needed to get a little closer to #thatwanakatree than our view from the Lakeview motel.
Before we set off, I took some photos of the eggy panthers ( Agapanthus ).
We visited more of the lake before returning to the town for a bit of shopping and a snack lunch – a pie and tea from The Doughbin.
Then we went to Puzzling World, where Susan’s nephew Chris had worked back in 2003. We met up with his boss, just to say hello, and while chatting to him one of his staff stamped our hands for free entry to both the Illusion rooms and the Great Maze.
After touring the Illusion rooms we headed to the Great Maze. It was now a glorious day. Too hot in the sunshine for Susan, so she went back inside as I struggled to reach all four towers. I only made it to three… I had an appointment with some clippers at Alice hair.
Later that day, while Susan had a back massage I went for a swift half before dinner at Amigos Mexican cafe.
We set off on the 5 hour drive to Wanaka knowing that there would be points of interest along the way but forgot that sand flies would already be there. Our first mistake was to stop for coffee at Bruce Bay forgetting to spray ourselves before we exited the car. As we waited for our coffee to brew we became aware of dozens of biting beasties attacking arms, legs and any other exposed skin. The girl serving us confirmed they were sand flies and showed us the product she used to protect herself.
Next time we stopped the car we were ready for them.
We stopped at Haast to visit the i-site and take a comfort break, then drove on to Thunder Creek Falls for lunch. Even though we’d sprayed ourselves, the sand flies joined in.
On arrival at Wanaka we asked where to eat then promptly ignored the suggestion, though we did follow the route to the town centre. We ate at the Lake Bar. Susan had a Long Island Iced Tea which made her feel rather peculiar. I stuck to a dark beer.
It was another fine day when set set off to see the glaciers. Our first stop of the day was to take the obligatory photos at Hokitika beach, and to buy a new hat to replace the one I’d left at Kaikoura.
Next we tried to see the Franz Josef glacier. The cardboard ranger said the nearest we could get was 2000 metres. We took our picnic lunch along for the view.
Next we drove to Fox Glacier. After 20 minutes or so walking along the track to the viewpoint Susan gave up and turned back, taking the moraine walk back to the car. It turned out we were only a hundred yards from the viewpoint. Having done that I went as far as I could, where I met another cardboard ranger telling me I’d die if I went any further. I too returned by the moraine walk.
We returned to Franz Josef to do some shopping then checked into our accomodation, in the middle of nowhere, with views of the distant glacier. That evening we dined at the Grill N Wok before returning to the chalet to watch the sunset.
The next morning didn’t look good for anyone planning to whale watch. It was very windy and threatening to rain. We’d been told that the best time to visit the West coast was when it was dry. It wasn’t looking good as we left Kaikoura and headed towards the Lewis pass.
The weather forecast turned out to be wrong. By the time we stopped for lunch at Springs Junction the sun was shining and the sky was clear. We visited the i-site to try to book a motel in Greymouth. They said their system was a bit iffy; Susan booked a place using booking.com that was showing full on i-site’s system.
As soon as we reached the West coast we headed North to Punakaiki to visit Pancake Rocks. We arrived at just the right time. The tide was up and the waves were just right to power the blow holes.
That evening, rather than trying to find somewhere to eat in Greymouth town centre we wandered down the road to the Australasian Hotel. It was OK.
The next day it was almost windless. There was a slight swell. A beautiful day for whale watching. Once we’d arrived at the spot where the Captain thought the whales would surface we stepped out of the main cabin to search for spouting plumes.
I believe that this is the only photo of a very rare sperm whale feather taken on this trip. It is the most interesting screenshot from a 12 minute long video mostly recorded in my shorts pocket.
We probably waited for half an hour before a spout was sighted, fairly close to us, so we were the first of the whale watch catamarans to get into position. The whale was on the surface for about 5 minutes then dove back down to the depths for another squid fest.
Most days there are two whales around Kaikoura, which is why they can almost guarantee a sighting. The whales spend an average of 45 minutes below the surface, so most visitors will only get to see one or two in the 2 hour trip.
About 5 minutes later I spotted the spout from the other whale. This time there were 3 whale watching cruises surrounding the whale.
You don’t get the most exciting video from an iPhone SE at 100 yards.
After lunch, back at the motel, we set out for a walk around the peninsula. It was a hot day and Susan didn’t fancy the climb, and we didn’t realise it was possible to walk around the shoreline so she chose to return to the car and drive to the Point Kean car park. I arrived a few minutes after her. Then we went on a seal hunt.
The next morning I made breakfast in the shared kitchen near our motel room before we headed through more winerys and down the coast road to Kaikoura. It was a breezy day. Whale watching would have been uncomfortable.
En route we stopped to look at the aftermath of the 2016 earthquake that caused avalanches that closed the road and railway line for quite a while.
We stopped for coffee and a beach walk at The Store, Kekerengu. While coffeeing I read a photo journal about Neil Finn, his son Liam, grandson Buddy and family’s tour of tiny music venues in small towns in NZ.
On arrival at Kaikoura we had a picnic, visited Whalewatch Kaikoura to check it out and did a bit of shopping. Our motel in South Bay was adjacent to a paddock with three horses. That evening we visited a bar for a drink before getting take away fish and chips.
On Wednesday morning we had breakfast, made a packed lunch then headed to the quay to join the Pelorus Mail Boat as it delivered parcels on its Westward route.
The boat was half full with some people going on the round trip, others being dropped off on the way and more being picked up. It was another fairly calm day again in the Marlborough Sounds. Our tour guide, Catherine, was the postie. She kept us very well informed. But next to Susan was a 90 year old man, accompanied by his daughter. He was brought up in the sounds and had an interesting childhood story involving an axe. I don’t think he was called Eugene.
We stopped for our picnic lunch at a sheep farm where we had a guided tour of the shearing shed, saw some possum pelts and wool, visited the washing machine reverse engineered electricity generator before sitting in the orchard under a pear tree.
On our return to Havelock we took a short journey to Blenheim, past a number of famous winerys. That evening we visited the Bamboo Garden Chinese and Thai restaurant.