Monday, 29 March 2010

Wandering through Westland

After the dry conditions of Otago we have crossed the Main Divide via Haast Pass after a few very enjoyable days near Wanaka including a spectacular storm that washed out roads and tracks towards Mount Aspiring.
After Haast we were in to the wettest side of New Zealand but still managed a number of bright spells enabling us to visit lonely Jackson Point, see the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers and walk the empty beaches and bush of Okarito. Some fun, games and ingenuity were required to repair the sliding door roller which collapsed - gaffer tape and a temporary bush fashioned from 15mm copper pipe have done the trick and with good old VW wanting £200 for the part we hope it will last until a breakers can be found. Otherwise things seem to flow very smoothly - and whilst there are a surprising number of rental vans around on the West Coast Road - mainly because there is no other option it still feels a very wild and unspoilt area.
Again the history of the early settlers is a testament to their strength and ingenuity with various museums providing generally excellent displays and artefacts.
Sarah is off to Auckland in a week and I return to the pig farm near Ashburton - summary justice I fear.

More pics available at the link comme toujours.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Autumn Approaches

In early March a short but memorable flight over the area where Sarah had been riding and the slopes of Mount Taranaki took us back to North Island where Sue and Danny spoiled us with an excellent party before we caught the Overlander Train back to Wellington passing through some of the familiar scenery from November last year.
The Interislander ferry and Transcoastal Train delivered us back to Christchurch where a minor repair to the van's cooling system had been effected - eventually.
Thus we were ready to collect Annie, a friend from Pembrokeshire on an Australasian visit who joined us for a week which included visits and walking to Tekapo, Mount Cook and an overnight stay at South Temple Hut near Lake Ohau - all enjoyed in excellent weather. The glaciers and ice floes in the Mount Cook area were especially memorable and we were fortunate to have the S.T. Hut to ourselves.
After dropping her at Queenstown we drove the rough and at times precipitous Skippers Canyon road culminating in a stomach churning crossing of the Shotover River on a 110 year old wooden bridge 100m above the blue swirling waters. This enabled us to spend two nights at the old Mount Aurum station which 150 years ago had been at the centre of the extensive local but short lived gold mining boom.

It was a remarkable place to stay - the more so for the fact that some 2000 people had lived in this remote area and 200 of them many miles up at Bullendale where teams of horses had pulled in heavy generating equipment for the first industrial use of electricity in New Zealand.
Arrowtown provided a service night and the chance to confirm that we have been granted 12 month visas for our proposed visit to Australia as well as the charms of its excellent museum and historic buildings. We now head for the mountains around Wanaka and then the West Coast via the Haast Pass with the fine weather continuing but a definite chill in the air after sunset.

Pics below as ever - usual problems surmounted if necessary by highlighting and clicking although I have recently downloaded something or other which may resolve the problem...............

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


As we are heading to Auckland today for a brief visit we are currently in Christchurch after a week in the Lake Sumner National Park. Almost two hours down dirt tracks this remote area provided excellent walking including a night at Jollie Creek Hut to celebrate my 5oth in our sort of style.
Down at Loch Katrin we met Lem an 86 year old Latvian and his wife who have been visiting their fishing hut for 55 years - we were welcomed in and made very comfortable.
Sarah had a superb four day ride in to the high hills with Alpine Horse Safaris with some of the hardest riding she has ever done and memorable nights under the stars at musterers huts.
On our return to Christchurch in a week we hope to meet up with a friend from Wales for a week as we head south to Mount Cook and then across to the West Coast.
Our good fortune with weather has continued as autumn slowly approaches and the van has performed remarkably given the tracks we have been exploring - whilst we are away we hope to get the slight coolant leak sorted out by the local VW dealer Miles Continental in Chch and have also made enquiries regarding shipping the van over to Sydney - surprisingly not much cheaper than bringing it from the UK as much of the costs are fixed as they cover paperwork and dock handling fees with the transit element less than 20%.

Links below to 2 albums of pics - 1 horse related covering Sarah's rode and 1 more generalised. Again access may require highlighting and then clicking.