Following on from Zoe's last chapter of the journey, we arrived in Wellington on the morning of Tuesday 17th. My number 1 objective was to find the Britten Race Bike - which I did in the Te Papa museum. Check out the pictures and look at all the innovative features. There will be a quiz on them when I get home!
The trip across from Wellington to Picton is a scenic journey in itself, travelling past the south west corner of North Island and entering the Fijordlands at the north east of South Island to get to Picton was awesome. The journey took about 3.5 hours and most of that was spent on deck taking in the sights. We docked in Picton and set off for the west coast.
That night we had our first encounter with what Zoe christened a "Chicken Gone Wrong", this is an NZ native flightless bird called a Waka that looks exactly like the name given to it by Zoe. We also managed to sneak a quick game of Frisbee which has been absent from the trip for some time.
From here we went off to Nelson for supplies and then continued our journey to the coast. By chance there was to be a powerboating race at Lake Rotuiti that coming weekend so we called in for a look see - no boats yet! Our walk there was aborted due to heavy rain so we continued driving looking for a place for the night. Our destination was to be Westpoint but we went on a hunch that driving further to Cape Foulwind would yield a good campsite and we were proved right. The coastal scenery was awesome, waves crashing onto the rocks, beautiful sunset and more Wakas than you could shake a stick at.
In the morning we walked the coastal scenic walk to the seal colony and when we were at the furthest point from the van it started tipping down. Saw a couple of seals and then high tailed it back to the Pimple. Our drive down the coast took in the prime scenic location of Pancake Rock and the Blowholes but we had timed the tides wrong and they weren't really blowing. The roadtrip for the day finished at Fox Glacier where we had booked trips for the following day. Zoe and I were doing the all day hike and Porscha had gone for the Heli-hike option (this was a little too pricey for a pair of unemployed people like Zoe and I). Our respective trips were everything each of us had hoped for, the hike included 4 hours on the ice walking through tunnels and through crevasses and all sorts. At the start of the hike we even got to see the antics of a flock of Kea (a type of parrot referred to by locals as the "Clowns of the Forest"). What better to wash down a day like this than a load of booze so off we went to the pub!
Saturday was a little delayed by the after effects of the night before - only 1 person was affected and I'll leave it up to you to guess who?? The 2 healthy people walked round Lake Matheston where we saw the famous reflected views of the mountains. Once on the move again we followed the road south to Wanaka stopping at Thunder Creek Falls, the Gates of Haast and the Fantail Falls on the way. In Wanaka we wanted to hook up with Zoe's friend Jess but as yet we had had no contact from her. We felt the best option would be to stick around for a day or two and see if we got a message from Jess.
Sunday morning and we had an email from Jess suggesting meeting up that evening - result. To fill in the day we perused a local craft market and then took on the challenge of the Roy's Peak track up a mountain. It was tough going but the views were absolutely spectacular and more than justified the effort to get up there. Once back in Wanaka we met Jess, her husband Ben and their dog Keith at a bar. This was the start of an awesome evening with wine, beer, chilli cooked by Jess's brother, a real bed and a hot shower. If you had slept on the floor of a camper van for the past few nights you'd know what I was talking about. Unfortunately Zoe was kept awake by a cat all night and so slept worse than usual.
From Wanaka it was south again to Queenstown. We picked up a couple of Swedish hitch hikers (and before you guys get too excited it was a girl and a fella and not two female beach volley players!) We called in at the AJ Hackett bungy place at the Kawaru bridge where we left the hitchers but none of us fancied the bungy so we pressed on. Hackett puts on a good show but it didn't look as impressive as the Taupo bungy Zoe and I had done already. As we knew we would be back in Queenstown to get Porscha to her flight on the Friday we blitzed through and on to Te Anau. Here we booked a kayaking trip up at Milford Sound for the following day and then stocked the fridge for a couple of days in the wilderness. Camping that night was at a DoC (Department of Conservation) standard site - $5 per person and a drop type pit toilet. The only reason I mention this is that it was by far the foulest smelling cubicle that we have encountered to date - including South America!
From the campsite to the sound was about 40km and included travelling through a tunnel under the mountains. This tunnel was about 2km long and went downwards at about 1:10 so we knew the Pimple would have a job getting back up but that was for another day. The kayaking was amazing as well (is it possible to over use this particular superlative?). Double kayaks paddling round the Milford Sound for 4 hours or so. The guide was knowledgeable and funny and made the trip really entertaining. He told us how the vertical rock faces have provided a natural barrier to the invasion of stoats into the area and so native ground dwelling birds still populate the area in relative abundance. I felt so sorry about an hour later when I pi$$ed on his bonfire and pointed out 2 stoats as they scampered along the rockface just above the water line. He was an upset tour guide! Porscha spent the afternoon on a scenic cruise of the sound (again too much of an extravagance for 2 unemployed travelers such as Zoe and I so we passed the time cruising for a lunch spot in the Pimple). We spent that night in a carpark with spectacular views out across the valley and as we started cooking our dinner we had a visitor. A Kea poked his head through the roof vent of the van and then spent the rest of the evening entertaining us with his antics. See the video of it playing with a beer bottle!
Wednesday dawned with the cries of the Kea ringing around the carpark - he wanted an audience to perform to! We couldn't be bothered but there were a succession of other tourists who were happy to oblige including one guy who got the window seal of his Delica shredded by the bird. Inclement weather meant we only managed to walk the Key Summit track that day, we left the other walks alone choosing to push on to Queenstown with a stop at Te Anau for food, diesel and more souvenirs. At Queenstown we found a campsite near the Shotover Jetboat HQ and discussed booking a boat ride for the following day. However, a blind guy in the campsite office suggested we go with the Skippers Canyon jetboat company. There you get a scenic coach trip along the gold rush road through Skippers Canyon on the way to and from the boat ride and a visit to the site of the previous highest Hackett bungy site at pipeline bridge (this one was 102m but the 134m Nevis Highwire has meant that no-one wanted to it anymore and it has been mothballed). What sealed the deal for Skippers Canyon Jetboat was that this blind guy had a guide dog called Ar$ehole and he had done the boat ride and loved it! Having booked the trip we had dinner and the three of us settled down to the single 14" cinema screen in the Pimple and watched a movie!
I'd like to begin Thursday by saying that Jetboating is f**king awesome. My last Jetboating memories were of the Rogue River in North America and that was awesome as well - but it was either 14 or 20 years ago and the memory is a little hazy. Check out the video of the jetboat arriving and see for yourselves! The scenic trip was a real buttock clencher with sheer drops and a bumpy old coach but it was worth it to see what the old prospectors went through. The afternoon activity was a trip up the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown so that we could check out the Luge and the AJ Hackett Ledge Jump bungy. I did the luge and it was fun but for kids really - I did it twice and can see how it could become addictive though. The bungy was not really anything special, once again compared to the Taupo jump it actually looked overpriced and over publicized so we chose to abstain. As I have said above, the Jetboating was the first activity and surely the rest of the day would be hard pressed to live up to it - how wrong could I have been. Porscha treated us to a Fergburger for tea and it was f**king wicked. I went for the biggest beef on the menu - the Big-Al and if you check out the pictures you'll see the challenge I was faced with. Needless to say it ended up Nick - 1; Burger - 0.
This brings us to Friday and after 11 days with us Porscha's time was up. It was pi$$ing with rain so we elected to visit Arrowtown in the morning. This is a historic mining town with museums and such like. It was a good thing to do on a wet day whilst you wait for an afternoon flight. We dropped Porshca at the airport a few hours ago and we are now back to just Zoe and I.
From here we go south again and Zoe will resume the story at some point in the future.
Hope everyone is well and see you in October.