Day 23: Tramping in trampers paradise

When in Rome, act like the romans. Or so they say. And so we did.

With this part of the country being considered to be perfect for taking a walk, it should be foolish of us not going for said walk.
There are quite a few tracks out here, of which Routeburn, Greenstone and Caples are the most well known. These are long tracks, ranging from 2 to 4 full days of walking and with lengths of up to 100km. That is really lovely, but not for us.
We only have one day, so we chose to walk the Lake Rere Loop.

In order to get to the track we need to get in the car outside of the lodge and drive to the right. That road is unsealed and less maintained. It is 12km long and has 3 (actually 4) places where a small river crosses the road. Crosses over the road. These are called fords, and driving through those is only recommended for 4×4’s.
We asked around a little and found out that we should be fine, even though out little rental car is tiny by any NZ standard.
As long as the weather stayed dry, everything would be golden!

The track around Lake Rere is truly wonderful with views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains around every corner. Only an hour in, the drizzle started and got worse to just full on rain right around the time we reached Lake Rere. That is when we had the choice: go back 2 hours or go on for another 3. We decided 2 would be better than 3, and turned around.

Yes, we got really wet. Again. Not all equipment like last time though, but shoes, socks and pant all had to be dried. Most unfortunate, the views also went away as quickly as the clouds rolled in: at a certain point we couldn’t see the coast of the lake anymore…

A few hours after this bad weather, it all cleared and we are now (8pm) looking at blue skies dotted with a few white clouds and mostly sunshine. I guess that is the way things go around here!

Tomorrow we are leaving early for Te Anau as there are lots and lots of activities over there. It should take us 4 hours. Let’s hope we don’t bring the rains with us!

Day 20: (Not) trotting like a fox

Yay, more rain!
It might sound a little boring, but there it is. Consecutive day of rain número 10 has started, and we do not like it.
Also, the people at Fox Glacier Guiding don’t like this amount of rain and have cancelled all tours which are going onto the glacier itself.
Instead, they are offering a walk to the Glacier Terminal Face, which is the end of the glacier itself. You’ll be able to walk to it and check out the awesomeness of the icy highway from a small distance, while standing in the rain.
We opted not to do this instead of our own tour, and received a form for refunding of the tour.

Ok. Our daytime activities are now limited to virtually nothing. Everything here is outdoors, and usually takes longer than a few hours.
We don’t like getting soaked, which leaves only a very few activities.
As the rain lifted a little bit, we decided to ignore the weather and walk around Lake Matheson. Being really nearby and with a total time outdoors of about 90 minutes, we figured it would be ok.
And, we also borrowed a big umbrella each from the Lodge, to ensure we’d stay dry.

The walk is really nice, and we were lucky enough to stay mostly dry! We did not however see the surrounding mountains, as the clouds were hanging too low. After this, we drove to the face of the glacier ourselves.
The guided tour takes you to about 100 metres from the glacier, while the general public is only allowed at about 600 metres distance. The difference is negligible, especially under these conditions as the majority of the glacier and mountains are covered by clouds.
This walk also is lovely, and should be repeated with better weather!

After our dinner, we looked up and spotted two things: no rain, and the clouds had lifted just enough to show the snowy caps of Mount Cook and the glacier in its entirety!
Like madmen, we drove to Lake Matheson, and I even ran to a vista point called Reflection Point. This lookout shows the high mountains and sometimes their reflections in Lake Matheson. The stuff postcards are made from!
The pictures are good, but I was a little late to the party as the clouds already started rolling in from the left. The views are still great though!

Tomorrow, we leave this place already and head for Wanaka. We are too afraid to check the weather reports, so we’ll let faith decide for us.

Day 19: First day of 2014

Again a rainy start of the day here in Punakaiki: we woke up to the thunderous sound of the rain falling in these rainforest like surroundings.

Happy new year by the way! These warm holidays are messing our feeling for time up. Christmas was weird, and now New Years is also a little off.

As we are going to sit in our car for the majority of the day, so all is not lost, but the count of consecutive days of rain has been upped once more, now to 9. After we ate our breakfast of hamburger buns with jam and bananas, we started packing for the journey only to find that the rain had temporarily stopped to let us put the bags in the car.
Also, we decided to pay Pancake Rocks another visit as the sun would be in a much nicer spot for photography. Yesterday, it was directly in our face and quite low already due to the late hour in the day we were there, now the sun was going to be in our back (and hidden behind some clouds) but the views would be nicer like that.

The drought persisted for about another half hour, which was just enough for us to walk the park and take the pictures we wanted to take with the right lighting conditions. Yay!
We quickly returned to the car as the clouds started packing again, and with the slight tinkle of the first raindrops on the windshield we set about to get to Fox Glacier.

During the complete 5 hour trip, it has rained non stop. As driving in those conditions is quite tiring, we swapped drivers every one in a while, just to keep moving and be safe on the road.
Fox Glacier is named after the glacier with the same name in the vicinity, and consists of a few hotels, lodges, motels and B&B’s, together with the companies that do excursions on the glacier itself and helicopter tours for the mountains nearby. Of those, Mount Cook is the largest and the one that feeds the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers.

As the rains are still falling without stopping. We decided it was not time for us to do a short walk in the vicinity of the Lodge, but instead we went about 20kms back up the road (Highway 6) to Franz Josef where the rarest of all kiwis is on display.
Situated in a Wildlife centre, there is an open facility where the flightless nocturnal birds can be viewed during daytime as the rhythm in the display is reversed for our viewing pleasure.
They have a total of 3 Rowi Kiwis scurrying about in the pen, and about 20 eggs still incubating. Also, a lot of young kiwis were still there as the were not yet old enough to be returned to the wild. With about 375 Rowi kiwis still living in the wild, the species is on the brink of extinction and that is where this little sanctuary comes into play.
Viewing the birds was wildly expensive but it is for a good cause, so it is definitely money well spent.

Tomorrow, we are destined to go for a walk on the Fox Glacier, but the forecast says it’ll rain the entire day, with the winds growing stronger and the rain becoming heavier. All in all, about 200mm of rain is going to fall on Fox Glacier tomorrow, which is a lot by any standard.
But with the area experiencing about 5100 mm of rain each year, it just is what it is.

Day 17: Soggy shoes

Well, the forecast for today was pretty much bang on: rain.

There are basically two ways of getting into Abel Tasman NP: on foot, or by boat.
We chose for the latter, as the full Abel Tasman Coastal Track will take about 3 days to complete. And with the current weather, that amount of time outside is just intolerable.
We booked something called Abel Tasman Day Explorer, which means you embark on a boat at Kaiteriteri to go all the way north to the most northern point in the park, after which you get dropped off somewhere along the way back.

We chose to do a two hour walk from Torrent Bay to Medlands Bay, as this is the most beautiful part of the entire Coastal Track. We considered doing the longer 4 hour walk from Medlands Bay to Anchorage Bay, but decided it would be a bad thing if we were to walk in rain the entire time. Remember, we had to choose this morning, during breakfast, and you can never be sure of the weather here.

Considering the title of this blog, you probably guessed it: we chose well. Our entire two hour walk was wet, with rain varying from drizzle to near torrential. Everything got wet, even through our raincoats. We were very glad to not be outside for 4 hours or longer, but were kind of miserable anyway.
On the plus side: the cameras and other equipment all survived this ordeal, and by now most of the stuff we carried is not soaking wet anymore. On the down side: the walk and the views should both have been really wonderful, but I’m afraid we didn’t quite experience those aspects of the trip very well. Too bad.

Weirdly enough, by the time we arrived back in Kaiteriteri around half past 4, the weather had cleared all the way up, and we hurried to go to the beach! With temperatures never dropping below 20 degrees, it definitely was not cold and with the sun on the beach it could even be considered to be very nice!
This was a very nice end of an otherwise quite miserable day.
Thoroughly warmed and very much drier than before, we headed back to the B&B.

Tomorrow, we have to do some shopping for New Year’s Eve as the place we are going has absolutely nothing. It is going to be a very special 31st of December! So, Punakaiki, here we come!

Day 16: To Abel Tasman NP

Yet again, we wake up to cloudy skies and near torrential rain. The forecast says it will be better after Tuesday, but seeing it is Sunday today, that will take a while.
Today we’ll have to travel a few hours to Abel Tasman National Park, and as we won’t be outside much, the rain is of lesser importance. If would however, be nice if it dried up a bit. 🙂

After a quick look at the local NZ Fur Seal colony, we were off, back to the north.
As Abel Tasman No only has one road in it, and no permanent residents, we cannot stay inside the Park overnight. Therefore, our destination today is Kaiteriteri, one of only three places around the park offering a way into the park.

After 4 solid hours of driving through heavy rains, we were both really tired and fed up with the local weather. Unfortunately for us, the warm weather the other couple told us about the other day has not stayed in Kaiteriteri and has made way for a lot of rain. Not only today, but also in the coming days. Blegh.

So, today we did nothing basically. We arrived at the B&B, and were greeted by our hostess Jude. She informed us about all available options to spend the day outside, but had to confess there is little to do on a wet day.
So, we have made arrangements to ignore the weather and go out on a boat into Abel Tasman for a walk.
We’ll see what it brings us, it should be a really lovely walk!

The most memorable moment today has to be the dinner we enjoyed at the local Eco Resort! We ate in the vegetarian restaurant, and thoroughly enjoyed it! The atmosphere was quite something else to be honest, seeing all food was not only vegetarian, but also locally grown, fresh, non spray, organic, and really ‘green’. Even the drinks were organic, and we both had an organic Coke. Weird!