Day 14. Sunday 19 November.
Who would have thought that we’d need to put the aircon on? The morning was bright and clear and by midday the temp was around 25. Folk picnicking at Lake Wakatipu were dipping their toes in and by the time we got to Wanaka it was full immersion.
The morning was spent beside Lake Wakatipu, D still tried for that elusive fish (still eluded) and T ambled along a beech forest track. Queenstown was still humming – probably always does, so we passed through in the early afternoon, stopping only for fuel, joining a queue.
Just had to stop at a viewing point for the river called ‘Roaring Meg’. We found out later that there’s also a Pinot Noir named after her! Part of the legend of the river is that Meg’s dancing hall partner, more subdued, had a stream named after her too; “Quiet Annie’. D’s mum was Meg, and her next older sister was Anne.
Along the road to Wanaka we stopped at an art glass gallery where we listened to the tale of the artist who’d returned to NZ from 16 years glass-making in the Daintree. She and her husband had found that age had crept up on them and they had found themselves too old to apply for Aust citizenship (and the associated benefits/ healthcare). So they had reluctantly returned to NZ and set up at the Otago space, hoping that enough passing traffic would happen. The gallery set up was bright and light, very new and there were some nice pieces but we kept our hands out of our pockets.
Wanaka was a lower key Queenstown, so there was no urge to stay longer. The DOC Information Centre helpfully advised of several campsites heading north towards the Mount Aspiring National Park, so that’s where we’re headed.
The scenery remains impossibly beautiful, as does the weather. Tonight we are beside Lake Wanaka, at the top end, with the Haast Pass and the west coast ahead.
View over the lake is serene – the view over the campsite is cluttered!
Day 15. Monday 20 November.
We are not early risers but we are aware of campers departing, so when there was a much bigger engine noise this morning, it was time to peek around the curtains….to find that a Chinese tour bus had nudged into the corner against the little grey car in the previous photo. The very elegant Chinese tourists must have been up since sparrows and now needed a wee break…they were able to view the daggy tenters/motorhomers up close and personal.
The Dept of Conservation campsites we’ve stayed in have been, without exception, terrific. Facilities clean and working, no rubbish and very orderly. The only quibble, nothing to do with DOC, is all the other campers, who fit into the parts of a chaotic quilt – a cornucopia of accents, ages, sexes, vehicles……you name it! We’ve arrived at DOC campgrounds in the late afternoons, thinking we have huge space all to ourselves….around 6pm some others arrive…around 8pm more and so it goes till after dark. This is very different from Australian camping behavior where folks are settled by 5pm and have a fire lit, wine poured and are ready to exchange travel stories from the day. We have had only one campfire and people generally stay within their vans.
We had a lovely chat last night with a young German mother (baby was 12 months) who had travelled through Australia as an 18 year old with two other mates on a working/travel visa and mostly picked fruit, as well as seeing ‘all of Australia except the bit between Perth and Adelaide.’ Her little family is now doing 40 days in NZ.
First stop today was Blue Pools – and we’re starting to run out of suitable adjectives for the scenery. At this spot, the big brown trout just ‘hang’ in the crystal clear waters unperturbed by the onlookers on the suspension bridges above. Grrr.
Through the Haast Pass, needless to say narrow, steep (in places) and windy.
At Haast township D had a pie, so when we stopped 30 mins later at The Curly Tree Whitebait Company, the whitebait pattie was for T. This tiny fish is harvested during a 10 week season, ending mid–November, but what a lunch treat it was….just fish, bound with an egg and cooked on a bbq ( looked like a fried egg, which T will never do) served on a slice of bread with lemon and salt…delicious!
A brief stop to check the Tasman Sea conditions in almost tropical weather and of course the Danes were there first, with thousand dollars+ binoculars and scopes narrating the movements of an apparent orca, which they said you could only see through binoculars. Of course D (with his $45 Tasco binoculars) and others could see nothing but the rocks below.
Then to Fox Glacier. We walked a valley path for about 500m to the viewing area, about 500 metres from the base of the glacier, to view a distinctly dirty glacier, due to the nature of its travels. A sign showed the extent of the glacier in 1750 and again in 1990. T vaguely recalled the reach of the glacier back in 1972…what a changed environment! We compared Fox to the glaciers we’d seen in Canada/Alaska, which, when calving into the waters of coastal sounds, were pristine white and blue.
Our final stop at around 6:30 was at another DOC campsite, this time with a temporary resident manager who had as many Dad jokes and puns as D – a bit of competition. D wondered how this guy goes with the young European women, who don’t seem to understand D’s jokes, even though they are very funny indeed.