Day 13. Saturday 18 November.

We’ve become accustomed to the presence of motor homes, and caravans are rare, so this morning’s neighbour was worth another look…fancy, pinot to go! thought T.


Time to head north to Queenstown – about 180 kms. A coffee stop at Five Rivers, which consisted basically of the coffee shop, but featured on the map. Later towns, much bigger (with at least two coffee shops) didn’t make it on to the map.

Then we hit the bottom of Lake Wakatipu.


Queenstown is the adrenalin capital of NZ and we arrived for a double shot as it was Q Marathon day. We arrived at about the five-hour mark, so some runners we saw were a bit slow, but D in particular was happy to admire their effort and accept the road delay due to bridgework and runners crossing. T had the wheel and D said ‘Just keep going, through the town centre’…well, she did, past the throngs queueing for presumably free hamburgers, and the closed off side-roads. There was nowhere to turn around, so toward Glenorchy we went. The road wound along the lake and of course the next marvelous mountain/lake vista was upon us. T thinks ‘you just can’t get enough of these views’.




Arrived at 25 Mile Camp Creek campsite mid afternoon, to find just one other camper, so selected a good site overlooking Lake Wakatipu. After an amount of jockeying into position, we were set, so T decided to go for a walk …………… and found that someone had been here before us.






Two hardy swimmers braved the cold waters of the lake, but didn’t stay in for long!





D has finally taken the plunge, got a one day fishing licence online, and began to beat the waters of the lake with the successful lure from the Patagonia trip. One strike, but D was so distracted by looking at the view (and perhaps not really expecting it?) that the fish managed to get off before the hook was struck.




A few others also decided to take the plunge and ventured into the water in swimmers…at 10 degrees all year round, it’s hardly attractive, but to each his own…

Saturday evening in sandfly central and D is thrashing the lake one more time……same result.











Day 12. Friday 17 November.

The smoky fire kept the Namu (NZ sandflies) at bay, but once out of its cover they (only the females) bit with a vengeance. The cabin was given a spray with insecticide, but some managed to survive this chemical assault, and made sure we both woke up with multiple, itchy bites.

Milford is today’s destination, a pretty good road but the signs tell us it is 110 kms and that we should allow two hours. That turns out to be fairly accurate, but it also allows more relaxed time to enjoy the scenery: the mountains, lakes, streams, rock faces weeping from on high and beautiful forests of beech and black coral trees.

A stop at The Chasm along the way to marvel at the power of water that has shaped and carved intricate forms into the rock bed of the stream, by forcing and tumbling pebbles to create an eroding machine.


At the tunnel entrance we have a short stop ( 6mins) while uphill traffic has the right of way. There, we see a pair of Keas, scavenging for food scraps. Such ferocious beaks!


Arrived at Milford to a windy day and many, many others and were put off taking a cruise by the crowds – Doubtful Sound had been just right.


So, back to Te Anau to take an evening Glow Worm expedition and to buy some insect repellant.

The boat ride across Lake Te Anau was suitably picturesque in the early evening.


Then some information about the life cycle and behavior of glow worms                  (apparently they love sandflies) and into the caves. The roar of the underground river was one thing but the total darkness in sections where the gondola was pulled through was something else. And of course the cave roof dotted with the tiny lights of the worms was a bit of magic. Interestingly, people from various language groups adhered to the English instructions re ‘silence’ and ‘no photos’.

Back across the lake to town, it was time to find the pizzeria:just the thing for Friday night…marinara with extra anchovies. And the pinot is a terrific Mud House 2015 from Central Otago. Tomorrow it’s off to Queenstown.

Unable to load photos from today – will try later.

Day 11. Thursday 16 November.

Where to today? Let’s go to Te Anau and then along the Milford Rd. Well the venison pie at Te Anau was seriously good and T retraced steps to the little Anglican church ‘St Michael and All the Angels’ where she had wondered about sleeping on the porch 46 years ago…but, as happened, she slept on the floor below a bunk in the very full YHA next door. And the porch no longer exists – replaced by a ramp for the mobility challenged: how appropriate!

After the pie treat, T took the wheel and it was time for D to be scared. The road to Milford is a gem, mountains, lakes, beech forests.

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A short, quiet walk at Mistletoe Lake (first picture above) through one of those beech forests and then a stop at Mirror Lakes (second picture above) to watch ducks squabbling and two big trout patrolling…then camp was pitched at Cascade Creek beside the stream (with two squabbling trout!) at about two thirds of the way to Milford Sound. It’s the last of the Dept of Conservation campsites (cheap & basic) before Milford. Scavenged firewood and a fire place complete the idyll. We make enough smoke to keep the sandflies down, but the potatoes cooked in the coals are a fantastic complement to the Porterhouse steaks and tomatoes, all washed down with NZ red wines. Does it get any better?


And D wasn’t scared by T driving. But no internet at Cascade Creek, so this posted back at Te Anau.







An Uplifting Day

Day 10. Wednesday 15 November.

Fiordland National Park has rain on 200+ days each year, with an annual average of 9 metres – this year it was 11 metres. That’s where we’re going today. What are our chances?

It is a perfect day, hardly a cloud in the sky or a breath of wind. Paradoxically, the bus driver on a later part of the journey tells us that the view and the rain forest are magnificent in the wet, and it has in fact been dry for a few days.

We walk down a forest track for 15 min from our campsite to board the first boat leg on Manapouri Lake and the camera starts clicking. 45 mins later we disembark at the West Arm (underground power station at the top of the lake). The power station is at its half-life, and transformers are being replaced over the next 4 days so there’s a bit of road traffic happening (50 tonnes at a time, requiring two prime movers at the front to pull the trailer, and one behind to push). WA power station was built in the 1960s to provide power to an aluminium smelter. It draws water from Lake Manapouri, drops it through tunnels etc, sends it through the mountains and then pours it into Doubtful Sound. An amazing piece of engineering, even by today’s measures.

And at the power station we board a coach and drive 45 mins over Wilmot Pass the most expensive road in NZ at $80 per square metre), marveling at the towering rainforest which is anchored to the vertical granite mountains through a carpet of moss, lichens and liverworts. These soft green mounds are a giant sponge, soaking up the 9 metres of rain and allow the next storeys of plant life to grow.


We hear that this is virgin forest, ancient wilderness that has had no genetic modification over millions of years. The habitat provides for fish and birds only…there are few other places on the planet which are still in this pre- mammal stage of evolution. Needless to say, it was the arrival of Europeans who introduced alien species (rabbits, then ferrets, stoats and weasels to control them) that stuffed it up, resulting in the extinction of several native bird species. The birds were flightless because they had no predators, apart from the Maori, and were vulnerable to these introduced hunters, who developed a taste for this easy prey.

Then onto the next boat at Deep Cove to motor up Doubtful Sound to the Tasman Sea.



The granite mountains, some with a little snow still, the forest in its 50 shades of green, the hanging valleys….and all carved by ice!


We stop in at a little cove to check out the Blanket Bay Hotel. When the National Park was created, some enterprising cray fishermen realized that it started at the high tide mark, so built this infrastructure below that line! The law was immediately changed, but the ‘hotel’ continues to operate as a station and transshipment point for the fishermen.




At the entrance to the Sound (40 kms of motoring), we see seals, sea lions and a bit of magic with humpback whales and finally a pair of Fiordland Crested Penguins standing sentry on a rock. Then it’s time to repeat the journey in reverse.

On the homeward stretch T sits next to a tiny Peruvian lady who mentions early into the conversation that she is travelling with a group of Chicago University alumni (and she’s not happy with the group). Her husband had worked there and they all talk about their jobs….blah, blah, blah. In fact this is her third husband ‘I don’t kill them, I scare them’ she says. The day has not been good for her because she has just received news about the death of her sister in New Jersey and is now trying to change flights to get home early. The tour guide was working overtime to get new flight bookings. It was a reminder that travel is not always a joyous thing and how wonderful it is to have empathetic assistance at difficult times.




Sitting outside in the evening writing this blog, and we’re sharing the space with bitey little sandflies, who invaded our van this morning. And a few feathered friends…





Dinner out tonight at the Church. This one has walls and is perhaps food for thought? Hairven was transported to Manapouri from????? And we’d heard earlier today about Rimu, the native pine formerly used for construction and furniture-making (now preserved). The church/pub was totally Rimu. Our host was the ideal ‘minister’ and while the food was (very acceptable) ‘pub’ the experience was overall very satisfying.

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A Day on the Narrow Winding Road South

Day 9. Tuesday 14 November.

Of course D had packed fishing gear but being a ‘foreigner’ a daily licence costs $25, opportunities and access are limited, and there’s never any guarantee, let alone knowing the right spots. Last night when a toothbrush bristle got stubbornly stuck and several attempts to dislodge it failed, T suggested that perhaps D could sacrifice a button on his shirt in order to obtain a length of thread to floss the bristle out. D had a better idea and opened the fishing bag; there was the perfect thing: braided line from Aldi! Worked a treat. So catching an 85 kilo flathead didn’t need the $25 licence after all.

The early departees announced their preparations and goings with banging and slamming – which acted as an alarm clock telling us to make our morning cuppa.

We took the scenic route south, hugging the coastline and for an hour or so we could have been on the NSW South Coast, where there were also lots of campervan perching spots. Then west through rolling green hills/sheep farms/small working towns, every square metre under production. At coffee o’clock in Balclutha, shop signage requested customers to remove gumboots before entering and indeed at the Gate Café, that’s exactly what two young women had done. One section of road between Clinton and Gore was officially named President Hwy…they can’t be serious!

The sky became brighter as the day progressed. A long day on the road – NZ standards – and here we are in brilliant sunshine at Manapouri. At the cruise office the booking officer commented how it was too hot for her here!

Tonight we are at Possum Lodge, a small, unpretentious mixture of campsites, motorhome sites and motel units, all dating from the sixties, at a guess. But it is relaxed and quiet, and not much daggier than us! Tomorrow promises to be a beautiful day on Doubtful Sound.





Day 8. Monday 13 November.

We parked last night next to two memorials for thirteen Aramoana locals shot dead by a fellow resident on this date in 1990. A somewhat sombre start to the day, having been woken by the maintenance staff mowing and trimming around us.

Today we do Dunedin, the Edinburgh of the south. Our first task was to find somewhere to park our 7.2 metre motor home – there were no designated slots and we overhang normal car parking spots. Looking for something suitable gave us a chance to circumnavigate the centre of the city a couple of times, until T suggested the railway station, where we joined quite a few other motorhomers who’d obviously had the same dilemma.

Having parked there, a tour of this magnificent and beautifully preserved building followed.

There should be a lovely photograph here but Apple and the internet conspred to prevent us accessing it. Will post later if we can.

Our next visit was to the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum – following the map from the Railway Station on Anzac Avenue, across Castle Street, up Stuart Street, down Cumberland Street to Castle Street, to discover it was next door to the station, about 50 metres from where we’d parked. D’s map reading skills have apparently dulled.

The museum was terrific, tracing the history of the area from the original Iwi inhabitants through to European settlement and the present day, noting that there had been a very high level of integration through treaties and inter-marriage, but acknowledging that there had been some conflict between settlers and locals.

Looked up the second Presbyterian Church, Knox Church, where D had a special prayer asking forgiveness for his cranky responses to pedestrians who walked on the wrong (right) side of the footpath or who barreled out of shops expecting the passing traffic to get out of their way. There were a couple of instances en route.

The bit of Dunedin CBD we saw (and admittedly just a very small part of it) is fairly pedestrian and a bit grubby but the city’s beautiful harbor location and its commitment to preserving historical and natural features well and truly redeems it. And (pedestrians aside) the people have been welcoming, engaged and friendly whatever the context.

After a quick resupply at Countdown it was time to head to Portobello, on the opposite side of Otago Harbour from last night, positioning ourselves to visit the Royal Albatross Centre on Taiaroa Head. The narrow winding road along the peninsula to Taioroa is a series of tiny bays, with steep hillsides where homes and lush gardens perch precariously and landslides are an issue. Where urban Dunedin runs out, small holiday shacks take over. Interestingly, despite the glorious setting, leisure craft were non-existent. Perhaps Dunedin is not affluent enough for this recreation?

Arrived at T Head around 5pm and actually regretted that the afternoon was so calm. Yesterday had been cold and blustery: perfect conditions for albatross viewing. Despite this there were enough albatross soaring from their land nests to satisfy the onlookers. T remarked on how similar to the Saturday glider these sea birds looked! From the viewing walkway we also saw seals and sea lions on the rock ledges below, and Spotted Shags on other cliff faces.

Memorable moment of the day? As we returned to the campground, we observed two gentlemen dressed in Scottish kilts. D later overheard a European tourist camper ask the park manager: ‘What sort of party are those men going to?’ Didn’t wait for the answer.