Seeking Serenity on the South Island

Jul 24th, 2018, 04:13 PM
  #21  
 
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Just a little "damp"
mlgb is offline  
Jul 24th, 2018, 04:37 PM
  #22  
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Yep.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jul 24th, 2018, 05:42 PM
  #23  
 
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Still following along and enjoying your report. Are sandflies particularly bad in certain parts of NZ? I don't remember any in the Auckland area or on Waiheke Island.
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Jul 25th, 2018, 06:06 AM
  #24  
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tripplanner - Yes, they are - they're a South Island issue - particularly along the West Coast. Check out this sandfly map:

https://teara.govt.nz/en/map/14737/sandfly-nuisance-map
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Jul 25th, 2018, 06:21 AM
  #25  
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Travel Day/Glenorchy to Fox Glacier:

We left Glenorchy the way we had come, this time under a blanket of damp gloom; low clouds, bizarre and moody, severing the tops of those glorious mountains one minute, teasing us with blue sky the next. Passing through Queenstown yet again we called in at the noisy Café Society in the Five Mile shopping center for unsatisfying tepid flat whites, my request for ‘extra hot’ falling on deaf ears.

Back in the car we passed winery after winery, realizing that we’d not given them sufficient attention (!).

We stopped at Jackson Orchards, questioning our sanity as we stood in the freezing cold eating one last cup of Cromwell fruit ice cream. We watched a group of Chinese visitors get out of their van and pounce on the Pacific Rose apples, scooping up bags full; washing and tucking in on the spot, one member of the party returning a second time for yet another bag before driving on.

Then it was on towards Albert Town, formerly a tiny settlement, now a full on Boom Town, its growth since our last visit discombobulating, feeling very much like a suburb of Wanaka.

We drove alongside beautiful Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka, the skies now clear, the views incredible, working our way up the lush West Coast. The short walk to the Blue Pools (30 minute return) was impossible to resist despite having done it many times; the river crossing delayed a few minutes by a film crew and their drone.

The notoriously wet West Coast was mercifully dry, we could actually see the tops of the mountains as we worked our way through the tunnel of green; a feast for the eyes. But with 182 kilometers still to go at 2 pm, we were forced to curtail the photo stops.

We made a very brief stop at Bruce Bay, but retreated to the car the minute the sandflies found us, in awe of a couple with a small child leisurely exploring the beach – all wearing shorts! Several optimistic sandflies clung to the car windows as we fled; persistently hanging on for a couple of miles.

It had taken us over eight hours, but as we approached Fox Glacier, we were chuffed to see Aoraki Mount Cook on full display in the waning daylight.

Why Fox Glacier?

1) We needed a place to break up the journey between Glenorchy and Cape Foulwind. 2) Staying in Fox instead of Franz Josef shortened a very long drive day by close to an hour, and 3) in all our visits to the West Coast we had yet to explore the tracks at Gillespies Beach.

Our Accommodation:

http://www.rainforestmotel.co.nz/


Our unit was a bit spartan, but spacious, warm and relatively well equipped (NZ $145 per night). The shower was powerful, the hot water plentiful, the bed too low and too soft for our tastes, the proprietor helpful, Alice the cat friendly.

We were in a block of four units, flanked on either side by a large group of Malaysians. All 10-12 would gather nightly for dinner in one unit. We initially had concerns about noise since we were smack dab in the middle of their group, but our fears were unfounded. Our stay was peaceful. Unfortunately, we had major issues with the WiFi (first time this trip). Undoubtedly due to the number of people surrounding us, each clutching a device.

What we did during our stay in Fox Glacier:

We began our only full day by driving out to Lake Matheson, where we walked to the Jetty Viewpoint and then continued on the Lake Circuit (2.7 miles, 90 minute loop). Lake Matheson is known for its reflections of Aoraki Mount Cook (best viewed at dawn and dusk on clear days), but today, despite the clear skies, the views from Jetty Viewpoint were adversely affected by the wind, which caused ripples in the water. However, we did see lovely reflections later in the walk, from the View of Views (top end of the lake) and Reflection Island.

We explored Gillespies Beach – two of the tracks were closed due to flooding and a damaged bridge, so we walked to the lagoon - a bit of a trudge due to the deep sand, ankle-breaking round rocks and masses of thirsty sandflies – but…the views to the mountains were spectacular (2.7 miles, 90 minutes return, only saw two other people). We continued walking to the bridge, an entire section of which we’d seen earlier near the beach – presumably relocated by either cyclone Fehi or Gita.

We drove the Glacier View Access Road and walked to the overlook, lovely views, and a fascinating tree covered in fungi – 1/2 mile, 15 minute return.

We drove out to Fox Glacier where we walked to the terminal face – the trail steep – the sun blinding (!) the helicopters going nuts overhead, taking full advantage of the fantastic weather (2.18 miles return, 1:15). The track was harder than we remembered; we later learned from Andy (motel proprietor) that it was newly built, having been damaged during one of the cyclones. He also mentioned that some 800 tourists had been stranded in Haast for days - without cell phone coverage - (oh, the horror!) - but with plentiful beer.

Where we ate, imbibed and caffeinated:

With a population of 306, there’s not a huge number of food options in Fox Glacier, but more than one might expect.

The Last Kitchen – we had a pretty good dinner here, fish of the day for Bill (cod), falafel plate for me, glass of wine for both, a bit expensive (NZ $84).

Matheson Café (Lake Matheson) – nice flat whites with incredible views

https://www.lakematheson.com/

Indian Kitchen – owned by the same people who operate The Last Kitchen (next door) – I suspect they share said kitchen. We had a good dinner here – Chicken Tikka Masala, Paneer Tikka Masala and garlic naan (which unfortunately didn’t make it to the table hot) – NZ $47, no drinks. All things considered, a good option in Fox Glacier.

Café Neve – we didn’t try the food here, but this busy little café serves up good flat whites

Rainforest Motel – the spectacular sunny dry weather and almost complete lack of sandflies enabled us to have our first ever West Coast picnic. So nice was the day that we had lunch, and then later, happy hour, at a picnic table on the grounds of our motel. Beautiful.

Photos here:


To be continued...
Melnq8 is offline  
Jul 25th, 2018, 05:02 PM
  #26  
 
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The photos of the mountains are gorgeous. Love the up-close one of the bird too.
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Jul 26th, 2018, 04:01 AM
  #27  
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Thank you tripplanner!
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Jul 26th, 2018, 04:14 AM
  #28  
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Travel Day/Fox Glacier to Cape Foulwind:

We left Fox Glacier, headed north, detouring at Franz Josef to walk the short track to the viewpoint (30 minute return), which like Fox Glacier, had been reconfigured since Fehi and Gita blew through. We were surprised to see an Indian restaurant in Franz Josef, evidently a new addition since our last visit.

The day was overcast, the landslips abundant, road construction seemingly everywhere.

We took a Tip Top break at a milk store in Whataroa, Hokey Pokey for me, vanilla for Bill. Whataroa is home to New Zealand’s only White Heron nesting site. Tours are offered, accessible only by boat. Maybe next time.

White Heron Sanctury Tours

It began to rain as we approached Hari Hari, the landscape dotted with uprooted trees, presumably more work of Fehi and Gita.

We drove through Hokitika, the only West Coast town center located by a beach, once again amazed at how much it had grown in our absence, and a bit wistful that we’d not planned to stay at least a night.

As we neared Greymouth, we came upon another massive bridge project, rivaling that of Queenstown; a new two lane bridge is being built downstream of the existing one lane Taramakau Bridge (which shares the road with a railway track oddly enough). The new bridge will result in the realignment of a section of SH 6.

https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/proj...e-20171221.pdf

We made a lunch stop in Greymouth, Bill driving to Bonzai Café (a long time favorite) as if he’d just been there yesterday. Oh how I wish I had his sense of direction! We shared a darn good pizza (NZ $25) and then picked up a few groceries before continuing our drive north.

Having visited Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks) many times, we’d planned to just pass through…but the sudden appearance of the sun convinced us otherwise; we wandered the paved walkway through the stacked limestone rocks once again. How could we not?

https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-re...lowholes-walk/

We continued driving the squiggle-rama that is SH 6, dodging yet more landslips and road work. South of Westport we left the highway, our printed directions leading us west along a series of lonely country roads, Bill asking where on earth I was taking him. Some eight hours after leaving Fox Glacier, we arrived in Cape Foulwind (Taranga Bay).

Why Cape Foulwind?

We wanted to explore Charming Creek Walkway, located 35 km northeast of Westport, yet staying in Westport held no appeal, so I’d scoped out other possibilities, stumbling upon a real gem.

Our Accommodation:

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/20907514

Wow! Lovely new cottage situated on the property of owner Jude, completely self-contained and private (USD $108 per night). Sparkling clean, upscale and a bit posh, and the most comfortable bed we’d encountered thus far – and that view!

As a bonus the unit has a dishwasher, Netflix and a fabulous patio, but this being the West Coast, the weather was uncooperative and the sandflies were fierce (dozens of them clung to the exterior window – no way were we going out there to feed them!).

The cottage is tethered to the ground with a heavy chain – and a good thing too – one night I worried the ferocious West Coast wind might blow us into the Tasman Sea.

What we did during our one full day in Cape Foulwind:

Despite the pouring rain and utter gloom we drove to the start of the Charming Creek Walkway. The track was underwater, the weather abysmal – we only managed to walk two miles – a miserable slog. We saw not another soul and had not a bit of fun. Best made plans...

https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-re...creek-walkway/

Later in the day, we chased the tiny sliver of sunshine to the Cape Foulwind Walkway managing to cover another two miles (undulating) before the skies re-opened. They don’t call it Foulwind for nothing.

Where we ate, imbibed and caffeinated:

Copper Pot (Westport) – we had an edible, but not particularly good lunch here (once again surprised that so many small towns in New Zealand have Indian restaurants) – Chicken Tikka, forgettable Paneer, garlic naan (NZ $42)

Local boozer – (Westport hotel I failed to note the name of) - beer, cider and pokies, and a friendly group of old folks who asked if we’d be joining their game of 45. We probably should have, might’ve been fun.

Photos here:


To be continued...
Melnq8 is offline  
Jul 26th, 2018, 07:12 AM
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At least Tip Top Hokey Pokey still exists
mlgb is offline  
Jul 26th, 2018, 11:53 AM
  #30  
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mlgb - definitely!
Melnq8 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2018, 06:23 AM
  #31  
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Travel Day/Cape Foulwind to Tasman:

Still blowy and wet, we left our lovely cottage and began working our way northeast alongside the Buller River, via yet more squiggly roads.

I remembered Maruia Falls being up this way, but couldn’t locate them on my 150 page NZ road atlas (!), so we did the next best thing and relied on my memory, detouring from SH 6 to 65, and actually finding them some 11 km later. Maruia Falls is the result of the Murchinson earthquake of 1929, when a landslide diverted the course of the Maruia River forcing it to cut a new channel over an old river bank.

Back on SH 6 we stopped in Murchison and sought out our favorite local café – Rivers – for one of the better flat whites we’d had thus far, a so-so shared slice of cake and a visit with the resident cat snoozing on the couch (NZ $18.50).

We continued our drive, the clouds lifting and giving us a nice look at those elusive West Coast mountain peaks. At Hope Saddle we walked to the overlook to soak up the views; the peace abruptly broken by the arrival of two self-proclaimed bogans (announced right there on their tee shirts), who’d pulled up music blaring, climbed atop a rock near the car park and commenced a selfie session.

We forged on, eventually turning onto the Motueka Valley Highway and meandering through countryside and hops farms. I’ve always loved this drive, but as with many areas on the South Island, logging seems to have taken over.

Six hours after leaving wet Cape Foulwind, we’d arrived in sunny Tasman Village.

Why Tasman?

It’s just our kind of place. Small and quiet (although not as quiet as it once was, thanks to road noise from the nearby Ruby Bay Bypass - and yet more growth - which had us longing for the quieter gentler days of yore). Central, but not in the thick of things…yet.

Our Accommodation:

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5673884

Beautiful place this. An exceptionally well equipped studio attached to the home of UK transplants Roger, Stephanie and Pickle the cat (NZ $148 per night, approximately USD $108). All the comforts of home plus some.

Sparkling clean and fresh, spacious, fantastic rain shower, incredibly comfortable bed, upscale and posh, an elaborate entertainment system, and the best part, the most helpful hospitable owners we’ve ever come across; fountains of local knowledge.

To be continued...
Melnq8 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2018, 09:53 AM
  #32  
 
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More lovely pics, Mel. Shame that your stay at the lovely BnB at Westport was ruined by the weather; if anything the sand flies sound even worse but at least you had sun at your next stop.

looking forward to more.
annhig is offline  
Jul 29th, 2018, 10:11 AM
  #33  
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Thank you annhig. I think the bad weather in Westport made us appreciate the lovely studio even more - we spent more time indoors than we would have otherwise, and it was a great place to do it!

Our house was struck by lightening Friday and we've been without Internet, but the neighbor has kindly offered us his, so I will try to get pack to posting.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jul 29th, 2018, 10:20 AM
  #34  
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What we did during our stay in Tasman:

We walked the Dicker Ridge Track, setting out on foot directly from the studio early one morning. The trail led us up to a ridge with great views of the surrounding vineyards and countryside, through sheep paddocks, beside a bizarre collection of old junked cars* surrounding a rather posh house, and alongside berry farms and orchards.

*When we asked Roger about the cars, he told us they belong to a resident who owns a towing business; the wrecks have never been claimed, leaving him stuck with lots and lots of useless vehicles. Evidently he’s at odds with his neighbors and the council over how to properly dispose of them.

The track ended at Aporo Road, spitting distance from the Jester House Café, our chosen breakfast stop. We walked back to the studio via the road, making a five mile loop, noticing a handful of mothers walking through the village pushing strollers – something we just don’t see in our neck of the woods - sadly.

We poked around Kaiteriteri - took photos, walked the beach, ate ice cream and tried to process all the changes since we were last here; there’s a new convenience store, a nice beachside restaurant, tourist cabins and a playground.

In an effort to determine which section of the Abel Tasman Track would be kindest to my poor knee and still incorporate something new (we’ve walked most of the track before), we relentlessly picked the brains of a patient young French woman at the Motueka I-Site.

With her assistance, Bill hatched a plan that managed both – we took a Sea Shuttle water taxi into Abel Tasman National Park from Kaiteriteri to Anchorage (NZ $49 each return). From there we walked the Pit Head loop, and then continued walking the Abel Tasman Track to Apple Bay.

The bridge at Anchorage was closed due to damage, so we had to take the high tide route up to the track, adding a 30 minute uphill climb. We also attempted a couple of side tracks down to various beaches hoping for a good picnic spot, but they were much steeper, rougher and longer than advertised – the knee emphatically said no. We saw more people on the track than on any previous visit.

Because of our chosen route we had six hours between water taxi drop-off and pick up, giving us lots of time to chill at Apple Bay; no hardship on this fabulous sunny, sandfly free day (7.5 miles, 4:40).

https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-re...national-park/

We visited the refreshingly sedate Motueka Sunday Market located near the I-Site – music, food and various items for sale. It’d have been a great spot for breakfast had we not already eaten (we really appreciated their no dog policy!).

Another beautiful sunny day found us in Abel Tasman National Park again, where we walked the track from Marahau to just beyond Coquille Bay and return (four miles 2:00). The pedestrian bridge at Marahau was standing, but listing to one side, making us wonder if Fehi and Gita were to blame.

The Abel Tasman coast has an incredible tidal range that can rise and fall some 15 feet between high and low tide. Hearing this is one thing, actually seeing it is quite another. Although we’d only been gone two hours, when we returned to Marahau the change in tide was obvious and surprising.

Instead of returning the way we’d come (Riwaka-Kaiteriteri Road) we decided to take Riwaka-Sandy Bay Road, not realizing that this area had been devastated by landslides following Cyclone Gita. The destruction was sobering. We eventually had to turn around, as a section of the road was closed (presumably for ongoing repairs).

Forestry under fire as communities left in shock from ex-cyclone Gita | Stuff.co.nz

We visited a few area wineries – Neudorf (Upper Moutere) nice Dry Riesling, Seifried (Appleby) - huge range, nice Sauvignon Blanc and fabulous Agnes Sweet Reisling, Brightwater (Hope), lovely wine (all of them!) - here we shared some expat stories with co-owner Valley, who like us, had lived in the Middle East for many years.

Regarding growth in the area – the former one horse town of Motueka has turned into a serious bottleneck. State Highway 60 (High Street) has become impossibly congested and difficult to navigate, SH 60 over the Motueka River to Riwaka is downright dangerous (vehicles are forced to stop when oncoming trucks turn onto the bridge - it’s too narrow to accommodate both – a bit unsettling when you’re in a tiny Tiida and a huge logging truck approaches head on, in your lane). Motueka desperately needs a bypass (and evidently they’re investigating it). As bad as it was while we were there, Roger told us it’s complete chaos during Christmas summer holidays.

https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/proj...t-brochure.pdf

We explored the shores of Ruby Bay and a small bit of Rough Island.

We made a couple of trips to Mapua Wharf – the mast of a sailboat was sticking out of the water - we later learned that it had sunk just the day before and that its overseas owner was none the wiser. Bummer.

We visited Rabbit Island, walking the wide, near empty beach towards Mapua and return at low tide - four miles, 1:45 hours of spectacular people-free nirvana. The compacted sand made for easy walking, the Oyster Catchers and gulls provided endless entertainment.

We drove to the big smoke of Nelson via Bishopdale. Parking in the CBD is still cheap and easy to find (NZ $1.60 for two hours in Montgomery Square). The drive in from Tasman via Wiamea Road and SH 6 was a breeze. This hasn’t always been the case; whether due to new road completion or us just finally figuring out the best route, we’ll never know. We were surprised that Nelson didn’t feel overrun with tourists (we were told later by two different people that Nelson is very much a summer town). At this point it dawned on us that we’d seen considerably fewer tourists since we’d left the West Coast.

To be continued...

Last edited by Melnq8; Jul 29th, 2018 at 10:27 AM.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jul 29th, 2018, 10:32 AM
  #35  
 
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Siefried Pinot Gris was always a favorite "quaffer".
mlgb is offline  
Jul 29th, 2018, 04:05 PM
  #36  
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mlgb - ever try their Agnes Sweet Riesling? It never fails to please (me).
Melnq8 is offline  
Jul 29th, 2018, 05:20 PM
  #37  
 
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While it sounds like you were busy on this part of the trip, some of it sounds very relaxing as well.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jul 29th, 2018, 06:08 PM
  #38  
 
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happy reading your itineraries/plan... seems organized and relaxing... got some good tips too, thanks for sharing!
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Jul 30th, 2018, 06:31 AM
  #39  
 
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Originally Posted by Melnq8 View Post
mlgb - ever try their Agnes Sweet Riesling? It never fails to please (me).
No I haven't Melnq8 but do like the dessert (and off dry) Reislings from the Waipara/Canterbury alrea also.
mlgb is offline  
Jul 30th, 2018, 11:58 PM
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Rabbit Island is our go to swimming beach when the grandchildren come to visit. It was where we always took our kids for picnics and BBQ's too when they were young. Only about 10 minutes from our house. We are always amazed how empty the beach is right up until Christmas day. Even then during the Christmas holiday period the beach never really feels crowded. The cyclones and king tides did significant damage to the Riwaka, and Marahau area. Did you go to the Saturday market in Nelson Mel? One of the best, not just a farmers market, but a lot of handmade craft, woodwork, jewellery, clothing etc.
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