*wrote this a few days ago but only now have we finally got wi-fi good enough to post.
Well hello, since the last blog we have travelled about 800km from Nelson right at the top of the South Island down the west coast to Queenstown. We spread it over 4 days but even so it’s been more about looking out the window admiring views than really getting out and doing things. The vast majority of this driving is through valleys and forests as far as the eye can see with the occasional small town along the way. There were more than a few scary, windy roads through the mountains with massive drops on one side and the only protection for the car a small wooden crash barrier. These types of road are a particular favourite of the lady of the manor who spends most of the time squealing and telling me to slow down and if the drop is on her side leaning over and almost preventing me steering. It was pretty breathtaking at times though, the sheer scale and remoteness of the area is mind boggling.
Despite the lack of big items to tick off the ‘to be seen’ list it has been a very pleasant few days with some notable highlights. Sunday night in Greymouth was at probably my favourite campsite so far, we were welcomed at reception with the words “pick which ever pitch you want, we’re so quiet it doesn’t matter” PERFECT! Nothing better than a camp site virtually to yourself, even if it can be a little bit like the shining sometimes, plus this one was situated right next to the beach so we of course chose a pitch as close to the beach as possible. Our van was no more than 10 metres from the beach and although it wasn’t particularly sandy there were lots of crashing waves and a beautiful sunset. Falling to sleep with the sound of waves in the background is magical and even better given the lack of any other noise in the area.
The highlight of the trip south of Greymouth was passing through the small town of Ross where in 1900 and something they discovered New Zealand’s largest gold nugget, a mighty 2.7kg which of course had a name – Honourable Roddy. This is somewhere close to the amount of gold in the lady of the manor’s second engagement ring (yes 2nd she ‘lost’ the first one). There is a mining museum in the village with a replica of dear Roddy, we didn’t stop.
After another hour or so’s driving south of Ross we arrived in Franz Josef, home of the glacier. A mighty impressive glacier it is too, it can move at a speed of up to 5m a day 10 times faster than the feeble European ones. A glacier isn’t something you get to see every day and you can get pretty close to this one, so we headed for the car park. We loaded the wee girl into her rucksack carrier and headed off for glacier base camp. Now you can sign up with a guide and get higher up the glacier and while Matilda does like an adventure this was probably one step too far even for her.
It was a brisk 45 minute walk to base camp across a dry river bed which if the warning signs were to be believed could fill with flood water any minute. But the Kiwi’s have a healthy attitude to health and safety (see comment above on crash barriers) and let you carry on regardless. It was a very cool experience despite the icy wind in the valley (and yes I spent the whole walk cracking those sort of high brow jokes) and also a bizarre contrast between the lush rainforest vegetation on one side and the massive block of ice on the other.
Franz Josef was also pretty much the midway point in our trip so we decided to treat ourselves to 2 nights in a motel rather than the van. We thought it’d be nice to have a bit more space and a toilet that didn’t involve going outside. Wrong. Big. Fat. Fail. Lovely rooms to stay in and nice bathroom and showers, the only draw back being that the walls and ceiling were so thin that you could hear every word of the conversation the people next door were having, whenever someone walked across the floor above us it sounded like an elephant and to top it all off you could here people weeing. Altogether a perfect environment to try and get a 5 month old baby to sleep and then sit in the near darkness trying to read. Oh and the the mattress on the bed was so crap you spent the whole night trying to stop yourself rolling into the middle of the bed. Unsurprisingly we checked out first thing the next day and in a very un-English manner demanded a refund.
So we were back in our campervan and actually very cosy and happy, perhaps this is the solution to avoiding noisy neighbours? I’m also starting to see the attraction of houseboats….
All disappointment and anger were forgotten within 5 minutes of getting out at our next stop however, Lake Mattheson had been flagged by all the guidebooks as a great place to get out for a walk and a photo. If you get a still day you get an amazing reflection of Mount Cook in the lake water, we had a slight ripple but all the same a picture perfect location. A 1 hour walk around the lake also meant that we had earned our coffee and cake at the cafe in the car park. As I tweeted at the time I don’t think there can be a more beautiful place to drink coffee, plus I had the best piece of carrot cake ever to go with it. Heaven.
We had a stop off in Haast last night and now (Wed) we’re in Queenstown. It’s quite strange being in the middle of a busy town after so long in the middle of nowhere and empty campsites. In Haast there were 5 campervans on the site, tonight there are 50+ on a site that is smaller. I could reach out the window and almost touch the van next to us. It’s also quite odd walking around in a t-shirt and seeing people carrying ski’s! It’s almost the end of the skiing season here but there is still some snow left and plenty of people seem to be taking advantage of that.
This is also the capital of adrenaline activities being the birthplace of the bungy jump, there are even people paragliding off the hill next to us. We however shall be having a far more leisurely day tomorrow taking in the sights and drinking a hot chocolate or 2. Even without having a baby with us I don’t think many of these crazy activities would tempt me, I don’t really see the attraction of jumping off a bridge with an elastic band tied to my leg.
Next stop Dunedin and some rugby.
P.S spotted this en route, kept me amused for hours (The lady of the manor is called Alex)