A Leisurely Drive

Day 26 – early start from Queenstown for the drive up to the glacier region and our freedom camp at Gillespies Beach. This was to become one of our favourite scenic drives a photographers dream, taking us through the Haast pass and Southern Alps with places of interest to stop along the way.

Thunder Creek Falls – ten minute return easy walk through silver beech forest to a 96m high falls. It was certainly thunderous as it cascaded down into clear turquoise waters viewed from the platform. Unfortunately for me the long-suffering wanted a photo of me standing down on the rocks in front of the fall

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By now the sand flies were swarming anytime you stood still for more than a second. My new vocation as the long-sufferings muse was about to fall on stony ground as with every ‘just one more, hang on, almost done’ another few red dots appeared as swaying precariously I frantically swatted them away.

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Roaring Billy Falls – our stop for lunch, but first a beautiful forty minute easy return walk through native bush.

 

Huge tree ferns and silver beech lined the track eventually leading us out into the open.

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The stunning clear turquoise waters of the wide Haast River with its gravel bed was in complete contrast to the gleaming whiteness of the boulders we now had to step across – not compulsory, you can see the waterfall from the opening. The waterfall itself nestles partly hidden amongst thick native forest. Walking up along the river gives a better view of the pretty 30m high falls.

We have since found out from Long-sufferings Uncle Roger that his base was here, at Roaring Billy Falls while employed over fifty years ago to help build part of the Haast pass. The falls at that time could be seen almost in their entirety, clear from the now dense forests that surround them.

Gillespies Beach – to get here we had to drive the last ten to fifteen kilometres on narrow gravel roads, with a first come, first served system the small car park was already busy but had room for a few more including us!

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Again this area was sand fly heaven, stepping out from Aromoana, nothing less than fully covered – even in the heat – was madness. They were drawn to us like locusts to a crop!

The beach – a graveyard to hundreds of dead tree parts, trunks and branches, bleached white by the sea and sun, some made into sculptures, many providing strategically placed seats for the spectacle of the sunset to come.

And in the morning a beautiful sunrise over Mount Cook to set us on our way….

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Facing ones demons!

Day 25 – early morning tumble dryer run found me, running around camp in my pyjamas as first one machine was used, another faulty, third time lucky accessed through the toilets! By now totally dis-orientated – doesn’t take much – I managed to get hopelessly lost as I weaved this way and that between tents, motor homes, tent cars before ending up on the road. Eventually Aromoana was sited with anxious long-suffering standing at the door ready to rally a search party!

Ziptree Tour Queenstown – the zipline was on my itinery, but not on the long-sufferings. His fear of heights the stumbling block. Now pre accident he would have happily waved me off, post accident he has become my champion! And so it was with trepidation he joined me for the mammoth ninty minute climb up steep, rocky terrain along zig-zag paths, zooming mountain bikes and more steps to the starting platforms. We could have gone up in the gondola a less sweaty experience but we were booked for that and the restaurant later.

We took the four line experience a medium run starting 2,500ft high in pine forest a short distance from the sky tower. Groups were any number to a maximum of ten, we were lucky to have only us and one other couple from Minnesota. There followed safety, harnesses and finally we were all on the first high platform with our two instructors Meg and Martin.

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The first line was a shortish, slower, get you used to it affair, but still daunting to walk down and off the steep steps into a void with thick pine forest on either side. I was pushed forward to go first, poor long-suffering nervously taking second place. Wow, wow, wow, sooo exhilarating, I felt I was flying, no time to look around and then stop it was over. Safety is paramount here and at no time are you left un-clipped unless behind the safety gates, useful as I tripped getting up!

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There was a delay from the other end as Long-suffering psyched himself up for the mammoth leap of faith in front of him. And then through the intercom, he was on his way.

He survived intact, and was ready to zip the remaining three, that steadily increased to the last – the length of the first three combined. On the second we were now set our first challenge leaning backwards off the platform and flipping upside down!

Long-sufferings turn to go first, really, that was never going to happen! Choosing the straight option off he went without too much stalling this time – maybe because I was watching.

Last to go – challenge still not taken – it was down to me not to disappoint. Alone on the steps, my back to the wire, it was my turn to stall this time, not for fear of the wire, rather could I while moving flip upside down and curl my legs around the clips keeping me on? Meg, very patiently assured me I could do this!

It turned out I could, with not a dislocation in sight and wow what a great if a little scary experience it turned out to be. I did let out one expletive – bloody hell – not very loud I thought, until it was mentioned at the platform as Meg zipping wildly, joined us. On every platform we had a short but interesting eco talk, we both felt quite proud that a lot of the issues raised we were already addressing in our lives back home and since being in NZ.

Third wire, new challenge, backwards off the steps, eyes closed and no hands. The long-suffering showed how far he had come and with the exception of letting go rose to the challenge. I happily let that minor fact go – I couldn’t bring myself to let go either! And then the longest one, no challenges, just hang on, enjoy the ride with beautiful views over the lake! Perfect. Not so perfect though back at the top with our belongings, was the sixty minutes scramble down the steep rocky, rooted terrain!

Next up, bikes off and cycle to Queenstown gardens, bit hilly in places, our legs slightly fatigued from the earlier mountain climb!

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Lovely gardens, relaxing amongst stately trees and fauna.

Evening, another hurdle for the long-suffering, the Skyline gondola ride up to the Skyline restaurant. More food to feed his fear of heights as well as his belly in equal measure!

We were not disappointed, buffet style the food was excellent, anything from Mediterranean,Thai, Japanese, fish dishes lots of juicy meat – relief for long-suffering – and desserts galore. Hot and plenty of it we certainly ate our money’s worth.

Tomorrow we head to the glaciers…….

Queenstown

Day 24 – early drive to Queenstown, stopped off at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu for a short lunch break.

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This was a truly wonderful tranquil spot even though it was a stones throw from the main highway six. The gentle lap of the clear turquoise water over the shoreline of smooth stones masked out any sound of passing traffic.

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With a location this idyllic and hot sun beating down, the itinerary was diverted once again. Stripping off and creaming up we took time off in our hectic schedule just to lay back and enjoy the moment.

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While long-suffering slept, snoring happily away beside me as is his way once horizontal, as is my way whenever water is about I just had to take a cooling dip. It was instantly, very cooling – like all the rivers and sea I have dipped into in NZ – breathtakingly cold.

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A few well placed sprinkles later on, shocked the long-suffering awake, our cue to move on!

Kelvin Peninsular Walk Queenstown – easy loop walk first through pine forests, then out into the open past an immaculate members and public golf course. With huge Lake Wakatipu on one side, the rolling fairways sloping to it, this could be a challenging course – according to Long-sufferings practiced eye.

He declined my suggestion of a round – too expensive, no time, really I think it was more the fact I haven’t played proper golf in many years – far too embarrassing!

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Just over an hour this walk gave us beautiful views over the lake to Queenstown, the sky lift and its back drop of mountains, our next challenge tomorrow.

Queenstown – evening, a complete contrast to anywhere else we have visited. Our senses were assaulted by first and foremost the noise! The town was buzzing, literally teeming with backpackers and other travellers, every nationality – the majority youngsters – walking around, sitting, eating, dreadlocks, bearded, mismatched, creased, drinking, carrying packs of beer, backpacks – so big as to render standing tall impossible. Long-suffering blended in well with his fully grown beard!

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In the square where we came to rest for a rare meal out, an open mike session was in full swing, the two bands we watched – from the comfort of our chairs – were actually very good, and loud as they must be. The grassy area in front of the stage was covered in a festival of young people coming together, listening, chilling, sharing their stories of travel and excitement. The buzz was infectious and our feet were tapping along to some tunes we knew – and a lot we had no idea – sign of our age, and we did feel slightly older, with all this youth stretching as far as the eye could see!

Only Two!

Day 23 pm – Curio Bay, hoping to see the rare nesting yellow eyed penguins after a three hour drive, that could have been back in Dorset England with rolling hills and stunning coastline. Only the verges lined with New Zealand Flax, Galmia setifolia – resembling Pampas grass – and Red Hot Poker in huge clumps showed our real location.

On one side of the cove the beach was long, and sandy with waves perfect for surfing, the walk across the top revealed a different story, rugged, rocky the sea smashing relentlessly, this, apparently a perfect place for penguins.

Seven in the evening we were on the beach to wait for the star attraction, after a rushed evening meal back at camp. The long-suffering and I hooked up with a work colleague of his, her partner and father who happened to be here at the same time. Not a total surprise, just slightly choreographed in timings!

Cold was an understatement, the wind whipped our faces, my four layers just about sufficed although leggings under my walking trousers would have helped the bottom half. Sitting on and off at intervals for two hours on cold rocks gave the hip plenty to gripe about.

The long-suffering chose to wear only two layers and suffered dearly for it as did my ears listening to him citing how bitter it was! Luckily for him the partner of colleague lent him a buff – bandana/headband/hood/neck-scarf/facemask and any other way you can think of! His initial reservations about wearing it soon fell by the wayside, eventually donning it ear muff style under tuition, and along with his full castaway beard he morphed into a true Tom Hanks/hippie!

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The penguins – all two of a nesting pair – did appear, unfortunately the long-suffering and I have been watching too many David Attenborough documentaries where thirty plus penguins whoosh up the rocks on crashing waves. A chat to the conservation lady revealed this was one of only three nesting pairs in this area!

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Our initial disappointment – we were freezing by now – soon became one of ahhh as first Mrs Yellow eye whooshed out shortly followed by Mr yellow eye. She walked drunken sailor style along and jumped down the rocks to him, they seemed to get intimate for a while before he transferred the fish stored within his person. His job was done, and while Mrs set off along the rocks to their nest Mr gave himself a good clean up.

Us ice cold humans, well we sloped off along with the masses back to the warmth of Aromoana, only this night we had guests, cheese and biscuits from the work colleagues and piping hot cups of tea to warm as all through, perfect end to another perfect day!