Arrowtown

Day 13…. Morning dawned and so did we, both stumbling about on less than perky legs after two days of uphill walks. Regardless, the muse was needed out by the lake before we left…

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Arrowtown…. was a must see for us, three years previous it was one we missed and regretted. A much needed down time day……

We arrived early, already the streets and car parks were busy with fellow tourists. This town attracts people like bees to a hive. It literally buzzed with life! Our visit started with the museum. Artefacts displayed in many rooms, some in part of the original BNZ Bank took us back to the 1860s when the rush for the Arrow Rivers gold  provided the means for this historic town to spring up. Other rooms shared Maori and early European history. The museum was a great place to start our tour, and one I would throughly recommend, a real Aladdin’s cave. No photos we were too busy enjoying this wonderful small museum.

Next up was the the famous heritage high street we browsed the stores up and down Buckingham street amongst the crowds. The old buildings really are charming, more so I’m sure when the hoards are gone, even so you still felt that you had gone back in time to the Wild West.

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Tea and carrot cake outside in the sun.

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On route to the Chinese Settlement by the river we passed lots of lovely looking bikes for hire. Remember this was our down day….

As long-suffering enquired about price, cycle route etc. I think my legs shook a little, I needn’t have worried for we ended up riding e-Bikes for the first time……

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Arrow Bridges Trail….26 km return – really!! A gravel trail way following and crossing the Arrow River to our turnaround point Kawarau Bridge Bungy set 141 feet over the Kawarau River.

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Definitely NOT on either of our must do list, but for some brave souls…..

although I was momentarily tempted by the zip wire ride!

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The E.Bikes once we – specifically me – got used to them were fantastic for some of the more challenging uphill parts of the terrain including zig-zag tracks to negotiate at the same time. Long-suffering came to my rescue on the approaches to the steep bits by reminding me loudly to ‘change down, change down, CHANGE DOWN’ in time to make a successful climb, after two false starts stopping mid-way up!

We cycled over the river via two suspension bridges, one extremely high causing Long-suffering to blanch a little, although most days now we have crossed one or two by foot, and at least on a bike I was unable to bounce it up and down to heighten his experience!

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We ate our packed lunch overlooking the Bungy gorge and stunning Turquoise River before our return cycle.

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A herd of deer along the route….

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Our e-Bikes would go for a distance of 80km before recharging. For us both less effort on hilly terrain would enable us to cycle further. For me alone, I could still maintain most of the effort, except on the really steep parts where my dodgy leg would normally mean dismounting before the top. A flick of the gears and my bike took off up the hill with minimum effort. On the return cycle my confidence improved and I was flying, with the wind in my hair back down the slopes not a squeaky brake was heard from long-sufferings ears!

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Cherry blossoms

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Back in town a Last stop at the Gelato…. Doubles = Mint Choc and Hokey Pokey ice cream on the village green, plus music from a couple of young buskers while we ate.

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Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park…. our base for the next three nights, a powered site. Hot, hot showers, hot tubs and sauna, kitchen, barbecues, lounge, laundry facilities  immaculate grounds, spring flowers and only a thirty minute downhill walk into town.

This year we will have seen two springs in six months!

Pasta meatballs for supper…..

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The Great Walk

Sunrise at Lake Sylvan D.O.C Campsite….

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Routeburn Falls Track, Day Walk 18km return …. Weather set fair but cold. All our previous walks had gradually – we hoped – prepared us for this long steep climb!

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The track began from the shelter car park, gently winding in a gradual ascent through thick beech forest affording flashes of turquoise and emerald  from the Route Burn River that accompanied us along the way. The Waters were crystal clear and the gentle swoosh and at times thundering rush of the water was ever present ebbing and flowing – a bit like us two!

We stopped by the river for a photo shoot, a paddle was tempting – I had packed a swimsuit – much to long-sufferings grumblings. Removing all my warm layers proved too much of a hassle in the end – he breathed a sigh of relief – that and the freezing cold waters! It was a rested diversion stop nonetheless!

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2BD77AB1-8BBE-4443-A1D9-5B4F7E6A6BEBB0494579-39DA-4064-BBD2-49511835BA8DAlong the way Bridal Veil Falls….

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An hour into the walk, my dodgy left leg was causing much discomfort on walking, causing me to lurch and limp Quasimodo style like old times!  Uneven terrain gave me cover from long-suffering noticing but just to be sure I dropped back behind away from his all seeing glances. Just when I was wondering how on earth I was going to make it to the top in an upright manner, the nerve, bursitis like pain receded, Quasimodo disappeared and the muse was back out in front again, with Long-suffering none the wiser…..until we got back that is!

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A toilet over the river halfway up to the flat huts

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A Swing bridge – not long-sufferings favourite lead us out onto open grassy flats, a welcome relief after the confines of the thick forest before. The first part of our climb was almost over, the more arduous uphill was about to start. Of course we had it easy crossing rivers compared with our predecessors!

From the middle of the valley, looking up we could just see our end destination – The Falls Hut – jutting out from the dense vegetation surrounding it.

The next part of the climb had us both discarding layers. The track often rocky, with Avalanche warning signs and part of the way precarious after a land slip had covered the pathway on its way over the sheer drop edge only made passable after, by the hard working ranger teams.

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Eventually after lots of wood steps we reached the huts, height 1,000m. The falls Huts were much bigger than we expected, looking more like lodges set into the ruggedness of a mountain. The panoramic views over valley and mountains were worth the effort and at times discomfort. We felt exhilarated as we sat eating our packed lunch in the warm sunshine looking out at such amazing beauty and listening to the birds flitting in and out of the trees. The South Island Robin, like our own garden Robin in England unafraid to get close.

In the walking season rooms house many communal bunks, kitchen, seating area around a wood burner, flush toilets, running cold water and a resident DOC Ranger. We met a couple who had stayed the previous night. ‘Freezing cold in the bunks – it was below freezing outside, but apart from that a great adventure!’

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Retracing our steps back down we felt accomplished and took comfort watching much younger walkers ascend red in the face and puffing as we nimbly made our descent!

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Actual walking time was almost 5 hours + 45minutes of view points and lunch.

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12 mile Delta freedom camp…. A real mix of static vans, caravans and mobile ones like us. We found a lovely spot looking through a gap to Lake Wakatipu. I was looking forward to putting my legs up after my highest step count in a day……

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Glenorchy

Day 11. A distant Cockerel somewhere on the farm signalled the end of what was my best nights sleep so far.  I was refreshed ready for the drive to Glenorchy. We left with cloud and rain, on familiar roads we remembered from three years before. The closer we got to Queenstown, the brighter the skies above. With so much head swivelling beauty for Long-suffering to record and the muse as driver to enjoy, it was very much a stop/start drive!

Devils Staircase Lookout over Lake Wakatipu….

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Queenstown this time round was just a drive through for us on the way to the beautiful Tommy Thomson Scenic drive to Glenorchy opened in 1962. Previous to this Glenorchy residents relied on thrice weekly Wakatipu steamships. The mountain views were truly stunning.

Seven Mile Scenic Reserve Point….

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Mount Crichton Track 2 hour loop return…. From the car park we followed the track over bridges criss crossing the once gold filled 12 mile Creek through red beech forest on the lower tracks, my mini tree guide helping with identification.

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We passed by a large open space created by the sluicing and removing of rock from the canyon.

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Soon enough our ascent up to historic, Sam Summers Hut started – he and his brothers built this shelter in 1930 as protection against the extreme weather during his ten years living and prospecting along the creek. Sam died in 1997 at age 92.

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Inside we could only imagine the hardship of living day to day in this remote and at times unforgiving Forest as violent weather systems did their worst.

Branching off a short track led us to the Tailrace tunnel, dug out by hand using chisels and explosives. Here the water and rock cut from the mining face would flow into 12 mile Creek. I let Long-suffering explore alone, the muse is not happy in dark confined spaces.

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Back out on the main track, the steepest part of the climb was to come, but well worth the effort and sweat to get there for the viewpoints out over Lake Wakatipu, The Mountains beyond and Lake Dispute below nestled in woods.

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The descent, easier in terms of effort but harder on joints generally along with care to avoid slipping! The print out below was our actual time walking, an extra thirty five minutes was spent enjoying and recording our surroundings.

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Lake Sylvan D.O.C. freedom camp…. a beautiful, peaceful place to stay – resting tired legs – situated at the end of a long gravel road. A lot of new tree and shrub planting has gone on here and in time as it grows up the hardstanding pitches will become less conspicuous and more secluded. Grassy fields with ewes and their lambs entertained us while the sand flies munched us!

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The Eighth Wonder of the World!

Day 9. We awoke to more heavy rain after a night with the roof drummer, not surprising when we were now based in the wettest place in the whole of New Zealand. We were hoping to take the 30 minute walk down to the harbour for our cruise, the rain was relentless, we took option two the free shuttle from Milford Lodge.  

Southern Discoveries Fiord Cruise and Underwater Observatory…. our boat was one of the first to leave and was much smaller than some, only holding seventy five passengers. It was not full, two dozen at most leaving us plenty of room to move around inside and out. Complimentary tea and coffee was available as well as hot/cold snacks to buy. Throughout the cruise a nature guide gave an entertaining and at times funny commentary and was on hand to answer any questions.

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Rain was a constant and although breathtakingly beautiful, from a photography point of view the fiord scape was dull and grey in appearance.

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Not so the two waterfalls, our boat sailed ever nearer until we were so close the prow was almost touching, and it felt like you were underneath, we could literally taste the pure glacial waters.  Fairy Falls – the first – was wet enough but Stirling Falls was huge, the water thundering down cascading over the boat and us, was exhilarating and very wet, all experienced while listening over the tannoy to ‘Raindrops keep falling on my head’. A surreal experience indeed!

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Motoring along a shout from the side of the boat ‘Dolphins’ three dolphins in total, side by side skimming fast alongside the boat before disappearing as stealthy as they came. Too quick to photograph but a real bonus to see so close.

Another shout from one of the crew ‘Penguins’ our boat motored over to a point where five or six Crested penguins were out on the rocks. Rarely, the muse behind her lens produced the best shots!

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Seal Rock did not disappoint as the boat slowly moved past, many Fur seals were basking – in the gloom – on the rocks.

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Milford Discovery Centre…. we said goodbye to our cruise boat here as we had opted for the ‘add on’ Underwater observatory tour. Our guide gave us an informative talk with the aid of display boards on the first explorers to Milford sound and subsequent events up to the present day. The suspended observatory was 10 metres down with big viewing windows to the black coral – actually white – and a variety of fish and anemone beyond the glass.

Well organised we were picked up fifty minutes later by a different boat to take us back to the harbour. Still chucking it with rain the shuttle picked us up and took us back to the lodge. We were staying an extra night here and made good use of the warm lounge area, to dry off.

Late afternoon the rain stopped, the sun appeared, togging up we set off for the half hour walk down towards the harbour and the…..

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Foreshore loop track 20 minute return. This short walk took us to the edge of the fiord over wooden boardwalks. For long-suffering this was where he was hoping to get uninterrupted views of the famous Mitre Peak so named as its shape resembles a bishops mitre or headdress. Height: 1,692m one of the highest mountains in the world to rise directly from the ocean floor.

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Unfortunately the top was not visible, as soon after arriving by the shore the rains and mist returned. We stayed a while then walked back up to our adopted drying room at the lodge, by now we were feeling the chill and decided to cook our evening menu of Chilli in the communal kitchen instead of Aromoana to keep us warm and toasty, I made enough to feed a party, Chilli tomorrow and some for the freezer!

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Day 10. Foreshore Walk take two…. We awoke to clear blue skies and sun and were out wrapped up against the cold walking back down to shore before breakfast with high hopes of getting a shot of Mitre Peak in all its magnificence….He did!

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Long suffering positioned himself by the shore with his tripod while I sat on a bench near the track with my sketchbook.

Half an hour later we were both ready to leave, the beautiful view now completely blotted by a massive cruise ship that had sailed in!

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Overnight snow Homer Tunnel Area…. Luckily we left Milford lodge later, as heavy snow had fallen overnight a mile before the Homer Tunnel, although the snow ploughs had done a good job of clearing the roads. The avalanche warning signs held much more meaning in the thick snow.

Long-suffering drove sensibly and calmly to the conditions with me needlessly panicking and berating him for the most part until we got past the Eglington Valley when the snow just disappeared! Before that we stopped with the hordes at the first allowed viewpoint!

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Te Anau….quick stop here to pick up our replacement hose, and grab some supplies before driving on to Mossburn and our next stop…..

Mossburn Country Park…. Not just a country park, a working farm too, we were greeted by lots of hens bustling and clucking their greetings around our feet as we checked in, and given food treats to feed the sheep and Alpacas in the fields beyond and later a male peacock joined the party!

The pitch was perfect allowing us a wide angle view of the snow capped mountains beyond the front windscreen.

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Up in The Clouds

Day 8….Our beautiful overnight spot had one flaw, little shelter from the constant, deluge of rain and strong gusts. The roof drummer was back with a vengeance, as was the rocking and rolling side to side. Up early for a morning photo shoot…..

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before a further drive to Milford sound. We were weary before the day had even begun as we set off through the morning mists for the half hour drive to…..

Key Summit Track…. three hour return. The track starts at the divide carpark off the Milford Road and for the first part follows the well known Routeburn track before branching off on a steep winding ascent to the Summit. 

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This walk was a must see from Long-sufferings itinerary, ideally in clear rather than murky conditions. We were not expecting great things, but as luck would have it the skies started to clear a little and snippets of blue appeared. Rumour had it this was a popular track, we were expecting it to be busy. An early start along the well laid track through native forest we didn’t see anyone for a good mile. The one couple we did see on their way down were disappointed as the visibility for them was murky up at the top.

Unlike our last strenuous walk this one was void of any steps and instead followed a gradual climb zig-zagging to the top with a glimpse of mountain range through gaps in the forest.

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A bridge spanning a rushing waterfall with a sheer drop below sent Long-sufferings legs to Jelly.

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Eventually as we started to emerge from the bush over open ground snow capped mountains stretched before us. Conditions were now perfect, blue sky, fluffy white clouds, perfect light, to say Long-suffering was excited would be an understatement!

And just before the summit if the excitement and altitude got too much there was a strategically placed rest room if required!

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On reaching Key Summits ridge the 360 degree head swivelling views of the Darren mountain range and Holyford, Greenstone, and Eglinton valleys was spectacular like nothing we had seen so far, and the best bit…we had it all to ourselves.

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While Long-suffering hid behind his lens the muse sat on a rock to try and capture a small part of this wondrous panorama in her sketchbook this time using ink, with a view to applying a wash back at base. Simplifying this expanse did not come easy and more practice would be needed!

The muse did help unbeknown to her, caught in a moments sketching, from the man behind the lens for his perfect composition!

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Still alone at the summit we took the loop walk through alpine tarns and on up to a further viewpoint of Lake Marian.

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Animated by our good fortune – weather and crowd free – we started our descent, within ten minutes our way was peppered with tourists heading on up, lucky indeed!  Total elevation was 3,133ft and took us 2 hours 17 minutes not including down time at the top. Back at base we drove on 2 miles with amazing snow capped mountains in constant view to……

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Marian Lake track 20 minute return. We chose the shorter option walk starting with a very bouncy swing bridge spanning the Hollyford River. A little jumping from the muse raising a smile and stern face in equal measure from Long-suffering as he tipped side to side!

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Continuing on, we enjoyed an easy walk through mature beech forest.

Eventually leading us to ‘The Gantry’ a suspended walkway against the rock face above the crashing rapids of Marian Creek.

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At this point the walk extends to the longer, difficult hour long tramp to Marian Lake, we chose to walk back, and drive on through the Homer Tunnel to Milford Sound……

Homer Tunnel….an impressive feat of engineering dug out manually through sheer rock, this unlined tunnel is 945 metres above sea level and 1.2 kilometres in length with a gradient of 1 in 10. The traffic is one way and controlled by traffic lights. I was the designated driver to take us through this daunting, long, dark, rugged tunnel allowing Long-suffering to road test another gadget, his go-pro!

Once safely through and out the other side we continued on another 5miles to…..

The Chasm….20 minute return loop forest walk to dramatic views of the Chasm from two bridges. Our last walk before our overnight stop, the short easy forest walk took us alongside the Cleddau River.

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A series of waterfalls cascaded and swirled eventually the rushing water squeezed through v shaped spaces between sculpted rock shapes into a deep dark cavern.

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Completly wowed and in awe of all we had seen we drove the half hour to Milford Lodge nestled at the foot of the mountains at the entrance to Milford Sound. Our over night stop for some rest and relaxation turned out to be a 5* Lodge. Fully equipped Kitchens, warm communal lounge area, piping hot showers, and a lovely restaurant where we took our first night off from cooking.

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Perfect end to a very busy day!

 

 

The Back of Beyond

Day 6…. Waipohatu Falls tramping track 4 miles 3 hour return loop through typical catlins bush to two waterfalls, 6miles west of Curio Bay. Beautiful clear blue skies without the ever present howling wind for this, our first more strenuous walk.

We started from the picnic area following the designated pathway, first through dense forest, over a track bridge, out into an open grassy footpath and back into dense forest, where the real uphill  challenge would shortly start, following a stream through the thick Catlins bush.

Long-sufferings smiling face soon changed dramatically with the exertion of steep climbs, many steps, and some uneven, muddy, barely passable ground although the fern logs laid across the paths did alleviate most of the mud. Clothes were discarded left, right and centre as sweating man returned. A foot slide along a damp tree root, arms flailing, only a neighbouring tree saved him from the forest floor. Not so his muse as dodgy leg crumpled on a particularly high step, sending me down instead! In spite of these almost mishaps the ‘tramp’ was well worth the effort.

A spur track led us down to the two very different falls, the tracks to each in opposite directions but just five minutes apart. The higher fall was partly obscured by trees and vegetation…..

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Whereas the lower fall could be seen in all its spectacular glory cascading, foaming as it plunged downward.

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We viewed the fall from a boardwalk set back beyond a shallow, rushing run of water over rocks, stone and dead tree trunk.

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of course the long-suffering had to cross this for his best shot while the muse stayed put with the surplus kit!

The walk was surprisingly quiet, only one other couple did we meet along the way, giving the illusion we really were in the back of beyond!

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Waipapa Point Lighthouse, southernmost lighthouse on the South Island…. we took the short walk from the car park to the lighthouse and then down to the beach area and exposed reefs. 

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The lighthouse was built after the tragic 1881 shipwreck of the ‘Tararua’ where 131 out of 151 passengers died 1km off shore. Information panels document this tragedy, the early history of the lighthouse and its keepers. 

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We strolled the rugged reefs and beach area, there were plenty of tourists but the sea-lions were absent.

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A notice board warning we were in a Tsunami Hazard Zone gave us both a reality check. Two scuba divers emerged from the sea carrying their supper in the form of large meaty looking snails that apparently made good mince!

Last Light Lodge Tuatapere, our stop for the night…. A lovely, friendly powered site with freshly laid eggs, and wonderful baked bread to purchase amongst other seasonal delights as well as a cafe/bar to eat and relax in.

Although mid afternoon when we arrived, the still clear blue skies and warm sun meant laundry was washed and then dried on our handy rope line. We sat out in shorts and t.shirts with a couple of cold beers enjoying a perfect spring afternoon.

Later it was my turn to cook – it mostly is – today’s offering was Prawn curry with a side of mini Naan bread.

Day 7…. A head in hands moment from Long-suffering started our day as he realised the dirty water hose – his department – had been left two overnight stops 320 miles away. All the placating ‘it is not just your fault, I could have checked too’ did nothing to lift his mood. Luckily our site hosts had a level paddock and pliers for the valve and were happy to allow our wash up water to drain straight from the van.   Though fully insured against ‘grey’ moments such as these it was embarrassing having to make the call to Wilderness none the less, not helped by our next destination – one of the remotest places in New Zealand – Milford sound where we would be off grid for at least two days. In the event a replacement pick up point was arranged and we were free to continue on our way. Lesson learned, a dump station tick list was written. 

Leisurely drive to Milford Sound, beautiful and scenic as the winding roads led nearer and nearer to the snow covered mountains.

We made a brief stop first in Te Anau. In contrast to the previous day the rain and wind was back with a vengeance. We walked into town to stretch our legs, for a spot of window shopping and food supplies. We did make one purchase …an umbrella!

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D.O.C. Cascade Creek…. our freedom camp spot for the night. We arrived here with the rain still falling, but nestled as we were below snowy capped mountains it mattered not. There were brief windows of dry in between the showers, enough for Long-suffering and his lens to do battle with the ever present sandflies alongside Cascade Creek. A beautiful, peaceful location to end a day that began so stressful!

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Waterfalls!

Day 5…. After a cold night we awoke early to witness the promised sunrise. Long-suffering had set his alarm with enough time to make his muse a morning brew, allowing her to stay warm and cosy under the covers. The sunrise did not disappoint, well worth the early rising.

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Purakaunui Falls…. Twenty minute easy return walk through mature beech forest and Podocarp. The hard work of the D.O.C. To make these off the beaten places accessible to all – but not spoilt in the process – never ceases to amaze us. This particular track is also wheelchair friendly to the top viewing platform.

Walking through the dense forest vegetation transports you to another world the lichens and smaller ferns and shrubs below the canopy of trees and tree ferns reaching for the sky. Stood out from a backdrop of forest green, the beautiful Kotukutuku (New Zealand Tree Fuchsia) revealed its paler bark beneath peeling orange/red papery layers.

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As we walked over bridges and under tree arches, the rushing water was never far away. We heard the roar of the three tiered falls before we saw it from the higher viewing platform cascading and tumbling down over the tiers.

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A further track took us down to the lower viewing platform where Long-suffering proceeded to set up his tripod only to realise he had forgotten his filters. Despite this hiccup the scene was still captured, with and without his muse, just a lot quicker!

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Back out on the road we set off for our next stop, eventually ending up on another gravel road to get us there, although not before a detour to Florence Hill Lookout a stunning viewpoint over Tautuku Beach.

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Mclean Falls…. easy forty minute return walk.

Again a walk through dense forest over bridges and up steps to view the 22m high falls on the Tautuka River consisting of two falls an upper and a lower.

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Long-suffering remembered all his photography kit this time but almost lost significant parts of it over the edge into the falls…. Gathering his bag, a lens rolled out from the unfastened zip and rolled slowly to the edge, he stood still watching disbelief immobilising him before his trusty muse shouted him into action. He dived, managed to catch the lens but knocked the tripod/camera in the process, luckily the muse was ready with her inelegant stumble and stretch…. tripod saved. Between both our middle age acrobatics much distress was averted!

Tautuku Beach…. A quick detour to walk the beach on the way to our overnight stop.

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Papatowai D.O.C. Campsite….. Our freedom camp stop for the night on the catlins coast with access to the beach and estuary.