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A Dormant Volcano!

Day 30. Early Ferry from Picton to North Island, a sad goodbye to the beautiful and diverse South Island….

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Hello Wellington and the North Island….

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Long drive from ferry terminal to North Egmont Camp, Mount Taranaki. Landscape change from mountainous terrain in the south to rolling green pasture in the north.

7.45pm arrive North Egmont Camp….walk 10 minute return on boardwalk to Lookout, thick cloud covering any view or sunset!

Day 31. 5am beeping wake up call from the fridge…the gas had run out, half asleep we both stumbled around in our small space before long-suffering braced the -1 temperatures to change main gas bottle to emergency spare. Out to viewing platform – the muse in her pyjamas – for sunrise……

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And what promised to be a beautiful sunny day for our first walk in the North Island…

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From Camp The Maketawa Hut round trip 3 hour return….

This was a walk with a difference, the start took us through magical montane forest, overhead canopies of tree arches, shafts of early morning sunlight glinting through creating intricate patterns as we followed the well marked track.

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Exposed roots created natural steps as they twisted and turned crisscrossing underfoot.

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Vertical ladders to reach higher levels

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Rock clambering….

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Alpine flora…

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Eventually thick forest was replaced by steep inclines out onto the outer exposed marked track.

Snow capped Taranaki emerging in stages….

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And then the whole….

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View from the opposite direction back to our camp….

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Maketawa Hut a place to hunker down should the weather turn extreme!

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A brief snack stop on the outside viewing deck and we were ready to head uphill to join the translator road and our route back down….

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Onwards and upwards….

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Only we didn’t go down…..both deciding at the cross tracks we could make it up to the snow line and Translator Tower at 5,004ft.

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The tower, not far then!

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This would be our biggest challenge to date. Straight up on a concrete road track, my feet at 30 degree angle the whole way up meant my lower calves by the end were feeling the burn, so much so just to relieve the pressure I was at intervals walking backwards.

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Halfway up a seat to catch our breath and much to long – sufferings delight my secret stash of Whittaker’s Chocolate.

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And still further head swivelling views….

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Almost there….

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We made it to our own summit above the Translater Tower and achieved a personal best – our highest climb to date together.

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Before any lunch could be consumed, sweating man had to discard the t.shirt to drip dry over a rock while the light breeze air dried the rest, meanwhile the muse was adding layers back on!

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Conditions were still favourable for us to continue on our new route The Translator Tower Round Trip past Tahurangi Lodge.

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Almost from the start this was a new challenge across a ridge below ancient lava flows and an ignored by us divide up to the Summit Track – thick snow and vertical rock – we were not carrying the correct gear for that climb. Some tried it though!

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Poles marked the route over volcanic rock falls….

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The track twisted and turned across exposed alpine terrain leading to what looked like a recent land slip. Flat track barely visible just an unstable scree, one slip and over the edge. With trepidation – long-suffering and his fear of heights looking anywhere but down – we gingerly made our way across.

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Intricate lace patterned rock….

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Again vertical ladders aided with any extreme level change, rocky tracks needed sure footedness and mini flights of steps helped ease the route down.

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Towards the end of our descent still in one piece, we were reminded of a brave climber who died rescuing another by a memorial erected in his honour….

Back at base then, walk statistics: 6.59 miles in just under 5 hours including stops.

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Dawson Falls Road End car park Taranaki our second freedom camp for the night after a garage stop for gas refill and fuel.

Dawson Falls walk 20 minute return…short afternoon walk  – thankfully after the mornings epic walk! A short stepped track through lush rainforest….

To a lookout….

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A further track led us down more steps – my glutes and leg already tired, wobbling at the inevitable return back up!

Finally this stunning waterfall shown in all its glory….

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The muse was put to work in front of the lens….

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Just time to get a quick unfinished sketch, definitely more practice needed on capturing cascading waterfalls!

Man behind the lens shooting an evening sunset from camp lookout, freezing cold, the muse summoned by text for extra layers!

The resulting sunset……a calm before quite literally ‘a major storm’!

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Marlborough Sounds

Day 25. Again the weather was with us, warm rays through light cloud, on our early drive to Marlborough. We passed through wine territory, vineyards as far as the eye could see, regimental, row after row. Long-suffering has not the taste for wine, and although I have the taste, he has not the patience needed to tour a winery! The terrain changed again to green imposing hills with valleys between until finally the ‘scenic drive’ started….

Scenic drive….Ascending up long, steep, winding climbs we were expecting many breathtaking vistas from vantage points along the way, we were wrong. Dense, tall vegetation made even glimpses out virtually impossible, with the exception of this one……

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Elaine Bay DOC camp….we arrived in glorious sunshine and parked looking out at the flat calm waters extending out to the sounds. Rather than rushing straight out for a walk we decided to have a couple of hours down time, chairs out, enjoying our bayside view.

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Piwakawaka Track 2km 90 minute return…..The first and shortest of two walks we planned to do in Elaine Bay took us through thick beech and native bush up above the bay with intermittent glimpses of emerald/turquoise sea below.

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Unfurling ferns…

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Black Beech…

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Dropping back down, the track took us out onto a small secluded beach, with its own private hut overlooking the bay…

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Perfect opportunity for long-suffering to get aerial shots of Marlborough Sounds and for today at least, our own private beach…

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Day 26th…The roof drummers were back most of the night along with gale force roaring winds as our van was rocked and buffeted, I thought we might end up in the bay. Sleep deprived, rain still falling and thick mists, we accessed our situation and the viability of our planned day walk The Archer Track. For the first time since arriving in the South Island the rain had thwarted a planned walk….

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After a difficult winding drive out of Elaine Bay with poor visibility – pea soup.

Out from the gloom came Nelson Tasman… A city visit instead! Briefly here the sun popped out, seizing the moment a walk was sought…

Centre of New Zealand Walk… so named for being the central survey point in the 1800s. Easy 1 hour return from Branford park where we left Aramoana. Although short the track was steep as it zig-zagged upwards, first through forest edges speckled with forget me nots and then opening out as the overhead canopy became less dense.

Views from the Summit….

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And happily a garden visit to Queens Garden Nelson….

Rose and Wisteria clad pergolas, Geranium maderense, from blowsy to exotic…

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Huge Dawn Redwood, seed sent to New Zealand in 1949 from trees found growing in Central China in 1944. One of three seeds became this tree….

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Jemima Puddle-duck

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Scented Honeysuckle tree

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Bridge over the residual Maitai River to the Huangshi Chinese Garden – A sister City Garden.

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Latte, hot chocolate and mouth watering Danish Pastry at a lovely cafe in Nelson…The Bakers Coffee Shop

Drive to Cable Bay campsite. Views out to cows, Delaware Mud Flats and sea through the gap in between trees. Hopefully sheltered from the gales!

Evening stroll along the pretty stony beach, very cold…more layers were added before we checked out the uphill beginning of the next days walk. 

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Day 27. Heavy rain fell overnight and the morning promised – and provided – more of the same. Back into Nelson for Long-suffering to pick up a new watch battery, food supplies, diesel and dump station.

Cable Bay to Glendu Bay walk… 4 hour return. Back from Nelson rain was light and intermittent, the walk was on although the mist was still hanging around.

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Long steep climb up to the ridge through grasslands with grazing sheep either side of the pole marked way. By the time we made it up visibility was getting poorer, drizzle had set in.

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Halfway along the ridge we could barely see where we were going or coming from. At this point we took the sensible decision to head back to Cable Bay and warmth of our motorhome Aramoana Two.

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The white topped marker poles had all but disappeared by now and we scrabbled about trying to get our bearings without inadvertently plunging down off the sides into the abyss.

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On the last steepest slope, Long-suffering slid down like he had ‘heelys’ – wheeled trainers – on minus the flashing lights – we could have done with those to light the way!

We made it back to base, safe and sound to watch the rain and play scrabble. Score now 3-1 to the muse!

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Day 28….torrential rain, roof drummers back all night long! Queen Charlotte scenic drive in the rain through more murkiness!

Smiths Farm camp…Rain stopped briefly. 4.5 mile walk to edge of Queen Charlotte Sound….

Day 29….More heavy roof drumming overnight, drove to edge of Charlotte Sound for our planned walk. Sat in the lay-by watching Strictly Come Dancing on long-sufferings laptop hoping the heavy rain storm would ease for our last memorable great walk on the South Island….it did!

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Queen Charlotte Track… Anakiwa – Grove Arm Viewpoint. 8 miles 3 hour return. Fairly easy track, some steep ascents through native bush, often dark and enclosed, the ground was wet, muddy and flooded in places, not surprising after all the rain. 

Along the way a stop at Davies Bay….

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More ascents, descents, rocky paths and waterfalls….

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A baby goat looking for its mum…

Approaching the Viewpoint still dry, the cloud broke up and the sun made a welcome return just in time for the stunning views out over the Charlotte Sound and our last walk and memory of the South Island….

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Picton…..Wood piles and Ferries

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Top 10 Holiday Park…. powered site, washing done, hot showers ready for our ferry over to the North Island in the morning.

Kaikōura

Day 23.  Long slow drive to Kaikoura on highway 1 southbound from Christchurch, the road still being repaired/strengthened three years on from the massive 7.8 earthquake. The sheer scale of the work is nothing short of heroic. Although lots of speed restrictions, stop/start at lights – or by smiling workers, you appreciate the beauty of this coastal route more as you realise the superhuman effort it took to get the road open as soon as three months after.

The point Farm camp…our base for one night. Fresh eggs for breakfast as well as some to take away and a pitch looking out over the Pacific Ocean. Walk out to…..

Kaikoura Peninsula Track…2 hour return 3.86 miles.

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Unlike last time we were here – seals laying on boardwalks – we had to go looking on the raised sea bed, another result of the earthquake. The seals blend in well with the rock they haul themselves out on, perfectly camouflaged from all us day trippers. It was good to see everyone respecting their privacy and keeping a fair distance away.

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Moving away from the shore back to The Point Kean car park, we started our assent. 

Views out all the way, from the rugged east coast backdrop, steep mountains, and seaward the Kaikōura range. 

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Dropping down a track to Whalers Bay shoreline, more seals were to be found laying still, most fast asleep, conserving energy before they head out to sea at night to hunt. 

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Red billed gulls in their thousands, the largest colony on the South Island.

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A lone Cormorant on the move – very quickly!

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We walked back along the shore and the raised sea bed.

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Back to our farm base and some runaway sheep!

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Another beautiful sunset…

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Day 24 The whale watching we had booked for 9.30am and subsequent slots were cancelled due to rough seas although looking from the shoreline it looked calm, peaceful and twinkled in the sun.  Having experienced the excursion last time, a refund was accepted leaving us free to start early our next drive on the reopened – was still shut three years ago – State Highway 1northbound, stopping off along the route to….

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Ohau Point Lookout…more fur seals, but this time in the shelter of the mini pools surrounded by rocks, baby fur seals practising their swimming skills in the safety of these natural ‘play pens’.

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Marfells Beach DOC campground. We arrived early even with the ongoing road works on Highway One to warm sun and another sea view pitch. 

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A walk along the shell strewn beach, as well as the now familiar bleached white tree debris. 

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Long-suffering found the perfect shell, beautiful markings and not a chip on it….

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Seascape practice in watercolour!

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Sunset rays resemble search lights….. 

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Reflections

Day 22.  We woke up early to the most amazing potential sunrise and an unexpectedly still Lake Camp, not a ripple disturbed and already in the murky half light reflections were appearing.

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Out in pyjamas we walked together, our cameras in hand finding the perfect spots to capture the magic as it unfolded in front of us. We couldn’t believe our luck, the strong winds of the previous day had just vanished taking any lake disturbance with it.

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Sunrise and reflections…

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Not wanting to leave, a leisurely breakfast together alongside the most beautiful perfect reflections we had ever had the privilege to behold, before our drive to….

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Taylors Mistake Beach car park. Godley Head Loop Track 2.5-3 hour 6 miles.

From the the off this scenic coastal walk was a delight, starting from the car park clumps of cerise  Asters, As we started our assent past well stocked gardens a riot of colour greeted us Asters, Bearded Iris, succulents, spires of Echiums covered in bees. 

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On the coast side of the path a ‘prairie planting’ by design or just escapees, I wasn’t sure.

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Past the houses the path zig-zagged sharply over rock steps before the surface changed to fine gravel track. 

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Open gently winding paths on grassy slopes took us upwards with spectacular views all the way across ocean and coastline on this clear sunny day.

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Room with a view!

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Gold finch and maybe Yellowhammer, I think!

Without shade the entire track, sweating man appeared early, carefully applied sun-cream ending up on his towel!

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Again a walk with history. At the top the remains of WW11 gun emplacements and barracks. Over 700 soldiers were stationed here from 1941-2. Reflections of a different kind….thinking how exposed it would feel up here for those brave soldiers in the depths of winter.

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Luckily some well placed trees at the top gave us a little shade to eat our packed lunch.

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Sheep on the back end of the loop walk…

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And winding paths

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2.5 hour winding drive to Akaroa Bay for our powered site set above the bay, from our pitch we could see the sea.

Harbar View and Kitchen overlooking the ‘harbour’ and Daly’s Wharf. A half hour walk down a steep path with steps took us into town and this bar, originally just for beers to sit and unwind. The sight of pizzas being made from scratch tempted us to eat out in this beautiful setting in the still hot evening sun. 

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The steep climb back up was not as wonderful, but the sunrise at the top was on fire!

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‘On Location’

Day 21…Our adventures today would include a Lord of the Rings location, but first…..

Mount Somers Miners Track 2 hour loop 3.39 miles.

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A miners track with history, gradual inclines and declines following the sparkling, rocky waters of  Woolshed Creek to a former incline railway. Evidence here of the Blackburn coal mine abound, old track embedded in the ground, wheels from trucks amongst rocks. Relevant to today a four ton hopper wagon was recycled from other mines before ending up here, where it ended its working life to become another rusting relic from the past.

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Our real climb started here steep winding paths through Black Beech forest on a well marked track.

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Reaching the plateau the open mouth of the mine greets you, we were exhausted in the heat, admiration for the miners walking the track every day then labouring intensively underground!

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Panoramic views over Valleys and Canyons.

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The sidewinder route as part of the loop was our choice of track to return on….Big Mistake! Almost from the off the track zig-zagged steeply downwards and unlike the track up the going was difficult. Underfoot large rocks, roots, eroded sides disappearing down steep drops. Trees fallen across the paths, under and over we climbed.

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Paths seem to disappear ‘are we actually still on the track’ but then an orange marker would appear and we pressed on.

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Eventually we had dropped right down, literally as our knees were on the verge of giving up after forty five minutes of rocky, rooted stepped drops and the only way down some slopes was hands and feet in a reverse plank!

But, oh joy of joys the scrabble was definitely worth it as we ended up creekside – almost in it! The blazing sun lit up the fast moving water, slivers of light and shade created glass like patterns as it tumbled over the rocks and boulders.

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A short steep climb up and we were on the good track back to Aramoana ready for our next stop. But first a paddle in the freezing waters to revive the feet!

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Mount Sunday 1 hour return 2.26 miles….re-christened ‘Edoras’ after Lord of the Rings glory from the second film ‘The Two Towers’. Long 20 km gravel road to get there dust, dust and more dust. The last 10km was washboard bumpy and tourist busy.

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Mount Sunday rose out from a flat valley tiny in comparison to the mountains around it. The wind had got up by now blowing through the mounds of still brown tussocks creating a Mexican wave effect as we followed the marked path, first along the flat before making our assent. A fairly shallow run off crossed our way feeding into the fast flowing Rangitata River. 

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Long-suffering crossed first, splendidly as it happens, boots kept dry. The muse anything but, as misplaced step after step landed a proper wet boot! Obviously the distraction of tiny figures way off on top of ‘Edoras’ was my downfall!

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Luckily to cross the actual river a small swing bridge was in place loading only one person at a time! 

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On the other side grazing black cows heads down oblivious to our pursuits stood either side of the track as we started our assent. Mount Sunday, height 100m is essentially a large rock left after glaciers swept over the valley in the last ice age. Today it is a green mound, good grazing, judging by the pats avoided on our way up.

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Looking out towards ‘Helms Deep’.

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Once at the top winds were so strong we could lean right into them. Trying to take photos was hilarious as our hands shook, the resulting image a blur.

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Another couple returned the favour for a couples shoot. A few takes later we and they had a decent image.

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Lake Camp freedom camp…We arrived via the gravel road to a busy lake, it being a Sunday, lots of water sports going on by day-trippers. Managing to find a secluded lone pitch, trees on either side  framing the view, it was chairs out to enjoy this beautiful lake. Soon enough it was just us and one other explorer much further along the banks, the masses had all gone home.

Sunsets lakes and mountains….

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Two go 4 x 4

Day 20. Sunrise at Patterson’s Pond freedom camp….

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Tekepo Adventures…. Off the beaten track in a 4 x 4, 3 hour return. Again our weather luck was holding for this pre-booked excursion, maybe too hot at 32 degrees.

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Our lovely tour guide/driver Cristina, immediately made us feel easy both in her company and transport a 4 x 4 Landrover. Cristina and her partner Ben started the company eight years previously. We felt we were in safe hands. A brief outline of the tour – the group tour usually takes up to six people – only on this occasion it would be just us. The usual Health and Safety and we were off on our own private tour!

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Ten minutes later off the main road we approached the first of a good few gates, this first padlocked, giving us private access to the Braemar Station region of Mackenzie back country, thereafter it was down to Long-suffering to jump out as gatekeeper – and chief photographer – to all the remaining stock gates – keys not needed.

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Proper off roading now, we bumped along farmers tracks. A gentle undulating, flat landscape. Dry, rocky, thin soil, broken up with brown mounds of tussock grass and patches of green farmed land as far as the eye could see, stunning views over the the mountains and lake from a different perspective.

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Cristina was an informative and enthusiastic guide and was obviously passionate about this landscape and the wider areas around. Temperatures can get as low as -10 here and wind speeds through at 200km an hour.

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Photo stops were encouraged giving us lots of opportunities to stretch our legs. Crossing literally in front of our path huge Hares zig-zagging away, herds of Red Deer grazing then in full graceful flight. Pretty inquisitive cows gate side and Perendale sheep.

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We stopped at an old sheep station, a basic two room hut to weather the worst of the elements. Wood bunks in the bedroom, the interior lined with old newspaper clippings. A kitchen area, wood burner stove and seating.

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Our final stop, could the views get any better? Oh yes, on this tour they did! Breathtaking views over Lake Pukaki to Aoraki/Mt Cook, Mt Tasman, and the Ben Ohau Mountain range, clear, uninterrupted, and oh so quiet, just us three. Made even more special as Cristina produced hot tea and Whittaker’s Chocolate – our favourite since coming to NZ. A fantastic way to see the really wild side of NZ with Tekapo Adventures.

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Lunch Stop scenic lookout patchwork of Rapeseed fields…

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Mount Somers holiday park, good facilities, especially the Tavern up the road showing the World Cup Rugby Final! The muse showed willing in case long-suffering was the only Brit. It was even numbers two NZ one the owner and two Brits. Half time the muse was gone…..

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Tekapo

Day 19….Road out from White Horse Hill car park. Behind us in the wing mirrors Aroaki/Mount Cook was receding, alongside we followed the perfectly flat valley, carved out by glaciers over millions of years, stretching approx 17 km all the way to Lake Pukaki.

Tekapo….A different season visiting here Lake Tekapo greeted us with swathes of colour on its shoreline. Pinks, blues, yellows and purples of colonising Lupins amongst them pockets of bright orange California poppies shone against the backdrop of the vivid blue lake and backdrop of mountains behind.

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Tekapo seemed to be going through a redevelopment programme, building sites were everywhere. We headed over to the busy, inside and outside toilet block – a tourist attraction in its own right on account of its fully automation status and Star Trek voice…

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Door open, Welcome to exoloo, Door Closed – spooky felt like a space capsule inside, then….your maximum use time is 10 minutes! Scary if you are ill….Toilet will flush while washing hands or door opening….it did!

Church of the good Shepherd. We climbed Mount John last time here and missed this. Taking a break from mountains for a day…from our town car park it was a short two mile return walk to the church alongside the lake. Busy place!

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More Lupins

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The small church surely must be in one of the most picturesque settings, situated solitary, its alter overlooking Lake Tekapo and beyond the snow capped mountains.

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There were so many people already here, coach loads in fact, making it difficult to get a perfect shot but a patient wait and a rare people free glimpse through the doorway – photography is not permitted inside – my man behind the lens got his perfect shot!

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Tekapo Peninsula loop Track 3.49 miles 1.5 hour return. This walk is certainly off the tourist grid. We hardly saw a soul during this beautiful head swivelling walk over open grasslands. Clear uninterrupted views over Lake Tekapo and towards Mount John.

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The whole route is clearly marked by red topped poles and just follows a worn path over gently rolling hills.

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Sheep and more surprisingly lambs covered the whole area – some tracks we were hoping to walk in the South Island had been closed for lambing.

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Walking past a shady clump of trees a little away from the track two ewes, one with a small lamb and one unexpectedly just at that moment gave birth. So quick we almost missed it, all looked well and the very long legged lamb, back legs first then front wobbled to standing promptly finding mum for its first feed!

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This was a track different from any we had walked so far, the openness was a change from mainly enclosed forests we had come from.

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Pattersons Pond Freedom Camp….fifteen minute drive on gravel road crossing over the Tekapo Canal by bridge to find our beautiful spot beside the Tekapo River.

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A chance for Long-suffering to get the drone airborne. He was in good company as it turns out, another drone was up already from a fellow freedom camper way over yonder!

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Our first warmish evening, we ate supper outside…

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