By car to Wellington, ferry to Picton, car to Blenheim, Kaikoura, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill, Queenstown and up the West Coast, to Westport and then to Nelson and the Marlborough Sounds.


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WELLINGTON (en route)

Tauranga to windy Wellington

Off on our big adventure at 7am as planned and we make good progress down through the middle of the country despite the drizzle and visibility. Stop to pay our respects to my dear father and mother and take a photo or two of the tombstone so that I can instruct the inscriber.  We resolve to come over with flowers and clean it up before we go back to Sydney.

Take an initially winding detour to go through Fielding via Highway 54 where we stop for a Hamburger at MacDonalds. Lilly sets up the iPhone and laptop and sells some shares on the opening in Australia.

Otherwise uneventful trip although the car is making strange noises in reverse which we only discovered when parking at destination. But we are not going to be doing much in reverse around the South Island so will address only if a real problem.

We find Majoribanks Street and the Apollo Lodge Motel without problem about 2:30pm and our accommodation is fine except for the free broadband allocation. At 50MB for 2 days and a heap of emails to download and answer there is not much flexibility.

We walk around the city for about four hours during late afternoon. It has changed a lot in the 40 years since J and I lived here in Kilbirnie for three years before going to South Africa in 1972; even since a subsequent stay in the city at Kelburn in 1976 when I returned for a few months.

It is a cold and typically windy Wellington day.

We stop to look at some of the historical sites along Courtenay Place including the St James theatre. A young Chinese man confronts us and tries to persuade us to see a Chinese dance troupe that is currently showing at the theatre. I try to ignore him and walk on but Lilly is on to it. “This is the one that has been in Auckland and I would like to see it she complains”. He responds by pressing in on us quite aggressively. I take him aside and tell him gently that I have already booked tickets for tomorrow and want it to be a surprise for my wife. He stops but on turning back to Lilly she is not mollified so I have to tell her we already have tickets for tomorrow. She is dancing in the street. In fact the show being on in Wellington for two days dictated the timing of our trip.

Take the cable car up to Kelburn from Lambton Quay. Great view of the city and we take a few photos and wander around the top of the botanical park including the Cable Car Museum. This cable car has a long history and is deservedly one of the key city attractions.

Around Wellington on Whitangi Day

Whitangi Day in NZ today – a national holiday. We take a drive out to Lower Hutt and around the other side of the harbour to Seaview. Go as far as the road and walk a bit. On the way back we check that our ferry booking for tomorrow is good and drive out to Miramar and take the road up through Maupaui for a great view over the city. It is a much better day today – less wind and sunny although we still wear jumpers.

We come back through Kilbirnie and take a few minutes to see if I can find where we lived all those years ago. I immediately recognised Tully Street after driving along and then remembered it was number 14. Still there, probably still a rental and we take a photo as a reminder.

In the afternoon we go to the Chinese show at the theatre. The young man is now behind the counter and recognizes us. It is a great show; promoted as taking us on a journey through 5000 years of divinely inspired culture. Well worth the $100 ticket prices each, despite the hype. The only problem is the political overtones. The show is genuinely well done but it is a Falun Gong creation and particularly towards the end of the show there is a fair bit of promotion of that “religion”. Indeed to the point of being offensive to Lilly and disturbing to me. The founder of Falun Gong is almost promoted as a Buddha and part of Beijing is cinematically destroyed to show what is coming to the communists. The show without the political stuff was fantastic.

After the show we walk down to the wharves where there are National Day celebrations, music and young Maori guys leaping off high platforms into the sea and “bombing” everyone with water.  No charge for this entertainment.

We visit the Te Papa Museum which is a very mod museum; not the stuffy old place of yesteryear.  It is supposedly the National Museum but the emphasis is on Maori history and much of the pakeha settlement seems to have been ignored. I always feel that a lot of the Maori “history” borders on the mythical but is presented to us as fact.  But there is a lot of natural stuff on volcanoes, NZ animals and the environment.

Ferry across the Cook Strait

After booking out of the Apollo Motor Lodge we head down to the wharves and book the car in for our sailing on the ferry which is scheduled for 1:30pm.

Then stroll along the harbour front. It has been really well done. The typical wharves which always seem to dominate cities on a waterfront and cut its citizens off from the best part of a city have been opened up in Wellington. It is possible to walk right along the waterfront and the typical harbour facilities of port and transport and containers and vessels have all been merged with a walkway and various retail outlets. Brilliant and popular; huge numbers of people walk and run along it.

It takes us about 20 minutes to walk most of the length of it back to the Te Papa Museum where we spend most of the morning catching up on what we missed yesterday. We watch a 20 minute film showing many of the images that remind me of growing up in New Zealand and many more that fill gaps when I was absent. Pointing out personal stuff to Lilly that happened more than 60 years ago is a reminder of daily life way back then.

Anything we missed of Wellington we surely covered on the ferry on the journey out of the harbour. The day is warm, the sea is calm, there is a gentle breeze and the views of the city and environs are spectacular. I am glad we did not fly to Christchurch. Almost all of Wellington seems to be built on the hills and ridges that surround it. Harbour views are almost a given, wherever you live.


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Lilly’s first introduction to the South Island is equally impressive. Traveling through the Tory Channel and up the Queen Charlotte Sound to Picton we take a lot of camera and iPhone photos. Lilly is in to panorama shots on the iPhone some of which are sent immediately to J.

We travel straight through to Blenheim. Intend spending time in the Sounds and Picton on the way back.

Our motel is modern and comfortable and we stroll around the centre of Blenheim which is almost deserted at 6 pm. It is an attractive little town. We take shots of the court house and central gardens where the old clock tower chimes especially for us at 6:45.

Later we take the car out to Spring Creek and along Rapaura Road. The vineyards dominate. For miles almost every inch is filled with grapes. Some of the major wineries are here. We return via Renwick and find the RNZAF base at Woodburne to be about the only area not covered by vineyards. What is the matter with the air force? What are they protecting down here? Why aren’t they growing and making a drop of the best Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc?

South via vineyards and Kaikoura to Christchurch

We get going at about 8:45 and drive through more vineyards and through the range of (now) brown hills to the south of Blenheim. Lilly clicks away constantly on the camera for most of the 2 hours to Kaikoura (popn 2172). The town sits mainly on the north side of a peninsula formed by an offshore island joined over millions of years to the mainland. It is largely sheltered from the cold winds from the south.

We stop for a walk along the end of the peninsula. Looking back towards the town with the sea and the mountains in the background are some great camera shots. Some of the mountains still have snow and there is a layer of cloud about half way up the range that extends most of the way along the range. Lilly gets a few classic scenery pics.

The seal colony off the end of the peninsula can be seen from a distance apart from two seals which are close at hand. They entertain us, along with others, as they scratch and stretch and enjoy the sun on the rocks.

We travel through Waipara, Amberley and miss Rangiora somewhere off to the west. The countryside is just beautiful even if it is a bit brown.

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We hit Christchurch mid-afternoon. The motel is OK but there are no cooking facilities and no SKY so there is also an absence of international news. I hope we can accommodate these unexpected hardships for 2 or 3 days.

We go for a walk through nearby Hagley Park (which is huge) to the city. Past water features, enormous trees of many varieties, a Museum on the perimeter of the park and tennis courts. It is quite cold and windy.

The centre of the city is like a war zone. There are huge notices up about where you can enter but most of it is fenced off by 2 meter tall wire fencing. This city pre-earthquake was noted to be one of New Zealand’s best – very English – with the Avon River winding through much of the central blocks of the city. It was beautiful with many historical and well-preserved buildings.

Today we walk in a more-or-less rectangular pattern around the middle of the city. About a dozen city-centre blocks are fenced off. Mostly it is deserted although this is about 6 pm and of course knock-off time is 5pm. 940 buildings in the centre of the city have been demolished and there are about 50 still to go. In one place a huge crane is working at dismantling an 8 (or thereabouts) storey building. We get a good view, but it is at least 200 metres away. In other parts of the city there is also high fencing, particularly around older structures. Some buildings and residences are obviously deserted with less noticeable warnings and/or restrictions.

All in all it is pretty depressing. In a few days it will be the second anniversary of the main quake.

After circumnavigating the city we find a bus depot and catch a bus to Riccarton Mall where we do a bit of shopping. We walk home to Kilmarock Street on the park with a hot chicken and bread rolls for dinner.

Rangiora, the real plains and Ashley Gorge

We take it easy in the morning before departing for Rangiora about 10. As we go through that town we notice a bit of Canterbury fencing wire around some buildings and we miss the centre of the town because it is closed. Wonder why? Later we realise Rangiora was and is well within the quake zone.

We head out of Rangiora onto the “real” Canterbury plains. This is flat and the roads are long and dead straight. At Springbank we hesitate. We turn off the road to the north, prematurely as it turns out.

I am searching for my relative’s farm (Uncle D and my Auntie B). They left the whole of the family in Motueka/Nelson in the early fifties and came down here and bought a farm, initially of about 250 acres of flat and prime sheep country. I never knew about the mortgage(s) but on reflection times were tough for him and my aunt, who worked her fingers to the bone. My Aunt was my Father’s sister; she was sparse and non-stop and a woman of immense character, absolutely devoted to her family of eight, if not to her husband. She reminds me of Lilly and also of Lilly’s mother in her absolute dedication and service to others.

We visited them at least a couple of times but the sentimental journey back here is also because of a period of about two months that I came down from Motueka and worked on the farm when I was 16/17.

I have no addresses or remember any of names of the roads. We go this way and that, gravel roads and all. Gradually the contour of the land and the low hills to the North provide the clues. We move to the South a block, which means about a kilometre. I find some contour signs and go North again but I have gone a block early so we go further west. Got it. Unmistakably everything fits and we find the spot despite all the lifestyle blocks and changes over the last 50 years. I can see in about the position I would expect the corrugated iron roof of a home of the fifties era.

I pull up at a closed roadside gate merely to see if the original homestead is still there. It was well back from the road and although there are sheds I can’t see the home. Two quiet, well-behaved dogs come to the farm gate. I talk to the dogs. They listen quietly. Cat may have got their tongue.

A young man of about 40 appears shortly. I say “Hi, we are on a sentimental journey”. He needs no more than that to open the gate and come over to the car. We chat. He owns 37 acres and has been there 11 years. The house was in original condition when he moved in. He knows the house was built in 1951. He knows about R. There was an owner between them. I tell him R and I were contemporary, D was my uncle and I worked on the property about 50 years ago. He invites us in, but I say no thank you. I reminisce a bit about the history of the property and he updates me with what has happened since. He is an articulate and professional young man, probably the property is just a lifestyle thing for him and his wife.  Lilly is bored. You can only take so much history. She wanders off taking photos.

We then head off to Ashley Gorge about 20 kms to the north-west. I remember on a day off when I was down here working, that three cousins and I rode horses there and back on one fine day. My cousins were all horsemen but I do remember having a very sore bum for about a week after. I was too proud at the time to admit that but my allocated horse was not used to the work and was also a bit lame for a while.

The gorge is gorgeous and we go via tracks down to the Ashley River and try to skim some flat stones across it; does not work for me like it used to. After tea and bikkies we head off to Oxford.

In Oxford we miss the i by about 20 minutes and instead head across the road to the Arts & Crafts shop. The lady proprietor who hailed from Yorkshire (I had to apologise after thinking the lilt may have been Irish and accusing her of that – she was gracious) tells us that this town has also felt the effects of the quake. We can see the fenced-off historical buildings even from her windows. Will it be repaired? We don’t know she says. There is big controversy.

North of Oxford we head into the foothills. I get it wrong and we go a long way too far on a narrow, gravel road that goes nowhere. The i in Oxford would have set us on the right road. Eventually we get our bearings and find the Oxford Heritage Trails. We traipse into the shortest trail which is supposedly about a 5km round trip. Some of it is beautiful but overall it is pretty ordinary. The track is demanding physically, particularly on Lilly who wants to turn back. After 45 minutes of mainly uphill, we do that. Lilly almost immediately gets stung on the knee by a bee and we hold our breath as we hurry back to civilization, Will she be allergic? No problems and we make our way towards the Waimakariri River.

Today is the coast-to-coast race and we are halted for a while at the bridge over the river as there are lots of cars and people waiting for their athletes. We stop at Darfield for a late lunch, a snooze on a park bench and the biggest treat of the trip, courtesy of my beloved, a hoki poki ice-cream. There is a pint-sized jail in the town from 1915 that we photograph.

Today the highest temperatures in the country (+-28) are in Canterbury and we are not far from that area. It is warm and we feel sorry for the many athletes (now cycling) that we pass on the way back into Christchurch that have come all the way across from the West Coast.

We stop on the way back in Riccarton for supplies. Lilly talks to her family tonight which is Chinese New Year’s eve. We flash through hundreds of photos, taken mainly by Lilly. Hope she keeps it up.

Banks Peninsula and Akaroa 

Before we head off today we look around for a workshop that can replace our brake pads. The car is making weird noises, particularly in reverse and I reckon that’s the problem. We find a couple of possibles not far from where we are, but both are closed. Idea is to get there at sparrows tomorrow morning as we have a motel booked in Dunedin tomorrow night.

Yesterday we went north-west; today we go south-east to the Banks Peninsula, named by Cook in honour of the Endeavour’s botanist, Joseph Banks. Firstly, we head along the foreshore of Mt Pleasant and Sumner. The road bears the scars of constant repairs and is rock ’n roll in the car. Huge cliffs overlooking the road have been denuded in two areas and in one, the remains of at least one house hang over the edge. All along these areas are containers stacked two high to protect the road from falling debris, boulders etc.

The road over the Lyttleton hills to the harbour is closed, so we retrace our steps and go via the tunnel to Port Lyttleton. We nosy around the port, some buildings here are fenced off and there is not much of the harbour to be seen. We stop for tea overlooking the harbour and take some pics. This is the best view.

Then it’s on over the Gebbies Pass to pick up the main road between Christchurch and Akaroa. “Pick up” as in “may the road rise up to meet you”. I had heard about this Akaroa and always wanted to get there. Today is the day, but it is quite a hike and a lot of it is winding and up and down.

We stop at Little River to be told by the old ladies in the Crafts shop that the river can get big and lap around their store door. We buy fresh beans from them at a ridiculously low price so that Lilly can do dumplings tonight. The road gives us magnificent views of the harbour and Lilly calls for a stop periodically to get photos.

At last we get into Akaroa (permanent popn about 700). It delivers on its reputation. The town reminds me of Russell. Many of the early settlers were French and the town has that French flavour about it. It is quaint, well-maintained, beautiful gardens, old homes along the waterfront overlooked by some big glasshouse type mansions in the surrounding slopes. The place is teeming with people and cars. Eventually we find a bit of shade and we take out our blanket and have our lunch by the car.

We walk along the waterfront. The Diamond Princess cruise ship is out in the middle of the harbour and t

The ships ferries are constantly running passengers to and from the boat.  There is a beach but not a lot of people swimming even though it is a very hot day. We suspect the water is cold. We walk back through the village. I can imagine this to be a favourite weekend away spot for Cantabrians. It really is a charming place, with a host of water activities, walking tracks, restaurants and bars.

It is a long drive back to the city, but Lilly somehow still has the energy (despite a knee quite swollen from the bee sting) to make dumplings for dinner after getting some dumpling skins from a local Asian supermarket in Riccarton. They are delicious, best I have ever tasted.

Brake only for Dunedin

Up early this morning so that I can shoot off and get the brake pads done. The Magoo guys in Moorhouse Ave arrive at their workshop a moment after I pull into the forecourt at 7:30am. They are prepared to phone with a quote in an hour and get what is done this morning and lend us a little old runabout. I leave the car and return to the motels where we await the quote. It is $514 for the back brakes (front are OK), new rather than machined plus oil and filter which he reckons is overdue. I give him the go ahead and we pack our bags ready to move at 10:00.

After booking out of the motel we stroll in the park and eventually find the Museum after I finally admit I got the directions wrong and have to stoop to asking directions. We spend about an hour in the museum where the Antarctic expedition’s element is the highlight.

We pick up the car at about 12:30 and make Timaru by about 2:45 for lunch in the Botanic Gardens with ducks, seagulls and many of their cousins.

Lilly captures the Canterbury Plains on camera and the rain catches us just after Omaru. We get into Dunedin and get some stuff from the i before heading out to St Kilda and our motel.


Later we drive a little way onto the eastern side of the Otago Peninsula and up and over to the west. There are fantastic views of the city and harbour from that side and Lilly clicks away. We travel, just before dark, to the other end of the beach at St Kilda and ascend into the hillside suburbs. We drive about a bit. Great views up here too.

Otago Peninsula via low flying albatrosses and Larnock Castle

Up in good time, we fill up on petrol and head up the Otago Peninsula; this time across the cause way and along the narrow and winding road about 2 metres above sea level.

It is cold and we stop at one point and I put on a jacket over my shirt/jumper. Next significant stop is at the end of the peninsular to view the Albatross colony. I don’t fancy the $50 each fee to view the albatrosses and so we drive on around to the Natural Wonders depot. Again the fee is $50 each (to see what we are not told) but they are just taking off so we have a cup of tea while we think and thaw or should that be thaw and think.

The views are great and after tea we head back to the Albatross Centre. We pay the $50 admission fee and really get a good feel for an Albatross life at sea and the issues these huge birds face. Long-line fishing claims huge numbers of them as they make a grab for the bait before it sinks off the end of the boats. Feeding them at the other end of the boat and having heavier sinkers are two answers, otherwise some of the subspecies are going to be wiped out.

The Royal Albatross can live more than 60 years and have a wing span of 3.3 metres. Eighty percent of their lives are spent at sea, most of it in the air.

We travel back towards the centre of the Peninsula along the ridge in the middle. Incredible views of the harbour. We stop at Larnock Castle and spend 2 or 3 hours there.

William Larnock built the castle on a high point of the peninsula overlooking the harbour. Years earlier his very young son suggested it would be a good spot. Artisans were imported from various countries to do the stonework and woodwork etc and the castle was completed in 1878.

The Larnock story is a long one. He eventually became an MP and then the Treasurer within the government at the time. He married three times and lost a lot of his money. Eventually on receiving some news he took a gun and shot himself, in no less a place than his own office in the parliament.

The second part of the story really began in 1967 when Margaret Barker and her husband bought the castle. She restored it and planted extensive gardens surrounding it. Today it probably has about 20 staff and appears popular, well-run and maintained.

The actual castle is pretty special by local standards but quite ordinary by international standards. Government House in the Botanical Gardens in NSW is the next step up and there must be hundreds in Britain that would surpass it. That’s not to diminish it because its original construction, ownership and restoration are fascinating reading.

We end up spending at least half an hour in the gardens. They are extraordinary and obviously the result of meticulous planning and gardening know-how.

We travel back along the high ground of the peninsula to the city centre. We spend the best part of an hour in the art gallery and taking photos around the Octagon in the heart of Dunedin.

Ditto for the Museum a few blocks away (deserves more time) then on past the new-enclosed-with-roof Forsyth Barr stadium. Next is a drive through the Botanic Gardens, followed by a quick scoot up and down Baldwin Street. The latter is noted as the world’s steepest street according the Guinness Book of Records. It is steep but the steepest? Did the local boys buy these guys off with an extra guinness or three?

No problem for the Honda Accord and even the new brakes worked OK coming back down. A lot of people looking on but only one other driver braved it while we there.


Today we drive to Invercargill. Lilly takes 433 photos on the 3 to 4 hour drive down, through Milton, Balclutha, Clinton and Gore. The landscape down here is much greener and there are a lot more sheep.

We book into our motel for the next two nights, have lunch and a break and head into the city.  Is it really summer? The temperature is 12 but it feels much lower with a gusty wind coming in from the Antarctic.

We stop at the Art Gallery/Museum and spend about an hour browsing. Good stuff on the history of the Southland Times newspaper, the castaways on Auckland Island to the south and the albatross. One albatross they monitored took off on a flight of about 5000 km in 13 days and a few days later did about 4000 over the same time.

Fifteen castaways were stranded after the General Grant on a voyage from Melbourne to London hit rocks in the Auckland Islands. Sixty eight passengers died. The 15 stranded were in little more than the clothes they stood up in. They were cold and wet and the story is made all the more poignant by the attempts to strike a match and get a fire going. Heaps of matches failed but apparently the last one they had, was warmed by what heat was left in one of their bodies, struck against stone and started. The fire was never let die out after that. They grew spuds and caught pigs and goats some of which they domesticated.

After nine months ashore four of the crew decided to attempt to sail to New Zealand in one of the quarter boats. They set sail on 22 January 1867 without a compass, chart or nautical instrument of any kind. They were never seen again. One man of 62 died and the ten remaining survivors moved to Enderby Island where they lived on seals and pigs. A brig by the name of Amherst noticed their signals on 21 November 1867 and rescued them.

Not so impressed by the Art Gallery. My tastes in art are not exactly eclectic.

We drive along a bit to the entrance to Queens Park and discover one of the real gems of the south. This park is one of the best we have ever been in. There are two extensive rose gardens with rose arbors everywhere, a rhododendron dell, a subantarctic garden of imported plants from the five small isolated NZ southern islands, a native garden, a Japanese garden, large duck pond and some huge and beautiful trees. Lilly takes 2 million photos as we stroll about.

I am keen on a bit of exercise and we head out West of the city looking for a walk around the estuary. But it does not look all that inviting and the wind is biting. We drive out through the suburb of Otatara, mainly lifestyle type blocks. Further still we hit a beach (Otere I think) where the sand is being whipped up by the wind to form a metre high, smoke-like screen a bit like they produce on-stage in theatres.

Cold and wet in the far south

It is a cold day again today, perhaps not so windy, but drizzling. We brave the weather and head for the Bluff about half an hour South.

We intend taking the ferry to Oban on Stewart Island but the lady behind the counter warns the crossing will be rough. The ferry fare is $142 return for the two of us for the 60 minute trip. I say “not cheap” and she agrees. No car involved and at that price perhaps we could get a flight over. I chat it over with Lilly. Even if we go and don’t get seasick or airsick, what are we going to do over there in the rain? We shelve it.

Instead we go to Stirling Point, the southern most point and take some pics of the signpost, 2000 km to Sydney, about 10,000 to Tokyo and 19,000 to London. A warm Tauranga also seems a world away.

The Bluff Maritime Museum is warm and cozy and we spend almost a couple of hours there. It is well-presented and maintained.

We read about the origins of the harbour and the commissioning of the huge new island harbour in 1960. Around this area there have been countless ships wrecked on the coast, each one with its own tale.

At Tiwai Point of course Rio Tinto (previously called Comalco) has a majority share in the aluminum smelter, employs about 750 people and produces about $1 billion of aluminum annually.

One of the Maori tribes was given permission in 1864 I think to harvest young fat and succulent Mutton Bird chicks (or Titi) on some of the nearby islands. That tribe’s descendants still have the authority to do so in April/May of each year. They pluck them, process and preserve them in salt and liquor. Could not find them on local menus, but did find southern cod, venison, southland beef etc.

In 2000, according to a display, the NZ Parliament passed an Act granting a pardon to four soldiers who deserted and one who mutinied just before the Great War of 1914-18. All were executed. One featured in the museum. He was a young Maori bloke who had a problem with alcohol and deserted.  At least one journalist objected to the pardons believing we were just being politically correct by trying to judge conditions of 100 years ago by today’s standards.

Conditions in the army were harsh but by their actions all five did not have to face the horrors of war in the trenches of Europe, as did their contemporaries, where so many died.

This time we enter from the North of the park after the golf course. What a magnificent park. Today, we discover a Japanese garden (sponsored by a Japanese sister city), an aviary (with many of NZ’s native birds), a small zoo (with deer, wallabies, lhama and an assortment of domesticated animals) and various glasshouses (for indoor, desert and tropical plants).

Today we have walked quite a bit over the last couple of hours but I am still champing at the teeth and am sent off on foot for Deep Heat. It is a fair hike to Countdown into the wind and on the way back it rains a bit. Round trip takes me about an hour, teach me to complain about not getting enough exercise!

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We head off at 8am for first stop, Manapouri. It is raining and visibility is not great. I decide to go through Otautau rather than the other two more conventional routes. We turn left at Lorneville on Highway 99. We miss one possible turn but actually get it right by turning north at Thornbury.

The weather clears after a while and Lilly starts snapping. The countryside is rolling and beautiful. We are moving quickly as we have a lot of driving today. We re-join Highway 99 and get to Manapouri just before 10.

I would like to spend some time here because the Manapouri hydroelectric power station is huge and maybe even the biggest in NZ. It was built about 40 years ago just before I left NZ the first time. The idea was that it was to be the main source of power for the Comalco aluminum smelter at the Bluff and seeing the stuff about it in the Bluff Maritime Museum reminded me. That all happened but there has been controversy over environment and design deficiencies.

Anyway we decide to press on and come back tomorrow if we want. We book into our motel at Te Anau on the dot of 10 and leave four bags outside the motel that they will put inside after it is cleaned. We fill up and head for Milford Sound.

We make several tourist stops including the Mirror Lakes, Knob’s Flats, The Chasm, and old original bridge and several stops so Lilly can get pics. We also stop for a cuppa but the sand flies are real bad and it turns into a real quick cuppa.

The country goes from hilly to mountainous. The landscape changes often from river flats of brown grass to native bush. The road is winding and steep in places. We go through the Homer tunnel. What a history this road has.

Milford sound or should that be fjord

After many stops we arrive at Milford Sound about 1:30 and eat our lunch in the car. We have about three quarters of an hour before our Southern Discoveries catamaran departs at 3pm. The weather is fine if not a bit cold and windy. We wander around the terminal and harbour. There must be about a dozen piers. The Cruise Ships can’t come in here but some quite big vessels are tied up as we see later.

Milford Sound is a bit of a misnomer as is Fiordland. There are no sounds here in Fiordland, they are all technically fiords. A sound is more generally carved by a river. Fiords or more correctly fjords (it is a Norwegian term) were carved by glaciers.

The skipper of our vessel Milford Sound is informative. There must be about 100 tourists on our boat. The fiord is flat bottomed and as much as 300 metres deep. Imagine if there was no water here and we were driving through it. The mountainous sides would be even more awesome.

We can see different coloured rock and he confirms there are many minerals here but it is off-bounds for exploration – it is now a World Heritage area.

There are a couple of permanent waterfalls, one of which is the Stirling Falls. He assures us it has a 150m drop. The visible bit looks more like 150 feet to me but I check with him and he says 506 feet. Apparently the early settler who named the place (John Grono) exaggerated the height of the waterfalls deliberately to make the Sound more appealing to visitors. Are they still using his measurements?

A great trip up and down the Sound and out briefly into the Tasman Sea. I stay inside most of the time. Lilly is up on the top deck snapping away. At one point she comes inside. Her hands are freezing.

We stop at the Discovery Centre in Harrison Cove along with another couple. This is a floating (on pontoons) display centre and an underwater chamber. A young Maori guy gives a good presentation about the Sound and then we take the stairs down inside the underwater chamber. We descend 10 metres and from the heavy plastic (not glass) windows we can view a range of fish and artificial trays of coral.

We are picked up by the next vessel and reach the harbour about 6pm. Then back the winding road to Te Anau and our motel by 8pm. After a delicious meal concocted so quickly by my beloved we take a walk around Te Anau.

Pretty little place, we will see more of it tomorrow. A long day.

Te Anau

We drive around Te Anau a bit after booking out of out motel. It is still cold. Lilly has seen something about displays of giant vegetables and flowers at the community centre. We find the place – it is a local community centre, half an hour after opening time we are first there. The place is otherwise deserted apart from a couple of stalwart local early-birds.

Because we are visitors from afar we are invited to sign the visitor’s book. First-in best-dressed I say, better we wait until exit. The displays are from yesterday and mainly by school children. It took me back about 60 years. But the oldies running the show are sincere and friendly and when I talk about being from Motueka originally, we all have that small town affinity. Lilly is intrigued and understanding.

We head off for Queensland, stopping for self-serve tea at Kingston and get in about midday. This place is busy. The weather has turned. It is sunny and warm. There are people everywhere.

We find our motel/townhouse at the top of what must be New Zealand’s second steepest street. We are on the second floor and boy do we have a view over the town and the lake. The windows are huge and we really have a very comfortable and spacious upper-floor townhouse.

In the afternoon we walk into the town and around the harbour. It is packed. This is Saturday and everyone and the tourists are in town, either on the lake-side beach (but not in the water), on the piers around the harbour, in the bars or in the restaurants. The place throbs.

Queenstown is located on Lake Wakatipu a narrow finger lake that is 80km long. It is up to 400 metres deep.

We walk along the lake-side to the north while Lilly is absolutely in her element taking shots this way and that. The material is there, no doubt about that. To the east are mountains called The Remarkables, and remarkable they are whether partially shrouded in cloud or not. To the south and west is the lake surrounded by more mountains

Later we walk back around the bay and in the park peninsula to the south. It is quite a long walk particularly with photo-stops thrown in. The park has a skating rink, tennis courts, all manner of amenities, a large gazebo, duck pond etc. It is a thing of beauty.

We walk around the town, have a McDonalds, get some supplies and walk back up the hill. The view from our motel is magnificent.

Queenstown all charged up

Lilly had a dizzy spell last night and we are concerned about the cause.  Look up the hospitals and medical centres in case we need them.

But it turns out it is the car that needs a doctor. The battery is flat. Why? Because the driver forgot to turn the side lights off yesterday after switching them on earlier in the day. I make a mental note to mention this understandable oversight to our idiot driver.

We decide to find a Mitre 10 or Bunnings and buy a battery charger. We catch a bus to Frankton alight by The Warehouse, buy a charger, return and get the battery charging.

The skyline gondola is only about a kilometre away so we walk there and take a gondola to the top, 400 odd metres off the lake. 18,000 years ago this point was covered by about 400 metres of ice. So the ice was about a kilometre deep.

The views are amazing and Lilly clicks away. We watch the luge and later the para gliding. These days I am a spectator, but on reflection I could have had a go at the luge.

There was not much wind today. It was quite hot and the para gliders with their paying passengers were struggling to get into the air. Are these folk really paying. Looked as if it could be hit and miss a bit. And if you miss, its curtains or bad injuries because you are running off a steep slope. Not my cup of tea any longer.

Later in the afternoon, the car is electrified enough to take us to Arrowtown where we wander around this beautifully preserved little town of the gold rush days.

At one end of the town is a Chinese Village. This “village” contains the remnants of a few very basic buildings where the Chinese gold diggers of the 1840s lived.  They were mainly Cantonese and were not well-treated by the other miners. Many stayed on notwithstanding and at least two or three of the originals lived in retirement and died in Arrowtown.

We cross the Shotover River twice, once as a very wide river the second time in the hills between cliffs where it is just a few metres across. Beautiful landscapes around Lake Hayes.

We would like to stay here longer and relax but have not booked and anyway have to press on towards and up the West Coast.


We leave about 8:15am, drive through Frankton and take a left at Arrowtown Junction to go over the Crown Range. It is winding and quite steep but well worth it. The views are incredible and we stop a couple of times to take photos.

Stop for petrol at Wanaka and go in a couple of circles to get out of the town because of road closures. As we drive towards Haast Village we pass by several lakes including Hayes, Hawea and Wanaka. They present plenty of opportunities for pics and Lilly snaps away. We stop just before Haast for a cuppa.

At Fox Glacier the motel is not ready at 1pm so we wander around the little town until 2 and book a guided tour of the glacier for tomorrow at 9:35am.

I am a bit concerned about a strange creaking noise just on the driver side, probably at the front, just when we are turning and only hear it when the car is travelling slowly. There are lots of joints and struts up front. Is it potentially dangerous? Could something seize up?  I ask the local garage. Proprietor says if you can only hear it a low speeds, just drive fast. He also says perhaps it is a stone in the brakes. I say I might bring it in tomorrow at 8. I take both wheels on the driver side off after we book into the motel but can’t see anything that could be causing it. Later I decide better to wait until we get to Nelson, in event Honda parts are needed.

Late afternoon we head off to take a look at the glacier itself. It is a half hour walk to the face of the glacier. We can get quite close but there are warnings and a roped off area that we can view it from. From here and on to the glacier it is supposed only to be with guides. We respect the rules but I have a feeling this is all so as to protect the local industry and to rip tourists off. The guided trip tomorrow is $115 each, not exactly cheap.

The valley is strewn with rock falls and bits at the lower edge of the glacier look as if they could break off and fall easily.  There is not the huge volume of ice that I can remember but maybe we originally visited the Franz Josef.

Fox Glacier

We think that as we have seen the Fox Glacier we might try for a refund and move on to see the Franz Josef Glacier but we are too late and no luck. As it turned out we got lucky. The trip on to the ice was great. Still over-priced at $115 each but that’s what the tourists and us have to cough up these days if we want to see the best of NZ.

The guides get us togged up with mac, thick socks and boots. There must be about 40 of us and we are split up into 2 groups. On the way up to the car park in a bus we are told about the comings and goings of the glacier and how it has receded over the past 18,000 years.

18,000 years ago it was way up the cliffs (like 400 metres – Mount Maunganui is a bit more than 300 metres high) and reached the sea. In 1750 it was kilometres below where it is now. But the interesting thing is that it has surged forward at times even over the last 20 years. So you have this accumulation when conditions are right and a retreat when conditions aren’t notwithstanding the very long-term pattern of recession. Has global warming made a difference? Perhaps says the guide but the overall impact of the glaciers receding pre-dates global warming by almost 18,000 years.

Underneath us in the car park is “dead ice”. It is covered and therefore insulated by rock and stone and soil on the top but it is gradually melting.

We take the same path up the valley that we took last night. There are rock falls that may have happened quite recently. It is quite a way. There used to be a road but it has been destroyed by rock falls. Because of the constant movement of the ice the whole area seems to be unstable and unpredictable. There is a steep incline over the last 200 metres but we make it with the group, all of whom are much younger.

Lilly’s knee is sometimes a bit dodgy and she is not great with stairs but she is fine today. As we watch the front or face of the glacier, a large chunk breaks off with a roar. Unfortunately I was bent over packing coats onto my back pack but Lilly gets a photo of it.

We attach crampons to our boots and move out onto the ice after walking down rocky and stony steps. We move in single file behind our guide. From time to time he stops and tells us about a feature. Apparently the ice takes about 40 years from the time it hits the top as snowfall until it compacts and reaches the bottom. So the ice in the middle of the glacier is not thousands of years old as I imagined. Much of the glacier is beyond what we can see. It takes a turn to the right way above us. The whole glacier is ?? kilometres long.

I ask the guide about Franz Josef in terms of size and accessibility. He says it is only half the size of the Fox and is currently inaccessible to the public on foot.

That decides me and we decide to travel on to Greymouth. We get in late afternoon, book in to our motel and after a break, go in to the town and take a look around.

We walk along the river on the raised flood bank. It is a beautiful day, a cool breeze comes off the Grey River but I am comfortable in shirt sleeves.

There is a recent memorial (January 2013) erected to the West Coast miners who have lost their lives over the years. The list is long and sorted by year starting with the year 1896. (plenty of room has been left on one side of the memorial for additional names.) There must have been a huge number prior to that, perhaps they were not recorded. The latest names are of course the miners (29 from memory) who died in the Pike River disaster.  The Pike River coal mine is further up the coast and inland. We will not be visiting.

The town is absolutely deserted about 5:30pm, not unlike many small NZ towns. An Art Gallery advertised to be open 9am to late was closed. Perhaps “late” was 5:15pm. We get supplies from the local Countdown and get an early night.

Early pancakes and tea on the Buller

We head off before 7:30am and get to our first stop at the Pancake Rocks before there are many people around.

I remember scrambling around looking at these rocks perhaps 40 or 50 years ago. Today there is a sealed path with barriers erected and warnings not to go further. Harakeke (flax) is everywhere and in parts starting to obscure the view a bit. The whole thing has been very well done. Both the immediate rocks and the coastline are very photogenic. Lilly is in her element with both cameras. She takes plenty of Paramattas (or should that be panoramas) with her iPhone.

The path leads around the coast and crosses via a bridge across a chasm between the rocks. The pancakes and how they were formed from limestone in the sea millions of years ago is amazing. Apparently the scientists still can’t explain how the pancake effect happened.

At Westport we stop for morning tea on the Buller River close to the sea and fill up. Westport is busy and looks a much more attractive town than it was eons ago when I was a boy.

The road through the Buller Gorge has been straightened and there is not as much native forest as there was. The scenery and river still make for a great trip and we stop and take photos as we pass through Hawks Crag. There is a history to how this was hacked out of the cliff face but I have forgotten it. It is still narrow and one lane and now has lights at each end to control the traffic.

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An hour later we are getting into more familiar territory as we travel over the Hope Saddle and through Wakefield, Brightwater, Richmond and Stoke. I have taken the old route but conscious of Highway 6 out to the left somewhere. We find our motel in Golf Road, Tahuna no problem.

We are here for three nights so are pleased to find it is a very pleasant upstairs room with en suite and all the facilities we need. The occasional Fokker Friendship passes overhead reminding us we are not far from the airport. But they are not the big jets and the noise is not bad.

After lunch we drive into Nelson around past the harbour and park at the northern end of Trafalgar Street. Nelson was named in honour of Horatio Nelson who defeated both the French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

We walk up one side of Trafalgar Street, taking photos as we go. It too is a much more attractive city. At the end of the street we ascend the Church steps and take a look round inside the Anglican Cathedral. We walk back down Trafalgar Street on the other side and stroll along the Matai River to the east. I can find no sign of the home where I lived occasionally with Ms F while studying in Nelson. It was two or three east along from the Swimming Pool which is still there, but I think her home is gone.

We drive up the Maitai Valley. Not as picturesque as it was and the motor camp at the top looks as if it attracts a lot of semi-permanent undesirables. We drive around the upper end of the city where there are many old and well-maintained homes. Get out of the car, walk down a drive and take a shot of the house we were living in when the twins were born. I remember it well, although we moved to LM when I was just four. I also remember the old place in St Vincent Street and unbelievably it is still there.  We get a pic, but it is into the sun.

We go back towards Tahuna past the Nelson Hospital and over the hill where we take photos of my uncle and aunts home (where I also stayed from time to time when studying) and an old building just down the road where my father did his carpentry apprenticeship for HR B & Co.

We walk along the beach at Tahuna. There are even people swimming and quite a few still on the beach at about 5:30pm.

What a day of reminiscing. Lilly assures me she is not bored, but I am not sure how sincere she is. Tomorrow over in Motueka will be the acid test.

Back in home territory

We take Highway 6 along the coast, circumvent Richmond and take the old road over the Moutere Hills. First stop is at the Upper Moutere Inn where we stop for photos of the oldest pub in New Zealand.

We stop at KG for more photos and have a chat to J, a German born bloke who has been there now for 22 years. He takes a break and explains he bought the property when it was in a sad state of disrepair. He shows us photos to underline how bad it was. He has restored it and added a balcony to the north. The property looks great but the gardens are now all a bit overgrown. He explains T still occasionally comes to the farm from Motueka and does odd jobs but the farm is managed by a son.

Next stop is our old home in Braeburn. We take photos and walk over the swing bridge and have a chat to R who has a bad leg and is sitting outside in the sun. He stands up to talk to us and his wife comes by periodically and lectures him about standing up. He should have his leg up. He bought from T about 30 years ago and runs a Pick Your Own berry garden.

We stop and have tea at the Riverside Community café and take pics of the Lower Moutere School – the 3 top classrooms appear to have been abandoned. Our old home in Lower Moutere is no longer there. We take a left up Hursthouse St and drive past K sheds and orchards on the right. No sign of him. We don’t have phone numbers for him so will try later.

We stop in Motueka and take a walk through the town. Look in at the Museum and take a look at the M file. It goes about as far as Grandpa H. The Archibald that arrived in 1849 died about 6 years later after collapsing following a fall from a horse. His son, also Archibald, was apparently H’s father. From there on I think we can piece together our bit of the family (H’s line) but the others are just too many and various.

We drive around Motueka a bit going down to the old seaside swimming pool and around by the wharf.  Then off to Kaiteriteri via Riwaka. Take photos of the old homestead and stop at the Riwaka Cemetery looking for Grandpa’s tombstone.  We find B’s who died in 1928 aged 1 year and seven months. My dear Father often spoke about it. On reflection Grandpa was buried in Motueka, as was I think Grandma.

Kaiteriteri is just as amazing as it once was. Golden sands, blue sky and deep blue/green sea half ringed by tree-covered Kaka Point etc. This has got to be one of the top beach and holiday settings in the world. We buy sandwiches and have them and a cuppa at Kaka Point. We take photos looking down over the beach.

The whole area through here has got even more popular over the last 50 years. Homes around the hills look expensive and there are up market cafés and restaurants. In fact lunch at one is too expensive for us and that’s why we buy sandwiches elsewhere.

Next stop is K’s orchard after getting his landline numbers at the PO. We stop and phone him. I am paged through to his cell phone and we have a chat. He tells me is moving irrigation around. At the end I ask him specifically where he is right now, without revealing we are anywhere but T. He gives me enough clues and we travel about a kilometre to find him.

We have a good chat. He says he suspected we were around when I said “specifically”. He looks well and healthy and prosperous.  Apple picking starts tomorrow. He recommends we take a look at P’s $30m house under construction. He says he thinks P will want to buy nearby property from him particularly if he starts a pig farm there. I say if he does he might rather get the P place at a snip. We want to take a look along the ridge at the back where there are three homes but can’t find the side road.

We travel back via the Lower Moutere back country and Harley Road from Harakeke. The coast road is superb. We stop for supplies in Richmond.

Bit of a sentimental day.

Around Nelson 

I had intended to go across the Takaka Hill to Golden Bay today but that will have to wait another time.

Our car needs attention. It is making a clanking noise up front. This has gone on since Wellington. It can’t be ignored any longer. Midas quickly diagnose it as the CV Joint on the drivers side at the front. They check the other side as well and recommend we do both. Cost $460, not happy but hopefully that will be enough to keep the old girl on the road for a while. The motor goes well so fingers crossed.

We wander around the city while we wait. The Museum charge $7 each so almost in principle we decline, especially given there is a display on the Taranaki Maori wars of the 1860s and another on snails. Hmm… Town museums should be free entry anyway, whether their displays are ho hum or not. We lunch at Subway (that’s more value for money, sorry Nelson) while we wait for our car.

Take photos in Anzac Park and pick up a copy of the Nelson Evening Mail (hold on that’s now the Nelson Mail) which I scan through quickly in the park – not a lot to it.

After we get our car back we go to the Botanic Reserve and take the uphill climb to the “centre of New Zealand” through the Botanic Reserve.  It has a great view of Nelson and Lilly snaps away.  On the way back down we follow one of the many signs that point to the Kauri Tree. Our expectations are high. We find this tree behind a steel surround but hold on, this tree was planted in 1951 and is smaller than two trees we have in our own garden and nothing compared with Kauri trees in Northland and Yattoon Park in Tauranga. It has a steel cage surround that will allow the tree a bit of growth from now on, say a 1000 years.

We drive along the ridges to the west of the city and take many photos. There are superb views over the city to the east and west. Stop at New World for supplies  and head back to the motels.

A relatively easy day today, reflecting on it as I watch two of the early Super Rugby games in our motel. The Chiefs prevail over the Highlanders 41-27.

Tomorrow we leave Nelson for the Marlborough Sounds.

Marlborough Sounds

The Grove Track to the sounds and Outward Bound

We take the Blenheim/Picton road out of Nelson, trying to spot F and M’s former home in Atawahi Drive but can’t see it. First stop is at Pelorus Bridge to take photos from the bridge and the river and skim flat stones where we used to as a kid.

Then at Havelock we fill up and turn on to the Grove Track. The road is now sealed and much straighter. There are homes all along it and the vegetation has been cleared back. It is not as picturesque as it was or are my romantic memories imaginary?

We stop frequently for photos of the sounds and get to Linkwater Motel about midday for lunch and a break. We will be here for 3 days and nights, deliberately to recover from the fairly constant travelling of the past 2 or 3 weeks.

Mid-afternoon we drive on to Momorangi where we camped as kids and I remember K getting stung by a bee or bees and having an allergic reaction on a very hot day. There are more homes and the cosy charm and setting is no longer what it used to be. We drive on to Ngakata Bay where a wedding on the foreshore is in progress. Lilly takes more snaps before we return and take the road to Anakiwa where the Outward Bound School is situated.

We stop for a “wood fired” pizza to support a young girl who is raising funds for a trip to Cambodia/Vietnam and talk to the Dad about Outward Bound. He says they now run courses for all ages and Fischer & Paykel used to first interview job candidates who had “Outward Bound” in their CVs. I would like to try it but my ankles can only take so much travel in one day and these days I am not as good with heights as I used to be.

We take the first bit of the famed Queen Charlotte track to Davies Bay. a bit more than an hour there and back. It is reasonably flat and a beautiful walk through the native bush along the shores of the Sound.

On the way back we stop at the Linkwater Inn to see if they have SKY and are showing the game later on. Yes to both so we resolve to return at 7:30. Lilly is not keen so I decide shortly not to go. Later she overhears the motel proprietor talking to some other visitors and recommends I ask him if SKY is available. He says they have it and he can flick it through to us and the others, so I get to see the game after all, well done Lilly.

Te Mahia, Potage and Kenepuru Head

Today we take off in the direction of Titirangi Bay, along the Kenepuru Road and Mahau Sound and further along the Kenepuru Sound. It is a long and winding, albeit sealed road.

We stop several times for Lilly to take photos. The main settlements are at Te Mahia, Potage and Kenepuru Head. There are a significant number of letter boxes on the road that mark civilization but rarely do we see the box owner’s residence. Wonder if these boxes are still used or have email boxes superseded them.

We get to the Titirangi Road section (only 25 kms to go) but the road is not sealed. Am I going to tackle another 50 kms on a gravel road on my day of rest? NO. So we turn and meander back slowly stopping first at Kenepuru Head for a delicious lunch prepared as always by my beloved. How could anybody do mashed potaters (sic) better than me?

At Te Mahia, I think it was, we stop for the peninsula walk and visit Mistletoe Bay or Cove or Inlet or Whatever. Let not the deficiencies in map reading get in the way of the rest of the orienteering.  That included quite a scary bit of mountaineering to get to the point of the peninsula past a long drop to rocks and a bit of ponsy stuff in a large pine tree that had fallen into the Sound.

Then home to the motel for the early news and relaxation.

A warm day in a beautiful Picton

Today the road led to Picton where we first changed our ferry sailing from 2pm tomorrow to 8am. That will save us staying a night in Wellington and we can be home a day earlier, which is not a bad thing given we have been away 3 weeks.

The Diamond Princess is docked and the town is absolutely flooded with people with cameras. Not unlike us, except we are slim, elegant, pretty and wise, depending on your view.

The views of the cruise ship and of the town are fantastic. It is a beautiful warm day and people are eating and drinking and a few are walking. Which is what we do.

We take the track on the Waikawa side of the ridge that juts into the Sound. Eventually we get to a steep cycle track that goes to the top. It is quite a climb. Take the road at the top to the right and then down the other side to Bob’s Bay. We try to makew our way back to Picton along the foreshore but the going over the rocks is no smooth so we return to Bob’s Bay and take the lower track back yo the town.

We have our lunch then stop to view a number of Art & Craft displays/sales on the public area. Then stop for about an hour on the forshore while I read the paper and Lilly texts and takes photos.

Catch a hoki poki on the way at Momorangi Bay. There is nothing that beats a Tip Top hoki poki double scoop on a hot afternoon.

This has been a fantastic time away. The weather has been kind to us.  We could not have asked for more. But the time has come to earn our keep.

Home from the sounds via ferry

Big travel day today, all the way from the motel in the sounds via ferry and Wellington to Tauranga and sweet home. All good things come to an end but we are home safe and sound.