Friday November 20, 2015 (New Zealand, Oceania)
It’s been too long since we’ve sent an update, hasn’t it?! I blame the fact that the Internet here has been less than stellar. Far less than you’d expect from a modern, industrialized country! It’s a case of: “Thanks for staying with us! Here is your special code that gives you thirty minutes of Internet or 100MB. Enjoy!” That doesn’t count as the Internet. Anyway, this is all the more reason to inundate you with lots of photos we’ve been taking around New Zealand. I think you’ll agree that it’s quite a gorgeous country!
After departing Dunedin we headed south to Waikawa for a night in a region of the country called “The Catlins”. Along the way we made sure to stop in to Nugget Point to take a peek at the big, rocky edifices (apparently they’re “islets”) and to check out the lighthouse. We managed to spot some spoonbills from a looong way up. Some nice views, but perhaps the best part was being so close to a town known as “Kaka Point”. Can’t beat that.
The Catlins is a rugged coastal area with lots of wildlife spotting opportunities (as well as surfing opportunities!). Unfortunately the weather was a bit foreboding and overcast for us, so we didn’t do much in the area except marvel at the natural beauty surrounding us.
Our followup destination was Manapouri – a village not necessarily frequented by as many tourists as perhaps it should be! Along the way we stopped into Fortrose for a quick pee break. We noticed several couples wandering the waterfront holding nets close to the shoreline. We approached one of them to ask what was going on. This lovely, elderly couple explained that they were catching whitebait: a perennial favourite amongst Kiwis. As far as I understand it, it’s basically just baby fish. And they’ll pay for it, too! To the tune of about $80/kg. So this old couple were collecting some for a family event they were having. They’d sometimes spend hours walking back and forth along the shoreline to collect enough for their meal. Pretty neat to see something so traditional happening here. We were glad we asked!
So yes, we were continuing on the road to Manapouri. That last drive from Fortrose to Manapouri was absolutely beautiful. I took a whole bunch of pictures there! Our arrival in Manapouri was accompanied by perfect weather and an incredible view of Lake Manapouri around which the town is focused. I was thrilled to see that the town was definitely not overrun with tourists. We took a walk out onto the beachfront at Frasers Beach and were the only ones there. A massive beach all to ourselves with a perfect lake view. Amazing!
We went for a run one evening and were coming back just before sunset. Sandra kindly obliged me and returned to the lakefront immediately after the run and before shower-time. I didn’t want to miss the light! I decided it was time to experiment with some panoramas and shot one of the lake just as the sun was dipping below the hills. I was pretty happy with the result!
Manapouri is generally used as a jump-off point to visit the Doubtful Sound. But we’re too cheap to pay a bunch of money for cruises in the sound, so the next day we decided to check out the Manapouri Circle Track hike. We paid a gentleman named Mike to ferry us across the river from Pearl Harbour. Not that Pearl Harbour, the other one. For a small(ish) fee, Mike will drop you at the Manapouri Track Trail Head and then pick you up after your hike is completed. Sandra and I decided the Circle Track was a good bet. We were told it would take about four hours to do the entire track and return back to the pickup, but we managed to complete the track in three. Good work, team! The hike itself mostly took place in forested areas so we didn’t have the greatest of views. But the big payoff viewpoint at the top of the hike was fantastic! We had soaring views over the lake and surrounding bays with some reasonably acceptable weather (for once!). Success.
Our next stop was Wanaka. I think of Wanaka as a bit of a little brother to the incredibly popular city of Queenstown. Wanaka is about a one hour drive from Queenstown but feels a world away in terms of the tourist activity. Queenstown is almost constantly buzzing with activity: paragliders and tour buses and jet boats and bungy jumps. You get the idea. Wanaka is a much more laid back version of Queenstown. To my mind, the views aren’t quite as dramatic in Wanaka but the laid-back feel more than makes up for it. The drive from Queenstown can be done in one of two ways. We opted for the Crown Range approach that takes you directly over the mountains. Of course this let me experiment with another panorama over the surrounding countryside!
In Wanaka we were given a tip to check out the Rob Roy Glacier hike. In total it took us about four hours to do the return trek. Along the way we met a great Canadian/American couple (Chris and Mal!), and we really enjoyed chatting with them as we walked. It can make a hike so much more enjoyable when you’ve got great company! The hike itself ended with a view of Rob Roy Glacier (unsurprisingly) where I again attempted to shoot a panorama of the surroundings. It’s really tough to take in some of the scenery here because the scale is so incredible. I have been resorting to these panoramas in my best attempt to capture it. I mean: waterfalls pouring off of mountains next to glaciers? Pretty intense stuff, right? That same evening Sandra and I relaxed at Lake Wanaka during sunset and watched the sailboats pass.
Our next day consisted of me heading up the Roy’s Peak Track solo. Sandra was feeling a bit injured and didn’t want to risk the long hike. She had a nice knitting session by the lake instead! The Roy’s Peak track was estimated at about five to six hours return, and the track is essentially walking up up up a mountain and then walking down down down it again. I brought some good audio accompaniment (History of the World in 100 Objects!), and made my way up. The views from the top were remarkable. Well, they were remarkable within about thirty minutes of starting and just got more epic as you gained altitude! A nice couple at the top kindly asked if I wanted my picture taken, and I happily accepted!
We made a point of checking out Cinema Paradiso whilst in Wanaka. It’s a trendy little theatre full of couches and mismatched comfy chairs. There’s even a car inside the theatre where you can watch the film from the back seat! We checked out Spectre and enjoyed a “half-time” treat of warm cookies baked fresh during the film. Oh, and you can buy beer too. I firmly believe every theatre should have alcohol available. We had a great time!
We’ve since moved on from Wanaka to Mount Cook and then back to Queenstown. But I shall save that for another post. You’ve got enough thumbnails and images to look at for now, I should think!