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Home : New Zealand 2003 : Heading South

December 17, 2003

Heading South

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update here. We have been so busy these last few days that we haven’t found time to stop at an internet cafe until this afternoon in Wanaka. Here’s a very brief report on where we’ve been and what we’ve done:

We crossed Cook Strait from Wellington to Picton on a blustery but clear, sunny morning. Reaching the South Island we wound our way through Marlborough Sound among lush, green rainforest-covered hills to Picton. Disembarking, we picked up another car and drove inland to a fantastic homestay near Blemheim in the wine-growing region of Marlborough. The English owners of Antares homestay also run a bicycle rental and tour company from there home and guests are allowed to take bikes out to ride around to the vineyards.

Since we had taken the 8 a.m. ferry from Wellington that morning, we arrived in Marlborough in the early afternoon with enough time for a swim in the pool and a nice lunch at a nearby vineyard. After lunch we biked down the road to another vineyard and sampled their wine, olive oils cheeses and schnapps. The bikes, incidently, were even equiped the special paniers with wine bottle holders. That evening we grilled our dinner at Antares.

The next day we visited another couple wineries before driving west through Nelson to Abel Tasman National Park, a coastal park with forested mountains and islands and some of New Zealands best beaches. Before leaving on our trip I had read another web travelogue about Abel Tasman which mentioned a nearby farmstay, Kairuru Farm, in glowing terms. We arrived late in the evening and found our way up Takaka Hill above Abel Tasman to the main farmhouse at Kairuru just before sundown. Kairuru has three cottages to rent, but only two of them are actually on the main farm and have views down the valley and out to the ocean. The description of one of these cottages in the travelogue was what inspired us to stay here, but we discovered that our booking, made through a tourist office in Nelson, was for the third cottage at the top of the hill. This cottage was very cute, with flowering vines draped around the eaves and an adjacent barn and paddock with two little lambs munching grass, and it did have a fine view of the surrounding rocky hills and scrub, but it wasn’t on the main farm and it didn’t have quite the same specacular ocean view as the other two cottages. The owner later explained to us that she normally tells people about these differences, but we had let the tourist information office make reservation. In any case, we really enjoyed our two nights at Kairuru and we drove down the hill to the main farmhouse to walk around the sheep paddocks and play with the baby goats (one actually jumped up on Nicci’s back when she knelt down!), tame sheep and angora goat, pet pig and working sheep dogs. And on our second night at the hilltop cottage, we had such a clear night with a late moonrise that we could see the Milky Way and streaking meteors.

Between our two nights at Kairuru we went on a long day hike along the coastal track in Abel Tasman. The Park is set up with camping facilities and huts spaced a few hours walk apart all along the coast and you can hire a water taxi to either take you out to a beach drop off and walk back to Marahau, the closest town to the park, or you can hike out from town and arrange to be picked up later at one of the beaches. We took a water taxi out at 10:30 a.m. and spent about 6 hours hiking back to Marahau. This is a stunningly beautiful place and if we had more time, we could have stayed here much longer. Nicci did ruin her feet with blisters, however.

From Abel Tasman we spent a very long day driving south along the west coast to Franz Joseph glacier, stopping from time to time along the way to see the sights. Franz Joseph and nearby Fox Glacier are very near the ocean. In fact, they are the closest glaciers to the ocean at this latititude. It is really quite interesting to see a massive glacier flowing down from the snow-capped mountains into lush, almost tropical rainforest below.

We overnighted in Franz Joseph township and took a fantastic helicopter tour up to the two glaciers the next morning. This is absolutely the best way to experience the mountains and glaciers since the helicopter swoops in close to the ice and lands above the glaciers on the hard snow-pack for a quick walk around. Better still would be to go on a “heli-hike” where you have a few hours to climb around and explore crevasses and ice caves with a guide, but they were all booked for the next two days and we had to settle for the tour flight instead.

We left the glaciers yesterday morning and drove on down the coast through Haast, a spectacular drive, and turned inland toward the alpine village and winter ski resort of Wanaka. The drive up Haast Pass took us from the relatively humid and green rainforests of the coast up though a deep river valley to the much drier highlands among the Southern Alps. We arrived at Lake Wanaka last night as the sun set. It’s gorgeous weather today and the moutain ranges around the lake are still snow-capped and glistening in the sun this morning. We will be leaving shortly for Queenstown where we are scheduled for a jet-boat ride up the Shotover river this afternoon.

Tomorrow we will take an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound. That’s all for now.

Posted by Scott at December 17, 2003 11:51 AM
Comments

Hi Scott and Nicci,

I love your trip updates. You all sound like you are having a good time. I cannot wait to see pictures. Have fun!

Have a blessed Holiday Season,
Christine

Posted by: Christine at December 20, 2003 06:32 AM
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