Saturday 28th – Resting up and rare chicks……..
Marilyn and Caroline enjoy a local yoga class this morning while John is at work and I look after the lovely Jasper George. He is intrigued by my photos and videos on iphoto and as inquisitive boys of four are want he needs to know all about my dog(s) my family, my boats and where I live. I get to play a bit of ‘Angry Birds’ on his little computer and then the girls are home and we decide to take a stroll through town, have coffee and cake at the cinema cafe and then walk around the lake to the DOC animal and bird sanctuary.
Here we meet two Paradise Ducks called Stevie and Wilson that have been hand reared by Caroline and John and have now been put in the sanctuary with other ducks. Wilson ( the female duck ) has tried to get home by flying out of the enclosure and starting the walk home. She has had to be returned and have her wings clipped or she will try again. As it is they still think that Caroline is mum and they come as she calls them, expecting a stroke and a feed.
We also get to see a Morepork owl. This is a bird we have heard a lot at night calling out for ‘more pork’. This one is a splendid beast and she is still awake during the day. Apparently this one hates men and I fully expect the shrieking treatment but she is in a good mood today and just gives me the evil eye.
There is also a very rare Tekahe chick that is being fostered by two adult birds as part of a breeding programme. This is one of the rarest birds in the world as is severely threatened by the introduced predators like stoats and rats. Jasper saw this chick out of the egg and presented it to its foster parents – a real treat for a little boy and one he remembers fondly. He is already very knowledgeable about the conservation needs of the area and can talk knowingly about the various animals and their challenges. Both John and Caroline regularly work on the programme to trap and eradicate predators from the rare bird breeding grounds. As the son of two outdoor people and the veteran already of several long tramps, Jasper is also conversant with maps and yesterday he actually drew us a pretty good one that we could have used to get to the Sound.
So it is a restful day and I am grateful not to have to get in the car. The day is ended as we treat Caroline and John to a dinner out at the restaurant of their choice. My venison is delicious, washed down with a local brew at a nearby hostelry on the walk home.
Sunday 29th…..Heading West…
Sadly we have to move on today and need to head North via the West Coastal road. Our farewells said we head back to Queenstown and Wanaka, realising half way there that Marilyn has left her only pair of sturdy walking shoes behind. Many expletives later we decide that they were rubbish anyway and we should carry on.
The weather is set to break over the next day or so and we decide to enjoy a picnic in the sun on Wanaka beach before heading off over the Haast Pass, considered by some to be the finest drive in New Zealand. We pass swathes of red tussock that shine and sway in the wind and sun giving the landscape a shimmering effect. There are more lakes and then we are back following Lake Wanaka northwards until the slow climb through forested roads and over the pass. The descent is much more dramatic, passing several waterfalls that cut a steep gorge and fast flowing water that cuts through rock at the Gates of Haast. Then on to Haast itself where we stop to see if we should find a camp spot. The place is totally underwhelming. We receive unfriendly and unhelpful advice from the DOC information centre and the cafe has no coffee, no tea and no sparkling water! I decide to head north to a DOC campsite I have spotted that nestles on Lake Paringa. It is a fair way to drive and we are disappointed when we get there to find it chock full of camper vans ( surely more than the twelve allowed) and only a humpy, damp pitch for our tent. We drive on and just half a mile up the road is a small lodge with a few cabins and an ideal camping pitch right by the lake away from everyone. We have free run of a comfortable kitchen shower room and T.V room and I manage to scrounge a spare blanket and sleeping bag because I sense it will be a little chilly.
We get to enjoy another gentle sunset over the lake from the little jetty.
Mercifully the dreaded sandflies (midges) seem to disappear as the sun goes down and the wind drops. They have already bitten us to bits when we briefly stopped on the Pass before we had purchased a repellant. It is a clear sky despite the forecast and that means a cold night. Despite our extra blankets this sleep sees us dressed in nearly all our clothes and we still feel the chill. At one point we break into laughter at the folly of it all. For an extra £30 we could be in a cosy bed with a duvet, but hey….this is part of the adventure!
I would recommend this lodge to anyone who is either in a camper van, wants to stay in a cabin or who has brought some decent sleeping bags rather than the toy ones we have bought. It can be reached on www.lakeparingalodge.co.nz. The night may have been cold but the welcome was warm and helpful.
I promise Marilyn that wherever we land up tomorrow night we will get a bed, especially as a storm seems to be threatening.
Monday 30th….From merely chilly to totally Glacial and a frozen Kindle…
Marilyn is up early and defrosting in the kitchen and in her haste has managed to jam the zip on the tent effectively locking me in the fridge. I eventually extricate myself into the misty morning dew and make my grumpy demands for some warm beverage.
I can’t remain bad tempered for long however as the sun comes out and slowly burns off the mist to gradually reveal the lake and mountains in yet another guise. There are photos to be taken and then a tent to dismantle and dry before heading north again we hope as far as Hokitika. And despite our chilling experience at this lovely campsite we also plan to get to the glaciers at Fox and Franz Josef.
We find the road to Fox’s Glacier closed. Apparently there has been a severe rockfall in the night that has blocked the main route and only supervised groups are allowed in. We head on to Franz Josef and walk to the foot of the glacier from the nearest car park. Only as long ago as the mid 19th century the glacier came down to the car park and has retreated some 2 kms in that time and so our walk passes over what is now essentially a river bed that is sometimes flooded.
I find large glaciers like this awe inspiring. It is hard to get the scale of it in photos or until you are actually near or on it. The destructive force they manifest is plain to see in the sheered rocks that rise steeply for thousands of feet and it is hard to imagine as we walk on this moraine that only fifty years ago we would have been at the bottom of a sixty foot lake and one hundred and fifty years ago ice would be over 100 feet above our heads. 18000 years ago the ice would have spread to the sea over six miles away and would have been over 1000feet deep and a mile wide. Apparently this glacier has slowly been growing for the past ten years or so, a fact that seems to buck the trend with other glaciers around the world.
The thoughts I had at Milford concerning the effects of tourism on these sites revisit me as helicopter after helicopter make the journey up on side of the valley, onto the snow and back again. If global warming is to blame for the gradual warming of the planet and the retreat of many of the world’s glaciers I fail to see how the heavy use of air tourism can help matters with its obvious polluting potential. The thousands of feet that tramp up the foot of this glacier can hardly help either. However this glacier, with its recent growth doesn’t seem to be suffering too much. It is a tricky problem. And as someone who ten years ago took a flight over Mt Cook and landed on the upper snow fields it would be hypocritical of me to say that it is not an experience to be savoured and always remembered.
We have time to ponder these questions as we head north again to Hokitika. This seems a pleasant town and we find a little cabin in a small setup just outside town. It is quiet. We are the only guests and again have the run of the little garden and BBQ, the dining area ,kitchen and loo and shower area. All very tidy and clean and cosy. Marilyn even finds a hot water bottle and there are electric blankets that we don’t need because of the lush duvets. Last night seems like a distant nightmare. There is even a little pet lamb to feed and a lovely old chocolate labrador to wag his tail at us.
The only downer is that the cold last night and the glaciers today have set Marilyn’s Kindle to thinking it might be cool to freeze. Try as she may she can’t get it to go and despite many helpful emails from Amazon she has a useless Kindle as well as having the ignominy of still having too wear socks with her sandals so that she looks like a nerd.