Our trip to New Zealand

Silver fern
Silver fern

In November 2015 we went on a 3 week KE Adventure holiday, New Zealand North and South. We had a fantastic time and some great walks. This is an attempt to describe some of the highlights showing a few of the many photographs taken by David. You can see a larger version of any photo by clicking on it. For many of the walks you can view the route on a New Zealand OS map or Google Earth.

We would like to thank Josh and Hayley, from Adventure South, who were our tour guides for the three weeks. The word "guide" doesn't do justice to their role which extended, among other things, to providing splendid breakfasts.

Arrival

We reached our hotel in Auckland at about 4:45 as our plane was a bit late and our walking boots had to pass through the bio-inspection. We went down to the marina with the group, had a meal, and walked back to the hotel admiring the boats in the harbour. There were a few working boats on one wharf but most were large pleasure boats. Tiddler 11 may have been smaller than most of the other boats but looked pretty large to us.

Rotorua

We walked round the Blue Lake in the rain. This was to be neither the last blue lake nor the last rain. It was a fairly flat walk of just over 5.7km through forest and introduced us to the attractive bush foliage starring the impressive fern trees. At the far end of the lake we saw a white-faced heron and further round we spotted our first tui, a New Zealand dabchick and a pair of unfairly named grey ducks. It was raining a bit less by then!
In the evening we went to a Maori cultural evening with dinner followed by a stroll around the geyser area. David joined in a Haka but the photographic evidence will remain private!

Waiotapu and Lake Taupo

In the morning we visited the thermal area of Waiotapu. At 10:15, following a short presentation, Lady Knox Geyser was induced to erupt by the addition of a surfactant to reduce the surface tension. We then walked round the thermal area with its variously coloured craters, mud pools and water pools. We saw some beautiful pied stilts who didn't seem at all bothered by the temperature of the water.
At lunchtime we visited the the Huka falls where the water is amazingly blue. We then went to our accommodation at Tokaanu at the south end of Lake Taupo. At the lake we saw Californian quail, New Zealand scaup, Australian coots, pipits and black swans.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The main activity today was to complete one of New Zealand's `Great Walks', namely the Tongariro Crossing. This walk traverses the side of a volcano crossing lava beds and passing areas of volcanic activity. The Red Crater is an amazing place and the pools of water have wonderful colours. The area is like one large dumping ground for clinker!

Transfer to the South Island

We drove to Wellington. We first went to Mount Victoria and had good views of the city, including the cricket and rugby grounds, and of a rather tame but noisy tui. After a trip to the Te Papa museum we caught the ferry to the South Island. We saw Australian gannets from the boat but missed the dolphins.

Nydia Crossing - 2 days

Walk to 'On The Track' Lodge

It rained hard and consistently so we arrived at the lodge wet through. (The river crossings were not an issue as by that time were all too wet to bother about keeping anything dry.) The hospitality at the lodge was great, with tea and carrot cake on arrival and a great dinner later. We were allotted a railway carriage for the night (first class). On the walk we met a weka with chick and around the lodge, when it dried up, we saw two fat and colourful New Zealand pigeons (Kereru), a white-faced heron, black oyster catchers, an Australasian harrier and several tui who seemed particularly keen on the vegetable garden. We also had our first view of paradise shelducks. These ducks mate for life and the pair here seemed particularly happy together. In the photos, the female is the one with the white head.

To Duncan Bay

It was dry, much to our relief The walk was mostly through rain forest and over a saddle but was quite near the shore on occasions.

Abel Tasman Track

We woke to a beautiful sunny day. The track started from a beach with waders: banded dotteril, spur winged plovers, pied stilts and black oyster catchers. The walk was again through rain forest but closer to the shore so there were many beautiful sea views. The colours of the sea and sand were both amazing. In the bush there were bellbirds, fantails and silvereyes but they did not cooperate wih the camera. We took a water taxi to return to the start. While waiting for this we saw a Californian quail, and were entertained by a cheeky red-billed gull. The water taxi was a sailing catamaran. The trip was superb if a bit windy and occasionally wet. Although mainly done with a motor, the mainsail was up to give some help. There were spotted shags on the rocks and there was one blue penguin in the sea. Entertainment was provided by a young seal who tried to enter a cave occupied by an adult male and was noisily chased at speed across the rocks and then through the waves. The chase was still on when we left.

Punakaiki

The journey down the West coast started by going to Punakaiki via Murchison (Josh's home town). We took a walk up the Pororari river through rain forest and with good views of the limestone gorge and sightings of tomtit, a black robin, a pair of paradise shelducks and the weka in the photo. After dinner we visited the Pancake Rocks, which are sandstone rocks that have been formed in thin layers. The sea has formed blowholes which were performing dramatically as the sea was rough and the tide was well in. There were white fronted terns nesting.

Fox Glacier

Our route down the West coast continued in typical West coast weather - alternate drizzle and fierce rain. The path to the Fox Glacier was closed due to the weather so we walked round Lake Matheson, famed for its reflections and views of Mount Cook. The cloud was too heavy for the view or reflection to show but it was a pleasant bush walk with fairly light rain. We heard various birds but only had fleeting glimpses.

To Wanaka

We continued down the West Coast. We did not stop at Bruce Bay, as planned, as it was raining hard and the dolphins who hang around there would not have been playing. We did stop briefly at Knights Point where there is a grand monument recording the building of this impressive bit of road. At Ships Creek we took a longer stop and did two short walks, one up the river, where there are rimu and kahikitea trees, and the other through the dunes to a small lagoon. After that we we went over Haast Pass, briefly visiting the Thunder Falls on route. As we got near Lake Wanaka the road became dry and the mountains began to appear out of the cloud. In the afternoon we took a walk along the shores of the lake, where the scenery was beautiful, and indulged in some excellent ice cream. We saw various birds, including a little shag, a few South Island pied oyster catchers, New Zealand scaup and Australasian crested grebes. One pair of grebes had babies, most on the back of one of the pair with one little one trying to climb aboard the other parent.

Roys Peak

The forecast was for seriously high winds to come during the afternoon so we set off quite early to climb Roys Peak, with the idea that we might have to turn back. This peak is 1578 metres and the walk started at 320 metres. The wind held off however and we had a magnificent climb with fantastic views of Lake Wanaka and the many mountains around, most of which were snow-capped.

Te Anau

Today we travelled South to Te Anau, stopping to explore both Arrowtown and Queenstown on the way. Arrowtown is an old mining town with a well preserved and lively centre. We had a good walk along the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. On arrival in Te Anau we visited a bird sanctuary where we saw the endangered takahe, a kaka and a native owl. In the evening there was a visit to Fiordland Cinema to watch Ata Whenua-Shadowland, a spectacular film of Fiordland, mostly shot from helicopters.

Milford Sound

It is a 2 hour drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound. We broke the journey there with a walk along the Routeburn trail to Lake Howden hut and back. It was a rather wet walk but we were sheltered by the bush. We also had a brief stop at The Chasm, an impressive flow of water through rocks, where we were entertained by some cheeky Kea. The boat trip on Milford Sound was excellent, partly because the waterfalls were flowing well. Although we didn't see it as on the posters with blue sky and sea we did get a good feel of this dramatic place.

Tepako

This day was mainly driving as we had to come a long way North. We stopped twice on Lake Pukaki, which has an incredible colour and great views across to Mount Cook. Conditions today were perfect and there were some birds around, including a banded dotterel and a spur winged plover. In the late afternoon we were taken to the top of Mount John, a small hill near Tepako with an observatory and fine views, and then walked back to our motel.

Rex Simpson Hut

We started the day by walking up to the Rex Simpson Hut where we were to spend the night. Josh and Hayley carried the necessary food up to the hut. We just had to carry our linen and other necessaries for an overnight at the hut. We had lunch at the hut and then set off up the Snake Ridge towards Erica's Peak. We made the first of the two peaks, 1944m, but there was not time to do the second so we returned to the hut where we spent the night. The weather for the superb walk up the ridge was beautiful and we did have a sight of the night sky for which the hut is famous.

Twizel

We started the day with a short loop walk near the hut, getting a good view, in lovely conditions, of the whole of the snake ridge that we had walked the day before. It was then time to set off to walk back down to the bus. On the way we saw two yellowhead birds and had a fight through some matagouri, a shrub with long and spiteful thorns, sometimes known as wild Irishman! We got through without significant injury. After a picnic lunch in a shady spot by the bus we drove to Twizel.

Mount Cook National Park

From Twizel we headed along the Western side Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook National Park and walked up to Sealy Tarns. It took a while to find the second of the tarns! This entailed a climb of about 560 metres and about 1800 steps that had been built into the path. The walk was through very attractive foliage. Notable plants were the Mount Cook Lily, the Turpentine bush and the giant or horrid Spaniard. It is a bad plan to fall into the Spaniard as its hard spiky leaves break off and can leave wounds that get infected. Fortunately nobody did implement such a plan. The views of the mountains, lakes and glaciers from Sealy Tarns were spectacular. We did not continue up to the Mueller hut as the weather was turning a little iffy and Josh thought we would all enjoy a second walk along the valley to Hooker Lake. This crossed three suspension bridges and gave a good view of the hanging glacier on Mount Sefton and of the Hooker Glacier at the far end of the lake. At the end of the walk we visited the Alpine Memorial which honours the many, mostly young, mountaineers who have lost their lives in the park.
As this was our first visit to the Southern Hemisphere we were slightly amused by this Christmas banner flying in the Spring sunshine at Cromwell.
Christmas at Cromwell
Christmas at Cromwell

The End