Monday, 31 October 2011

New Zealand Tour. September 18th 2011, The Catlins, Dunedin & Rugby. England v Georgia, RWC.

There are many waterfalls in The Catlins and the campsite was next to The McLean Falls, this 22 mt waterfall was a short walk through rainforest. Further along was the Purakaunui Falls, smaller that the McLean Falls but described as an Icon of New Zealand as it is one of the most photographed waterfalls in the country. Its image is seen on calendars, postcards and book covers. This was also an easy 5 minute walk to get to.
Unfortunately Cathedral Caves, Tunnel Beach and Jacks Blowhole were shut due to the lambing season...this was to be a frequent occurrence during out tour! We walked for miles at Cannibal Bay, almost falling over a large Sea Lion who was disguised as a log! There is a sign post pointing to the place where the sailing vessel, The Surat was wrecked on this coast in 1874. The 5 hour coastal walk to Surat Bay on this beach and dunes is marked by orange markers.
Nugget Point was our next stop; This is one of the South Islands most scenic lighthouse locations, and described as Iconic. The steep headland overlooks jagged rocky inlets resembling angular gold nuggets, hence the name! At the tip of the headland is New Zealands oldest lighthouse built in 1869. The spectacular walk to the lighthouse is on a gravel pathway, New Zealand Sea Lions were on the shores below us. The walk took at least 30 minutes return.

We drove back to Dunedin to get ready for the rugby, England V Georgia tonight.  

I really liked the stadium at Dunedin, it was opened on 5th August 2011 and is and is the world's first, fully enclosed, grassed stadium. Every time you mentioned the Rugby in this part of New Zealand you were told how much this stadium had cost the local Taxpayers. The local people were really not happy about it. I think this had been money well spent, Dunedin has a stadium it can be proud of, it is warm and light inside, yet you forget that it is enclosed as it gives the impression of being outside.
As far as the Rugby goes, it had been a week of controversy off the pitch for England; Who were back at the stadium to play the ‘minnows’ Georgia. This Georgia team was vastly improved from the Team I saw in 2003 in Perth, Ausralia, back then the players had had to pay their own airfares and hotel bills, I hope that situation has improved for the players. Once again it was hard work watching England make basic mistakes, I wonder if theses professional players actually know the rules of the game?? As they don’t look like they do. Maybe the England Prima Donnas should have to pay their own way during the tournaments? Bring them back down to earth a bit....England Rugby players are appearing arrogant, and I don’t know why as the Rugby they are playing is rubbish! The final score with its large margin of victory greatly flattered England, I thought their performance was very poor and they will need to improve if they are to get through to the semifinals. Also, I really missed the fun that the Argentinean fans bring to the match, they are great. But, Dunedins very large student population stood in for the Georgian Fans and certainly created a lively atmosphere.

New Zealand. September 17th. The Catlins.

It was time for the dolly with the trolly to head back to Dubai, a long trip from Dunedin! Firstly she had get to the very nice Dunedin Airport; it is located in rural fields about 30 minutes south of Dunedin. Here it was a short hop on an Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch. Then, Air New Zealand from Christchurch to Melbourne to get the Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi, then finally a bus to Dubai.
We left her at Dunedin Airport waiting for her first flight of the day and headed South to Invercargill, via rather uninspiring flat country-side, passing through the farming towns of Gore and Edendale. Invercargill, New Zealands southernmost City was getting ready for the Scotland V Argentina Match so did not detain us for long and we drove Twenty-seven km South of Invercargill to a small fishing town – that reminded me of Fleetwood, called The Bluff. We made our way to Stirling Point and its sign post. As it was a clear, sunny day we climbed to the top of the Bluff lookout to see Stewart Island, the Foveaux Straight and the Bluff Harbour.
We were now heading for the Catlins Coast and part of the Southern Scenic Route. Billed as The Untamed Corner of New Zealand. This was an area of New Zealand I had read about and did not want to miss; I was also hoping it would not rain as the area is known for its harsh weather. The Catlins were once the South Island ‘best kept secret’, but you can now find out about the area in all the well know guide books, as well as on the web, and now on this blog! The Catlins encompasses the area between Fortrose and Kaka Point on the coast and to Mokoreta inland.
Our first stop was at Waipapa Point, this was the sight of a shipwreck in 1881, The SS Tararua, as far as shipwreck remains there was nothing for us to see as the tide was in. The lighthouse at Sloap Point is the most southern on the south Island. We walked on the sandy beach seeing Sea Lions and gathering Paua shells washed up on the shore.
Our next stop was at Curio Bay, this was a fascinating place with its ancient fossilised forest in the bay. The tide was quite high and coming in so I don’t think we saw the best fossilised subtropical ferns and tree stumps but we saw enough to get the picture. The was a campsite here, Curio Bay Holiday Park but it looked very primitive and exposed to the wind so we drove on.
Well, drove as far as we could before the next Traffic Jam .................................
We arrived at The McLean Falls holiday park and campsite late in the afternoon. This campsite was very good, housing The Whistling Frog Cafe & Bar, cabins and level campsites. We settled in, cooked dinner in the very well equipped kitchen, used the clean warm showers and went to the TV room to watch Ireland beat Australia 15 to 6, and change the 'format' of the rugby World Cup! Then it was time to put the camper van to the test!
Would you camp in England in the Frost?
The first of the many sheep we saw during our stay.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

New Zealand 2011. September 16th. Queenstown, Moeraki Boulders & Penguins. Dunedin.

It was time to leave Queenstown, I was sad to leave, its a great place and I will be back, (but in the Summer).
We were heading to Dunedin, this time turning left at Alexandra heading to Naseby and Ranfurly, evidently a Rural Art Deco trail, didn’t really see any Art Deco...sorry! What we did see was fantastic countryside and sheep, lot of them. When we got to Palmerston we headed left to the Moeraki Boulders.
The Moeraki Boulders are on the beach, they are hundreds of marble-like  boulders that look like the sea has washed them up on the beach. Really worth a visit.

strange but true!

Just down from the Moeraki Boulders is Shag point, here we walked out to the lighthouse and literally stumbled across yellow-eyed Penguins in a sanctuary just below the lighthouse.
We got to Dunedin after dark, due to lingering with the penguins! It was extremely cold. So we just took a chance at the Bella Vista again. They did have a room for three, but this room was a lot smaller than before. With a double bed, a single bed,a small kitchen and TV all in one very small room, there was also a small disabled bathroom, quite compact, but OK for one very cold night, too cold for the yet to be used campervan.

New Zealand 2011. September 15th. Queenstown, The Remarkables, take two!

Today to get to the Remarkables we got the bus! I found out that NZSki Snowline have a bus takes you from Queenstown to both the Remarkables and Coronet Peak Ski fields The NZSki Snowline provides return trips to the slopes every day of the season.There is the Hotel Pickup service, this gets you from your hotel to the mountain and back, this is a premium service and the return is $25.00 per adult (2011 prices). The Snowline Express is the affordable daily service that runs from The Snowcentre to the ski areas. The Remarkables service is $5.00 return and the Coronet Peak run $12.00 return. It goes from the Queenstown SnowCentre on Duke Street in Queenstown. it departs at 8.00 am, then at 20 min intervals with the last bus at 12 noon. The Return journeys start at 13.30. The pickup points for the Express to Coronet Peak is Duke Street, Creekside Campground, Wakatipu High School, Industrial Place (park & ride), McChesney Road, Atley Downs, Coronet Peak.
The Express bus to the Remarkables cost $5.00 return, and took about 40 minutes. The pickup points are Duke Street, Millennium Hotel, The Club, Hensman Road, Goldfield Heights, Greenstone Apartments, Marina Drive, Frankton Bus Shelter, Humphrey Street, The Remarkables Access Road.  $5.00 is a small price to pay as it saved me the hairaising 13km drive on the gravel road in the campervan!
The Bus goes up the mountain in the morning, waits then does the home runs in the afternoon.
 The lift pass for the day was $91.00.The Remarkables cater for intermediate and beginners. The Remarkables Ratings = Beginner 30%, Intermediate 40%, Advanced 30%.
Longest Run = 1.5 KM. Open daily from 09.00 to 16.00. Lifts = 3 quad chairs, 3 surface conveyors. Snow making =yes. On field ski hire. tutoring = yes. The reason we chose to go here rather than Coronet Peak was because it has a Tube Park to have a bit of fun on as well as the ski slopes.  It was really cold last night and fresh snow had fallen, so the ski runs were in good condition. We had fun skiing and tubing, but it was very cold up there! So at around 15.30 we got the bus back down to Queenstown and the house to warm up. To look up Snowline

Saturday, 22 October 2011

New Zealand 2011. September 14th. Queenstown, The Remarkables.

On waking this morning, the sun was shining and the view from the bed room window was, well just as in this photo, spectacular.
To capitalise on the fabulous day we decided to go skiing. We drove into Queenstown and rented Skis, Ski Boots and salopettes from QTS Rentals, 1 Shotover Street, it was only $24.00. We then drove out towards the airport, through the town of Franktown to the road to the Remarkables. There was a bus stop and we waited for the bus, after a while it was evident that we had missed the bus, so decided to drive the campervan up the hill, it was a nice hot day and there was not any snow on the ground and if big buses get up there how hard can it be????  We climbed higher and higher and saw road signs advising us to put snow chains on. Almost at the top a man, who was hiring snow chains,  pulled us into a bay and advised us to put the chains on. Britz had charged over $34.00 for the chains, but, had failed to put them in the campervan. We also noted that the front tyres were bald, they had no tread on them whatsoever! I don’t know how we had got up as far as we had on the slippery mud road with those tyres. Having stopped, the van would climb no more, we were unable to get traction. So we did not make it to the ski slopes today! We took the ski gear back to the shop, but the owner told up to keep the equipment free of charge and try again tomorrow, very kind of him. The best value Ski Hire in Queenstown.
going up......

almost at the top...the camper van has done well!
To console our selves we went to Ferg Berger and consumed two massive burgers and a pie. Its been a bit of an odd day really!

New Zealand 2011. September 13th. Queenstown to Milford Sound.

The Main Highlight at Te Anau?
Tuesday 13th September.
Rudyard Kipling called Milford Sound ‘The Eighth Wonder of The World. It may have been a while since Kipling made the above statement, but with Milford Sound being “The place most Kiwis want to Visit’, and number One on the AA New Zealand’s ‘must do list’. As well as Trip Advisors 2008 tourism destination winner, it appears that it has not lost its allure.
The Sound is a Fjord, located in the south west corner of New Zealand’s South Island, within the Fiordland National Park. By road, Milford Sound is 307 km from Queenstown. We were advised not to self drive, due to the time of year and probable road conditions. So following this advice, we booked a coach trip with a company called ‘Real Milford Sound’. There are many coach tours from Queenstown, varying from small mini buses to large luxurious coaches. The prices vary accordingly. The one we opted for was mid range, the coach had a glass roof and on board toilets.
At 07.15 we were picked up from the clock tower in Queenstown. The coach was not full, in fact it was not even half full so we had room to spread out. Firstly, we drove along the banks of lake Wakatipu, then through flat farming land to the town of Te Anau. I had been disappointed that we did not have time to stay at Te Anau, however, seeing the town I realised we had not missed anything and were better off in Queenstown, to be honest,Te Anau was really, quite underwhelming. In contrast, the 120 KM 'Road to Milford Sound', from Te Anau to Milford Sound was not underwhelming, it was breathtaking.The Milford Road twists and turns through an amazing collection of diverse sights, according to the Tourist board this makes this 'one of the worlds finest Alpine roads'. We drove through unspoiled mountain scenery before we reached the Homer Tunnel, this is a 1.2km tunnel through the mountain. When you emerge from the tunnel you are on a mountain road, where rain forest meets snow! When we emerged from the tunnel it started to snow. This road is prone to avalanches, we saw evidence of many previous avalanches, despite this the road was of good quality and was open to all traffic. We had a few stops on our way to the sound, to look at the Mirror Lakes, The Chasm, The Edlington Valley, rainforest and Kea.
All the tour busses arrive at Milford Sound at the same time and get on to the same boat. By the time we arrived it was pouring with rain, but the Sound was still an impressive sight. Milford Sound runs 15 kilometres inland from the Tasman Sea and is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 metres or more on either side. Milford Sound has two permanent waterfalls all year round, Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. But today, due to the heavy rain fall there were many temporary waterfalls to be seen, running down the steep sided rock faces that line the fiord.
The drive back to Queenstown was very fast and we arrived at our accommodation at around 19.00. Despite the weather ,it had been a good day and I can understand what all the fuss is about.
I would recommend driving to Milford Sound, as the road is as impressive as the Sound itself. It is easy to drive yourself in a car or small campervan, I think the dangerous road stuff is overdone.
In the evening we went into town, where rumours were rife that the England Rugby Team was out in Queenstown. We never did find out what bar they were in, but then I don’t think I would enjoy going to an establishment where the main attraction is tossing Dwarfs!