January 19th to March 2nd 2007
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Left London at 1300 hours for Narita Airport, Tokyo and after eight hours took a flight to Auckland New Zealand.
Exploring Auckland and a day boat trip to Coromandel. The boat took two hours to reach the town of Coromandel passing several large islands in the Hauraki Gulf. We continued to the Driving Creek Mountain Railway, an engineering masterpiece that winds through native bush to a view point. Originally the track was laid in order to convey clay to a pottery. The final visit was to a 'stamping battery' where locally quarried rock was crushed into powder in order to extract the gold and silver. After washing the remaining 'paste' is then mixed with mercury, the gold and silver is 'attached' to the mercury. The amalgam is then heated in a still so that the mercury vapor may be condensed and re used. The residue or bullion (a mixture of gold, silver and other metals) is put into a mould to produce an ingot. This is then sent away to be refined into the separate metals.
An early flight took me from Auckland to Invercargill where I transferred to Riverton. A pleasant coastal town on the south coast of the South Island of New Zealand.
A flight from Riverton beach took us to Masons Bay on the west coast of Stewart Island. After landing on the beach we walked along the coast to Masons Bay Hut, owned and run by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC). Late that evening we went out to look for a Kiwi. After a while we heard a rustle in the undergrowth and soon out walked a Kiwi. It walked to within a few feet of us before wandering further up the track. Back at the hut we had a good view of McNaught's Comet in the Southern sky.
The next morning we left the hut and firstly climbed up 'Big Sand Hill' for a good view of the island. Then we continued our walk across the island to Freshwater Creek. Once there we had a while to wait for our water taxi so we walked up 'Rocky Mountain'. The photographs show the type of vegetation and birds to be seen.
This morning we went sea kayaking in Paterson Inlet and in the afternoon spent several hours on Ulva Island. This island is a protected reserve and all the predators of the flightless birds have been removed.
After a wet morning around Oban we flew back to the mainland, Invercargill, and on to Riverton.
A rest day before transferring to Tuatapere ready for the Hump Ridge Track.
After a drive to the start of the track we made our way a little further along the coast before climbing up to the ridge. The track was through woods of Rata, Rimu and Miro. The Okaka Hut is 890m above the beach, a long steep track with plenty of mud and tree roots despite some of the route being boarded.
After a good night in an excellent hut we made our way along the ridge and down to the coast in heavy rain. On reaching the coast the rain eased and we walked along the coastal track to the Percy Burn Viaduct for lunch. This viaduct, built to transport logs, is the largest wooden viaduct of its kind and 125m in length.
At Port Craig we relaxed on the beach and collected mussels off the beach for our supper.
After another night in a hut we made our way along an easy track back to our transport and Tuatapere. I continued on a transfer to Queenstown for the night. www.humpridgetrack.co.nz
A morning flight to Christchurch to collect my 'sleepervan'! After some shopping I made my way to Hanmer Springs.
A lovely day driving over the Lewis Pass to Westport and on up the coast to Karamea. I found a lovely spot in a parking area close to the beach and estuary.
The next morning as I looked out I saw a hare come hopping past the van. Then I was off for a walk, first a walk up the Fenian Track. It was early morning and I soon encountered a Weka, a sort of flightless rail. Further along I walked off the main track to discover some caves. From here I drove further up the coast and a little inland to Oparara Basin. Here I walked three short tracks to Moria Gate Arch, Mirror Tarn and Oparara Arch (one of the largest arches in the continent). Camped with a million sand flies at the start of the Heaphy Track.
Before escaping from the sand flies I took a walk up the Heaphy Track. Made my way to a camp site Maureen and I visited in 2003 near Nelson Lakes. After a walk to Lake Rotoroa I made my way to Blenheim, past many wineries, to the road up to the Molesworth Station for the night. The next morning I traveled across the Molesworth Station. This road is unsealed and takes over two hours but the views were spectacular.
To day I walked nearly to the top of Mount Somers. The route was up, up up! Through beech forest and then over scree and boulders. Continued to Lake Tekapo and camped beside Lake Alexandrina.
Drove into the town of Lake Tekapo and climbed up Mount John in the morning and visited the well known church of the Good Shepherd in the afternoon before getting ready for the Ball Pass Trek.
Met my two companions and Jason our guide at 0800 and drove to Mount Cook village and part way up the Tasman Valley. Here we started our walk. Firstly along the top of the moraine pushed up by previous glaciers and then up! It was a long pull of 850m/2800ft up to the Caroline Hut at a height of 1800m. The hut gives wonderful views of the Caroline face of Mount Cook and the Hooker valley.
To day we walked up to the Ball Pass Glacier where we put on our crampons and practiced walking on the ice. Next we were taught how to 'self arrest' using our ice picks if we fell on the slope of the glacier. We explored the glacier before returning to the hut.
Up early for our decent to Mount Cook Village. We walked back up to the Ball Pass and then were guided down the glacier using a rope for safety. After this we reached a very steep decent where we had to be fixed to a rope and the rope fed out as we climbed down the rock face. A long steep gulley followed as we clambered over large boulders. Once down to flatter area beside the Hooker River we still had several hours walk to our transport. Eventually we reached Mount Cook Campsite after twelve hours very tired but with a great sense of achievement.
After spending the night at Lake Alexandrina I made my way across the Canterbury Plain to the Banks Peninsula. A very picturesque area with high rolling hills and many inlets. After visiting Akaroa I made my way to Okains Bay for the night.
Drove round to Pigeon Bay and after waiting for the rain to stop walked along the coast of the Bay before returning to Okains Bay for the night.
Drove to Christchurch to return the sleepervan and stayed at Dorset House backpackers.
Joined the Fault Line Adventure group at 8.00am. Our first stop was at the Cave Stream Scenic Reserve where we walked through a cave for about an hour with the stream rushing along our route. At one spot just as we were getting used to it we were told to put our lights out and continue in the dark. What you call group bonding!
After a picnic we drove a short way to Bealey Spur for a walk up into the mountains before continuing to Arthur's Pass for the night.
After a short walk to a waterfall we set off for a longish drive via Lake Brunner and Greymouth to Punakaiki. We visited the 'Pancake Rocks' before a walk along the coast exploring the beach. Here we found caves which had once been used by the Maori people.
A challenging walk to day as we set out along the Inland Pack Track, a route at one time used as a supply route for miners. A pleasant walk through forest at the start before having to make numerous crossings over the river. It was warm so having to wade up to my chest in the river was not as bad as it may seem. A good walk with many lovely views.
We drove down the coast to the Okarito Lagoon where we went kayaking. A Harrier attacked some Black Swan Cygnets.
In the late afternoon we prepared a Hangi on the beach.
The Fox Glacier was our treat for to day. After a short drive we made our way onto the Glacier. Very different to the Ball Pass where the ice was very new, here the ice was weathered into mounds with Crevasses and Molins.
To start the day we walked round Lake Matheson known for the reflections of the mountains, unfortunately the mountains were in the clouds. Lunch and a short walk later brought us to Makarora for the night.
Our last big adventure started with a helicopter ride up into Mount Aspiring National Park. Once all the group had been ferried up we set off for Lake Crucible, a small glacial lake above the Siberia Valley. A hard climb was rewarded by spectacular views. Some mad members of the group either swam or paddled in the icy water. Spent the night in a tent at the Siberia hut.
A short walk down to the Wilkin River enabled us to meet the Jet Boats which were to return us to Makarora. we then drove to Queenstown to end our Fault Line Adventure.
Returned to Christchurch by road before going to a concert in the Cathedral given by Jazz Violinist Fiona Pears.
Made a visit in the morning to the Christchurch Gondola before a boat trip out on to Lyttelton Harbour to see the Hector Dolphins.
An early start for my flight home via Japan.