Jo and Danny's Excellent Adventure
(or, What We Did in the Holidays)
14 January 2001
Our summer holiday started on the Friday before Christmas, when we packed up the Toyota and headed south to Dunedin. We spent the weekend with Jo's parents, caught up with friends, ate Christmas dinner, and late on Monday we headed south to Invercargill. We found that there was no shortage of motel accommodation, either because it was Christmas day or because it was Invercargill, so we got a nice room for what was to be our last night of relative comfort for nearly two weeks.
On Tuesday we got up early and caught the early flight over to Stewart Island, leaving the car in the aircraft hanger (as you do). We flew as Jo wasn't too keen on throwing up Christmas dinner on the ferry. We then got fuel and hut passes in Oban, and set out on the Rakiura Track. It was raining. It was hailing. It was muddy. But for once Jo didn't moan, as she was decked out in brand new Gore-Tex lined boots, new gaiters, and new Gore-Tex parka (thanks to Santa). Eventually the mud gave way to boardwalk, which kept the boots clean but buggered the knees and ankles. We were walking in reverse to the instructions, as the bush provided some shelter from the rain and hail on the first day, and we were hoping for fine weather on the more exposed third day. Eventually we arrived at North Arm Hut for some relaxation, reading, and chatting with several parties of very nice people.
The second day of the track saw us climbing up and over from North Arm to Port William. More boardwalk. More stairs. More sore knees. There was little of note on this bit of the track, except for the lookout tower which gave great views over Paterson Inlet, showing where we had come from Halfmoon Bay. Early in the afternoon we arrived at Port William Hut, which was soon to be invaded by a large party of boaties, complete with barbecues, chilly bins, and vast quantities of alcohol. At this point we would have put the tent up, but it was pissing down with rain. Together with the other tramping parties, we escaped to the bunkroom, thereby avoiding the drinking, smoking, and shouting which carried on until around 2am.
On day three we left Port William and headed back around the coast towards Halfmoon Bay, passing Maori Beach littered with many recently-stranded whales. After emerging from the track at Lee Bay, we still had a 5 km walk along the road into Halfmoon Bay. We found a campsite overlooking the Bay, pitched the tent, and proceeded to relax for the rest of the day. We also wandered around town (Oban) and had a great coffee, bumping into a few people we knew.
That evening, we went down to the pub with another couple from Christchurch, who we had been leap-frogging along the track for the last few days, and had a few jugs and what we reckon was the best fish and chips in New Zealand.
The next day we flew back to Invercargill, collected the car, and headed off towards Te Anau along the south coast. We decided that Stewart Island is definitely worth another visit, for fishing, more tramping, more relaxing, and more jugs and food at the pub. Once we got to Te Anau, we joined a million other tourists, but we did manage to get a campsite in the holiday park a few kilometres out of town. It rained. But our new car-camping tent (that you can actually stand up in!) did the business perfectly. The next day we did a few touristy things - the highlight being a cruise on Lake Manapouri and a trip underground to the very impressive West Arm power station (at least to the engineeringly-inclined it was impressive!). Again this is a place that we will come back to, on the way to Doubtful Sound for some cruising and kayaking.
The following day we were intending to go to Milford Sound for a bit of a looksee, so that night we headed along the Milford Road and camped at one of the DOC camping grounds along the way. It was cold, and overnight it snowed on the hills around us. In the morning we awoke to the sound of tour buses hurtling their way past us, so we packed up and joined the pilgrimage. When booking the cruise, it was "suggested" by the counter staff that we would probably better "enjoy" an earlier cruise. Translation: "You don't look like you belong on a boat full of tour groups; this one will be full of normal people". Unfortunately the weather wasn't flash (again!!) but the trip was really enjoyable. An overnight cruise would have been the way to go but we weren't that organised.....maybe next time.
We joined the stream of buses and headed back to Te Anau, stopping of course to do the obligatory tourist things like taking photos of ourselves and getting attacked by keas. Back in town, we had a very quiet evening of a fantastic pizza at the local Italian Cafe with a couple of wines. Sleep was attempted, but it was quite noisy due to the fact it was New Years Eve and parties were going on all around us!!
New Years Day saw an early start, making as much noise as possible, to catch the shuttle to the control gates to start the Kepler Track. The lake edge walk was a good warm up for the hill climb. It wasn't as steep as expected so made for a good trip up. The old body handled it well. And no moaning either, the new boots were holding up well, with no real signs of blisters! There were fantastic views over Lake Te Anau, the Te Anau basin and surrounding mountains. The rain kept away this time - unfortunately the sun stayed behind the clouds.
Our bunk in Luxmore Hut looked out over Lake Te Anau and the mountains, what a view. We had a relaxing afternoon, with the intention of reading but ended up chatting to some very interesting couples from the USA who were travelling around NZ and including a bit of tramping in their itinerary. More rice for dinner. The hut wasn't full, about 50 people, with gas and flush toilet provided it was luxury. The highlight of the evening was teaching an American couple to play Last Card, trying to convince them that is was a real game and no I wasn't making up the rules as I went!
The next day took us to the tops, unfortunately it was a bit misty so couldn't see a lot early on, the short side walk up to the top of Mt Luxmore was a bit of a non-event as the view was hampered by mist! (but if we tramped this far we had to make the trip right to the top!).
At least there was a wee bit of snow. We tramped up and down an across saddles with fantastic views, at least it wasn't windy - it would have made it a bit of a challenge. We even got some sun! Then it was the big downhill - it killed those knees. It made the uphill seem not to bad after all! The afternoon was spent resting at Iris Burn Hut. The body was very sore!
More rice for dinner and more nice people, a lot were tramping in the opposite direction due to large numbers expected at Luxmore that night (75 plus!). It looks like we made the right decision to start on New Years Day!
The intention was to stay the next night at Moturau Hut and tramp out to Rainbows Reach for the early morning shuttle, but we made good time and the thought of a motel, food and beer inspired us to keep going to catch the 3pm shuttle to Te Anau, and it was off to Queenstown for the night.
The walk out was most enjoyable though, mainly flat following the Iris Burn, then great views out over Lake Manapouri from the hut. An easy walk in for an over night visit in the future.
The Kepler was most enjoyable, with each day having very different scenery and terrain. A must-do tramp for any one visiting Fiordland and the beauty of not having to deal with transport hassles as it can be a round trip if desired.
Unfortunately a motel in Queenstown could not be found, so the camping ground it was (at least we got hot showers) and it was off for beer and a big Lone Star meal. Finally the weather had come right with lots of sun, and no need to wear thermals to bed! Queenstown was very busy and great for people watching over breakfast, including a round of "count the All Blacks and the Silver Ferns".
We then started our trek back to Dunedin on a very hot "typical" Central Otago day, having a good look around as we went. We managed to eat a kilo of fantastic cherries in about half an hour!! We ended up spending the night in Nasby, a little bit off the beaten track and a very family-oriented camping ground, but we found the pub for a beer with the locals!!
We made it back to Dunedin on the Friday - thanks to Jo's Mum for the washing machine!! Saturday was bright and sunny, a perfect day for drying out the tents, and oh yes a wedding - Kerry and Wade's in fact. It was fantastic day with both the bride and groom looking stunning (but not as stunning as Jo of course). A great time was had, with a little too much bubbly being consumed, but that's okay as we were making up for New Year's Eve. The trip back to Christchurch on Sunday was tiring!
Now we are back at work, but the tramping was inspiring and we plan on doing a lot more before the summer is over!!