A Travellerspoint blog

Punakaiki - tramping, flies and cow bone art.

Preparing for our departure from Abel Tasman the next morning was not an issue for Fika and I as we had plenty of room to pack etc in our executive sized accomodation. The same could not be said of those sharing the 3 bunk "sheds" who appear, universally, to have suffered a bad night, the earthquake notwithstanding.

Leaving Momma Bev, Mark and his special bottle of vin blanc to enjoy their outdoor pursuits in the improving weather we headed towards Punakaiki, home to the Paparoa National Park, the Pancake Rocks and a large limestone cavern, and a massive american inspired group dinner to celebrate US of A Independence Day.

After stops in the Buller Gorge and a whistlestop view of the Pancake Rocks at dusk we arrived fairly late and checked into a couple of big lodges set deep within the bush, no mean feat in the complete darkness I must say.
The Pancake Rocks

The Pancake Rocks


Once settled in Justin led the catering crew and produced a fantastic burger, hot dog, chicken wing and salad supper - shout out to Ailish and Bronagh for their Irish take on potato salad, Sam and Justin for generally frying the flesh and Rasmus for entertaining us with his Daytime/Nighttime impressions and generaly just being himself. . . . . . . . and so to bed.

Next morning saw the bulk of the bus head to Franz Joseph via Greymouth whilst Fika, John and I started our extended stay initially with short walk down the Truman Track to a beautiful little bay followed by a fine walk along the Pororari River trail.
Lovin life at the seaside!

Lovin life at the seaside!

Fika plays up for the camera

Fika plays up for the camera

Evening approaches our local beach

Evening approaches our local beach


Following the riverbank we reached the swingbridge where we stopped for lunch before taking the tougher, inland path back. It still perplexes this Fool that a track can climb for such a long way only for the descent to be very brief and yet still you are brought back to sea level! This particular path re-emerged the far side of both Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks but, given that it was almost low tide, we decided to trek homewards along the beach - at this point we encountered the dreaded sand flies whose bites remained on our skin long after they had been squashed. After such a long tramp we decided that we deserved a beer so we ploughed on to the Punakaiki Tavern where we each spent the best $7 dollars of the day on a cool ale.
Lunch on the bridge

Lunch on the bridge

King of the River

King of the River

Punakaiki sunset

Punakaiki sunset


The next morning revealed sore joints and tired muscles, just the right excuse for a big breakfast, a date with the washing machine and a leisurely stroll up to the blowholes in time for high tide and that killer photo opportunity. Sadly whilst our timing was right the amazing photo eluded each of us - further proof that you cannot trust the ocean!
Sharing our peanuts

Sharing our peanuts


Final morning found me packed up early and ready to be picked up at 8.00am to try my hand at bone carving. Karen, our carving instructor, picked up Momma Bev and I and headed back to her self built home in the bush around Barrytown. We were greeted by Karen's daughter, Dana, various of their extended family (geese, chickens, a goat etc) and then introduced to Digby, their crazy dog who plays with boulders the size of basketballs as well as various pieces of tennis balls (apparently he likes the rubber but hates the fluff). Whilst both Momma Bev and I amazed ourselves with our ability to convert a piece of bovine shin bone into a  masterpiece of creative and symbolic art, Dana stoked up the brazier and we enjoyed barbequing gluten free cheesy sausages and marshmallows. We were also offered hot beverages and both of us decided upon fruit based teas - I'm sure that this had nothing to with the fact that the only milk available was freshly squeezed from beneath the family goat and it was still both warm and frothy!
I made this!!!!!

I made this!!!!!


Carving completed and our bones freshly buffed we headed back to the main road to await the bright orange bus to collect us on its merry way to Franz Josef and my first encounter with a glacier.

Postscript to Punakaiki: this is a lovely spot, the hostel was first class jungle based acommodation and the walks and beaches are fantastic. If you get the chance to visit this place you really ought to give it at least 3 days, it really is "sweet as".

Posted by RoystonBoyston 02:38 Comments (0)

The South Island is invaded - first stop Abel Tasman

Heading further south.

Its Tuesday the 3rd July in the Able Tasman National Park.

Following yesterdays 4 hour ferry through the remarkable and beautiful Marlborough Sound to Picton we joined a new bus for the subsequent drive to the Able Tasman where we decamped in Old MacDonalds Farm. Here the Fool was lucky enough to share a large and comfortable 5 berth chalet with a couple of colleagues whilst the rest of the bus seemed hell bent on sharing what apleared to be small sheds with a side window and glass door - apparently these compact des-reses were just about big enough to house 3 beds with minimal floorspace for assorted backpacks, luggage etc.
Our luxury acommodation at Old McDonalds Farm

Our luxury acommodation at Old McDonalds Farm

One of the 3-bed hutches at Old McDonalds Farm, Abel Tasman

One of the 3-bed hutches at Old McDonalds Farm, Abel Tasman


This mornings activity comprised a high seas adventure aboard a "sweet as" catamaran, touring around the coast, viewing the Split Apple Rock, great secluded beaches, second growth bush on the mainland and listening to the birds and watching the seals sunning themselves on the birdsong project island.
Split Apple rock

Split Apple rock


This was followed by a tramp back along the coastal path to the farm, via one specific bay where we picked a bagful of huge green mussels for tonights starter! Back on the farm the llamas, chickens and ducks posed for our photos before we prepared the mussels in a white wine and garlic jus.

Mum (Bev) and Mark then cooked a large batch of chicken carbonara and penne for about half of the group and both courses were wolfed down with plenty of red wine from last nights goon box. Washing up done, a number of us settled in to play Monopoly (played with cards) which lasted a lot longer than the suggested 15 minutes on the pack, were it not for more goon I think patience would have been tested at times. Come c11.00pm most of us around the table were perplexed by what appeared to be the kitchen table shaking - the longer the shaking went on the more we realised that it was, in fact, the whole building that was moving and what we were experiencing a real live earthquake. Post event, the discussion centred around if we should have sheltered under the kitchen table or run outside into the open and risk the possible tsunami - the irony that it was over before we had taken any evasive action was lost in the euphoria/realisation that we had experienced (and survived) our first "quake".

ps. The earthquake was centred deep under the sea off of the West coast of the bottom of the north island and registered at 7.0 on the richter scale. To our knowledge there were no fatalities or serious damage.

Posted by RoystonBoyston 03:16 Comments (0)

Booting it to Wellington

sunny 10 °C

An early start from the Blue Duck lodge saw us return to the Tongariro National Park at the start of the longest travel on the whole tour of both islands as we headed to Wellington and, ultimately, the ferry to the South Island.

Our arrival in Wellington after the long trek via places like Bulls was a relief - of sorts! As we came in on the new main road Dippy the driver informed us that the highway, as well as the airport and indeed, most of the city, was built on a major earthquake faultline and one day mother nature could just shake it to pieces.
Decamping at the Nomad hostel with Karen and Mark turned out to be a bit of a result (we later visited the Base hostel where our colleagues were staying and we definitely had the better of it). In addition to a free lollipop on arrival they also offer a free snack sized meal each evening (which could be doubled up to a decent size for a couple of dollars) in their bar - a canny tactic as their cooking facilities could well be described as minimalist and extremely cosy if more than 3 people turn up to cook a meal at one time.
The big attraction in Wellington is the Te Papa museum, ostensibly as it houses the enormous giant squid dragged up from a great depth inexplicably clinging to some bait that it should have let go of, but also for its free wifi. Amongst all other backpacker activities in the city Facebooking in Te Papa ranks very highly.
The Fool atop Mt Victoria overlooking Wellington

The Fool atop Mt Victoria overlooking Wellington


A brisk walk up Mt Victoria (yep, theres one here as well) on the first morning was both aerobically and physically challenging. Once up there the view of Wellington was great despite the very cold and very strong winds. On top of the Mount is a fancy funky pyramid type construction which points to the South Pole, the next land mass due south and a reminder of how far south we are here.
On Saturday it was time to meet up with Andrew Parnell, who I met in Ecuador last year, for a catch up and a tour of the city from an established resident and fan. With a pleasant waterfront, a small-ish city centre and a clean feel Wellington is a comfortable city with a relaxed and friendly vibe.
Tribute to Peter Jackson and the film industry

Tribute to Peter Jackson and the film industry

The giant Fernball

The giant Fernball


It has a heavy latin influence with one area dominated by Cuba Street, colourful and busy in the constant wind. After a tour of the main street Andrew took me to a funky cuban coffee shop hidden off the main track and, despite the very cold weather, this place had an upbeat caribbean feel to it through great murals in bright colours and the archetypal Che Guevara stencil on one wall.
Fabulous cuban cafe hidden in Wellington backstreets

Fabulous cuban cafe hidden in Wellington backstreets

Latte on the beach please

Latte on the beach please


The rest of the tour covered a number of other streets of varying significance until we stopped off at a hideaway mexican joint for an early dinner of assorted tacos and a mexican beer, elbow to elbow with assorted patrons on the small and tightly packed tables - a very popular and relatively cheap eatery.
Onwards into the evening and a pub crawl around any number of bars and clubs (including thier version of the Cavern Club, complete with a lifesize Elvis Presley in the entrance(?) and the hugely disappointing Boogie Wonderland with an underlit dancefloor that was supposed to be like the one in the ancient dance flick "Saturday Night Fever" - dont hold your breath Travolta fans and wannabes). We ended up in a small bar that was packed out with revellers and, like many others on that strip, overflowed onto the pavements and beyond.
Boys night out in Wellington

Boys night out in Wellington


Many alcoholic beverages later the evening ended with beer fuelled camaraderie, mutual backslapping and promises to meet up again, probably back in blighty. A personal thank you here for Andrew who is a thoroughly decent and very likeable guy who I hope will come to the UK at some point in the future to enjoy our hospitality.

The following day comprised Te Papa wifi time, trying to get this blog up to date and preparing for the second phase of the tour - the South Island. Good news on one front is that Momma Bev, Linzi and Sarah, the goon guzzling, Monopoly card playing girls from the Blue Duck wilderness would be on the ferry too- roll on more team meals!!!

Posted by RoystonBoyston 00:37 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

What bloody Blue Ducks?

rain 5 °C

Leaving the Tongariro Lodge was a real wrench, definitely the best accomodation we have enjoyed so far. Also it snowed overnight so the place was carpeted with snow which continued to fall, turning grown adults into joyous kids making snowmen with inappropriate genetalia and throwing snowballs at all passing vehicles and pedestrians.
Tongariro snow

Tongariro snow


Kiwis are big down here!

Kiwis are big down here!


Aboard the orange bus with our new driver, Dippy, we headed off to the Blue Duck Lodge, a remote and fairly basic place smack in the middle of several thousand acres dedicated to the conservation of, you guessed it, Blue Ducks.
On arrival we are offered a free hot beverage whilst we register for our rooms and then we are "treated" to a talk about the lodge, the reserve and the progress being made with the ducks. Whilst this lecture started out as both informative and interesting (they even handed round the freshly frozen bodies of recently captured pests like stoats, fresh from the freezer) it then dragged on and on and on as our host got carried away with her non-infectuous enthusiasm, eventually draining the life force from everyone in the party.
After being shown our dwelling (sadly the second class lodge as the premium site had been rented out to a company for some teambuilding weekend) we were kitted out in waterproofs and wellies to undertake the afternoon walk to the Depot. This is a medium sized hut where all supplies that took 5 days to ship up the river were stored, a kind of trading post if you like. It was also the place where all of the remote and hardy sheep farmers descended upon once a month to pick up their supplies, speak to other human beings and get drunk on whisky.
The trading Depot

The trading Depot


Creative signmaking

Creative signmaking


The walk was mainly uphill along a pretty soggy track with native bush lining most of the route. As we had joined a new bus for this leg of the Stray tour the walk gave us an opportunity to get to know some new friends, something which the usually reserved young Mark did very well at as he struck up conversation with Bev from Eastbourne (later to become Momma Bev, an integral part of the rest of the tour all the way to Christchurch).
Our new playmates seemed a decent bunch, mainly british but with a hint of the new world in the shape of a couple of americans - the painful and self obsessed sales rep Britney and her childhood pal, a quiet but very pleasant young man with a plan to become a physiotherapist back in Californ-i-a.
When we reached the Depot building (via the drunken bridge, a suspension bridge that swayed quite a lot when one crossed it) we were a little dissappointed at how basic it was but I suppose back in the day it must have seemed like Harrods to the farmers. Good news though - there was a waterfall nearby, what a relief!!! Bad news was that we didnt get the slightest glimpse of these rare and endangered Blue ducks. After a few photos there was nothing much left to do but head back before it got too dark.
The partially visible waterfall!

The partially visible waterfall!


Back at the lodge I was introduced to a couple of new experiences - goon (the australian name for very cheap wine boxes) and Monopoly cards. Combine the two and right there you have a fairly lethal drinking game! Bev proved this point by setting out the drinking penalty rules and then getting pretty drunk very quickly, after which she headed into the lounge area for her own personal rave!
The goon fired card game crew

The goon fired card game crew


Next morning was an early start for the longest travel day on the tour, down to Wellington.

Posted by RoystonBoyston 19:02 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Tongariro National Park

storm -3 °C

The drive from Taupo did not bode particularly well for our time in the Tongariro National Park. Whilst the acommodation was abfab with 4 bed loft rooms complete with en-suite facilities, a huge kitchen and dining area, large tv lounge and two great fireplaces complete with log fires burning in the grates, throughout the journey the weather continued to press its wet and miserable face against all available windows.
As a booby prize for the cancelled Alpine Crossing Miss P kindly offered to take us into the park for a circular walk to see, yep, you guessed it, another bloody waterfall (the famous Taranaki Falls at Mount Ruapehu).
Taranaki Falls

Taranaki Falls


Buzz says hi to the lovely Brigitte

Buzz says hi to the lovely Brigitte


The conditions were ok when we set off but they deteriorated throughout so that by the time the last stragglers (that would be the delightful Brigitta and equally desirable Fool) got back to the rendezvous, the bus was fogged up and many of the happy campers were steaming profusely. Once again Oily captured the mood of the moment and raised spirits by donning his rubber wolf mask!
Back at the hostel it was outside for a soak in the hot tub, meals and a quiet night in as some prepared for the onward trip to the Blue Duck Lodge whilst the rest of us signed up for a 3 night stay in the park in the hope that we could complete the crossing "the wrong way round" as it were.
Day two dawned with no improvement in the forecast so we bade farewell to Miss P and part of the original team before we decided that we could take on a bike ride to release some of the pent up energy.
Having procured the requisite number of pedal machines we set off on the first part of the Fishers cycle trail which was, for the most part, uphill. At this point Holly showed both her stubborness (of course she knew how to change gears, it was just that her bike was a piece if sh!te) and later her immense capacity for being a dizzy yet happy blonde (when, finally, she listened to instruction about how the gears work and she realised that it was she and not the bike that wasnt working and suddenly her bike was really great. . . . . d'uh). Anyhoo, having reached the turnaround point on the trail we stopped for a cheese role before heading back to the railway crossing where we planned to follow the tracks for a few clicks.
Oily, official photographer for the day.

Oily, official photographer for the day.

Lunch stop on the Fisher bike trail

Lunch stop on the Fisher bike trail


By the time we had turned back a couple of times whilst looking for a suitable trackside path the weather was foul and it was bloody freezing so, whilst 4 hardy souls decided to push on, the Fool returned to the lodge to defrost and to start drying out.
The evening was spent in front of a roaring log fire drinking beer, playing both the After Eights and Strawberry Laces games (thanks to, Mark for both of those) followed by a big night of Kings and Arseholes - the card game.
Owlie hogs the Fools bed!

Owlie hogs the Fools bed!


The final full day was also a blank as the Alpine Crossing was again shut, as was the local snowfield which cut dead our plans to try out snowboarding - cancellation number 4 in as many days!!!
The next journey is to the Blue Duck Lodge, what could possibly go wrong there. . . . . .

Posted by RoystonBoyston 18:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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