Nelson

We cleaned up the Nelson house that Kathleen & John had swapped for and headed out to run a few last errands and a bit of shopping.   

Then they drove me over to the  apartment that I had rented for the next 5 days. It was right on the edge of the downtown area. The ad had referred to it as funky, I would label it as charming. It was small just a downstairs living/kitchen and an upstairs bedroom/bath. But it included a nice garden area, an upstairs patio overlooking the street, had a very well equipped kitchen and had lots of nice art and items with a Paris theme. I gave Kathleen and John the tour (it didn’t take long) and they loaded up and drove off down the street.   

I spent the next day’s enjoying the cute town of Nelson. It was just a few blocks square. It had shops, restaurants and pubs. I went to the Saturday  market, visited the church up on a hill at the head of town and just enjoyed the small town atmosphere.    

   

There were also several nice walks in the area. I walked along the beach, I walked out to the boat marina and I walked up to the geographic center of New Zealand. From there was great views of the ocean and the town. 

  

At the top was a monument marking the center.   

This is it pointing down through my head at the center.   

From there I took a walk through the hills that went back to the ocean and then to town.  

I very much enjoyed the little town of Nelson. It was a nice rest between the past adventures and the start of the campervan portion of my trip. 

Foodie Day

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Today is Kathleen and John’s last day in Nelson. Tomorrow they head out. So we had a contest to see who could come up with the best plan for the day. Kathleen won with her Foodie Day plan. 

While I went to find my apartment for the next phase of my trip they went to a cute coffee shop in town for a flat white.   

We then headed around the corner to a very small Falafel restaurant. They had great delicious falafel sandwiches which went unphotographed since I was hungry. We then cruised through a small Wednesday market and bought more treats (bread, strawberries, avocados…).   We drove a short distance into one of the wine regions. We chose  Milcrest Winery for a tasting. The wines were a bit expensive but very good (maybe why they were expensive). After the tasting of 5 wines we each bought a glass of wine and had a gorgeous cheese platter.     

John went off into the vineyards to pick a view grapes for our tasting. They were small and sweet. Wonderful. 

  

Foodie Day continued when we got back to our house, we packed up things for appies on the beach. We got there as the sunset. Once again the tide was out making for a long flat sandy beach for walking.     

We spread out our food and of course a bottle of wine we’d purchased at the winery. It was a great picnic on the beach.    

Finally we returned home for one last delicious meal prepared by Kathleen and John. It was another of John’s great grilled lamb dishes. Once again no photos as I was hungry (amazing after a day of food). An amazing final day for the New Zeakand trio. 

Abel Tasman

Kathleen and John had planned an outing for the day. A boat ride up the coast of Abel Tasman National Park, a hike along the Abel Tasman Trail and a return boat ride. I’d read about Abel Tasman but had no idea what an amazing place it was. 

We drove about an hour from Nelson along narrow winding roads to a  nice bay with a nice beach. We purchased our tickets and made our way down to the beach where the boat was up on shore. 

We boarded and set out up the Tasman coast. Along the way the captain made a few stops. One was at split marble rock and another was to view seals swimming and sleeping on the rocks.   

 

After about an hour the boat landed on a beautiful beach lowered the walkway and we hit the beach. The boat backed off. We were left to do a four hour hike to another beach for a pickup. 

  

We started the hike through gorgeous rainforests with glimpses to golden beaches and blue seas.   

We made our way down to one beach for lunch. The sands were a deep golden color and the rainforests came right down to the beach edge. The view was spectacular. 

The hike continued through the forest with intermittent views of the beaches. Along the way we crossed several swing bridges.   

One after another the views continued to amaze me. It was all very unexpected. Nothing I had read described this area like this.     

We came to a point where the trail went across a body of water. At low tide this water all disappears and the trail crosses the sand and a small river. Unfortunately is was high tide so we had to take a longer trail around.   

Finally we arrived at our destination beach. It took us all of our four hours. I think Kathleen and I were a bit nervous the last 30 minutes but of course we made it.     

We  boarded  the the boat and head back to our starting point.  

What an amazing day. Thanks to Kathleen and John for organizing this. Definitely a place to return. 

Onward to Nelson

It’s time to head north. I’ve been on the south end of the south island and will now fly north to rejoin Kathleen and John in Nelson. Luckily for me I  get to fly instead of the long drive that they took. My flight from Queenstown had a connection in Weelington, the Capitol. It was a small airport but very proud of the NZ connection to Lord of the Rings. The terminal had a huge sign saying Welcome to Middle Middle Earth.  Inside the terminal was a huge copy of Gollum diving for fish. 

And a giant eagle with Gandalf on its back. I took pictures to share with John.   

When I arrived in Nelson I walk to the house a very short distance since K&J were off having fun. When they arrived we walked 2 blocks to the ocean. The tides was out and there was a huge flats that went on and on. At high tide this would all be underwater.  

  

We walked along the beach as the sun set.  

We walked back to the house. It’s s very cute small house but nice with a very good outside patio area. John and Kathleen prepared s wonderful supper  of  lamb, potato, salad and mustard and mint dipping sauces.   

It was nice to be back with them and not just because they make wonderful dinners. 

Hanging with the locals. Bikers, wine festival goers, and more bikers.

My initial skepticism about Queenstown was unfounded. I had many activities that were geared toward the locals as much as tourists. It turned out that there was a huge Harley Davidson rally in town. So there were leather outfitted  groups walking about the town all weekend. At various times I would run across big gatherings of bikers and while having breakfast one morning they had a giant ride by. While not local to Queenstown these guys were definitely NZ locals.     

The afternoon before I had seen a sign that there would be wine/food festival in the gardens on the peninsula. However the forecast was for rain and I  figured it wouldn’t be a good outdoor  event. However the day turned out great so I headed to the gardens. It was a smallish event with about 8 wineries from Gibson Valley and 8-10 nice food tents. I  paid my entrance fee, got a nice wine glass and tokens to taste 3 wines. I also signed up for a cooking demonstration class. The setting was really nice. 

  

As I strolled about tasting the wines I could see that the food was very nice as well. I settled on a tent selling 3 kinds of brochettes Beef, Salmon and goat cheese pear.  I settled on Salmon with a base of arugula and a Dijon   dressing. Delicious. I wanted more but knew my cooking class was soon. 

    

The cooking demonstration class was in a tent for about 50 people. The chef was a famous British chef, Sean Connolly,  with a fancy steak restaurant in Auckland. He was very funny and entertaining. He prepared three courses. As he demonstrated there were two sous chefs making plates for each person. All the food was delicious and we got more wine tastings. 

  

The courses included scampi crudo, steak tartare and duck fat chips. All three were great.  

 

 Afterward I returned to the wine festival. It was mostly  a local crowd. There were tables set up in the park and musicians playing at several stages along the way. I sat and enjoyed one glass of wine.   

  

I headed home for a nap ( I can’t drink wine in the afternoon).  Afterward I headed out for an evening beer at a pub (I can drink beer in the evening). On the way I came across a crowd of mostly young people streaming into a fenced off parking lot where there was loud music. I watched for a while and saw that it was some sort of wild bicycle championship. I decided for $5 I’d check it out.  There was a tall deck built 40 feet up on scaffolding.  The bikers would launch off the deck and follow a rather short course through several hills and drops doing various stunts. It was amazing and hilarious.     

I noticed that everyone has beer but nothing was for sale in the fenced off lot. So I crossed the street and purchased a beer (I wanted to fit in). After a bit of trouble getting it opened without an opener I enjoyed the beer and watched what appeared to be true locals.   

Afterward I headed back to the backpackers as the sun set over the lake. I had Indian takeaway in the small shared kitchen with the 20 year olds, though they weren’t local I don’t think. 

  

 

End of the tramp and journey to Queenstown- Friday

 My last morning was the most spectacular of the trek. It was a perfectly clear sky with views of the mountains across the flats. I had my breakfast as the sun rose.   

The last leg of the journey was only about 1.5 hours and my shuttle was at 10 so I  had a nice leisurely (downhill) walk to the end. It was a nice final walk as the sun streamed through the trees.   

At the end I waited briefly until my shuttle arrived. Again only two other people were on the bus. Off season is certainly nice. The bus was a 2 hour drive through nice scenery mostly along the lake that ended in Queenstown.   

I retrieved my box (it had arrived!!!) and dropped my things at the backpackers (Kiwi for a hostel) since I  couldn’t check in until 2:00. I wandered the streets full of shops hawking adventure trips like bungy jumping, parasailing, river rafting etc. I was a bit concerned about spending 3 nights here. I came across a shop with a huge line down the street. It was a place called Fergburger. I’d heard talk about this place on the trek. Great burgers and long lines. I joined in. It was just a street front no place to sit. I ordered my Fergburger and chips (fries) and was told to come back in 20 minutes. While I waited I found a great park on the lake with a weekend market. There was a man playing great music. I went back, got my burger and returned to the park for lunch. The grass was covered with people enjoying the sun, music, and many with a delicious Fergburger. 

    

Turns out the park was right in front of my backpackers. After eating I went in checked into what turned out to be the best location in town. Below is the view that $36 gets you in Queenstown….

  

If your willing to have have 3 strangers for roommates (and yes I snagged the double lower bunk).   

Over the next 3 nights I had roommates that included a 68 year old NZ woman that came from Timaru every weekend to go to the casino, an angry looking German girl, a tattoo covered guy with a skateboard and an Asian guy from France that once he got into his bunk I never saw him get out in 2 days. After covering more ground I found that Queenstiwn was a lovely town. Amazing views, great parks along the lakes, lots of music and nice pubs.   

I hit a pub for nice beer.   

Then I returned to my backpackers to make dinner in the common kitchen where the young guests were gathering for their dinner as well. I  wonder what the youngsters thought of the grandpa in the corner watching them.  

The Routeburn was an amazing experience but it was nice to get a hot shower and a meal that wasn’t freeze dried. 

The quiet of the flats

Note 3/31/15: I’m sorry I’ve been slow about catching up on posts. I have been in Nelson for 5 days and should have caught up but didn’t. Go figure.  I’ll post this but then I’m off in my campervan and I’ll be off the grid for about a week. I’ll keep posting when I get a signal. 

Today the hike was only one hour long so I enjoyed an extra coffee and watched everyone pack and leave. I had heard about a 2 hour hike to a nice overlook so I decided to give it a try. I headed to where the trail should start right by a bridge but I saw nothing. Finally I decided a break in the grass was the trail and headed up. Though not well defined it was a trail (it showed what a great job is done in maintaining the real trails).  This photo was the trail. Can you see it?

The views from the top were grand. I was looking down on the flats my destination for today.   

On my way back I had a nice view down on last nights hut.   

I retrieved my things and started to leave. As I went outside a helicopter made a landing to pickup empty gas canisters.

  

The hike down was short and very nice. At the bottom I found a hut on the edge of a lovely meadow. This was a smaller hut two  rooms with 8 bunks each. Since this one was close to the start (my end) it had few trampers. In fact it was me, a group of 4 and then very late 2 German girls arrived. Only 7 total. It was a nice hut with a great view out the front.        It was an amazing day so I crossed the river and walk out across the meadow. The views in every direction were gorgeous. I walked for a bit then found a spot in the sun for a short nap. The warmth felt great after the previous cooler days.   

In the evening as it got cooler the sunset was great. I had my final dinner of chicken curry (4/5 stars) and was in bed at 8:30. 

 

Up, up, up to the views of the Routeburn

 I woke up to a beautiful day. Had my oatmeal breakfast (with reconstituted dried fruit) and coffee and prepared for the longest walk of the trek.   

The hike started up the mountain and entered a forest that looked very much like Fanghorn from the Lord of the Rings movies. There were big, dark forestsand the path was lined with stones climbing into the forest. 

    

The path  was mainly uphill with the views getting better and better.       

The trail climbed up toward the pass called the Saddle. It was much colder.  At the Saddle was a side hike up Conical Hill.  I switched to long pants and my warmest shirt and headed up. The trail was steep and much tougher than before. But at the top the view was incredible. Through the mist I could see the ocean. While I sat a few snow pellets started to hit me. 

  

The path was marked my solid iron  post many bent by the force of the winter storms. 

  

Once down the trail continued through amazing terrain until I could see off the other side of the pass.     

Tonight’s hut was by a big waterfall.    

This was the most impressive building of all the huts. It had a long wide deck looking down on the flats. The hut was big, a great cooking and eating area and the view was unbelievable. 

      

After resting I  decided another swim was in order. I made my way down to the falls, found a pool and took the plunge.    

It felt great, oh yes and a bit cold. 

My dinner was beef bourgeon pretty good (4/5 stars). Then I headed to bed at 8:30. Luckily tonight’s hut was all single bunks. First rate. 

Camping, Tramping and Glamping

I slept well (and long, 10 hours) and got up around 8:00 once there was enough light to see. I went down to the dining area and had my less than delicious breakfast, oatmeal, dried fruit, crackers, jam and instant coffee. I hit the trail about 10:30 after a short hike along Lake Howden. 

 For the first hour I didn’t see anyone and finally passed a few people going the other way (I was actually doing the hike backwards of most people). Before long I arrived at Earland falls. I sat and enjoyed them while having a snack, 

The hike this   Was a gradual climb of about 3 hours long mainly through the beech tree forests with a few views out.  As I got higher the views got more impressive. 

  

 Finally I arrived at Lake McKenzie my stop for the night. I could see the roof top of the hut as I arrived. When I got in front I was surprised to see a nice building. Inside I could see lots of lights (last night we had 2 solar lights that were only on from 7:30-10:00). Here at 2:00 in the afternoon I could see lots of lights on. Something wasn’t right. Turns out I was seeing the luxury  hut for the fancy people. The glampers (glamorous campers). While I’m paying $50 for a night, these people are paying $500. That night the Hut Warden talked with disdain about the leather chairs, fancy wine, 3 course meal and a PowerPoint show of the area that the glampers got. 

So I continued a bit further to the accommodations for the trampers (my group). While not the same as the glampers this building was nicer than last nights. I was the first to arrive since mist of the trampers were coming from a hut ) hours away.  

 

This hut was nicer than last nights. Larger also. This hut sleeps 48 and was fully booked for the night. The cooking and eating area wee very nice.  

 

The sleeping area was another story. Luckily j had arrived first. There were two bunk areas. The first was upstairs. On one side was 12 single bunks. I snagged a bottom bunk on the end.  

 

But across from these were 12 matts lined up one after another. Auttke close for my comfort.  

 

But this wasn’t the best (or worst). I went to the other bunk house and there were four bunk beds. But each was 4 pads across. I can’t imagine climbing up and getting over to the 4th spot. And getting up in the middle if the night would be s nightmare.  

 

After securing my precious single bunk I went fot a walk along the lake (later I took a bath in the lake….cold).  

 

I went and checked out the camping area. It was a covered area but I think it would be a find dark cold night spent here.  

 

To make matters worse the campers were not allowed to come to the trampers hut to cook or enjoy the hot wood stove. Just like the trampers weren’t allowed to visit the glampers hut. A real class system (just like Downton Abby). 

I continued along a hike to Split Rock. It was an amazingly huge rock with a giant split in the middle. I can’t imagine the geologic event that caused this split.  

 

I made my way back to the hut where other trampers had arrived. It had been a cold day but the sun came out in the late afternoon. Everyone sat on the front pourch enjoying the sun.  

 

Later I made my dinner of venison and noodles. It wasn’t very good (3/5 camping stars) compared to last nights     Morrocan lamb stew (5/5). I went to bed about 9:30. I was glad I wasn’t a camper out in the cold. I was glad I wasn’t a trampers on the mattress assembly line. And I wondered what the glampers were having for desert. 

Cruises and Treks

It was a pretty good night. This morning everyone accused everyone else of snoring so I guess everyone was making noise. I splurged for breakfast had had a great breakfast sandwich and coffee. 

Today is the day I start the Routeburn Track so I have selected certain items to be sent on to Queenstown so I don’t have to carry them. I packed stuff in a box, tape it closed, wrote my name on it and left it at the desk with $30. I hope I see my box in Queenstown. 

We checked out of our room, a four bunk room we shared with a German. Kathleen and John were great sports staying in a shared room. 

We headed out for our first activity of the day. A cruise on Milford Sound. We  selected a small early morning voyage. It was a great decision.

It was a beautiful morning as we headed down Milford Sound. 

There were only 19 people on our cruise so it was easy to move about and check out the views from the various parts of the boat. Since it was a smaller  boat the captain went right up to shore to see the seals and waterfalls (a bit closer than John normally takes the Laysan). 

The views all along the way were gorgeous. I took lots of pictures. Here are a few. 

Afterward we headed up to the Routeburn Track to get me started on my trek. 

Kathkeen and John hiked with me as far as the first hut, my lodging for the night. 

The first hut was the Howden Hut. A smaller hut. There were only 19 people (capacity was 28). It was very rustic. A cooking eating area, running cold water, a wood stove, toilets and a bunk room. Primitive but better than sleeping outside.