Day 152: Thwarted Again

Sat. 12th January 2013

Sunlight lighting up the clouds - an early start again (and in vain)One of the iconic things to do in New Zealand is the jet-boat trip, zooming along the river and getting very close to the rocks and the canyon walls. I had originally booked to do this back on Wednesday when we first arrived in Queenstown. It was cancelled then due to the rain and low visibility. We tried again on Thursday but there were no rides that day as the river was flooded. Whilst we were in Milford Sound, the weather in Queenstown seemed to be better so, surely with a whole day to recover, they were bound to be running first thing on a Saturday morning? Nope. Still on hold until 11am.

I'm trying to go on a boat like this only red (and moving more quickly!)We’ve had 3 nights in Queenstown and it has been a good base for exploring the area and seeing a range of things. There are other things that we could have done – such as the original bungy jump. Strangely, Janet wasn’t keen on this last option. It is time to move on. We are now heading over to the west coast (Westland) to see (amongst other things) the glaciers and the mountains from the ground and also, hopefully, from a helicopter.

Looking out over Lake WanakaIt is about 400km from Queenstown to Franz Josef. Whilst that would be doable in a (long) day, we decide to break the journey so that we have the time to enjoy the fantastic scenery. Initially, we retrace our steps back to Cromwell. We need to drive what is essentially 3 sides of a rectangle because the direct route is over the ridge of the mountains. Whilst it would be spectacular, it is one of two roads we were specifically forbidden from taking when we hired the van.

Another flooded riverWe stop for lunch just outside Wanaka, a pretty little lakeside town – like a smaller version of Queenstown. Once again, the lake looks to be full to bursting. Whilst here, we take the opportunity to nip into the tourist office (and then the Department of Conservation) to pick up leaflets on walks in the area and en route.

Lake HawaeWe are heading back up into and then crossing the southern end of the Southern Alps. Tomorrow, we’ll be going through Haast Pass, the high point on this road. Our drive takes us up into the hills alongside (and above) the shores of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. We keep having to find a layby and pull over for the view – we haven’t got tired of the spectacle yet. As we get further up into the hills, we see more of the impact of all of the rain that we have had – with the road strewn with mud and rocks in parts and even, in a couple of places, partially washed away and reduced to a single track.Lake Hawae

The water is supposd to be clear and blueOne of the walks that Janet wanted to do was to the Blue Pools, just past Makaroa (where we will be spending the night). The pools are just a short walk off the main road. Once again we walk through an unmanaged beech forest – I really do like the ancient feel that you get from the rotting trunks of fallen trees and the bright, shaggy green mosses that grow on the live trees. When we get to the pools, however, instead of the clear blue water and views of the deep river bed we’d been promised we find the water to be murky and grey. Another impact of the rain and floods.

All alone in our campsiteWhen we get to the campsite, we have our choice of spot as we are the only people here. Whilst a couple more vans arrive later, it is still very quiet and a real contrast from the bustle of Queenstown. It is a beautiful, warm sunny evening. We’re pretty much in the middle of nowhere, the sun doesn’t set until around 9:30 and we just enjoy the peace and quiet.

Sunset over the mountainsThe only downside is that there is no phone signal – and hence no Internet access – at all out here (and indeed, we haven’t had a phone signal since leaving Wanaka). Generally, using the 3G connection on my phone to access the Internet and then sharing it with Janet’s phone, the laptop and the Surface has worked out really well. The performance has been very good (better than the free WiFi in many places) and we have used about a third of our 3GB data allowance in about one third of our time in NZ. So, this is a bit of a reminder that you can’t take the internet or mobile phones for granted. In order to get the day’s blog post uploaded, we have to stump up $2 for 15mins access on the campsite WiFi. As we head up to the more sparsely populated west and north coasts there may be more times when we lose touch with the world.

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