The War of the Snakes is upon us:

Book 2 of the Ethereal Series launches worldwide on Tuesday 7th April. Please support.War of the Snakes Banner1

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“The Awakened” is launched today

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After 4 years away from New Zealand, I am so pleased to announce that “The Awakened”, the first book of a trilogy revolving around the amazing landscape of this beautiful country, is published today through Clink Street Publishing. Thank you to all the blog followers who have supported me over the years. I trust you will continue and check out the first episode.
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Day 32 – The Hobbits return home

So there we have it. Folks.

6000 kms travelled, 4500 photos taken, Close encounters of the Third and Fourth kinds. We have experienced things that go “Bump” in the night, strange lights in the skies, baby seals with a touch from God, funny looking cows, deer, Killer Keas, Dolphins and way to many sand flies!

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We have wondered at ladies who sing to trees, old men who smile with true radiance and honesty, learned about the famous New Zealand call, “Sweet Asssssss”, been terrified by wild coach drivers who think that the speed indicators on blind bends actually mean at what G-force you should go around them, people who live in steel houses, Bungee jump kamikaze idiots, Daryl, the amazing man in Lake Taupo, and experienced the fantastic world of Frodo, Bilbo and the tribe.

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We have smelled the most beautiful scents of coffee in the morning, afternoon and evening. (Ok, maybe we do have a few too many…) Luppins, Sea and lake air and the tingle as thunder threatens.

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We have marvelled at lofty spires and plunging cliffs, deepest of deep blue waters, ice flows, crashing waves, lakes, mountains, beaches that go on for ever, sand dunes that rise for ever!, Huge trees, forests with every conceivable colour of green, and then some, crashing seas, loads of islands, rivers, stars, police cones stuck up on the highest parts of a tree and mermaid pools

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We have also been welcomed!

Our thanks go firstly to the wonderful team at Wilderness Travel who, from the outset, have been of the utmost professionalism and kindness, always willing to assist and offer advice and really look as if they enjoy seeing their customers enjoying the NZ experience.

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We also want to thank our wonderful friends in Takapuna, Simon, Debbie and their children, Claudia and Sammi and their cat, and their open greeting, dinners, and an introduction to paddle boarding.

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To Fi, Justin and Jack, their dog, cow and lambs down in Masterton, (which is nowhere near Wellington!!!!!) and their introduction to us, of Paua eating, BBQs with a difference and farm animals to swing a stick at.

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And finally, we want to thank you the reader, for bearing with us through these 32 days. Of our ups and downs, our bumps into curios animals, noisy foreigners, missing curtains, sand flies, and The most wonderful, inspiring adventure these two hobbit fans have ever had… and that is saying quite a lot

Send word if you encounter any other oddities whilst on your route. And if we have been able to help you in deciding where to go (or not to get within a 100 light years of the place), then that, for itself, is worth every line and every word we have squeezed out of our bodies, trying to paint our picture, our picture of a wonderful place.

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New Zealand

Goodbye.

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Day 31 – An end to a wonderful adventure. Hokitika to Akaroa. Goodbye and thanks for all the seals

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The final full day with the RV dawned and the weather closed in over the mountains, echoing our mood.

Grey, yet with a promise of the sunshine out there somewhere. We had to move on and leave this wonderful country for others to benefit from, and hopefully, leave something of their culture behind.

The RV kicked us out of the Hokitika Motorhome camp and we stopped off briefly at one of the Jade shops to have a look. Found out about New Zealand jade versus the cheaper Indonesian variety, so that was not so bad. Picked up a few trinkets for family members and got back in the RV to start our next leg over the mountain ranges and down to Christchurch where an aeroplane waited for us tomorrow.

We headed north for a bit until we hit SH73 and the sign for Arthur’s Pass, the highest pass in New Zealand.

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The route started, following the Taramakau River and slowly working deeper into the foothills of Arthur’s Pass National Park. As the road got steeper, we decided to play a game by guessing what the speed limit indicator would be at the next hairpin bend, and so on. The fun you can have in an RV when you are trying not to look down at the 1000 foot drops to the side!

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After a while, we reached the Otira Highway Scenic Lookout, which had an impressive view of one of the tunnels carved out of the rock. It also allowed us to look at a most strange man-made watercourse which ran over the head of the Highway and then let the water spew off the edge into the river below. It was a very strange piece of engineering. Not sure it would have won any design competitions though.

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Unless of course, the “scenic lookout” was a ploy by the Keas to get you to stop so they could continue to eat your vehicle! They were back again and eating the saddles of our bikes. Nice!

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Onward and outward, we continued up the Highway coming eventually to a flattened plateau in the middle of absolute nowhere to see 2 travellers walking along the road. No idea where they came from or where they were going to, but there were no abandoned cars, coaches or car parks for miles in either direction. (Must have been the aliens we encountered back at Chateau Tongariro, trying to thumb a lift back to their mother ship!)

We arrived at Arthur’s Pass village itself around lunch time, so stopped for our obligatory coffee. It was here that we saw the smallest Post office in the world (arguably), which was very quirky. Hee hee.

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Lunch was OK. We could well imagine that this place must be heaving in tourist season as thousands gathered here for walking, skiing and generally hanging out with Mother Nature. It was funny being so high up and having a rail track running right next to us. Must be a wonderful experience coming up to the village by train.

The road then started to drop down and it wasn’t long before we started to traverse along the Bealey River, a fairly wide but dry river bed, at least 500m wide. Again, this must be impressive when the snow melt comes plunging through. Today however, it was fairly quiet. We continued down until Bealey River joined the even wider Waimakiriri River and suddenly 500m became over 1km wide and wider still. I suppose it was an awesome sign of the might of the snow and ice, that it needed such a wide tributary to get rid of all the water from the snow run-off.

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On now down West Coast Road, which was quite nice. The mountains had now given way to foothills but they all looked as if acid had been dropped on them as not much was growing and lots of erosion was visible. Austere foothills on the east of Arthur’s Pass National Park, and very different to the foothills to the west, which were lush and vibrant with tree life.

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Half way down this interesting route, we came across some really strange monolith rocks at the Castle Hill Kura Tawhiti Park. These edifices were all standing as if some giant had had a tantrum and thrown his toys out with the bathwater. A bit like Stonehenge, other than these were placed by nature.

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Now the road started to link in with the web that was spread out by Christchurch and things flattened out and the roads began to be VERY STRAIGHT!!!

Oh dear… so so straight and so so long….

At one stage, after about 5 days (!) of travelling along this straight road and with no one in sight, I decided to hot things up and drove on the other side of the road, just for the fun of it…… NOT that I am recommending this to anyone, you understand?

Funnily enough, nothing happened!

We did not want to stay overnight in Christchurch itself, so we had a quick look and saw a nice looking inlet to the south of Christchurch, which did not look too far away, so we headed there.

The road twisted and turned now along the contours of the southern peninsula of Christchurch and SH75 took over, leading us on to Akaroa. On plan, it didn’t look too far away! However, at 1:500,000 scale, a very windy road looks to be fairly straight!

The final 20kms or so were “hairpin bend city”! Steep, dangerous, endless, but actually, very exhilarating. Climbing higher and higher, new parts of the peninsula were revealing themselves to us at every turn. And then we reached the top and could look down to our right and see the wonderful, beautiful inlet onto which Akaroa was blended.

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Such a lovely scene, again. This time however, we could look out for miles and see 2, 3, 4 massive cruise liners all coming slowly up the inlet. I am not sure, but they all seemed to be berthing on the opposite side, where there was no port??? Just berthing up and, I suppose, boating the passengers down to Tikao Bay opposite Akaroa for a bit of a leg stretch. The inlet was beautiful and just what we needed.

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Camping up at the Akaroa Top 10 motorhome camp, we then came down to the village to see one French name after another on the shops, the road signs and the cafes.

Now, before we get to why that might be, did you know that were it not for a Captain of a British ship berthing here and helping the locals, the British may not have actually settled here and Russell may not have been the original capital that it was? No. I bet you didn’t.

John Stewart, the Captain of the ship “Elizabeth”, helped one of the North Island chiefs to capture the local chief, his wife and their young daughter here, and the settlement that they lived in, was sacked. As a result of this, and other “lawlessness issues” he was associated with, the appointment of an official British Resident, James Busby, was endorsed, which was the first step in the British involvement that then led to the Treaty of Waitangi, in Russell, which became the capital.

There you are. A bit of history for you.

Now, let’s talk about those French people.

6 years after the above event, a French Captain came here and bought some land for £6! Typical!

He then went back to France and told everyone who wanted to listen, that this part of New Zealand was “easy pickings”. 63 emigrants left France with eager anticipation and arrived back at the Bay of Islands on the North Island… to find it had been colonised by those pesky brits, so instead, went off in a huff and came all the way back down to the South Island and decided to align themselves with the local people here, who themselves had been almost wiped out by the British a few years previous to this!

Boy, will the French/English battle for dominance never stop?

They then settled in Akaroa, which is why it has such a strong French feel to it.

Another piece of history for you.

That evening, we wandered down the “Champs-Élysées…… lol, and had a lovely meal at one of the restaurants overlooking the bay.

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A long day, but one that ended in a lovely place. Thank you Akaroa.

Mind you, you do sound like a Japanese film!!!

Say it out loud… You might get where I am going with this…

In the morning, we had one final trip up to Christchurch itself and a sad farewell to the RV experience and a flight back up to Auckland and on home.

That means we have only one posting left tomorrow! Only one more day to say thank you to the people of New Zealand and the culture, the landscape and of course, the Hobbits and the seals. But that is tomorrow.

Night night

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Day 30 – Homeward bound via a very very long west coast route, but discovered the most beautiful lake in the world!

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Today, we were due to do a lot of travelling. so we got up at a fairly reasonable time, had breakfast and set off back through Wanaka, up to PuzzleWorld and then dived off up SH6. This was to be the start of a long drive up over the Haast Pass and then up the West Coast to have a final “farewell” to the setting sun and the Tasman Sea, at Hokitika before heading back to Christchurch the next day.

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With very sad hearts we left Wanaka and started up route SH6. It did not take too long, winding up along the expansive Lake Wanaka to our left, before we hit a pleasure paradise and one totally unexpected.

Lake Hawea.

The most beautiful Lake in the World!!!

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It is also a place where freedom camping is allowed. Dam,, so close to where we were as well. Maybe next time, hey?

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I don’t know what it was about the lake itself. Whether its setting, the way the mountains folded into the lake itself, the Luppins, the beaches, or the way the road wound its way around the contours of the lake. In any case, as it revealed itself more and more to us, we had to stop many times just to take stock of its pure beauty and accept that we were heading home.

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Tears flowed as we so wanted to stay, but knew that family and commitments were waiting for us back at home. If you are still with us from the start of this amazing journey, 30 days ago, you may well associate yourselves with us in that, from time to time, you may also find a place which just sums up your emotions.

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It could be a mountain range, a desert heat haze, a lofty spire or azure blue sea. Wherever you find your “soul place”, we found it that day at the banks of Lake Hawea and it was with a very heavy heart that we eventually set off up the Haast Pass, leaving the lake to touch another soul in the future. Enjoy the photos, if you never come into contact with this gem. The space was sublime. We stopped at one place half way up the lake, and proceeded to do a series of photographs showing us jumping along the beach with joy and abandon…. but those are for our own library. Some things are meant to be “special”, this was one of those moments.

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After leaving Lake Hawea, we rejoined the northern end of Lake Wanaka. I did say earlier, that it is a very long lake!

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Haast Pass itself was a mass of twisting bends up and up until we reached the summit of the pass and started heading down towards Haast itself.

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The route from Lake Hawea to Haast seemed to take for ever and when we eventually arrived at this very strange town, we stopped for a coffee at a truck stop, which was our first mistake. Haast is a very strange, alien town just off the SH6. I must admit, that after the beauty of nature that we had been enjoying, to stumble into Haast, made us wish that the town was called “Haste” instead, because we couldn’t wait to leave it.

And then we hit the Tasman Sea and travelled north up along the coastal route, hugging the steep cliffs down to the pounding waves below to our left.

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Now, if the first part of our journey felt long, this second part seemed to last an eternity. The road just seemed to go on and on with little let up or opportunity to stop and by the time we got to Lake Moeraki, with Mitch driving, I was trying to follow the route on the paper map just so I could see that we were actually getting closer to our night stop.

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Lake Moeraki gave way to Lake Paringa and on and on and on up through flatlands, dry river beds, some occasional glimpses of the sea to the west until we eventually got to Bruce Bay and a short break.

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We noticed that lots of people had written their names on stones and placed them in a long pile, as if, like us, they wanted to say their goodbyes to this amazing place. When you get there, see if you can find us.

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Off again up through the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, which was weird as it looked like the lichen and moss along the road, on the sides of the rock faces, had all been run horizontally by hand. Lovely colours, and of course, as we were now starting to head back to the main West coast mountain range, where Mt. Cook was, we got glimpses of the lofty mountains again, as if they were trying to ease our sadness and boredom on this road.

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We did see a face in the mountains. Cool…

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We got to the turn off to the Franz Josef Glacier and we dived off to have a quick look. A lot of people rave about it, and I am sure it is amazing when you get closer to it, but perhaps, as we were not “in the right place”, we were not overly impressed.

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Then on again… on and on and on and on and on.. Like water dripping slowly onto a rock can cause extreme feelings of being tortured, our route from Franz Josef glacier, was similarly tortuous…………… and then we got to Whataroa!

Whataroa, “The town that everyone has forgotten and even those who live there wish they could forget!” Maybe I am being a bit harsh, but as we turned into the town, we were struck by just how dead and empty it felt. Not a soul to be seen anywhere and it was only about 2pm. No bill boards, no sign of life, no petrol stations, cafes, coffee shops, supermarkets…… If it was advertised on a website, which I am sure there must be some, I would find it a struggle to big it up….

We did not stop!

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Oh my goodness! Will this road never end?

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Another 50 minutes of this and we were both ready to be like the Keas and start to chew off the rubber from the windows….. and then we hit Harihari!

If Haast should have been renamed “Haste”, then Harihari should be called “Hurry hurry”… away from here!”

An incredibly long straight road bisects the inhabitants of Harihari. Well, I say “inhabitants” as I assume there are some. But again, we saw no sign of life, no coffee shops, no activity…. Oh no, sorry. My bad, we did!

Posted against practically every house, were these billboards proclaiming, “1080 kills!”

It appeared that “1080” had indeed killed, as there was no sign of life. “Radiation will kill you”, “Don’t eat 1080 goods”, “Stop the 1080 drop”, “Welcome to Harihari”

We did not stop!……

Please shoot me now as this area feels like it should be in a scene from some manic depressive television channel!

But look, what is this? We were getting closer to Hokitika and as this was apparently the “Jade capital of the world”, then surely it would have the gravitas and setting of a truly memorable visitor destination, right?

No, wrong!

Seaside town meets Blackpool on steroids, and the missing 100,000 Chinese immigrants who came here looking for freedom, still stuck in their coaches, furiously clicking away at the scenery with their cameras and flash lights.

We had no choice. We stayed overnight here. The sunset was spectacular though, and very sad to say goodbye to it, and, by proxy, to New Zealand as well. It seemed such a shame that the beauty we had seen travelling up here, in the nature and setting, appeared to have been ruined by man’s attempt to place towns and villages with little to no regard to the location.

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We arrived late and could find no supermarket for produce, so we made do with what was left in the fridge. Not much!

The Top 10 motorhome camp site was next to a dirty, smelly bread factory. Go figure!

Night night

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Day 29 – Queenstown to Lake Wanaka via the Crown Range Road, more bras and a craft fair that wasn’t

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Our trip continued heading north, closer to the end of our amazing adventure, and, as if to tease us, New Zealand decided to bless us with great weather as we retraced our tracks back up the Crown Range Road and towards Lake Wanaka for an overnighter.

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The route back up this road was fairly uneventful. No more bras added since last we passed, but we did manage to find a crazy man who was driving a car fairly fast, which in itself is no big thing… but the caravan he was towing seemed to be having the shakes and we expected that at any second the caravan would make a dash for freedom and head for the nearest ditch, taking car and occupants with it. It is very difficult to overtake a swerving caravan and car!. Crazy person driving it. Dangerous as well.

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We had hoped, as it was the weekend, that the Craft Fair that Daryl had mentioned, would be active in Wanaka, so we had left fairly early, after a coffee and a goodbye to Yaks and Yetis, to get to Wanaka in time. When we arrived however, there was not a piece of craft to be seen anywhere, so we were disappointed and moped around the village for the rest of the afternoon.

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The lake was very choppy as the westerly winds had come in in force and were blowing across the waters as if Moses was asking God to part the seas again. Luckily He didn’t!

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One more Top 10 motorhome camp later (we couldn’t find any freedom camping spots here either!) and the evening turned crimson. Hobbits et al for dinner and an early night. Tomorrow was going to be a looooooooooonnnnnnnggggggggg one!

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Night night

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Day 28 – a Kayak trip into the Sound, merciless sand flies and bad bad weather

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We were advised that the clouds were likely to come in force today, so we decided to cut our Milford experience and drive back to Queenstown.

It was a very sad day today as we had to accept that now we were heading back to “Civilisation”, an airport and back to Blighty and that this most amazing of journeys was going to come to an end in a few short days.

Still, Chin up and all that, hey?

Today, we were going to try our hand at kayaking, seeing as we had promised ourselves that we would at least try it, whilst on holiday. Down we trundled to the edge of the Sound with about 6 other people for a “relaxed 2 hour kayak experience”… or, in other words, “kayaking for softies!”

We didn’t care. It was great for us.

Getting to the “kayak lodge”, which was actually a ship container, we were given a briefing by a laid-back “dude”…. 5 Women and myself and the guide.

“Right, then”, dude said, with a North American twang, “can you please strip down to your underwear and put our rig on, to keep you dry and warm?”

“Errr…. I don’t think so!” We said. No change rooms in sight.

I volunteered to go outside and get changed there. Such a man! The ladies sorted themselves out in the porta cabin and I ventured out into the wilderness….

Being semi-naked and in the wilds is a bit liberating, but it doesn’t half paint a huge target for every sand fly in the world to came and attack you. Especially when your one leg is trying to extricate itself from jeans and the other is locked into slightly mouldy leg warmers.

Trousers off… slap!

Thermals on…. Slap, slap!

Shirt and jumper off. Oh, for goodness sake!!! Slap, slap, S-L-A-P!!11

By the time we were all dressed, I looked like a “join-the-dots” picture. Lots of sand-fly spray later and we were all in the kayaks in the water. (Still more slapping though as these particular sand flies obviously had not been told that the spray was poisonous)

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The clouds had not yet tumbled into the Sound so the waters were mirror-still. Gliding through the water was a wonderful experience, even seeing the mountains in the distance at this low perspective was great.

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Over we paddled to the Lady Bowen Falls. Our guide helped us climb up to the very foot of the waterfall, which was immense. All the spray soothing the itchiness from the bites.

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A quick photo shoot, where we saw a few grave stones set into the banks of the pool, and we set off again, back to the porta cabin and more waiting sand flies.

We walked back to The Blue Duck for a quick coffee, tanking up the RV and the dumping of our “Black water” and then said our sad goodbyes to this amazing place. Then it was back up the long route of SH94 to start the route back to Christchurch, in 4 days. Boo-Hoo.

This time, we stopped at the Chasm, as mentioned earlier. No tourists in sight. Bliss! A short walk later (followed by more Kea birds) and we arrived at this mighty example of what water does when its path is obstructed. The water of the Cleddau River is funnelled into a tight wedge of rock and so does what it must do to get past; it bores a hole right through the solid rock. Lovely interlude.

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Back to the RV again and the steep drive up to the Homer Tunnel. (No naked people running up the incline today, it seemed!). Then down the long 190km back to Te Anau.

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By the time we got there, the weather had turned, as they said it would and it rained continually for the next 6 hours as we made our miserable way back up to Queenstown and an overnight at the same quirky Top 10 motorhome camp we stayed at before travelling down to Milford a few days before.

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Another late jaunt through the shops, including Yaks and Yeti, a pizza and then off to the cinema to see “interstellar”, which was truly stupendously amazing! Matthew McConaughey was excellent. I think we will need to see it again just to grasp everything that was going on.

We were knackered and wet, so it was back to the RV again and a bit of shut eye, disappearing into the land of nod.

Night night…..

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Day 27 – Knobs Flat to Milford Sound (Piopiotahi) via the Homer Tunnel. Stunning views, dolphin giants and not enough time to enjoy.

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Most of the rubber around the windows and roof remained intact on inspection in the morning! No sign of the pesky Kea. The sight of a partially clothed mad man with head torch blazing and frying pan and spoon at the ready must have done the trick.

A quick breakfast later and we were off again, continuing down SH94 on our way to Milford Sound. The road was fairly flat and the valley, expansive as it followed Eglinton River, going past places like “Mistake Creek” and “Cascade Creek”.

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Diving into the forest every now and again, we slowly got more excited as forest gave way to Lake Gunn (They did freedom camping there, Dam!) Then Lake Fergus with its amazing blue tones.

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Continuing on up and up and up into the mountains we came to the Homer Tunnel.

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This engineering feat is carved through the living rock and covers 1270m. The tunnel is also quite steep and very dark….. and ONE WAY only! Scary. Traffic lights control the traffic from one side to the other. We heard afterwards, that there is an annual naked run up through the tunnel….. WHY????

Immediately upon exiting the tunnel, we all played follow-my-leader behind a coach as hairpin after hairpin bends and steep roads all contributed to the slow passage and strong smell of brake pads protesting mightily.

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You drop quickly from the heady heights of the Homer Tunnel at 945m above Sea level, down to the sound itself, in about 10 minutes, so by this stage, one needs a break. Welcome to “The Chasm”, a natural cascade of water through the rock and a rest place just before Milford Sound…. It is also home to half the Chinese Population, and it was teeming with them… and loads of Kea birds…..

We decided to continue on!

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We arrived at Milford Sound Lodge by about midday. Now, if you are considering taking the RV down to the Sound, may we suggest that you book ahead of time? The Lodge is the only place to overnight here. No Freedom Camping allowed anywhere. You have been warned.

Also, and a strange point, but there IS a petrol pump facility in Milford Sound, in case you have read reports that say that there aren’t any. I think that these reports are written by the inhabitants of Te Anau to scare you into thinking you won’t make it back to Te Anau on one tank. Not true.

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Once we had checked in, we drove down into Milford itself to see what everyone had been screaming about for us to see. The Sound and the Mountains themselves……….

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Goodness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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If you can picture a place so vast that it is not possible to put a scale to things, and then note that this lack of scale echoes from canyon to canyon and from ripple to ripple, you will be some way to picturing just how BIG and beautiful Milford Sound is.

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“Oh yes. That waterfall over there is 300m tall!”

“What you see over there, is actually 9km away!”

“That little cliff over there, is actually 3 times the size of the Eiffel Tower!”

AND SO ON.

These comments filtered through our minds as we tried to grasp the enormity of the area and, OH My, how beautiful it is.

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The mountains crash straight down into the Sound, carved through 3 glacial periods, into their current forms. One of the captains on one of the cruise boats told us that Milford Sound had been hidden for many many yeas from the sea adventurers as one can’t see it from the Tasman Sea and, should you stumble across it by accident, the water is too deep for the old boats to have been able to set anchor. At 400m vertical depth under the keel, within a few short metres of the mountains, you can understand why it took a long time to settle here. Amazing!

When we arrived there, we had perfect blue skies, so, as we were told that Milford Sound is overcast 2 days in 3, we decided to take a tour boat cruise up the Sound, into the Tasman Sea and back, to enjoy the experience. And what an experience!

Pushing down the Sound towards the Tasman Sea, sometimes drifting within a few metres of the vertical rock faces, and then trying to imagine 3 Eiffel towers stacked one on top of another, took our breathe away.

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Mitre Peak is almost 1700m straight up.

We came to one of the waterfalls, The Fairy Falls, and drove almost straight into the rock face so we could see the torrent up close and personal. Wow! Excellent boat skills by the captain.

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Then off slowly up towards the opening into the Tasman Sea, before turning back and traversing the east coast, passing Stirling Falls,

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sun-bathing seals and super large dolphins, even larger, if that were possible, than those we had seen in the Bay of Islands so many days ago. They too took delight in jumping over the wake the boat made.

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The journey, though, sadly came to an end and we disembarked and went over to the “Blue Duck” restaurant (Only restaurant in Milford) for a coffee and a recap. Such a beautiful place, No wonder Rudyard Kipling called it “The 8th Wonder of the World”

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The skies stayed calm all day and into the night, so the stars this time, with no interference from the full moon, were amazing to see. Unfortunately I had no time lapse camera with me, so wasn’t able to capture this “even vaster vastness” of space, compared to the vastness we had seen here at Milford Sound.

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Just a quiet, grateful moment, thanking God for this opportunity to share in His creation….

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Night night.

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Day 26 – Queenstown to a Nazghul flight, Bungee Jump extreme, River Anduin, Lake Wakatipu, Mirror Lakes and things that go “BUMP” in the night!

day 26

We set off after breakfast with a mission in mind.

As we might have mentioned a few times, we do like LOTR and today we wanted to find a few sites that some scenes were filmed from. The first was a few miles from Queenstown.

Arrowtown is a lovely small town near Queenstown and is often overlooked by its more popular neighbour, but it is here that one of the scenes where the 9 Nazghul crossing the River Isen, was filmed.

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We got to the car park and read the blurb on the particular site, which included, “You may need to wade across the river in ankle deep water”. This didn’t sound too bad really, so off we trundled in search of this place.

Getting to the spot in question, we both looked blankly across what we thought had been described as a “little, of no consequence, hardly running at all and definitely NOT deep”, river. Here we were, looking across at a fast running, boulder stopping, 20m or more wide rapid flowing cauldron of water and mayhem…..

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“Let me try to go across first, sweetheart”, I said helpfully.

Now, I don’t know who’s ankles were being referred to in the blurb but, as I gallantly tried to ford this raging, icy, rock-strewn torrent, my ankles quickly disappeared under the water, followed by my knees and then thighs and all the while, trying to wade through freezing cold water. I was thinking that the author of this particular fact sheet was perhaps having a LARF!!!!   Still, I eventually made it to the other side, shivering.

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Mitch, of course, had the camera……

On the other side of the river……..

She took one step in……..

“I am not friggin going any further!!!” she hollered, as her mouth turned blue. Or at least, I think that’s what she said, as I was still finding it hard to hear, having my eardrums frozen into rigid objects.

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Luckily, my phone was with me and still relatively dry so I captured the exact scene you see in the film and felt mighty proud of the moment. You are lucky enough to see it here…. (The things we do for these blogs!)

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Of course, stupid me, I now had to figure out how to get back across, and as my legs still felt like mush, I did not trust the, “toe-probing-under-the-water-to-find-the-boulder-which-is-NOT-moving-so-I-can-stand-on-it” approach. Instead I wandered upstream to find another route, which was slightly less daunting, and re-crossed the torrent. Bare footed, I then walked back down the other bank, standing on sharp rocks, thistles and anything else deemed ready to try to scrape all my skin off my toes. I got back to the start of this “interesting” odyssey to find that Mitch had disappeared!

“Where are you?” I shouted, for a few minutes, worried that she had tried to find an alternative route across further upstream and that at any moment, I would see her being swept off down the river for me to dive in once again and save her!

I would have done so…… of course….. eventually!

“I am up here” she cried, “sun-bathing!”

A few choice expletives later, and I joined her at a rock mound, probably dedicated to the many people who had been drowned whilst trying to take a picture of this “inconsequential scene”

Nutters!

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Once I thawed out, we drove off to the next LOTR site, which was close to the original AJ Hackett Bungee Jump platform off the Kawarau Bridge. (Apparently the first place in the world where Bungee jumping was attempted… Wonder which fool was the first to try this leap into the unknown, with said, dental floss attached to their ankles and nothing else?)

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The second site was to try to find the scene where the “Pillars of the Kings” was filmed on the “River Anduin”. This was filmed just down from the Kawarau Bridge on the Kawarau River, which flows out of Lake Wakatipu and has carved itself through the rocky strata, creating amazing forms. And it is this river, that the bungee jumpers decide to attempt “dive suicide” by plunging into it head first, with dental floss attached to their bodies.

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Children as young as 10 were jumping off when we got there. Some squealing with delight, others screaming out the most foul profanities as they fell for 1.2 seconds before they disappeared under the water……..to emerge wet and wild, hollering with delight as the elasticated cord brought them back from the brink.

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Mad, mad people!

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The scene in question, was the one on the River Anduin (in the film) where the travellers paddle up the river and pass between two kings sculpted out of the craggy mountain faces.

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After enjoying looking at the Bungee jumping, we went on to a vineyard, where this particular view could be seen. Deep blue and jade water courses through the rock here, and again, it is well worth a visit, especially if you like wine, because the view is from Chard Farm Vineyard (small plug there!), one of the best in the region. An obligatory wine tasting later and a few photos of the LOTR site, and off we went again on our next adventure.

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NOTE: If you do go to Chard Farm, please do not drink too much, as the return journey down a hairpin sandy road with a million foot drop to one side down into the raging torrent below, is quite daunting, especially if you are the passenger!

We drove down the east coast of Lake Wakatipu, stopping every now and again to drink in the view. As most lakes, Wakatipu is vast and it took over 50 minutes before we left it behind on our way to Te Anau and the start of the Fjiorlands.

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Stopping for provisions at Te Anau, after about an hour’s drive, we then headed towards Milford Sound up route SH 94. The Fjiordlands have a number of Sounds including “Doubtful” and of course, the most famous of them all, “Milford”. We drove through the first forest, which is where the “Fangorn” scenes were shot in LOTR, which was lovely as well, but soon, the sun started to settle and we looked for a place to park up for the night.

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Before this, however, we stopped at a place called “Mirror Lakes”. Why? You might ask. Because they reflect the mountains just like a mirror and the scene is stunning. Have a stop and see for yourself when you next pass them.

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We continued on and decided to stop at a place called “Knobs Flat”. For no other reason than it sounded funny! We camped up in a quiet motorhome park. (I think we were the only ones there), got dinner organised, watched episode 2 of “The Hobbit” on the inboard TV and settled down for the night, falling asleep…….

2 AM…….

T…H…U…M…P!!!!

Something gi-normous had landed on our roof and was now clattering around looking to do mischief.

A mind, coming out of deep sleep and disturbed in this way, is not rational and conjures up many scenarios, almost none of which are based on reality!

Everything from a rat trapped between the roof and the ceiling, ready to gnaw through and fall on us, to a monkey, squirrel and even a bear attack filtered through our groggy heads. Whatever it was though, despite all our banging around and shouting and hitting the ceiling, it was not going away.

Someone had to go out and confront it!…..

I discovered at this moment, that RVs do NOT come with dangerous weapons as part of their arsenal, so, armed only with a head torch, a frying pan and a wooden spoon, good ol’ “Muggins” here ventured out carefully into the pitch blackness, fully expecting “IT” to be waiting for me and jump on my head.

I went out and closed the door behind me, to protect Mitch in case I was ripped to shreds and was left a bloody mess on the parkland for her to find in the morning……..

Silence……….

Looking up, I was confronted with the largest bird I had ever seen, apart from an Ostrich, peering from the roof. It was calmly looking down at me as if to say, “Yes? Can I help you?” It certainly did NOT look as if it was scared of me despite my garish outfit.

The silence was by now, too much for Mitch to bear and she called out, “What is it?”

……………… “It’s a bloody Parrot!” I said

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Keas are large parrot looking birds that seem to occupy this region and are known for chewing the rubber from cars, or chewing anything else they can get their beaks in to. We were not aware that such birds existed, otherwise we would have been informed, and prepared.

I eventually chased it away with loud shouts and clashing of my trusty frying pan weapon, “Isuldur the oven-ready”, climbed back into the RV, fell into bed feeling as if I had saved my damsel in distress, and fell asleep.

If anyone was outside at the time and has filmed this and it now resides on Youtube, please tell me. It must have looked so funny from an outside perspective.

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Night night… yawn

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Day 25 – Chillin in Queenstown

day 25

We took a lazy day off after Mitch had done some more studying and wandered down to the harbour for a lovely coffee. Afterwards we went up on the gondola to the viewing platform overlooking the town and Lake Wakatipu.

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Queenstown is the Bungee Jump capital of the world and at the top of the gondola run, a small-ish platform exists for those mad enough to want to jump off into space with just a bit of dental floss attached to their ankles! There is also a luge run and, if that’s not enough, it also boasts a mountain bike assault course straight down the very steep mountain, just in case there are any brain cells left to destroy at the foot of the mountain, after plummeting off into space on the bungee cord.

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We just enjoyed the view!

Queenstown is a great combination of scenery and activity. It doesn’t shout from the rooftops. In all honesty, it doesn’t need to. Its popularity is self-perpetuating. Within the Visitor Centre at the top of the mountain, there is a large collage made of peas. it was great to step away from the detail to see a very clever picture emerging.

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After an exhilarating time on the viewing gallery, we descended and spent a few hours browsing the various stores. Mitch went back to Yaks and Yetis to buy a few things and I wandered off to find a 3D simulator experience event. Shooting Zombies and trying not to be scared out of ones socks, is called “fun” in Queenstown!

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That night, after a long day, we went to the Cinema and watched “Fury”, starring Brad Pitt. As if the day’s excitement was not enough, we still felt that a bit of blood and gore was needed to really settle us for the night!

Mad people!

Night night.

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