A Travellerspoint blog

November 2015

Akoroa Wildlife

Wednesday 25th November 2015

sunny 25 °C

Yesterday we moved on again and as ever, slightly frustratingly, there were at least another days worth of things that we could have done in the Lake Coleridge area. Once we had eaten breakfast, packed up and checked out we did think about having a look at the arboretum just up the road from where we were staying but it was starting to drizzle and so we decided against it. Instead we drove back up the valley in the direction of Christchurch and the Akoroa Peninsula. The journey wasn't one of our most exciting as much of the land we drove through was quite flat farm land, often with tall conifers either side of the road acting as windbreaks. Things changed though once we reached the Akoroa Peninsula as this is hilly with a lovely bay cutting into the centre.

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Whether looking at it on a map or driving around it is easy to see how this is the remains of a volcanic crater. Once we arrived in the town of Akoroa we went and found somewhere to have lunch as it was still too early for us to check in. The whole place has quite a French feel to it with many of the roads having French names and the brasserie we ate in having a distinctly French feel to it. The town and the restaurant were lovely and the weather was too, and it was probably the first day since we arrived In New Zealand really felt like summer. Once we had finished eating we drove the short distance to Coombe Farm and met Hugh our host who showed us around the Shepherds Hut. It is in a lovely setting, separate from the main house, but near enough to feel that he and Katherine are on hand if we need them. It is fitted out really nicely with all mod cons but with a great rustic feel with the outside bath/ shower and separate privy.

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For the rest of the day we just sat on the decking and enjoyed the sun and when it got too hot went in side and enjoyed the shade. We had plenty of snacks to eat when we got peckish in the evening and going outside in the dark to go to the loo has great novelty value when you only need to do it for a few nights.

This morning we woke up to the sun streaming through the windows and there was already some heat to the sun. Our cooking facilities consist of a gas barbecue on the decking and so Nigel prepared a cooked breakfast for us with the provisions provided for us by Katherine. We had already booked to go out and see some more penguins that evening but in the meantime we were happy to just relax and chill out on the farm. It remained hot all day but we knew we needed to get something to eat before we went on our trip as we would be returning late. Mid afternoon we went back into town, and having enjoyed our meal so much yesterday we decided to eat a at the same place. I had fish again and it was just as delicious. We then had time to wander round a bit and also go and pay for the excursion that we had booked for tomorrow. We sat down by the harbour front for a short while until it was about 6:30pm and time we needed to go and meet Avril from Pohatu Penguins. Their were 10 of us on the trip altogether plus another guy and his two children who joined us once we got to the bay. There was a mixture of English, French, German and a rather dominating American couple. She drove us in the rather noisy diesel van up a very steep road out of town.

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We stopped to take photographs of Akoroa Harbour a couple of times, and although the hills are not terribly high they are very steep so you gain height very quickly. Avril explained to us that we would be travelling through her uncle's farm land before we got to Pohatu Marine Reserve at the not particularly pleasantly named Flea Bay.

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The views as we drove across the farm were stunning and she explained about the area and answered the American couples numerous questions as we went. When we arrived at the farm house which is at the end of the bay, a couple of people were able to bottle feed some lambs

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before we were given our camouflaged ponchos and each couple were given some binoculars. Avril explained about the work that they do to try to protect the Penguins from predators and then showed us inside some of the nesting boxes as we walked up to the hides. It did worry me that the birds might be disturbed by us looking at them, but she was very careful as to how she did this and they also use this to monitor how many eggs/ chicks there are.

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There are three species of small penguins on Akoroa, the white flippered penguins, blue penguins (as we saw in Oamaru) and the very rare Yellow Eyed Penguins. The former two species sometimes interbreed but sadly of the latter they have only seen one breeding pair this year. We spent quite a long time watching the rafts come into the bay and up onto the shore. Having the binoculars meant that we could have a closer look at them and although they were a bit of a distance from us we were able to take some photographs before the light faded.

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The walk along the headland was a little bit tricky but not as precarious as I thought it might have been. We watched them until it was starting to get dark, by which time we really needed to head back using the little bit of day light we had. Once we got back in the van the moon was just beginning to come back over the headland. On our way back up the steep winding roads we saw lots of sheep, a few cattle and quite a lot of possums. Despite the fact that they are really considered to be a pest Avril carefully waited whilst they got out of the way. By the time we got back into town and then drove back to the hut it was nearly 11pm so we just had time for a cup of tea and a quick look at our photographs before we were ready to turn in for the night.

Posted by Gill's Travels 23:50 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Flexing our Walking Legs Again

Monday 23rd November 2015

semi-overcast 18 °C

It was our intention today to explore the area bit more and go for a proper walk. Most of the roads beyond the lodge are gravel and as much as we didn't like going on unsealed roads, if we were going to see anything of the countryside we were going to have bite the bullet so to speak. We drove back past the power station and along Lake Coleridge Road the way we had come yesterday. Just a few miles along there is a left hand turn called Homestead Road. Initially this is still tarmac but soon turned into a dirt road, but fortunately one with very little other traffic. Shortly after, it forks with the road to the right going to Lake Lyndon and then onto SH75 which goes up to Arthur's Path (visited by us when on the Transalpine Train). To the left Harper Road runs parallel but out of sight of Lake Coleridge. It was this road that we took continuing for about 25 minutes until we reached a small place between Lakes Evelyn and Selfie where we could pull off the road and park the car before starting our walk to Lake Ida. The weather up the valley looked quite threatening and we had a brief conversation with another walker to that effect. It was also very blustery and so we had coats and woolly hats with us. Initially the walk took us along level ground on the valley floor before the path started to wind up round the side of the hill between the two lakes.

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This gave us great views of Lake Evelyn and as we got out of the direct line of the valley, out of the wind. Gradually coats and hats were removed as we got warmer and we carried on climbing. The walk was graded as moderate due probably to the gradient and the narrowness of the track. Fortunately although quite steep in parts it wasn't too technically difficult and the track was clearly marked with orange posts and never went higher than about a third of the way up the hill. As we got round and into the next valley there were really nice views of the U Shaped glacier valley.

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The path levelled out for a while before starting to descend and curve round in towards Mount Ida and the lake. Once we entered into a small group of pine trees we knew that we were almost at our destination. The lake feels quite isolated and the wind picked up as it blew down the valley off the mountains.

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There is a disused lodge there that used to service skaters that would come to the lake in winter. For some reason the local farmer finally stopped the skating club from using it in 2001. Now it is falling into disrepair and slightly spoils the feel of the area. We sat down on a bench by the Lake and ate the lunch kindly packed up for us by Toni. After we had a little explore, Nigel had a good noisy round the lodge, we started to make our way back. The climb in this direction was more gentle although I trod quite carefully once we started to descend back into the valley between Evelyn and Selfie.

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We were both quite tired after our walk despite the fact that we had only covered just under five miles. Once back in the car we continued up the gravel road to what is known as the Harper Diversion which is where the Harper River has been partially diverted into Lake Coleridge in order to increase the water flow through the power station. We ended up near the top end of Lake Coleridge but couldn't get right up to the shore due to large amount of water flowing somewhat indiscriminately from the river.

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We traced our route about half way back along Harper Road and then turned down a side track alongside the Ryton River which then gave us much better views of Lake Coleridge and Peak Hill which overlooks it.

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By this point we were ready to go back to the Lodge and just relax for a couple of hours before we had another delicious meal served to us by Toni.

Posted by Gill's Travels 21:20 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

On the Road Again

Sunday 22nd November 2015

sunny 18 °C

I am becoming acutely aware of how near we are to the end of our travels and how few days we have left in New Zealand. Apart from one night near Christchurch airport, Lake Coleridge where we are going today is our penultimate destination. The journey was going to take us just under three hours and having said goodbye to Ban we were soon on our way. Once out of the Town we headed south to Fairlie and then through Burke's Pass skirting round the mountains that lie to the east of Tekapo.

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Once we reached the town of Geraldine we were ready for a break and so we stopped at a farm shop and cafe just out of the town for coffee. It had some great supplies in the shop but as we were having meals provided at the bed and breakfast in Lake Constance we didn't need to get any groceries. The road then turned northeastwards until we reached the southern slopes of Mount Hutt,

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the south islands premier skiing resort. As we had some time to spare we drove off the main highway to try to have a closer look at the mountain but the road quickly turned to gravel and so we turned round and went back. I understand that access to the mountain is problematic in the winter earning the mountain the nickname of Mount Shutt. By this time we were were approaching the Rakaia River and gorge of the same name. There are two bridges that span the river and we stopped for a short while to look at the view.

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The second of the bridges looked quite old and was undergoing some much needed repairs. There was a very steep winding gravel road that went off the the left just after the bridge but instead we continued straight on for a few more miles before taking the easier Lake Coleridge Road. About half way up to where we were going to be staying there is a golf course and hotel called the Terrance Downs Resort that I had looked at when doing our bookings but had rejected for the cheaper and more secluded Lake Constance Lodge. We decided to stop off en-route and have a cup of tea before driving the final few miles to the Lodge. Once we arrived we met our very nice hosts Dean and Toni and Dean showed us around and gave us a choice of rooms. Once we had settled in a had a cup of tea and slice of cake made by Toni, we went off to explore. The Lodge was the single men's quarters for the hydro electric power station just a few yards away. This was completed in 1914 and was built to generate electricity for Christchurch. It is powered by a number of intakes from Lake Coleridge and the water then discharges into the Rakaia River. It was fascinating snooping around and seeing the huge intake pipes coming down the hillside and then exploring the wide braided river.

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The Lodge still has the feel of a hostel whilst having the creature comforts of a nice bed and breakfast. There is a lot of information on the walls about the building's past and Dean and Toni have also introduced lots of extras to appeal to the tourist and corporate markets such as pitch and putt golf and a hot tub (neither of which we ended up using). Once we had finished exploring we had just enough time to go and freshen up before a great meal of lamb shanks followed by a panna cotta all prepared by Toni.

Posted by Gill's Travels 20:49 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Getting Some Fresh Air into the Lungs

Saturday 21st November 2015

semi-overcast 17 °C

Having had such a wet and windy day yesterday we really wanted to make the most of today. Rather than just walk around the lake we drove up Godley Peaks Road which runs to the west of Mount St John with its observatories and eventually leads to the foothills of the Southern Alps. We drove to the limit of the tarmac before turning left and driving on the unsealed lupin edged road past Lake McGregor

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and on to the much larger Lake Alexandrina. It wasn't that easy to get to the lake edge as both had camping grounds between the road and the water, but I was able to get quite near and take a couple of photographs. There was a small stream flowing into Lake Alexandrina and there were a couple of black swans there with very young cygnets over which they were being quite protective.

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I decided to leave them in peace and I got back in the car and we drove back down the road and parked up at the point that signals the start of the walk we had driven up here to do. It was a little bit confusing as to the way we were supposed to go. We had also seen on the notice board that the footpath is closed in November due to it being the lambing season, but there were no animals in sight and we reasoned that if it was really closed then there would also be signs on the gates, which there weren't. Anyway we hadn't driven there in order to be sent back and so we carried on. Initially the footpath went across open grazing land before it split creating the loop we would return on. The was then a bit of a climb to the top of the peninsula from where we had a great view, while being pretty windy.

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This seemed like a good place to take a some photographs as there were great views back down the lake towards Tekapo, across to Motuariki Island and Mount Dobson beyond and also up the lake towards the Southern Alps.

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Once we had admired the view we started to make the steep descent down towards the lake shore. This was quite tough and I ended up zigzagging my way down as I really didn't want to fall. Eventually we reached near the lake side and we were walking through gorse and birch trees. It wasn't long before the footpath started to go back up the hillside, although fortunately it wasn't as steep going up as it had been coming down. As we got back onto the relatively flat pasture land there were a large flock of sheep that hadn't been there previously. There were some quite young lambs but I don't think we caused them any stress and we felt reassured by the fact that we had seen several other walkers.

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It wasn't long before we were back at the car and once there we made our way up the side road to the Mount John Observatory. As we climbed up the hill the views got more and more stunning, although once we went to get out of the car we realised that the height had also bought strong winds with it. Our hosts Kaori and Ban had given us a $30 voucher to spend in the cafe and as it was gone lunchtime we were feeling pretty hungry. Just as we got there we were asked if we would like to go on a free tour of the observatories (I think this was because they had someone new to the job and she needed some people to practice on). It was really interesting being shown round, but I am not going to try and pass on the technical stuff partly because I didn't understand it all and also because what I did I am now struggling to remember. What did stick with me is the way in which astronomers working in the southern hemisphere seem to work completely independently of those in the northern hemisphere and visa versa. I get that they are looking at a different part of the sky but I still thought they would share more than they seem to on things like methodology.

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Once we had finished our mini tour we went and had a very late lunch making good use of the voucher we had been given. We then tried to defy the wind and take some photos of the amazing view of the peninsular where we walked this morning, as well as the lake, mountains and the town of Tekapo.

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From the top of Mount St John we could also see over to Mount Cook although the mountains in that direction were sitting amongst a lot of low cloud. To finish the day of we had decided to use the second half of our two day ticket for the Tekapo Pools. As we were driving there we passed a part of the lake beach that not only had lots of lupins but also a mass of yellow/ orange Californian Poppies.

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I got out of the car to take some photographs before we drove the rest of the way to the pools. We had another great soak, staying in the water for another couple of hours. It was a lovely way to relax after our walk, and a great way to end the day.

Posted by Gill's Travels 20:22 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

What to do on a Wet and Windy Day in Tekapo

Friday 20th November 2015

all seasons in one day 16 °C

The wind continued to howl round the house, shaking in on its metal stilts all night. It made it a bit hard to sleep and rather disappointingly we woke up to not just wind but torrential rain.

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Sometimes you just have to let the weather dictate what you do or don't do and this was one of those occasions. So we had a bit if a lie in and then a leisurely breakfast. We just did our own thing all morning, a chance for me to catch up on my blog and read, whilst Nigel listened to his radio. We had lunch and just as we thought the weather was improving the wind picked up again. Fortunately by late afternoon the wet weather was replaced by sun

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and we took advantage of this by dashing out to the hot pools that are by the lake just outside of town. They weren't quite as luxurious as the ones at Franz Josef but they made a great place to go. There are three pools heated to 36, 38 and 40 degrees respectively. It was great to just relax and feel the sun on our faces after such a grotty day. We stayed in the pools for a couple of hours and so when we got out we were a bit wrinkly but pretty relaxed. We got a take away on the way home (a bit grotty, but the exception rather than the rule) and relaxed by watching the sun go down over the hills.

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Posted by Gill's Travels 20:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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