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Multiple Perspectives on Te Anau

Thursday 12th November 2015

sunny 16 °C

Sadly it was our last day in Fiordland today and with the help of our host we had already decided to make the most of it. She was very helpful when we went to check out and arranged to have our bags taken up the the Real Journeys office later in the afternoon while we were on another boat trip. Once this was all sorted we made our way to the offices of Takitimu Tiki Tours and met Heath our guide/ driver for the morning. He initially showed us round the town and the edge of the lake and explained a bit of the history. We then went to a lookout from where we could not only see the whole of the town, but also the lake and the mountains beyond.

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He is a really lovely friendly guy and as well as talking about the history and geology of the area he also spoke about his family, his children and his English wife. Once we had finished admiring the view at the lookout we went to the river, the same one we had got on the day before with Luxmore boats but much further up near the dam.

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The water was a real emerald green but very clear and because it was shallower at the waters edge than it had been further downstream you could really appreciate the colours. We looked for trout, but there didn't seem to be many in that spot this morning. We then walked for a fairly short distance through the beach forest, which was at the end of a very heavy flowering year and so there was lots of pollen about.

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Once we had finished, Heath very kindly walked back and got the van. Whilst we were waiting I was listening to the sound of some of the beach trees creaking in the wind. Nigel then saw some discarded fishing line and as we were concerned about this hurting the wild life we wound it all back up and gave it the Heath once he arrived. We then made the fairly short journey back to the town. One of the crew on the Doubtful Sound trip had told us about a film that had been shot from a helicopter over the Fiordland National Park and that this could be viewed in a cinema in Te Anau. It turned out that Heath's uncle was the primary pilot and the person whose idea the film was, and so Heath played a short trailer of the film in the van.

We had time to go and have some lunch at the delicious if not so deliciously named Sandfly Cafe. We then went to watch the film the cinema specially built by the guy that made the film. It made stunning viewing and really gave a sense that you were up in a helicopter. It was so impressive that we bought a copy so that we could watch it again once we were back at home. It was then only a short walk to the lake from where we were catching the boat that would take us to the glowworm caves. The journey across the lake gave us another perspective on Te Anau and also up one of the fiords that leads off the main lake.

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The boat was pretty full and so once we arrived at the caves we were split into four groups and while some went straight into the caves the rest of had to wait a short while. We were in the second group and as soon as we entered the caves we could hear the loud sound of rushing water. As we continued along the raised metal walkway we were along side a fast flowing underground stream and several quite spectacular underground waterfalls. We then reached the small landing stage were we got on board a small boat and continued a little further along the river. It was here that we saw most of the glowworms. There weren't as many as we had seen in Waitomo and the experience wasn't as special but the cave itself was probably one of the most dramatic I had ever been in. We then went back into the visitor centre where we were given a cup of tea and had a short presentation on glowworms by our guide.

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Before long we were back on the boat and making our way back to Te Anau. Much to my relief our bags were waiting for us and we had just enough time to go and have a coffee before we needed to catch our bus. It was very full and we were quite lucky to be able to get seats together. It was a couple of hours back to Queenstown, and although there was a film showing our seats were too far back to see it, so Nigel listened to his music while I read my book with one eye on the scenery beyond the coach.

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It was about 7:30pm by the time we got back to Queenstown so it was quite a relief that we knew where to go, and our way around the hostel. So we just got some food and then settled in to watch the film The Fastest Indian (about a New Zealand motorcycle fanatic and starring Anthony Hopkins) that we hadn't been able to see properly on the bus.

Posted by Gill's Travels 00:59 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains trees queenstown rivers new_zealand te_anau Comments (0)

"A Pinch of Adrenalin and a Heap of Natural Beauty"

Wednesday 11th November 2015

sunny 18 °C

After a couple of busy days on Doubtful Sound we were happy to have a reasonably quiet day today. We had arranged to go on a speed boat trip up the Upper Waiau River which was advertised as "a pinch of adrenalin and a heap of natural beauty" which sounded just our cup of tea. We were picked up in a minibus from outside our accommodation. We found out that it was just going to be the two of us so we knew the whole trip would revolve around what we were wanting from it which is always nice. It was only a short drive to where the boat was waiting for us on Queens Beach, so named because the road to it was laid in anticipation of a visit by the Queen Mother. There was no need to get our feet wet as we could climb aboard while it was still on the trailer and it was launched once we were all comfortably seated.

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Mark our driver gave us a quick safety briefing and showed us how he would signal if we needed to hold on because he was going to put the boat into a spin. The river wasn't very deep but because of rocks and other debris in the water there was quite a lot of movement and a bit of white water. We were shown some of the local flora

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and Mark also pointed out a few of the locations on the river that Peter Jackson used for the filming of Lord of the Rings. We went up the river as far as the edge of Lake Manapouri that we had crossed yesterday on our way back from the Sound. It gave us a very different perspective on the Fiordland scenery.

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On our way back we did a couple more quite gentle spins which was good fun and Mark also stopped the boat for a while so we could look for trout. We saw quite a few and I was surprised as to how large they were, certainly more than a meal for one. Once we were back on dry land, we paid for the trip and were then taken back to our motel.

We had decided to gave a quiet afternoon and so we walked into town and got something to eat. We also packaged up some of the presents we had bought for family back home and posted them by air mail so that they should arrive in plenty of time for Christmas.

Posted by Gill's Travels 00:29 Archived in New Zealand Tagged boats rivers new_zealand te_anau Comments (0)

En-route to a Sunny Wanaka

Wednesday 4th November 2015

sunny 16 °C

We are leaving Franz Josef today and ironically the weather has chosen to clear so we woke to a bright and sunny morning. Although it is a shame that we had not had better weather whilst we were here it was promising something a little better for when we arrive in Wanaka which is our next destination. In the meantime we were able to appreciate the mountain peaks of Franz Josef whilst walking to the bus stop in the centre of the town.

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Ours was the first pick up point of the day and so we could pretty much sit were we wanted and thinking that this would afford us the best views we had opted for seats on the left hand side. There was a bit of a debate as the bus company have introduced a no food policy after a number of spillages had stunk the coaches out. Some of the non English speaking travellers seemed very confused and quite determined to take their food on board rather than have it stowed away in the luggage compartment. Eventually the driver seemed to get his point of view across and everyone got back on board the bus.

When we first left the town we crossed some farmland in the northern end of the glacial valley and then a couple of small streams on our way to the town of Fox Glacier where we had to pick up a few more people.

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As is the case with Franz Josef, it appeared that the glacier itself was quite a long way from the town. I didn't think the town looked as nice as Franz Josef but maybe having stayed there I am a little bit biased. We could still see the mountains on our left as we passed over a number of pale milky blue melt water streams.

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As we travelled further, the road ran nearer to the higher peaks and the streams became more like rivers. Not long after we crossed the Karangarua River we arrived at the coast near Bruce Bay. Like so many of the beaches in New Zealand this was littered with drift wood washed down the rivers.

Shortly after this we turned inland we pulled up at the South Westland Salmon Farm and Cafe just before the wide braided Paringa River for a comfort break. We crossed another couple of rivers, all flowing northwards into the Tasman Sea, before arriving back at the coast again at a place called Knights Point.

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We stopped again so that we could have a view of the coastline and the nearby seal colony which we could just see basking on the sand in the distance. The next time we turned inland we were alongside the wide Haast River which is near the location of another scenic lookout known as the Thunder Falls in the Mount Aspiring National Park.

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We stopped here long enough to go and look at the falls and for our driver, and the one going towards Franz Josef, to swap over so that they could then drive back to their start points. Once our driver and all us passengers were back on board we continued by the Haast River until which we reached what is known as the Haast Gates. This has a series of cascades and it also marks the start of the Haast Pass.

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At about 1pm we stopped at a cafe in place called Makarora where we were able to buy lunch. From there it took us about half an hour to get to the northern end of Lake Wanaka. Due to the topography we continued for a few miles along the eastern shore of the lake before the road turned and went up and over a pass called The Neck and back down onto the western shore of the neighbouring Lake Hawea. Lit

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For the very last leg of the journey the road travels inland southwest across farming land near the Hawea River until we finally arrived in the town of Wanaka at about 2:30pm.

We got our bags off the bus down by the lake shore and asked the driver if he knew where our hotel was located. Rather frustratingly he sent us slightly further round the lake than we wanted to go so by the time we realised our error and walked back, dragging our bags behind us, we were feeling a little weary. We were compensated when we checked in and were shown to our room, which was upstairs and on the corner with great views of both the lake and the mountains. Once we were settled in we thought we ought to confirm our cruise on Doubtful Sound as instructed on our voucher. We were very upset and concerned when they told Nigel that we weren't booked in. When they made further investigations they found that we had been booked in twelve months previously. After a couple of conversations back and forth they said that they could accommodate us in a quad room and after further debate they were able to put us in a quad/ family room that meant that we wouldn't be sharing with anyone else and that would have our own bathroom.

To be fair it wasn't their fault and we knew fairly early on that the error was made by our booking agent (a large and reputable company with a branch in Norwich). I was doubly annoyed because they had so little to arrange as I had booked almost all of our hotels. We contacted them through their emergency contact number and told them what we had been able to secure and asked them to ensure that the money they had taken from us went to pay for our newly booked cabin, and also we asked for some explanation/ apology for what had happened. This cruise is one of the highlights of our while trip so this issue has been pretty upsetting. We didn't feel much like eating, but we went out to a local restaurant where I order some lovely lamb chops and Nigel had some sausages. We both felt pretty full by the time we went back to our apartment we were still feeling a bit down in the dumps.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:32 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rivers new_zealand wanaka franz_josef Comments (0)

Exploring the Franz Josef Glacier

Monday 2nd November 2015

rain 12 °C

We had made some enquiries about doing a guided walk along the glacial valley but the guy Mike hadn't got got back to us so we weren't that hopeful. We got up quite early and as soon as it was reasonable to do so, rang him up to check whether he was able to accommodate us. He was a bit vague about whether he had got my confirmation email and didn't seem to have any free slots. He also runs the town glacier shuttle service which takes people from town centre hotels to the car park nearest to the glacier. We agreed that it might be as well for us to do the walk unguided and arranged for Mike to pick us up at our hotel at 12:45, which he duly did and so we arrived at our starting point just after 1pm. Mike explained to us briefly what short walks were possible and the best order in which to do them.

The main walk would take us near to the snout of the glacier. The footpath started at the end of the car park and took us a short distance through typical New Zealand forest. It then opened out into the wider river valley, much of it filled with moraine with several small glacial meltwater streams.

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We crossed the nearest one on small stepping stones and then the clearly marked footpath took us past the appropriately named Trident Falls and along the valley floor.

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The snout of the glacier was visible for part of the walk, and the colours of lichen and moss on the rocks gave quite a bit of colour to what otherwise was quite a grey landscape. After about two kilometres we reached the old terminal face of the glacier. It was at this point that the walk became quite steep and we had to be a bit careful as the gravel was a bit unstable. After a few ups and downs we reached the roped barrier beyond which it isn't safe to walk.

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The Franz Josef Glacier is quite unusual in that the snout is only about 300 metres above sea level. Generally it is retreating at the moment, probably due to a mixture of lower than average snowfall and global warming. This means that huge lumps of ice are prone to break off making it dangerous to venture beyond the barrier. The weather had closed in a bit and so we had a limited view of the glacier but it was still very spectacular. We were very lucky because whilst we were sitting admiring the view and munching our way through some fruit, a kea was jumping around amongst the walkers.

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Kea are the only truly alpine parrot in the world and they are renowned for being highly inquisitive, which this one certainly was. We sat waiting and hoping that the weather would clear a little so that we would have a better view of the top of the glacier but this wasn't to be, we had already had the best of the day and if anything the weather was getting worse. After about half an hour we decided to make the walk back, and even though it was by now raining the misty views back down the valley were lovely.

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Although we could have had a pick up at 3pm we had decided that we wanted to spend more time walking, so once we got back past the trident waterfalls and on to the forest track we made a right hand turn and made the very steep but fortunately short walk up to Sentinel Rock.

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On a clear day we would have had great views of the glacier but in the drizzle we could only just make it out, however the view was very impressive nevertheless. Once we had finished looking at the view we walked back down and continued on the forest walk as far as the car park. There was a third short walk to a place called Peter's Pool which could be done as a short return walk or as a longer circular one.

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Once we got as far as the pool we decided to carry on a bit further but after about half a kilometre the path started to rise steeply. We continued for a short way but there seemed to be no let up. Given that we were getting tired and 5pm, when we were being picked up by the shuttle bus, was not that far away we decided to return the way we had come. We got back to the bus stop with about 10 minutes or so to spare. We stood and waited in the drizzle feeling a little sorry for the people who were only just embarking on the glacier walk. Mike picked us up on schedule and dropped us back at our hotel. We popped over the road in order to book ourselves a session at the Glacier Pools for tomorrow. We had enough to time to relax for an hour or so before going out to a nearby restaurant for dinner. We had a lovely but very filling three course set menu. Once we got back to our room we just wanted to relax and rest our slightly weary legs that were reflecting the fact that we had walked fairly tiring eight kilometres.

Posted by Gill's Travels 19:23 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes mountains rivers glacier new_zealand franz_josef Comments (0)

Letting Someone Else Take the Strain

Sunday 1st November 2015

semi-overcast 14 °C

We were awake pretty early this morning in order to watch the Rugby World Cup final. Given that we are now in New Zealand, and England have long since left the tournament, I was certainly hoping for an All Blacks win (sorry Australia). I thought that they were the better side in the first half, although perhaps a little slow to really get going. Once they did the match made great viewing. Australia seemed to rally a little in the second half but then the Kiwis ended in spectacular fashion and we and more than four million other people in New Zealand were very happy. After the match I dozed off for a while, but at 8 o'clock we decided that we really needed to get up and going if we were to check out of our accommodation by 10am. Once everything was loaded into the car we went and settled our bill and then we were soon driving the short distance south towards Greymouth.

Our bus wasn't leaving until after 1pm so we did have a bit if free time that morning. We did talk about stopping off somewhere but in the end went straight to the train station where we had to return the hire car and catch the bus. Once we were on board we settled back to enjoy the trip. The road hugged the coast for much of the journey and the driver pointed out places of interest and gave us some history on the way.

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We stopped for a break at Hokitika and the driver pulled up outside the National Kiwi Centre, a slightly strange and rather amateurish place that had some captive Kiwi birds in a darkened enclosure (presumably because they are nocturnal and therefore to reduce their stress and maximise the chances of seeing them). We had a quick look round and had just enough time to grab a cold drink before we were on our way again. The road continued near the coast before turning a short distance inland. We passed over a couple of rivers and we could see people with small traps trying to make the most of the last few days of the whitebait season. We then entered into the small town of Ross, which was established in the 1860's as part of the West Coast Gold Rush. At its height the town had about 2,500 residents but now there are less than 300 people living there. Our driver stopped and delivered newspapers to the shop here as well as in several other small towns and villages en-route, a good example of multi-tasking!

We also had a brief stop outside The Bushman's Centre in Pukekura (not a very enticing place name) to let one passenger off. This is a museum and cafe (with very mixed reviews) that has an extremely large model of a sandfly on the front gable end. I was quite relieved that this wasn't one of our scheduled comfort breaks.

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The weather then became very wet and miserable and the hills in the distance were shrouded in mist. We continued inland, past another couple of braided rivers before arriving at Franz Josef.

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Our driver very kindly dropped us off outside our accommodation which made things easy for us. We quickly checked in and settled into our very nice studio room. We had some time to relax and get our bearings before going up the street to a good local restaurant for a very filling dinner.

Posted by Gill's Travels 18:41 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rivers new_zealand gold Comments (0)

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