Looking southwest from Paraparaumu Beach




Karapiro to Picton

Picton to Woodend


Christchurch to Ashburton

Ashburton to Fairlie

Fairlie to Awamoko

Awamoko to Middlemarch

Middlemarch to Clyde

Clyde to Invercargill

Invercargill to Bluff

Bluff to Te Anau

Te Anau to Arrowtown

Arrowtown to Wanaka (Twice)

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MacKenzie Country and Twizel

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Fox Glacier to Hokitika

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Bluff to Te Anau - 26/02/2012 to 29/02/2012

Sunday morning we went to see the two most visited tourist spots of Bluff. Firstly the sign-post, supposedly at lands end, when we all know that Slope Point in the Catlins is actually the southern most point of the South Island. However Bluff is far more accessible for the common tourist and vandal; the sign post has been vandalized so many times in the past they have had to make it from metal to slow the attrition rate.

The second most visited site is Bluff Hill and vandals had been there as well and removed the 'no campervans' sign from the bottom of the extremely steep hill. The non-greenies had also been there and clear felled most of the hill, making a clearer 360 degree view of the bottom of the South Island, Stewart Island, Tiwai Point Aluminum Smelter and the dying Bluff township. We drove back to Edendale to dump our waste once again (and look for the lost waste valve). Did you know the world’s biggest raw milk processor sends milk samples everyday to the Waikato for testing - yet more food miles!

We went north to Mataura, small town famous for Justin Marshall, a waterfall and a paper mill. At my first accountancy job we sent letters to important clients on special paper which had a Mataura Falls Bond water-mark. Having no idea at the time where Mataura was it Mataura Fallshas been an extreme let down to finally see the place which is yet another run-down town whose welfare office is probably now the mainstay of the community. Clinton, also a small town, thinks they are slightly better than others and their welcoming signs say they are a “three horse town”. Never saw them, so we did a u-turn and followed the presidential highway from Clinton to Gore (think America if you don’t get why it is called the presidential highway).

Gore, known as the country music capital of NZ also didn’t live up to our expectations. There is no sign of any country music in Gore, no events, no big statute, not even a cowboy in town singing about his girl leaving hicreamota factory gorem. No, Gore has an old Creamoata factory, a big trout statute, fishing shops and is more famous for brown trout. We stayed the night at the A&P Showgrounds, across the road from the Town & Country Club, ever hopeful somebody would break out in song or at least have the look, the boots and spurs, the boot lace tie or the metal points on their collar. All we got was a man walking his Siamese cat on a leash.

Monday we drove to Mandeville to do a geocache near an old train. There is an aviation museum there set up by some old guy who actually restores the planes to working order (also does flights). Roger went in (woman don’t know nothin' about planes) however I did notice that the guy was building himself a railway station out the back to go with his restored steam engine that also works; I'll bet there is a long suffering woman there somewhere.

We passed through more small towns like Lumsden and Mossburn, probably once bustling towns, but now just kept tidy to catch the passing tourist dollar at the café/dairy. Finally we got to Te Anau, the hub of the Fiordland National Park area, which is always expanding to meet the real tourist dollar. On my 4th trip here and Roger’s first, it lived up to all the picture postcard shots you see of the blue sky and native bush covered mountains reflecting in the calm waters of the lake. Then there are the tourists and the tourist shops and the sandflies, all equally as annoying as each other. 30 minutes in Te Anau and I had broken out in a sweat. I would like to think it was the hot weather but unfortunately I think it was the $685 spent in such a short time - $5 on low cost camping in someone’s backyard one block from the lake and shops, $650 on tourist attractions and $30 on refreshments to get over the $655 worth of pain.

Te Anau is famous for its walking tracks, but as I have already done a few we are here for relaxing and sedate tourist activities. So on Tuesday we drove from Te Anau to Milford Sound to use our first tourist package, a trip out around the Milford Sound in a boat. Getting to Milford is not so easy. They say to allow two and a half hours on the road to Milford but that didn’t include waiting for 2000 sheep to wander up the road, visits to natural landmarks already swamped by tourists, steep hills not made for camping buses, red lights on the 1.2km Homer tunnel and a dodgey GPS. At least when we got there Jim Hickey had got the weather wrong and the sun was shining on Mitre Peak, not raining as he had forecasted.

Mitre Peak, named after the bishops hat (or, Maori translation, the result of taking Viagra) is one of NZ's most photographed scenes. It is also the start of our journey out to the Tasman Sea and back, taking in simitre peak in the cloudsghts of seals, waterfalls etc and learning a lot about the history and geography of the area. Milford Sound is wrongly named and is actually a Fiord (glacier carved) not a Sound (river carved), it has a layer of lighter fresh water from the mountains sitting on denser sea water from the ocean; all information carefully filtered from the captain’s commentary for my earthcache [don't ask - Ed].

As I have managed to pick on Aucklanders and Southlanders so far, I may as well continue with Asians. As we queued for our cruise, a bus load of Asians arrived and immediately pushed in. They stormed onto the boat for the 100 minute cruise and headed straight for the diner. Then they came up to the viewing platform, spat everywhere, and then talked over the top of the PA system while they organized 50 photos of themselves in front of no particular land feature. We had formed an alliance with some Canadians not to be bullied, by the Asians, out of our viewing positions; however one Asian decided that fondling Roger may work - wrong, he got the Sonny Bill Roger treatment. The captain convinced them to go right to the bow and then drove under a waterfall, justice.

However it still required more tension release at the bar back in Te Anau; a miracle cure that is 3-star Speights. Wednesday’s more costly outing was a full day on 2 boats and 2 buses to see Lake Manapouri (NZ’s second deepest lake), Doubtful Sound and the Manapouri Power Station. Jim Hickey got the weather right for once as it was pissing down and cold. According to our guide that was a good thing because we get to see more waterfalls and there are no Te Namu (sandflies) when it rains that hard.

Manapouri, NZs only underground power station, is now manned by 20 people as opposed to the 1800 who built it within the rock. A lot of work considering it really only has one user. When operating to full capacity it parked up on Lake Te Anau waterfrontsupplies 85% of its power to the Tiwai Point Aluminum Smelter. However it isn’t at the moment because, you guessed it, the region has been experiencing a drought and the water levels do not allow the power station to run at full capacity. Our tour guide did explain that Fiordland’s annual rainfall is measured in metres and therefore a few weeks without rain does have a major affect on lake levels. Today’s weather to him was only a light shower and just enough to cause some waterfalls for the happy-snappy tourists, American’s are so easy to please!

Queue another opportunity to find a nationality to pick on. We have been learning American, it is the reverse of English: Stay in the building means go outside. Stay on the bus means get off. Remain seated means stand up and block the captains visibility. Sound of silence means talk. Sound of silence consisted of the captain taking the boat up a valley, stopping the motors and all other boat noises and asking everybody to be quiet to listen to the sounds of a rainforest. It is quite an impressive thing; that is, the sound of nature as well as, 90 silent Americans.

For my Dad, who brought me here many years ago to the power station, they have tunnelled another 10km tailrace in the rock and with the efficient dispersal of water, now produce more power for the same water throughput. Oh, and Roger supported the preservation of the lake levels in the '70s. Apparently it cost him 50 cents and the National Party the election. Next minute he will be chaining himself to Lucy Lawless and voting for Winston Peters' no immigration policy [Roger probably won't get around to the voting part - Ed].

Next page...


5,000km - At Homer Tunnel
Milford Sound and Mitre Peak
Descending from Homer Tunnel
Te Anau Lake - evening
Traded the motorhome in on this
In the museum at Mandeville
Tiwai Point smelter and local beach
Which way is a Pukeko to go?
Bluff end of Stewart Island's chain