Aug 8th, 2014
A "selfie" of Grum

HNZ DAY 9
We are early up, and away with the first stop at Roaring Billy Falls. This is a short walk through stunning, mature Podacarp forest, giving access to the Haast River, and the recently accessible river bed. It's all out on the stones and heads down hunting for Pounamu. The stones are all very pretty, as they are wet from the overnight rain, but the stuff that looks like Pounamu, (I'm no expert) really stands out. Great views up and down the river Valley too, oh and did I mention Roaring Billy Falls...

The next stop is a tall waterfall that I don't normally stop at as the car park is often crammed. But the 100m walk is worth it. Gosh NZ has some stunning scenery.

The Gates of Haast with its roaring water is a must see stop. It never fails to muster ooohs and aaaahs. The work done to stabilize the bank and the bridge are testimony to the power and strength of nature.

Fantail Falls are always a good bet after a bit of rain, so a short stop there is worth while. However, too much rain at the Blue Pools really spoils the spectacle, so we didn't stop, seeing as we had been out to Hokitika Gorge anyway.

It's not a long drive from here to Wanaka, via Lake Hawea. Ian is excited about arriving here, as one of his main reasons for visiting NZ is the Warbirds over Wanaka at Easter. He is pleased to be able to suss out the scene before the throngs arrive.

A quick lunch and shuffle of gear on the shores of the lake, and we are off up the Matukituki Valley to Raspberry Flat. The road is pretty rutted, but with the recent wet keeping the dust down, and the herds of cattle and flocks of sheep on the road, the trip doesn't take too long.

There are a lot fewer people out here than last month, and with a cool wind on our backs, it is a pleasant two and a half hours walk up to the Aspiring Hut. Warden Paul provides a cheerful greeting. There are only another three people in the hut, and Aussie Trevor has the fire going to warm us up. A three course meal: cheese and crackers, soup, pasta, pesto, sun dried tomatoes and olives, followed by a date and apricot loaf for dessert. We didn't manage the dessert, and left enough of the main for Karen to be excited about her breakfast.

Convincing all the hut occupants to play a round of Pink Possum resulted in a breakdown of barriers, and a round of Oh Bother kept the jovial mood flowing. Then a few went in search of Glowworms across the swing bridge. I was happy to crawl into my sleeping bag.


HNZ DAY 10

A gentle southerly is blowing up the valley, clearing the cloud cover, and exposing the ridges. The scenery is startlingly different from our walk in. The Kea (New Zealand native Parrot) have visited early this morning, but only Paul the warden sees them. Susan is a little disappointed. 


The friendly, but elusive on this trip, Kea


We are heading back down the valley, and up to the foot of Rob Roy Glacier. The group are hardened trampers now, and I release them to walk to the swing bridge in their own time, while i follow on behind. This gives me a good chance, and the first chance in 10 days, to have a little Grum time. Often, small groups hike together, and as I catch up I hear snippets of some very interesting conversations. Having been together so long, over two weeks for some, new friendships and bonds have grown. It's great to see it happening.

We cross the swing bridge. Susan is still not happy doing so, perhaps because Ian and I tend to make it bounce and sway a little more than it might normally. Still Susan is a good ole cowgirl from Austin Texas, and takes it in her stride.

We are back on the "tourist route", but even so numbers are not huge, and I am challenged by the group to swop my shirt with a tourist's shirt...preferably a good looking Scandinavian lady. I manage to exchange my orange hat for a very colourful warm fleece Jacket, with a very pretty young lady from Germany, but when I start to walk away after the photo with the jacket still on she is quick to chase me. Chris and Karen (from Seattle) do not allow me to claim success. A jacket is not a shirt...... maybe tomorrow.

The sun comes out as we sit below the Glacier, and we soak the warmth in as we watch the scene above us change. The Cloud at Glacier level changes continually. Even more photos would have been taken if the sun hadn't been in the wrong spot. Once again, a common place to see Kea disappoints. I'm unsure where they have disappeared to. Often the Kea turn up here in twos or threes. One does a dance in front of the tourists, while the others raid the lunch bags behind the watchers.

It's really nice walking down the track with a light pack. We have stashed most our gear at the bottom of the climb, and just taken snacks, water and cameras up the hill. Chris is struggling with a sore knee, but copes really well. Once we have our packs on, it's only 20 minutes back to the van. It's always great completing a nice walk, and getting out of your boots.

Just over an hour later we are in the Cardrona Pub, sipping on a Ginger beer. The log fire is pumping out the heat, and although it's not really all that cold, it's a lovely atmosphere.

Another hour and after a stunning drive over the Crown Range, and for me a reminder of the grind up from Arrowtown on my bike in July, we are at Pinewood Lodge in Queenstown. Three nights in the same accommodation is a welcome break from having to pack every day. I spend a couple of hours sorting the van and trailer, while the others shower and do laundry. They are all off on a bus and cruise to Milford tomorrow. I have a day off......Lots of sleep is on the cards.....


HNZ DAY 11&12

Everyone is off to Milford today on a Jucy Bus and Cruise. It's a long day, but the scenery is amazing, the commentary educational, and today the weather is pretty good, so they will have a good day. I'm staying in Queenstown and resting up. I do a fair bit of sleeping, and go for a long walk along the lake Shore.

Spot the new "shark". It speeds across the lake, and then dives below the surface. Interesting ride. The other new attraction is the guy standing on jets of water. Seems to move around by titling his body left and right. The somersaults are impressive. Not for me today.

I would have liked a bike ride, but a group of oldies have hired them all, practicing for the rail trail tomorrow.....except Margaret, who returns her bike as she can't handle the bar...... She's unsure how she's going to cope if her hire bike tomorrow is the same make.....

The Jucy bus arrives back after nine. Everyone has had a great day. Seals, dolphins, fantastic scenery, but really tired. Seems we won't be going far tomorrow.

Sleep ins for most this morning, except Ian, who has been out since first light taking photos. Annette and Susan are planning a paragliding trip, and Chris and Karen are off for brunch and a quiet walk around the peninsular. I get to relax a bit. Do a quick grocery shop, pick the girls up from their flight, and clean up the tents and sleeping bags.

Everyone meets at 6.30pm to share their days experiences, and to take me out for a meal. We have chosen Mexican. Great choice. Yummy food. Everyone is rested and ready for our next adventure. Tomorrow is Aoraki Mt Cook, and my 60th birthday. Don't feel that old, and am looking forward to tomorrow's and next months adventures.

Ohh yummy, birthday treats

HNZ DAY 13

Jeepers creepers. My 60th birthday today. Certainly don't feel that old. Have too many adventures planned to slow down. My lovely group present me with a song and a kiwi hat at breakfast. Thanks Anne. How am I meant to make this trip about them when you tell them it is my birthday...... Still I muddle through. Then just as we are about to leave there are all sorts of delays..... Until Annette turns up with a huge birthday cake. Later transpires that Anne and Dan have continued to be disruptive...... But the cake is very yummy. (Thanks Hiking New Zealand)

Off to Aoraki Mt Cook today. Try a last ditch effort to get Susan to bungee, but the concerted cry from all in the van is " no way...." As you would expect, the scenery heading south is spectacular. NZ has such a variety of landscapes so close together, even I am impressed and I drive through here often. I pass by my normal climb to the summit of Lindis Pass as it is covered in cloud. Unfortunately everything North of the is cloudy..... What are we going to find at Mt Cook?

We stop off and buy some fresh salmon. Baked salmon, mashed Kumara, and my special cauliflower and broccoli salad tonight. Great birthday dinner. Hope they like it.

For once the view point above Pukaki is empty. We stop for an early lunch. The view towards Mt Cook is wet, but the lake is like a mirror. Before we have even set up, several vehicles arrive and we have several gorkers, watching us prepare lunch. I reckon they're after my cake. One Aussie guy is very reluctant to leave, until his missus drags him away. Lunch and cake are fantastic, which matches the view.

As we drive towards White Horse car park, it looks as if the cloud cover reaches up to the Sealy Tarns then clears. I decide we need to go for a climb. We will be passing through the cloud, but if we are lucky, we might get a good view above the lower cloud level. A couple of the group find the climb a bit tough. We arrive at the Sealy Tarns picnic table in dense cloud...except Chris is not there...... Yep, a couple saw a guy fitting his description about 15 mins above the turnoff. Oh well. I was going to suggest we climb a little higher anyway. I yell for Chris. Annette gives a fantastic "get in behind" whistle, and we continue climbing. 5 mins later we find Chris. He heard the whistle and was "getting away back". We climb up to him and the cloud parts....... Amazing scene. I'm a bit slow to get my camera out, and it disappears, so we wait. After about 10 mins, the same clearing happens. Like magic, there are mountains in front of us. Totally worth the climb is everyone's verdict.

We make slow progress down to the Tarns as a couple are not too comfortable on the steep terrain. I chat to a guy from Warkworth, a retired teacher. Seems he and his wife are joining me for my Vietnam ride in December. Great. Who else is coming?

The evening meal is as delicious as expected. The kitchen is busy, including a family from Melbourne who have just walked the Routeburn. Another great day, doing a job I love.

Thanks to all those that have sent me birthday greetings. I haven't been able to see them all as I've run out of data time on my phone. Tomorrow.

One more day of paid employment...... then it's fulltime adventuring.....


HNZ LAST DAY LAST LAP

Mt Cook village


My last day of work........ The cloud cover is still about, but Sefton Glacier is poking out, and from the right angle I reckon you could almost see the summit of Aoraki Mt Cook. We head down to the car park and the group are off towards the Hooker Glacier. DOC contractors have done a lot of work here, and there are two new bridges and the track is being up graded. 10 mins after departure another cloud sweeps up the valley off Pukaki, and the heavens open. Our second only, after Lake Matheson, walk in the rain. I always say....some people walk in the rain. Others simply get wet.....today we got wet....and cold, but the icebergs on the Hooker Glacier Lake were very pretty....

Back at the van by 11 am, a very quick change and it's away. We have three members that have early evening flights from Christchurch, and we want to get out of the rain before we eat some lunch. Before we are at Glentanner, most of the group are resting their eyes, and this continues all the way back to Christchurch....... Must have pushed them too hard, or maybe it's my smooth driving and the heater pumping.

We stop on the shores of Lake Tekapo for a feed, and then again at the Church of the Good Shepherd, because you have to.....

The weather seems to get worse the closer to Christchurch we get. Doesn't seem to worry the crew. Karen claims she got the best sleep of the trip between Tekapo and Yaldhurst. We arrive in Christchurch with plenty of time to spare, so I decide to find a coffee shop, allowing us to say or goodbyes. The first one I head to is shut, and the wonderful guide spends the next 20 mins lost in Avonhead....

We finally find a bakery that does takeaways, and are able to swop addresses and all that. Not the Cafe like setting I imagined, but hey a fitting end to one of my off itinerary trips. Finding the airport is not a problem, and last hugs and goodbyes are shared. This has been a very special group (my last?) and I feel pretty emotional. The remnants and I zip away into the city.

Later we meet and have a huge Lone Star meal. Susan reckons she can't recognize anything Texas about the place, but as usual the food is good, and there is more than ample.

It's close to 11 pm by the time I get home. I've had a long day, My last day of paid employment? (except for cleaning the rig tomorrow). Thank you Annette, Susan (& Sandra), Chris, Ian & Karen for such a memorable trip. Thanks Anne, Daniel & Malcolm for continuing to employ me, despite.......... its been fun. Now on to the next adventure.....




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