After a wonderful 4 days in Wanaka it was time to set sail again. We had decided to splash out on an overnight cruise on the Doubtful Sound, so our destination was Te Anau.
In a normal 'sofa on wheels' you could do the Wanaka to Te Anau trip in around 4.5 hours. Given that the Tardis (aka the Kombi) is not exactly Vorsprung durch Technik we decided to stay overnight on the outskirts of Queenstown. The campground was the worst one we had stayed in so far. The available sites limited by the ramshackle shanty town of semi- permanent huts.
It did give us the chance to catch up with Duncan from Southernmost Classics. We had been having some dramas with the Tardis' sliding door, so Duncan came out for a chat.
Before arriving in Queenstown we wanted a taste of The Otago Rail Trail. This trail is lifeline for many of the small settlements along the 150km route between Middlemarch and Clyde. A shuttle dropped us off at Oturehua and we cycled the 44kms back to Chatto Creek Pub. That's where we parked the Tardis so it would have been rude not to plant our saddle sore bums on a bar stool for a beer and 'fush and chups'. This trail is another one of those 'must come back and do the whole thing' activities.
Te Anau was as far south as we had planned on driving. This small thriving town is the gateway to the Fiordland National Park, including Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound. After the disappointment of Queenstown this camp site was paradise. Stunning views of the lake from the bedroom window.
Our cruise started with a bus ride to Manapouri. From there we jumped on a ferry across Lake Manapouri. Then another short bus ride over to Deep Cove. Home for the next 24 hours was the 20m long Southern Secret. After stepping on board we enjoyed a lunch of crayfish, steak and various salads. This was going to be a great 24 hours. Our fellow passengers were four other couples, from NZ, England, USA and Australia. The boat had two crew. A salty old skipper and a gorgeous blonde Dutch girl.
Although the advertised penguins and dolphins failed to make an appearance, we did see several fur seals. The overcast weather with the clouds hugging the top of the peaks added more drama to the already spectacular views. Julie tried her hand at fishing for the first time. Call it beginner's luck but she managed to catch a blue nosed cod, a trevally, a dogfish and a small shark. This was also the first time Julie had ever slept on a boat. We had great 24 hours, fishing, chilling, drinking wine and getting to know our fellow passengers.
Having taken our time heading down the South Island it was time to head back north and put the pedal to the metal. We had to be on the Cook Strait ferry to Wellington in 4 days. Then on to Taupo for the Easter weekend and the 25th VW Nationals.
The road north from Te Anau took us over the spectacular Lindis Pass. Going up the hills was always slow but the old girl kept going. The bigger concern was coming down the other side. With brakes engineered in the seventies and the weight of the engine at the back, the right leg certainly got a workout.
We arrived at Lake Pukaki to find a young Aussie couple in a rented Kombi trying to fix the water pump that had flooded their home. A loan of a spanner or two helped get them on their way.
After another bike ride along the edge of lake we continued on to Lake Tekapo. We had only been in the campground for a matter of minutes before the camp manager rocked up. No we hadn't broken any camp rules, just another Kombi nut. Gavin had his own money pit and was heading to the VW Nationals as well.
Lake Tekapo is home to International Dark Sky Reserve. The observatory at the top of Mt John boasting one of best places in the world to see the night sky. Have to say that the $140 tour charge is as steep as the incline to the summit. Thankfully that night was cloudy so we had no regrets of not doing the tour.
The next day we nursed (several 1st gear corners) the Tardis to the top of Mt John to be rewarded with stunning views of the Mackenzie basin.
Heading north we skipped passed Christchurch and stopped the night at Hanmer Springs for much needed soak in the hot pools. With pools of various temperatures to choose from we slowly brought our aching bodies back to life.
With our time in the South Island ebbing away with alacrity we spent our second to last day in Kaikoura. In the afternoon we cycled through town and down to the peninsula where you can walk along the cliff tops to the seal colony.
I was up bright and early the following morning to jump on the Whale Watch tour boat. Which I might add cost just $5 more than the observatory tour and gave you a 80% refund if you don't see any whales.
Julie had done this trip a few years back with her sister Tracey. On that occasion they saw three different species of whales and 400 hundred dolphins. With my camera charged and ready we headed off out to sea. Three hours later we returned with not a single sign of any wildlife whatsoever. Did I mention that you get an 80% refund.....
Next stop, Kombi, Kombi, Beetle, Beetle, Kombi.