March 15 – Left the Airport and drove back into Invercargill shopping area and found a carpark near E Hayes (Hammer Hardware) Store. This is a working hardware shop that is scattered throughout with the Hayes family collection of vintage motor cycles, cars, engines and other items. Biggest drawcard is the ‘original‘ Indian Motor Cycle that Burt Munro took to the USA in 1967 and set a World Speed Record for 1000cc of 183.586mph and that record still stands today. Also on display is the Velocette Bike that Burt modified which achieved a speed of 138mph. Burt Munro gave the ‘Indian’ to the Hayes family to ensure that the bike stayed in New Zealand. Other ‘Indian’ bikes on display (including the one in the Invercargill Museum) are replicas. It was all very interesting and it all gave the film of the events a lot more meaning.
We also visited the Invercargill Museum today – they have a live Tuatara display and upstairs different things relating to Antarctic Expeditions, shipwrecks and stories of survival on the outlying southern islands (The Snares, Auckland Islands, Campbell Island). How early hunters almost wiped out the total populations of species of penguins and seals. And the ‘replica fastest Indian’, of course.
Next day we drove to Bluff to have a look around – started with a detour to Omaui a little settlement near the New River Estuary outlet on the western side of the Bluff peninsular. A Domain and a walkway there and estuary quite scenic.
Next we stopped to do a little walk to the ‘ships graveyard’ at Greenpoint. A lot of old oyster boats have been run aground here to moulder away.
At Bluff we drove to Stirling Point (the end of SH1) and looked at the multi-signboard pointing to ‘everywhere’. Overlooks the Harbour Entrance and the water rushing out was pretty wild.
Walked around the area – old Signal Station building and views to Tiwai Point on the other side of the inlet.
Drove up Bluff Hill – fabulous views all around towards Stewart Island, Bluff Harbour and along the coasts.
A bit too hazy for good photos unfortunately.
Headed back to Invercargill and went back to the Amble On Inn Holiday Park for a couple of nights. Caught up on laundry again and gave our legs a bit of a rest up.
March 18 – Leaving Invercargill today but I wanted to visit Queens Gardens so spent and hour there having a look around.
Did some shopping for groceries, filled up with diesel and headed westward to Riverton.
Stopped there for lunch and then drove on to the free camp area at Colac Bay.
We didn’t stop there last time we passed through but the camp is right on the shore and quite picturesque. Can apparently get pretty windy here but our two nights were nice and calm.
March 20 – Back on the road to Tuatapere pass through again and continued northwards to Clifden where there is an Historic Suspension Bridge to see. Went for a walk and read up on the history of the area.
We then backtracked a few k’s to take the side road to Lake Hauroko which is New Zealand’s deepest lake at 462 metres. It drains via the Wairaurahiri River into Foveaux Strait west of Te Waewae Bay and this 20km stretch of river is the steepest that is commercially jet-boated in NZ. The trips take people to a Lodge on the Hump Ridge Track and back – reckon it would be quite exciting. But it seems that the trip mainly targets groups and has minimum numbers…it also costsalot!
We arrived at the Lake and went for a 40min bush walk it was drizzling but the canopy was so thick we didn’t even get wet. The lake itself was shrouded in misty rain. A bit gloomy so we drove 6kms back to the Thicket Burn DOC camp at the edge of the Fiordland National Park. A large grassy area and the rain cleared overnight.
Drove back to the main road – the 32kms of gravel road ensuring that the exterior of the motorhome had a good plastering of mud!
Next place to visit – Lake Monowai. Had a look at the Monowai Power Station and town (now mostly deserted) on the way in. This was one of the earliest hydroelectric power stations in NZ and was opened 1925. The outflow runs into the Waiau River and you can drive around the area and stand right on the edge of the waters rushing out the powerhouse.
Best thing about this detour was the discovery of very large mushrooms growing in the township – some were as big as medium dinner plates – they ended up in our fridge ready for tea that night.
Arrived at Lake Monowai carpark and went for a 40min walk to a lookout point to view further down the lake.
The track was through mossy groves, toadstools, ferns, tall trees…magical!
Back at the carpark we reparked the motorhome to a better position for the night and then walked across the dam to the lake outlet gates. From there the outflow runs for some distance along the riverway and canals to the power station.
A few jetboats came in late afternoon to launch and set off with their fishing rods. Lots of sandflies about and we were glad to be inside our ‘home’ with insect mesh protecting us – the usual sleeper cars and vans around us weren’t faring so well!
Gorged ourselves on mushrooms that night – only needed to cook up three of them for a good feed.
Overnight we had our ‘guard dog’ on secret watch to protect us!
Left the lake next morning and couldn’t help going back to Monowai Village to pick more mushrooms… no-one else seems to want them!
Back on the main road towards Lake Manapouri. Nice scenery driving alongside the Waiau River. Also a lookout point overlooking a dam complex at Duncraigen.
Arrived at Manapouri around lunchtime and shouted ourselves a hot lunch at the cafe while we contemplated where to park tonight. Signs everywhere stating No Freedom Camping anywhere (including those with on-board toilets). Our Club Directory listed a low-cost parkover at the Manapouri Lakeview Motor Inn so we went to investigate. No problem said the girls on Reception “just park on the grass paddock area around the back of the motel units”. Perfect…and two nights only cost us a $5 donation.
From there we did a lovely walk around the lake shore to Boat Harbour, where the boat trips leave for cruises across and around the lake. It was a beautiful day and lots of people enjoying water-skiing and even swimming in the cold lake water.
We did the trip to look at the Manapouri Power Station many years ago so we were not disappointed to find out that it was closed for maintenance and not re-opening to the public until around July. Lots of people were leaving the booking centre, however, quite peeved to learn they wouldn’t be able to see it.
Found more mushrooms growing on the park lawns in front of the town and the Motor Lodge…they added to our collection. Guess what we had for tea again that night!
Woke up to mist and drizzle again next day – we caught up on some reading and I working on updating my February ‘meanderings’. Went for a walk to stretch our legs late afternoon and I cooked up a stir-fry for tea – (heavily laced with mushrooms of course!)
March 24 – Drove the 20kms up the road to arrive at Te Anau. Parked in town and went for a browse around the shops – lots of ‘eating’ places and souvenir shops. Topped up with diesel $1.19/ltr here (ouch).
Going to stay at the NZMCA Park and headed there after lunch. The morning rain had stopped and the afternoon was very pleasant.
Next day (Good Friday) we relaxed and watched the comings and goings of fellow members at the park. Mid-afternoon we walked the 2km to town and sussed out boat trips to the Te Anau Caves across the lake. Sat eating ice-creams overlooking the lake and enjoying the view. Bought fish’n’chips for tea before strolling back ‘home’.
Weather was still good the next day so we booked on the 2pm trip to the Glowworm Caves. Walked to town early and checked out the local craft market on the way to the wharf.
Boarded the “Real Journeys” big catamaran and enjoyed the trip across the lake sitting in the sun on the top deck. This is the only company that runs the tours to the Te Anau Caves so they sure are busy running the boat back and forth all day.
Heaps of fizz boats out – pulling double ‘biscuits’ behind them, full of children having fun.
Disembarked at the Caves Visitor Centre – time for a hot drink if desired and had a 10 minute slide show and talk on the life cycles of the glow-worms – this allowed half the people off the boat to enter the caves and get ahead of us.
We then spilt again into groups of 12 people with individual guides and entered the cave. Had to bend over double for the first 25 metres to get under a huge rock, then it opened up and we walked up an established walkway over top of the rushing stream that has formed the cave system over thousands of years.
No photography at all allowed but we would have liked a ‘piccy’ at one spot of the water spouting over a drop and forming ‘bowls’ in the rock on the way downstream. About 300 metres in we boarded little boats and entered the main glow-worm section. The Guide pulled us along by a rope and we glided in silence in the dark enjoying the ‘lights’ so close overhead in places that you could have touched them. About 30m in the boat was turned around and we glided back to the landing and walked back along the path to the daylight again. The whole cave system is vast and there are two more entrances up in the hills…from where we reached in the boat you would need to scuba dive to go any further.
We had about 15 mins to explore a little nature work around the visitor centre before the boat arrived to take us back to Te Anau and dropped off a new group of visitors. ‘Real Journeys’ are the only tour operator that has ‘rights’ to take people into the caves and if you land on the shore you can only go 30m before you need a DOC permit. Takahe breed on the hilltops so it is all a restricted area.
We enjoyed the trip being somewhere we have never been before. OK…the glow-worm caves at Waitomo are far more impressive, but we enjoyed the spectacle and noise of the rushing waters through the cave system. And the boat trip on such a perfect day was just ‘magic’.
Walked back ‘home’ along the waterfront and looked around the DOC Visitor Centre along the way.
Spent the next three days still parked up at the Club Park and generally blobbed out, reading, going for walks and chatting with fellow club members.
Basically we were waiting for a ‘cold front’ to pass through the Fiordland area before booking on a trip to Milford Sound. “Juicy” has a trip costing $99pp for a return bus trip from Te Anau to Milford and including a boat cruise up the fiord. A lot of the other companies charge $80-99pp just for the cruise so we figured it was pretty good value. It will save our fuel driving there and back and Neville will be able to see more along the way by not having to drive.