Dizzy Swallows

Honeymoon: Wanaka, Queenstown, Fiordlands

Honeymoon: Wanaka, Queenstown, Fiordlands

March 31st, 2014

Happy Monday lovelies! And on to the second installment of our honeymoon adventures! This section of photos proved difficult to edit down, and while I’ve hacked away whole sections with all the finesse of a chainsaw, I hope you will forgive if not enjoy the plethora of lakes/clouds/crags.

From cloudy Christchurch, we struck out across the South Island to Wanaka, stopping for a picnic beside Lake Pukaki’s glacial blue waters.

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At this point I should introduce our traveling companion: our faithful Toyota (nicknamed Rana since it liked to eat bugs) which performed masterfully over our month plus New Zealand road-trip.

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Beautiful views across the lake towards Aoraki (Mt. Cook).

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Paradise!

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The water was far too cold for swimming, but Jacob took a moment to skip stones across its icy surface.

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After lunch we continued on towards Wanaka, passing interesting geology which I felt compelled to document if even through the car window.

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Our first night of camping was spent at the Lake Outlet Holiday Park. New Zealand is crawling with “holiday parks”, something of an oddity to those of us used to US style campgrounds. NZ’s holiday parks can range from a large field upon which tents, camper vans and RVs rest willynilly, to more spread out locations where powered and non-powered sites are mercifully separated. None, however, are anything like the drive in or walk in sites to which we are accustomed. You will at no time feel as if you are one with nature. You will most likely be setup within feet of your fellow campers. On the plus-side, the facilities are generally quite good and most holiday parks have modestly equipped kitchens for public use. In general (with one exception to follow), we found camping in New Zealand to be something of a cross between a hostel and squatting on someone’s lawn. Regardless, it is a cheap solution in an expensive country. The alternative are Department of Conservation wilderness sites, but these are generally far-flung with no other conveniences than a “long-drop” toilette and swarming with sandflies. More on that anon.

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Though we had to pitch the tent practically on the dusty dirt road, this first campsite was directly on beautiful Lake Wanaka to which we wandered down as the sun set.

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I took the opportunity to sit Jacob down for a brief portrait session. Look at those baby blues.

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Though I did not escape undocumented myself.

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They next day we ventured out for a hike, just outside of the town proper. I wish these photos could begin to do justice to the glorious views.

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Feeling somewhat accomplished, we were back in the car and pressed on towards Queenstown.

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Here it was another campsite by another lake, this time 12 Mile Delta just down Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown itself. This site should rightfully have been called 12 Mile Dust-storm, as the wind whipped through the over-driven plane, lifting up tents and coating everything and everyone in a fine layer of grit.

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We did thoroughly enjoy our first views of the lake, and even stepped in to cool our hot feet.

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Jacob found it rather too cooling.

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And reverted to more rock-skipping.

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Back at camp, I kept smelling oregano, and sure enough the entire campground was thronged with wild herb (see the purple flowers below). Less pleasantly, it was here that we first encountered the one scourge of our travels: the omnipresent, horrid, insufferable, incessant, swarming, loathsome, sanity-fraying sandfly. If you are fortunate enough to have no idea to what I am referring, allow me to enlighten you before you, like us, find yourself set upon without warning. The sandfly is a bloodsucking pest, about the size of a fruit fly. Unlike mosquitoes, they hunt you on silent wings and seem all but impervious to vigorous swatting, slapping, squishing, and our 99% Deet bug-spray. I still have the scars. And lest the name deceive you, these nasty buggers (ha) are not found only near sand. On one particularly horrid occaision we literally had to strike camp and leave a wilderness site moments after arriving due to being all but covered in them. The Smithsonian has an elucidating article on the subject. Nemesis.

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Having survived our first battle with the sandflies, and a night of inescapable campfire guitar strumming (the neighbors, not us), we breakfasted in style before setting off for the fjordlands.

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Here is the first opportunity to point out a typical NZ road. If you pop open the full size photo below (you’ve remembered to do so, yes?), you can see the sinuous curves of the road on the right of the frame. This is customary not only along a lake, but everywhere. All the time. The roads are generally about the width of a single US lane, and the speed limit is set at a ludicrous 100 kph (60 mph). Even the most steady of stomachs will be queasy if not downright carsick after the seemingly endless hairpin turns. Even the most steady of nerves will be frayed to breaking by the seemingly endless camper vans and lorries whipping around each blind corner. The worst we drove was heading to Mistletoe Bay in the Queen Charlotte Sound. Have a look.

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But there is no getting around the fact that each turn in the road offers new and yet more glorious scenery and vistas.

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The road goes ever on and on.

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At last we arrived in the primeval wonderland that is Fiordland National Park. Incidentally, the spelling with an “i” rather than a “j” is the New Zealand way, as they thought it would be less confusing once the blanket name of Fiordland was put upon the misnamed collection of “Sounds” (eg Milford, Doubtful, etc). Sure.

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This was our one successful night of DOC “wilderness” camping, and the site was completely gorgeous. I have never heard such melodious birdsong, nor seen any forest more likely to have dinosaurs roaming through it. We woke early the next morning and rendezvoused with Rosco’s Sea Kayaks for a sun riser kayak tour of Milford Sound.

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Happily on the water in our double kayak, I steeled my nerves enough to wrangle my camera out of the dry bag for a few shots, but truly they in no way convey the shear power and majesty of the Sound.

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The fur seals know how to work it.

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Our guide was an American who leads Alaska kayak tours during our summer months. He even seemed trustworthy enough to gingerly hand over my camera for a shot of Jacob and I with the Lady Bowen Falls.

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Even as the experienced kayakers we are, we were happy but tired after several hours of paddling, and glad to make the trek back to Queenstown and a hot shower.

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Our luck was such that our B&B had the most glorious view of the town and lake. We spent many happy hours sitting before its majesty, sipping tea and munching fresh fruit. We were even sent on our way with a huge box of said fruit, harvested by one of our hosts in Central Otago. It lasted us for weeks to come. Wonderful!

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To be continued…

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