New Zealand South Island Part 4

10 – 17 March 2017

Back to the comfort of an actual house with hot and cold running water, once we'd washed, we enjoyed a delicious dinner with Julie and Trevor.

We were woken early next morning by a familiar sound. Could it be somebody shouting at the TV, complaining about the referee in a rugby match? At 7 am? Turns out this is a tradition in New Zealand too, and Trev was enjoying the Wales match of the Six Nations Competition in Europe from a far different time zone!

To work off the previous night's dinner we took a swim at Invercargill's impressive, booze-funded aquatic centre.

Dinner with Julie and Trevor

Invercargill's Velodrome

Our friends treated us to another tour of local highlights, starting with the sports complex which included a stunning velodrome. We would definitely have to do our bit and drink more beer to fund it!

We went to the town's museum, primarily to see the Tuataras which lived there. These creatures were actually old enough to be in a museum, despite being still alive. One was over a hundred years old and father to many. It seemed his longevity may be due to the fact that he didn't actually move much.

We got back to the house to find Julie's friend Glenys had stopped by to take us for a ride in her vintage Austin.

Possibly Invercargill's oldest resident (Tuatara)

Glenys' pride and joy.

Being chauffeured around Invercargill.

We had one more visit on our tour, this time to the retirement village where Julie worked, to meet their 90 year old Welsh resident, Annie Jones. Although she'd lived in New Zealand for decades, Annie was delighted to meet some other Welsh people and we enjoyed a lovely chat.

The retirement village was amazing. Residents began by buying their own town house in the village. Later, if the house became too much to manage, they could transfer to a smaller apartment and finally a nursing home style room. With plenty of communal social areas and dining rooms with many organised entertainments, it seemed that life there could be a non-stop party. The village even had their own hospital and medical staff. Impressive.

Next day it was time to leave our new friends Julie and Trevor in peace, looking forward to seeing them in Wales on their next visit to Europe.

The (not-very) trusty fishing access guide came out, we headed north and a very strange series of events began.

We headed for an access named Whitebait Bridge. The river was lined with small huts privately owned by different individuals. Getting access to the river was tricky. We moved our van a short distance and tried again. Phil took out his new travel rod, just purchased in the UK prior to our trip and disappeared into the undergrowth.

Minutes later he was back with a familiar anguished look on his face. The new rod had hooked a fish, then snapped. Disaster. As luck would have it, the previous day, a new rod had been purchased at the fishing store in Invercargill to compensate for the other rod Phil had brought from the UK, not realising it was one with a broken tip and had been taken home from the USA for repair.

The virgin New Zealand rod was brought out, shiny and new, and assembled, but there was one piece left over, a second tip piece had somehow been included. Wouldn't it be great, we mused, if that tip fitted the broken rod we'd carried half-way around the world? Weirdly it did, bringing the fisherman back up to two usable rods. What were the chances of that happening? A rod taken from the States, back to the UK for repair but then replaced by the manufacturer as parts were no longer available. Then taken, by mistake, all the way to New Zealand only to finally find a replacement part. There was no luck with the fish on the Aparima river but the strange events left us in a good mood.

We moved on to Waikaia River and found a lovely fishing spot to explore at McKinnel Bridge. You just opened the farm gate and drove in to park alongside the river. Unfortunately there were no official campsites nearby and the one in the town of Waikaia seemed very proud of their sites, considering nothing much seemed to be working. We found a peaceful grassy spot set back from the road's edge and decided to try camping there.

This spot was close to the access spot, so early next morning we were on the river again, enjoying the crazy antics of the fantail birds resident in the willows and landing a nice sized brown trout.

Waikaia River Sunset

Is it me or is that fantail upside-down?

Brown on the Waikaia

Upstream Waikaia River catch

Upstream from our illicit camping spot.

Back at McKinnel Bridge we fished until dark and then squatted on the grass verge again.

We passed through Riversdale, Lumsden, Parawa and headed for the upper Mataura River. The first access we attempted was tricky but then we found a beautiful spot at Fiery Huts.

We spent the night in a campsite in Athol, which had its own “en-site” bathroom. Time to wash! Unfortunately the hot water tank was small and the contents were entirely used up by Christine's decadent shower, leaving Phil to wander around in a towel until the water got warm again!

Just up the road from the campground was the only independent Fly Shop we'd come across in the whole of our time in New Zealand, Stu's Fly Shop. Unfortunately Stu was out guiding and it was closed.

We had an appointment in hectic Queenstown for our new fridge thermostat to be installed. The town seemed to be a crowded tourist Mecca, famous for adventure sports. We opted to forego the bungy jumping!

Our plan was to head around the top of the lake and to the far shore, where a couple of promising looking rivers entered the lake. We'd been told there was good hike-in fishing. However, the trip to get there involved a gravel road, which soon became single-lane and then overhung with tree limbs. When we reached the sign advising that the road was unsuitable for large vehicles it was time to turn around, if we could only find somewhere.

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown

Disappointed, we headed for Lake Reid, a smaller lake with a trail alongside the river flowing from it. This turned out to be a lovely spot for a shorter fishing hike and we stayed until dusk.

Now we just had to find somewhere to camp as the spot we had planned was inaccessible to our campervan. We were headed back towards Queenstown when we spotted a wide, pebbly river bank and decided to give it a try for the night. After all it was the Rees River!

Reid Lake

Rees River camping spot.

The nearest town of Glenorchy was a picturesque spot to enjoy breakfast the next day before driving to Cromwell. Julie had suggested that we visit the Wooing Tree Winery, to see her friend Barbara who worked there. We'd never been to a winery before, so why not?

It turned out to be a pretty fancy place and we felt decidedly under-dressed. Barbara and the owner were very friendly and Phil got to sample the vintage before lunch!

Breakfast at Glenorchy

Wooing Tree Winery

We made a detour to see Mount Cook and camped at a free campground on Lake Pukaki, near Twizel. The stunning spot became crowded with camper vans, but only a few campers (Christine included) were daft enough to brave the freezing lake waters.

As we watched the sunset from the campground, we observed something really strange. At first it looked like a boat fire, yet there were no boats on the lake. Steam seemed to rise from the lake in a small area, slowly spreading forwards. It was very curious.

Come on in, the water's lovely!

Mt Cook


We reversed course the next morning to head back towards the west coast, calling at Wanaka for a new camera lens cap and then Alberttown. Here we stopped at a riverside campground for lunch and it was so windy we watched somebodies tent carried off by a gust while they chased it.

On our route over Haast Pass, we stopped at the Blue Pools on the Makaroa River for a lovely walk and enjoyed watching squealing tourists crazy enough to take the icy cold plunge.

The impressive Gates of Haast waterfalls lay on our coast-bound route. On finally arriving at the coast, we took a beautiful hike to Monro beach through dense, shady forest. The beach was gorgeous too, but the sandflies drove us quickly back into the forest!

Blue Pools

Gates of Haast

On the way to Monro Beach

It was late when we got back to the camper and our priority was finding a spot to camp. It had been a long day and we were tired, so an inviting lay-by on the roadside at the side of a lake seemed to fit the bill.

Phil was apparently not too tired to try a spot of fishing at the lake but was quickly driven home by mosquitoes. We settled down for the night only to be woken a little later by a distinctive buzzing. It seemed that a few mosquitoes had followed Phil back from the lake and were annoying us in the camper while we tried to sleep.

The buzzing continued, getting louder and closer and the bedsheet was pulled over our heads in a feeble attempt to protect ourselves. It didn't seem to be working and by 6 am the lights went on and we found ourselves surrounded by a swarm of hundreds of little vampire bugs. They had somehow found their way into the van, so we assume that it wasn't very well sealed. They were even inside the bed and their wispy, evil bodies seemed to cover every surface in the camper. It was time for revenge as we scratched our bites. Soon those same surfaces were splattered with mosquito corpses and blood spots and we hit the road!

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