Alive and Hopping

That is Queenstown ! Its a busy town and seems to be going 100 miles an hour everywhere you look.

The options for camping here are limited to MotorCamps really and we were happy to stay at an old familiar spot which used to be a Top 10, The Creeksyde Holiday Park. We’ve stayed here both in Rafe, a renter Mercedes and our old caravan Wee Rafe. Its a lovely spot but like all the Campgrounds in Queenstown comes with a premium price. As a treat and as it was close for Jessa, it was worth it. On the way there, we stopped at Pak N save in Frankton and did a big shop for a week or more and wow, that placed has sure changed. Its like a whole new town there now.

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Our park in Queenstown

After settling down Rafe in his little spot, Fiona walked into town and I unhooked my bike and biked down for a look see. I headed down to the ferry wharf to watch the goings on and Fiona went to some Art and Clothes shops.

The waterfront
Queenstown waterfront

We met down at the waterfront and enjoyed a cuppa watching the tourists getting on and off boats and generally people watched for a while. Lots of fun in the sun.

A reminder of where you are !

We eventually headed back to Rafe and got organised for tea.

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Jessa popped in about 6pm and it was a fun night catching with one of “our favourite Nieces”!

Fiona and Jessa

It was great to see Jessa Jean and we’re looking forward to catching up again in a few weeks when Fiona’s sister Sara (Jessa’s Mum) comes down for a holiday.

Rafe’s track through to Queenstown

The Pass

We woke up at Franz Josef to find we had no power left. A combination of too much TV, no sunshine on the panels and sitting in one spot for too long. The electronic controller in Rafe turns things off if it looks like it’ll damage the batteries so nothing died!  So lesson.. less power consumption unless we can generate more by moving or some sunshine. This is our first time in a winter South Island so its all about learning that the sun doesn’t work as well on solar panels in winter.  🙂

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After using the superb dump station and topping up with water, we set off for Haast and the pass. It was just drizzling when we left but by the time we got to Haast, it was pouring. After having lunch in Rafe with some locally sourced fresh bread, we set off through the Haast. It looks great and as many said, its an easy drive, even when its raining!

The walk to Thunder Creek

We stopped briefly to have a look at the Thunder Creek Falls which look amazing. The 5 minute bush walk to get to the falls is stunning.

Thunder Creek falls

There was one guy there who thought by hopping on rocks he’d get a better shot. The problem was his kids followed him! The shot would’ve been the same from the side of the river 🙂
We left there and a little bit further on, we stopped off at another called the Fantail Falls where various visitors to the falls had made little stacks of river stones by the falls.

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Another nice spot and easy parking but it was still raining !

Fantail falls

The plan was originally to stop at the Makarora Tourist centre but when we got there, it all looked a bit farm paddock like and Rafe being quite low is a bit allergic to lumpy paddocks to park in so we kept going and decided on Lake Hawea Holiday park by the lake and give Rafe’s batteries a good tweak.

Rafe in the trees at Hawea. Nice park

Its a neat Campground and they’re very welcoming. We parked down by the lake despite the fact that there was a good wind coming off the lake but it was due to drop off. We also managed to fluke a TV signal first pop through the trees which pleased Fiona 🙂

Lake Hawea when we arrived.. a bit windy

I went for a walk along the lake and had a good look around. Nice bathrooms and a Laundry and a good sized Kitchen too.

Lake Hawea in the morning

We’re looking at going back there in a few weeks.

Rafe’s track through to Hawea

Waterfalls and the Glacier

We liked Ross so much, we seriously thought about staying another night but thought, we’d better push on.

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The NZMCA park at Franz Josef

We found the NZMCA park in Franz Josef really easily. Rafe’s GPS took us right to the front door !

A great setup with water, the dump station and the check in hut.

Its a really nice park. Looking in Google Earth, it looks like a square of brown cut out of the bush and sitting in it, its magic with all the ferns and Westland bush all around. The dump station works a treat too. Very easy.

Looking back to Franz Josef

After checking it all out, we headed off to town for some bits and bobs from the 4 Square and then went and did a recce of the Glacier car park to see what we were going to be dealing with the next day when the weather was supposed to clear up a bit.

The Franz Josef Bridge

The next day started out with blue sky but very quickly greyed over and was typical west coast drizzly close weather. We were heading to the Glacier anyway so took Rafe to the car park.

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Just as I got the umbrella out and stuck it under my arm, the sky lifted and there were big patches of blue and the drizzle petered out to nothing.

Fiona with the Glacier behind

It was a 90 minute return trip according to the Doc signs and it was an easy walk. At the Glacier, it was amazing just sitting there watching the succession of Helicopters dropping people and guides off on the Glacier.. every few minutes there was another one.

The Glacier. Spot the chopper.

If you look at the closer Glacier images, you should be able to spot the odd helicopter. There were heaps of people on the track in both directions and it was nice to see so many people enjoying the walk. It was like being in Europe hearing all the different languages as they walked past you.

At the top with the Glacier and a waterfall.

We stopped at the Glacier for 20 minutes or so before heading back and as it would happen, the weather closed in again just as we got back to Rafe 🙂

The Glacier.. spot the chopper

A fun day out walking by the river up to the Glacier and well done to the local NZMCA people there for setting up such a great park. Very cool and close to town too.

Rafe’s track to Franz Josef

Sunday Roast at the Empire

The fire was blazing, the bar looked fantastic and owners Paulette and Mark couldn’t have been more welcoming. I ordered a Chardonnay and paid the $10 for Rafe’s park with power and we had a look around this amazing pub in Ross.

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Fiona with the fire
The Bar. Amazing working cash register

Paulette informed us that as it was Sunday, they had 30 odd people coming for tea and that we should join in. For $20 each for Roast Pork or Beef and $5 for Pavlova and Steamed Pudding, it was a no brainer and we wanted to be at the front of the queue 🙂

The Empire

We went for a walk up the street and checked out the Gold Mining area.  It is all really well set out and well signposted with explanations of what happened during the late 1800’s with lots of photos and some of the original buildings still there.

The Museum up the road

Unfortunately we missed the Museum and seeing a replica of the biggest Nugget found there but we got to see Raymond the friendly Goat over the road from the Empire along with a lots of historical bits and bobs.

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When I went for a haircut in Greymouth, the lady  absolutely raved about the food at the Empire Hotel when she heard we were going there, so the word is out. The food is fantastic!

Rafe parked at the Empire

We thought about staying another night as it was so good but decided we’d move on to Franz Josef and continue on towards the Haast while the weather was good.

Rafes Track to the Empire

The Famous Cheese Pub

We couldn’t leave Greymouth without going down to the Breakwater to check out the entrance to the port. I’ve see pictures of some of the fishing boats coming in over the bar and it is not for the faint hearted. These guys are amazing with this harbour.

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People collecting Driftwood down by the Greymouth Breakwater

Today the water was very settled and there were a few people out gathering driftwood with the Mountains behind bathed in sunshine. You could tell from the water how ugly it could be though on a bad day.

Looking back to Greymouth from the Breakwater
Looking back at Greymouth

As we travelled south, we had to stop at the Mahinapua Hotel and get some piccies there before checking out the Lake.

Looking back at the Mountains in the sunshine over Lake Mahinapua

There is a Doc park right opposite the Hotel where you can stay which has a kitchen and toilets right next to the lake. Its a lovely spot.

The Coal Trolley in front of the Mahinapua Hotel

Back out of the main road, there is a reminder of the history of the area with a coal trolley from a mine in front of the Hotel.

Fiona outside the Famous Mahinapua Hotel

The lakefront park is a neat spot to stop for a cup of tea or lunch.