Tag Archives: Doc parks

A day at Stewart Island

Arriving in Gore, we parked Rafe in the middle of the main st and crossed over to a nice looking Café. As we approached some people who saw us get out of Rafe and cross the road were waving and smiling at us.

Click on any Image to Enlarge

At Craig’s POP
Happy hour.. Peter and Sues Esprit and Ross to the right.

After sitting down with our coffee, we got chatting to the people right next to us Ross and Sally (the wavers and smilers) originally from Picton.  It turns out that they’re in their third year of living in their Jayco Caravan and cruising around the South Island.

Happy hour outside.

As we chatted away, we worked out that we are all going to Stewart Island on the same ferry in the morning. They gave us the name of the place they were staying at and that the coach was picking them up from there, so I rang both the POP and the coach company and booked both. Easy peasy.

Craig with his amazing collection in the shed.

The Lineham Layover is owned by Craig Lineham and Shelley Peters and is in the northern end of the main street of Invercargill. A nice spot with a big parking area on gravel.

We went from Gore directly to Craig and Shelley’s POP and caught up with Ross and Sally again. Craig is an amazing collector of all sorts.. Matchbox cars, Matches, you name it.

Right opposite them at the Pop was Peter and Sue with their Esprit from Taupo.  We met them at Mapua several years ago… small world. Later we all caught up for a glass of something and a catchup.

The Ferry in the fog at Bluff

We woke up early in the morning and as we made our way out to the end of the driveway, I received a phone call from the driver. He was early! But so were we 🙂

After picking up several other people from around Invercargill, we were off to Bluff to catch the ferry to Stewart Island.  It was a foggy day so they were sound the horn every few minutes for the first part of the journey until the fog lifted. It was going to be a great day and there was hardly any wind so it was a nice smooth sailing.

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

45 minutes or so later we were on the wharf at Oban, the capital if you like of Stewart Island.

Oban and the wharf

The ferry was running late so we were quickly hustled onto a coach for a tour of Oban and the surrounding area.

With the Coach group looking out towards Paterson Inlet and the National Park area of Stewart Island beyond.Looking in towards Oban
Looking out Paterson Inlet and beyond.

We found out that power on the island is provided by a Diesel generator or provide your own with solar and generator. The populated part of Stewart Island around Oban, is only a small fraction of the island with the rest of it being National Park. We were taken to a lookout that showed the sheer size of the Island and its inlets and other islands.. amazing when you see it like that.

Fiona checking out the anchor with the coach group

We were shown the Anchor chain which keeps Stewart Island tethered to the mainland or the other way around 🙂

After getting back to Oban, we caught another slightly smaller ferry to Ulva Island with our guide. On the way over to Ulva Island, an Albatross swooped in and landed right next to the ferry which had stopped. Amazing birds.

Ulva Island is park space administered by Doc completely free of most predators giving the birds and trees free run. The birds come right up to your feet and look you up and down.. its amazing. I’ve never been into trees and birds but this is completely different to what you see everywhere else and once you know what’s going on behind the scenes, it pretty cool.. well worth it if you’re heading that way.

The guide leading the way at Ulva Island

We walked back to the ferry to be transferred back to our mainland ferry in Oban, to go back to Bluff.

Farewell Oban
Getting on the ferry back to Bluff

A fantastic day checking it all out at Stewart Island. You can stay the night there too but we did it all in a day to keep the lid on costs but a great day. On the way back on the ferry, I booked our next extravaganza!

Rafe’s Tracker map to Invercargill – Armada GPS

Buller Diggers

Another Oldie ..

Buller Gorge from the road
Buller Gorge from the road

Murchison was a great spot. Having water and the dump station in the park was a treat. After sorting out Rafes various tank levels, we headed towards Westport.
Once in the Buller gorge, I really wanted to get a water rushing over boulders pic but where the road was close to the river for this shot, there was no where safe to pull up a 4.4 tonne Motorhome safely.
After going through Fiona’s dark moments from the previous day for missing out on the crafts and cheese shops, I was determined to find some interesting stuff to stop at and we found it.

Motorhome parking at Lyall
Motorhome parking at Lyall
Lyall Motorhome parking
Lyall Motorhome parking

Marked on the map as a “rest area” but also listed as a DOC Motorhome overnighting area, was the old Gold mining town of Lyall. The town went bust in the 1880’s and has all gone now but there are walking tracks, several swing bridges, a cemetery and signs of old gold mining all around the area.
There were half a dozen Motorhomes and a couple of caravans, many of their owners off hiking the paths through the remains of the town.
Fiona and Chris went off for a trot and found the cemetery and some of the bridges.

The river through the trees
The river through the trees
The river form the swing bridge
The river form the swing bridge

A really interesting stop and a really sheltered spot for Motorhomes if you wanted to stay the night.
Leaving there our next stop was Inangahua where the big earthquake was centred. There is a museum there with lots of information about Lyall and the earthquake in Inangahua which is well worth a look. We also stopped at the cafe next door for the most amazing pies. Mine was Chicken curry with cashew nuts, made on site with the most amazing pastry. Chris and Gary commented on how good their pies were too.

The cutout for the road in the middle
The cutout for the road in the middle
The cutout rock over the road
The cutout rock over the road

We were back on the road and heading through the Buller gorge crossing several one way bridges and an amazing cut out of a cliff, also one way. Fiona managed to get a picture of it as we drive through it on my cell phone. I looked in the rear vision mirrors at Gary behind and there wan’t a lot if room around the van with the overhanging rock. Quite something !
Half an hour or so later, we arrived at the NZMCA park on the waterfront at Westport after a quick trip to the supermarket.

Madam on the beach
Fiona on the beach

A walk on the beach and a bbq tea and the day was done. Another great spot to stay. Blue skies and the wind has dropped off. A great day in paradise.

Dawn on Farewell Spit

This is something every Kiwi should do.. fantastic trip done in late 2015 early one morning.  Enjoy.

Madam with the Bedfird Bus
Madam with the special Bedford Bus

After a night of rockin and rollin with the wind( I thought that only happened on boats!), we were up a 6am to drive to the Spit to meet the tour bus. Nobody had really had any sleep since 3am when the big puffs came through but we were all looking forward to a great trip so it didn’t matter. The wind was blowing 30-40 knots creating a mini constant sand storm.

A tree washed out from Golden Bay with the bus
A tree washed out from Golden Bay with the bus

The bus picked us up from the carpark at 7am from a paddock next to some forestry equipment.  This is set around the tide so we could get back safely. There were about 8 of us on the bus and off we went.

We headed down the beach. The trip is about 30ks to the end of the spit.

The dunes under the lighthouse
The dunes under the lighthouse

We stopped briefly to check out a tree which had been blown around from the bay around the end of the spit and washed up on the northern ocean side and got buried in the sand.

After crossing a creek and about 45 minutes, we arrived at the lighthouse and to have a cup of tea and muffin in the lighthouse keepers old house. This has been done up and maintained by the Eco tour operators and DOC and was in its original form as it was when the lighthouse keepers left in the early 80’s. Some of the lighthouse keepers families have donated pictures as they were at the light. The history and artefacts on display are amazing. I didn’t realise that the lights ran on kerosene, like a gas light with a mantle right up until the early 50’s in some if these lighthouses.

The lighthouse
The lighthouse
Madam leaning into the wind
Madam leaning into the wind

Back to the bus and we were off to have a wander in a sand dunes. The wind was howling by this stage so the sand was flying.

Footprints leading up from the Bus
Footprints leading up from the Bus 

After a trip to Fossil point to look at some fossils of shells. ( I found Gary 🙂 ).  After that we were dropped off back at Rafe in the paddock.

A must do trip for every Kiwi, I thoroughly recommend it.

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.  🙂

Click on an Image for Hi res

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.

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

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.

Click on the images for Hi Res

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.

Click on the Gallery below for a slideshow

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

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.

Click on the Images for Hi Res

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.

The Wedding at the Fort

What a fun weekend. Our old friends Mark and Tina’s eldest daughter Alisha was getting married to Tom and they had chosen The Officers Mess at Fort Takapuna as the wedding venue.  A fantastic spot and where Fiona’s family had spent some years in the officers housing by Narrow Neck beach.

The roof of the old fort with the Officers Mess behind and the carpark.

Just as it says, The officers Mess has been converted into a Wedding Venue and Café and was the old Officers Mess for the Army and later used by the Navy as well.  Its a lovely old building which looks out over the harbour towards Rangitoto Island.

Click on the images for Hi Res or a slideshow

Fiona’s dad Norm was CO of Fort Cautley which was then the HQ for the Army’s 3rd Battalion. There were officers and senior NCO houses from the current buildings all the way down to Narrow Neck Beach.

Narrow Neck beach. This grass is where all the officers housing was.

Fort Takapuna has a huge history. It was originally built to fend off the Russians in the 1860’s and later updated for the two world wars in case the Japanese or Germans got down here. It is now looked after by DOC and more information on it can be seen here.
Its well worth a look around and the carpark is huge, perfect for Motorhomes and Caravans.

The Old Fort

When Friday came around, Fiona and I decided we would make a weekend of it and stay in Devonport on Friday night. We earlier met our old friends Dani and Grant at the Esplanade Hotel for a few cold ones and afterwards tea at the wharf.

The next day was wedding day and I packed up Rafe and headed off to the venue where we had permission to stay overnight in the carpark as guests.

In the carpark

I spent the day having a really good look around the fort while Fiona was getting her hair done.  There was a soccer game on at the playing field there which was fun to watch. I have no idea who was playing but it was fun to watch and I really enjoyed shooting a few piccies of it. I haven’t photographed any soccer since my days on the Herald and the Auckland Star so it was fun. Soccer is one of the hardest games to photograph as so I was pleased that I got a couple or reasonable piccies from it being as rusty as I am.

One of the better soccer piccies 🙂

The forecast rain held off so the ceremony was held outside looking out on the harbor. It was a bit of a catchup with old friends for us as Gary, Chris, Mark and Tina are all old Boatie mates along with Geoff and Bev who were also there.  We were all put on Table 4! Our friends Gary and Chris were joint MC’s and they did a great job. It was nice to catch up with the extended families and old friends too, many of them had come over from Aussie for the occasion.

The Wedding Service with a view

The wedding went well, the food was great and it was a fun night. We finished the night in Rafe with “Table 4” friends for a nightcap and cups of tea.

Rafe’s Track map

The way home from Fort Takapuna

The Pinnacles

We were all quite looking forward to checking these out as apparently, they’ve been used in one of Peter Jacksons movies. I’m not sure which one.

Click on the images for Hi Res or a slideshow

The march up to the Pinnacles
The march up to the Pinnacles

We left Martinborough early and set off south towards the Pinnacles. They’re about 30 odd K’s from Martinborough so they’re a good hour south.
The South West was blowing at around 30-40 knots and we were getting some good puffs on the road. The road is pretty good being sealed all the way but as you get closer, it is quite exposed and at one point, there is a causeway where the waves were virtually crashing on the edge of the road with plenty of debris lying around.
We were pleased to get there. Rob, Helen and Chloe had beaten us there as we had stopped for Groceries and had a look around Martinborough before leaving.

Our park in the corner. Of the Doc camp
Our park in the corner of the Doc camp

Rob had a spectacular spot at the Doc camp there, tucked into a corner, protected by trees and bush with plenty of room for Rafe.
After settling down with a cuppa and getting organised. We set off up the valley towards the Pinnacles.

Doc suggests a 1.5hrs easy walk round trip. I would say this is understated and would be a 2 hr trip with the last K being a good uphill slog in gravel. Those who know me will tell you that I’m not the fittest trooper on the planet but if I can do it, anyone can but it is a wee bit more that what Doc say it is.
PinnaclesIt is spectacular and is well worth the slog mostly up the side of a stream. I commented to Rob on the way back that I felt a bit like Daniel Boon given the slightly eery almost desert like landscape similarities.

Daniel Booning down the stream
Daniel Booning down the stream

We set the chairs up behind Rafe and the Tracker out of the wind, wheeled out some portable music and started on a wet debrief of the day’s activities as you do :-). A nice day in the sun checking out some neat stuff we’d never seen before.

Rafe’s track to the Pinnacles

Martinborough to the Pinnacles
Martinborough to the Pinnacles

Our Netspeed speed upgrade in the sun!

We were on our way back to Auckland from Kerikeri when we found out our old friends Gary and Chris were at Uretiti Doc park for a few nights. We thought we’d surprise them.

See our earlier meeting here at Uretiti in the pouring rain

Click on the images to see Hi Res

Gary and Chris's van with Rafe behind
Gary and Chris’s van with Rafe behind

As we arrived right on the dot for “elbow exercise time” (with a glass in hand) at 5pm. We started on some wine while Fiona made us all a nice chicken tea.
We weren’t far into the conversation when Gary filled me in on the new Netspeed Router firmware upgrade and what a difference it had made for him.
With all of my speed tests around the country and comparing notes with Gary’s tests, it became very obvious that his speeds were generally 5 mbs a second or so faster than mine. I put that down to the fact that the sides of his van are fibreglass and the sides of mine are composite with an outside shell of aluminium. I’d assumed from that despite us having external aerials, that the router in automatic mode with aerials, was favouring the internal aerials which gave Gary a better signal. Well. .. No more 🙂

The good folk at Netspeed have released a router firmware upgrade which gives you the option to tell the router to only use the external aerials. The firmware upgrade is free but you will have to install it yourself or get someone slightly techy to do it for you. Netspeed will also do it over the phone with you too. It only takes five minutes and is not complicated and well worth doing. The big thing with this upgrade is not to be rushed and let the upgrade finish before fiddling with anything.

Wait for that magic moment when you get the box pop up that says “Success!”

Back to our elbow exercise.. While chatting away, Gary brought out his laptop which had the upgrade file on it for my router and in a few minutes had it installed on my router.  In Uretiti, I immediately went from 2 bars of 4g to three and that added about 15 Mbps odd to my download speed as I was able to get my roof aerials really pumping rather than let the router do as it pleased with my useless internal aerials… Useless inside a metal cage anyway.

What a wonderful sight
What a wonderful sight

Thanks heaps Gary.. We had a great night. Nice to see you both again too.

The Netspeed speed test at Uretiti earlier
Download: 24.42 Mbps
Upload: 2.45 Mbps
Ping: 49 ms

After with the external aerials pumping!
Download: 46.62 Mbps
Upload: 3.39 Mbps
Ping: 35 ms
Connection Type: Wi-Fi

The upload speed is still awful but it is an iffy spot but it’s well worth doing the upgrade !!

How to do the upgrade.. Call Netspeed for the link for the download then download the right file for your router.

Log into your router as administrator.. For security reasons, I’m not going to tell you how to do this here but look at your router instructions.
Follow the instructions in the following screens.

The login screen on your router once you've logged in. Open browser.. Type in ..
The login screen on your router once you’ve logged in. Open browser.. Type in  to get here.
This is in Settings. Click on Local update to upload your file and WAIT until it finishes!
This is in Update. Click on Local update to upload your file and WAIT until it finishes!
Once it has finished, you can go to this screen in Settings and set your aerials up. I've got mine on External only
Once it has finished, you can go to this screen in Settings and set your aerials up. I’ve got mine on External only

Have fun and enjoy the extra speed. Call the fine team at Netspeed if you get stuck or need help.

A beautiful place with the Sun

Fiona arrived at Waipu just after 11 from Auckland so we set off for Whananaki . We’d never been there before and were looking forward to it. Fiona followed in the Qashqai and after a quick stop at the dump station in Whangarei, we were off. The turnoff is just after Hikirangi and from there it 20 odd k’s of a really windy road in parts. 

Coming in to Whanakake
Coming in to Whanakake

As we came into Whananaki, it was a sight to behold. What a lovely place. It is largely populated with amazing little baches but there is a Camping Ground there.  We were heading to the DOC park in Otamuri bay over the hill.

Click on the images for hi res or a slideshow

Otamuri. The camp is behind the trees
Otamuri. The camp is behind the trees
Otamuri .. off peak !
Otamuri .. off peak !

It’s a huge park right on the beach with all the usual DOC non smelly long drop loos but not much else but a beautiful spot.  After all the rain we have had, the sun was out and for the middle of June, it was quite hot and very pleasant. 

I went for a drive back over the hill in the car to get some piccies of Whananaki  and a walk on the beach for a look around. 

We sat out in the sun with a cold one, with some cheese and crackers and after tea in the Mitzi, retired to Rafe to watch some rugby.

 Us enjoying the sunset at Otamuri
Us enjoying the sunset at Otamuri – Cell ph pic

No cellular coverage so no internet. We got to talk to each other 😃 But a fantastic spot to stay.