Tuesday, 3 March 2015


A 150km section of the railway branch line into Otago Central Region of the South Island has been converted into a continuous rail trail for cycling, walking or horse riding.  The railway was built to link the port of Dunedin to Alexandra, Clyde and on to Cromwell.

The section of line between Dunedin and Middlemarch remains operational as a tourist line, The Taieri Gorge Railway.  At the other end, the section from Clyde to Cromwell was closed and then flooded when the Clyde hydroelectric dam was built.  The remainder now forms a continuous rail trail between Middlemarch and Clyde.

We had identified three short sections of the trail to tackle as a sampler during our tour.  Firstly, during our stay in Alexandra, we rode to Clyde and back to visit the historic buildings in Clyde and enjoy a lovely lunch at the Postmaster's House Restaurant.
Alexandra to Clyde


Then, driving out to Lauder, some 35km North of Alexandra on State Highway 85, we rode the section between Lauder and Auripo.  This section goes through the scenic and dramatic Poolburn Gorge with tunnels and viaducts.  As it happened, we shared the trail with athletes tackling the Rail Trail Duathlon; a two-day event covering the full 150km with alternate running and cycling sections!  We sat having our lunch, and much needed water, to cheer the competitors on in very warm conditions.
Poolburn Tunnel

 Poolburn Viaduct
 Manuherikia Bridge
Poolburn Gorge

Finally, our tour itinerary brought us back through Otago Central with the opportunity to sample another scenic section of the trail.  After an overnight stop in the historic town of Naseby, we then drove to Hyde for the ride to Daisybank through the Upper Taieri Gorge.  The trail taking us across the Prices Creek Viaduct and through the Prices Creek Tunnel before crossing the historic Cap Burn Bridge.
Prices Creek Viaduct
 Cap Burn Bridge
 Otago Central Hotel, Hyde

We really enjoyed our sampler experience of the trail.  It has whet our appetite for taking on the full end-to-end journey; a new item on the bucket list.
Clyde, start of the trail

Tuesday, 24 February 2015


On our last trip, we couldn't fail to notice a striking picture at Kev and Di's house (Kev is Mandy's brother) in Tauranga.  Di told us that it was a picture she had taken on a visit to the South Island.  It looked to be a stunning location and somewhere that we just had to see for ourselves.  But we couldn't fit it into our itinerary then so we made it a priority for this tour.

Di's inspirational photo canvas

Further research told us that Glenorchy is a 45km drive from Queenstown along the shore of picturesque Lake Wakatipu.  In fact, the drive is considered to be one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand.  We found that it lived up to its billing.

Roadside view, Queenstown to Glenorchy

The hut in the inspirational picture seemed to resemble a railway building.  Indeed, we found that it was once NZ railway property although no railway line out here.  Just rails out to the end of the wharf where the steamers docked.  Before the road was completed, the only communication was by steamer on the lake.

The Wharf, Glenorchy

Having found ourselves a personal beach for lunch we set out to explore the Lagoon Walk.  Another of those brilliant boardwalks; this time through wetland in the mouth's of the Dart and Rees Rivers.  A slow burner at first but the right decision to take the longer loop as we were rewarded with a delightful and peaceful walk.

The Lagoon Walk

On return to our beach a refreshing dip was needed but we found that the waterline was quite muddy.  Soon found a new spot though;  what a place for a swim.

Glenorchy claims to be "The Gateway to Paradise".  Whatever you might think about the scenery, it is factually correct as the township of Paradise is not far from here.  As ever there was so much we couldn't explore this time such as the jet boat tours up the Dart River, the fascinating Scheelite ore mine workings, Dart River walking track, Lake Sylvan and more.  With so much still to see it remains a priority.

We returned to Arrowtown with both of us genuinely moved by the beauty of our day in Glenorchy.  So glad you took that beautiful picture and had it on display, Di.  Can't bear the thought that we might not have found it by our own means.

Thursday, 19 February 2015


We headed back to Fox Glacier township on some unfinished business.  Last year we took advantage of ideal conditions to view both Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier from the top end with a landing on the snow field.  But this left us no time to view the terminal face of the glacier from the valley below.

On the snow field - 2014

First up, we cycled the 2km from Fox Glacier township to the track leading to "Glacier View".  The track leads off State Highway 6 on the far side of Fox River just after the road bridge. From here the track climbs steadily for about 3km before a window through the forest opens up with a top-to-bottom view of the glacier.

View from Glacier View Point

A further 0.5km up the track there is the car park for our chosen walk, The Chalet Lookout Track.  The information board warns that the track may become impassable after rain and advises on what to look out for.  Without any significant rain for sometime we set off confidently.

The first creeks are bridged, but a gap in the forest revealed one of the larger streams and its field of boulders; an indication of what was to come.

Stream next to Chalet Lookout Track

After a steady 30 to 40 minutes climb through the forest we emerged at Mills Creek.  A couple of other walkers seemed to be exploring up and down the creek and it soon became clear why;  the marked path through the stream looked to be too flooded.  We clambered over the supersize rocks to try and find an easier, and ideally, dry route.  In the end it was clear that we would have to get wet feet.

Crossing Mills Creek

Once across it was a short but steep climb to cross the ridge between Mills Stream and Fox Glacier Valley before arriving at the Chalet viewpoint.  In the 1800s and early 1900s, the terminal face of the ice was beneath the Chalet but it has significantly receded since then.  But what a view!

The Chalet Lookout

After returning to the township for lunch we set off again for a closer encounter.  This time we took advantage of the purpose built Te Weheka cycle track.  This is a traffic free route from the town through the forest to the "Glacier Access" car park on the near side of the river.  From there it is a 1 hour return walk to a viewpoint close to the receding glacier.

View from Glacier Valley track

That is Fox Glacier covered from most angles; perhaps just a guided hike on the glacier itself left?  And we could always take a closer look at Franz Josef.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015


If, like us, you like your walks to have some industrial heritage, delightful scenery, tunnels, bridges, waterfalls and a swingbridge then this one is a must do.

At the small township of Ngakawau, 35km north of Westport on State Highway 67, The Charming Creek Walkway is a legacy of the West Coast's mining activities.  But in this area it is black gold rather than the gold encountered through the Buller Gorge en-route from the north.

The walkway follows the route of a disused railway line that was used to bring coal and wood down from Charming Creek.  But the original tracks remain to guide you along the raging waters of the Ngakawau River gorge.  The only gaps are where the occasional landslip has buried the rails or a washout has sent them down the gorge.

With the limited gradient of the railway trackbed, this is an easy walk and the 4km to the waterfall is reckoned to take around an hour.  It probably took us much longer than that as there were so many delightful photo stops.

A strong candidate for our favourite walk so far; an absolute charmer.

Mangatini Falls

Sunday, 15 February 2015


From Motueka our route took us some 60 km down the Motueka Valley Highway to join State Highway 6.  After the hard graft of climbing up to the Hope Saddle, the driver couldn't resist the urge to turn into the summit view point.  It's a pity that he hadn't remembered the previous experience here as the parking space is too small and packed with cars and large campervans all jostling to get in and out.  And what with a plague of aggressive wasps and bees, interest in soaking up the fantastic views of the West coast mountains all too quickly dissipated.

But after making a safe escape without incident, we were soon back on SH6 tracking down the gorge of the upper Buller River for a reacquaintance with New Zealand's longest swingbridge.  Located at about 7 km beyond Murchison, the 110 metres long swing bridge is an attraction in its own right, but this time it would simply provide access to a higher adrenaline rush.

New Zealand's longest swingbridge

Buller Canyon Jet has the reputation as one of New Zealand's most exciting jet boat rides.  The mighty Buller River is squeezed into a narrow rock strewn canyon created by successive earthquakes down this fault line.  The last big quake was in 1968 and created the Newton and Fantail rapids.  All perfect ingredients for a high adrenaline ride.

It was strictly no hand luggage on this flight;  small cameras allowed but these had to be safely stowed and wrapped in plastic bags kindly provided by owner/operator Mark.  He had warned that there was a risk of getting slightly damp.
Narrow canyon of pink rock

In between bursts of high energy twists, turns and multiple 360 degree spins, there were opportunities to unwrap the cameras to shoot the pink, Potassium rich, rocks and even drink the crystal clear waters.

Mark showed us natural features such as "NZ's smallest waterfall" and the "tiny rainbows" that clustered around a marginally bigger waterfall as it dribbled into the river.  As the river bed is still genuinely rich with alluvial gold (and is still worked by a lone diver), clearly there is a pot of gold at the end of these particular rainbows.  Mark even produced a small pot of gold flakes he had collected to prove it.

A highly physical ride, and undoubtedly the most exhilarating experience ever for us.
Drifting for awhile to catch our breath

We howled with laughter throughout and the banter with Mark made it a totally unforgettable experience; at least until we dry off!  Five stars; brilliant!

"May get slightly damp" they said

Saturday, 14 February 2015


On last year's visit to the Abel Tasman National Park, we had sampled the stunning coastline by water taxi from Kaiteriteri to Torrent Bay.  We then continued on foot to Bark Bay to await our return water taxi.  We loved the 2.5 hour walk and the iconic swingbridge, but we looked on enviously at those kayaking around the coast and resolved to return one day for a different perspective of the coastline.

There are numerous operators providing guided kayak tours and various options from half day to three day trips with walking elements too.  You can hire a kayak and make your own way, but we saw first hand towards the end of our day how perilous this can be as a couple flagged down our water taxi for help;  definitely a guided tour for us.

We settled on Kahu Kayaks and their full day tour into the marine reserve at the northern end of the National Park.

Kahu Kayaks offered a free pick-up from our base in Motueka for the transfer to Marahau.  And being a smaller company than some of the bigger operators, we felt this would provide a more personal experience.  With just two other double kayaks, our local guide Luc was able to keep close eye on us all.

We boarded the water taxi at their base in Marahau.  Initially, towed by a tractor along the road to the beach and then, once the kayaks were loaded, on our way to Onetahuti at an exhilarating 35 knots.

Onboard the water taxi

Initially we paddled further north into the marine reserve spotting Stingrays in the crystal clear waters beneath us and then seals sunbathing on the rocks just metres away.
Stingray spotting

We landed on the beach at Tonga Arches for a swim whilst Luc made coffees.  Then we set-out again heading south, and as we left the reserve, Luc trailed a fishing line behind his kayak.  Perhaps there would be something to supplement the "play lunches" provided by Kahu.

Coffee stop at Tonga Arches

But with nothing caught on the line, we came ashore at Sandfly Bay with just our play lunches and to chill.  Fortunately we were not troubled by those pesky biting flies as aching muscles were rested and revived on the lovely beach.

Resting aching muscles at Sandfly Bay

Reviving aching muscles at Sandfly Bay

On the trip back, some team working was called for as all the kayaks were linked up to sail on the sea breeze towards Anchorage Bay by means of a makeshift spinnaker.

An absolutely wonderful day in perfect conditions.  We were so right to have come back for this experience.