Monday, January 16, 2017


We visited Queenstown two years ago and loved it, despite the huge number of tourists. However we did actually stay in Glenorchy, which is a 45 minute drive out of the town so we had an escape from the crowds.

Friends of ours had recommended Wanaka as a quieter version of Queenstown. So we made a decision to include it in our trip and we are very glad that we did.

The little town is busy but incredible friendly and welcoming. We hired bikes and cycled around the lake and managed to fit in some swimming.

The main town area was incredibly windy and it felt too cold for a dip in the lake. However if you drive two minutes around the corner from the centre of town, under the trees are some lovely sheltered bays, perfect for swimming.

It looks like a mediterranean climate. I think its all the trees and arid hills.

Just outside Wanaka is a lavender farm which is open to the public and has a gorgeous cafe and gardens attached. We spent a glorious couple of hours wandering around enjoying the sunshine.

The farm also had some bee hives and the lavender was clearly attracting lots of bees.

About half an hour outside Wanaka is the abandoned gold mine village Bendigo. You can only reach it by driving up some very steep gravel roads but you are rewarded by some fantastic views and a haunting abandoned village to explore.

The village has a fascinating history and was only abandoned in the 1940s. If you want to read more here is a link Bendigo area .

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Franz Josef Glacier

I have always wanted to see a glacier, ever since I studied glaciation during my A Levels back in the UK. However it is not until I am the grand old age of 41 that I have finally been able to see one in real life.

The incredible ability that ice has to shape our landscape has always fascinated me. The U-shaped valleys, massive boulders and craggy peaks it creates are my favourite landscapes. So travelling to the west coast to view these areas was something I was really looking forward to. 

The journey itself did not disappoint. Travelling from Arthur's Pass to the west coast is a tough but rewarding route. The twisty roads take you through some fantastic dramatic gorges and ravines. Once you reach the west coast itself you are rewarded by thick rain forest and a totally different landscape covered in primordial like forest. 

I kept expecting a Velocoraptor to spring from the side of the road or a Diplodocus head to emerge above the canopy. It really was like walking through a Jurassic forest. This whole area felt prehistoric and the forest just goes on for miles and miles. It appears to cover most of the west coast!

On the day we went it was overcast and rainy which really added to the spooky ancient atmosphere. The weather clearly failed to put other people off as the car park was crowded and there were many other people making the damp hike up to see the glacier.

I was really hoping to actually be able to walk on the glacier but apparently this is dangerous. So the closest we could get was a view of the terminal face.
The ice is retreating at a reasonably rapid rate and is unstable. So the only way you are able to get nearer the glacier is by  hiring a guide. This is something I have now been promised for my birthday! So we will be back.

I am still in awe of glaciers and their immense power to change our surroundings. This glacier was advancing at a phenomenal rate of up to 70cm a day up until 2008. Unfortunately it is now retreating quite rapidly which is believed to be down to global warming. I guess I should consider myself lucky that it still exists and that my children were able to visit it. I can only hope that my grand children are able to visit it too.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cave Stream Scenic Reserve - Castle Hill

I don't like enclosed spaces. So I did not do this walk. However my other half has no fear and apparently neither do my kids or my sister. So when they spotted this opportunity to walk and climb through an underground cave they jumped at the chance. 

The cave walk involves climbing in the pitch black through a cave system for about half a kilometre from one entrance to another. The cave also has ice cold mountain streams running through it so you need to be prepared to get wet.

The water at the beginning comes up to an adults chest height so you need to be wearing wet suits or clothing that you don't mind getting soaked.

We discovered the caves on day one of our stay in Castle Hill and my other half was so enthusiastic to explore he went in fully clothed!

Yes this is a picture of my husband and my nutty sister going into the cave fully clothed. We had a very soggy journey back to our bach!

This is my eldest (she's 12) climbing out of the cave having completed the 560 metre journey through the cave system. She loved it! 

It is a challenging route as you have to climb up underground waterfalls and negotiate rock falls. DOC recommend you don't go alone as people have died. However on the day we went there were plenty of hardy souls completing the journey and all emerging from underground looking very pleased with themselves.

I am slightly disappointed with myself for not doing this walk. My other half and sister said it was a "once in a life time opportunity". And I agree it probably was. Everyone I spoke to at the exit to the cave said how amazing the rock formations are underground. I think I may summon the courage next time we visit the area. And I am sure we will be back!

If you fancy visiting this cave system here is a link to the DOC site - Cave Stream Scenic Reserve