Day 15 – Takaka Area

Sunday, Jan 31, 2016

Tokaka to Motueka

What a day! It was a long one.

The temperatures were very warm and it was sunny most of the time.

One of the first things I did in the morning was call the credit union because it was apparent that they had locked my accounts. I had tried to get cash with my debit card in Hokitika but the machine kept informing me that my limit for the day had been exceeded. When I reached Tokaka, I tried logging in to my accounts and I got a message that I had been locked out so I called the answering service for my Canadian Cell phone and there was a message from the credit union to call them. Fortunately, I was able to call them and get everything straightened out. I had told my credit card companies that I was travelling but I had forgotten to inform the Credit Union.

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We left campsite in Pohara, near Takaka, early in the morning and stopped for a quick breakfast at a cafe. During breakfast I was reflecting on some verses and one of my favourites came to mind – Mathew 28:20 ” And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”. I didn’t realize that this was a sign of what my day would be like.

After breakfast, we drove to the Farewell Spit area, the northern-most area of the south island, where we planned to check out the caves and hike some of the trails ( see the map above ).

When we reached the Port Puponga, we kept going to the end of the gravel road until we reached the end of the road at the car park next to the trail to Whararika Beach. Here we hiked the trail to the beach that had been exposed by the low tide.

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While we investigated the beach and caves, we saw several different birds and a few sea lions, some of them in the caves.

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When we had finished wandering around the beach and caves, we decided that I would do the 4 km hike to the Pillar Point Lighthouse and then take the trail back down to the road and Cheryl would return to the van and drive it there to meet me. I started my trek at 11:30 and we agreed to meet around 1:00 pm. I set off on the steep climb up the hill and and was surprised that the warning about steep cliffs and narrow ledges was actually true.

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However the scenery was spectacular and hard to capture with the camera.

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This is where things started to get interesting. I reached the point where I thought that the path might lead down to our meeting point at 12:30 but there were no signs to indicate that it was one of the paths so I kept on going. As I was hiking up and down the mountains sides and through the groves of trees, I sensed that I might be going on the longer trek that leads to the Farewell Spit cafe, but I kept going. It was getting close to 1 pm and I could see the spit getting a lot closer so I kept going.

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Whenever I passed through a grove of trees, the cicadas were very noisy. At first I didn’t mind, but after a while it got very annoying. I passed a group of horseback riders and wished I was starting to think it would be good to ride the horse the rest of the way. I kept my eye out for the next red pole that would indicate the direction to go, since the path that was no longer readily visible. It was almost 1 pm and I still hadn’t reached my destination so I pushed on as quickly as I could and I finished the last of my water as I saw a carpark in the distance over a few hills. As I approached the car park I noticed that it said that it was the Farewell Spit cafe and parking lot. I had gone a lot further than anticipated…another 4 km, and it was 1:30 pm. I bought an ice-cream bar and a bottle of water, looked at the map of the hikes that was posted outside the cafe and I knew that I would have to walk to our meeting place because Cheryl would be waiting there for me. I walked as quickly as I could and considered hitching a ride with one of the few cars that was heading my way but I decided against it. I thought about the verse I had reflected on in the morning and felt confident that everything would work out. Along the way, I saw the same horse back riders I had seen on one of the mountains, coming towards me. I kept walking and walking until finally I turned the corner and I saw Cheryl and the van. She had just returned from hiking up to the cliffs to see if I was there…what timing. It was 3:30 by the time I got to the van and I had hiked 12 km instead of only 4. I had burned a lot more calories than I had anticipated, but I felt good.

As we drove toward Motueka, Cheryl informed me that she had gone back to the caves to take some pictures and that she had slipped and fallen while she was on one of the rocks in the caves. She had a few minor cuts and she had sprained herself a little but she said she was alright.

On the way back we turned off at the exit to go to the Pupu Hydro Walkway. This is an old hydro station and it is a 2.7 km walk up a steep incline to the water intake, then a 2 km walk along the top and then another 2.5 km to get back down.

At the top the water is fed through a diverter section,

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through a 1.7 km raceway,

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to a screen that is used to keep the water clean from debris,

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down a steep pipeline,

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to a small generating station,

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After walking another 7 km, we returned back down to the car and headed to the nearby springs on our way back to the highway. This was a short 20 minute walk to see the springs that are known for the volume and clarity of the water that is discharge from them.

In this picture you can see the water discharge.

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The water is so clear that I was able to see to the bottom everywhere I looked.

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It was definitely worth stopping to see.

We had completed everything we wanted to do and much more, so we headed to our next campsite, in Motueka, so that we could prepare for tomorrow’s adventure. We arrived at the campsite just before 9 pm and set up camp just as it was getting dark.

Day 14 – Westport to Takaka

Saturday, Jan 30, 2016

Westport to Takaka

After a good night’s rest in warm, dry conditions, we left Westport for the Tasman area in the Northwest area of the south island.

Similar to the previous day, several sections of the roads wound around the mountain sides in a snakelike, pattern with several hairpin turns around blind corners. It would have been desirable conditions for travel on a motorcycle but not in a camper van. I’m sure that all of the motorcyclists travelling to the Bike Rally in Hokitika, enjoyed navigating the turns.

On our way, we stopped at Bullers Gorge and traversed the swing bridge to some hiking areas. The bridge swung more than any swing bridge I have ever been on and it was very narrow, barely enough room for one person.

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There is a zip line that can be taken from the opposite end of the bridge back to the entrance. The river is quite full at this location and they offer jet boat rides for a fee.

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We hiked the trails and took numerous pictures as we went.

I ventured on a less travelled route, in fact I was the only one no this route through the forest which led to a small falls with some rapids.

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I was surprised to find a baby eel in a pool which had formed on a large rock. I was able to take a picture of him but it is hard to distinguish him because of the water reflection. Hopefully you can spot him near the middle of the picture.

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We left the Gorge and drove to Murchison, where we had a quick lunch at a Cafe, topped off with a little ice cream, before continuing our drive.

Along the way we saw these hanging vines but we couldn’t tell what they are. Anyone have an idea?

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I was starting to count sheep when I came upon this sign on the road and just had to share it.

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The landscape had slowly changed from a rainforest to a forest of evergreen and deciduous trees that covered the sides of the mountains which bordered the many farms in the valleys. We stopped at a couple of lookout points on the top of some mountains which gave us great views of the mountainous landscapes with the many valleys that are typical in this region.

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We stopped in Motueka to book a day of kayaking and hiking but the i-site was closed so we called the company directly. We discussed our options and decided to continue to Takaka where we reserved a campsite before getting a pizza for supper.

Day 13 – Fox Glazier to Westport

Friday, Jan 29, 2016

Happy Birthday Cheryl!

Fox Glazier to Westport

We got up very early in order to get to Lake Matheson and take sunrise pictures. We arrived at the lake by 6:20 am, 15 minutes before sunrise, however, there was no sunrise. It was a drizzly, overcast, foggy day. However we were able to get several nice pictures of the trees and vegetation around the lake with their reflection on the water.

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We stopped for breakfast at the fancy cafe located at the entrance to Lake Matheson and I had a latte and a breakfast, bacon & egg pie. I was quite impressed at the design in the latte.

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We returned to camp, completed some chores, packed up our camper van and left Fox Glazier for some unknown destination in the north. We retraced our drive on the hairpin turns through the mountains past Franz Joseph Glazier and continued north.

We drove to Ross, where I had been asked to drop off a gift. We arrived at noon, had lunch and then drove to the shop of Steve Maintland, where I presented him with a Terry Fox T-Shirt that Les Potapczyk had given me. Steve is a superb athlete as well as a Jade carver.

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He informed us about Jade and how it is polished and the fact that most store-bought jade is sprayed with lacquer, synthetic (i.e. plastic ) or synthetically enhanced to make it shiny and green. He showed showed us how some tricks to tell whether a stone is fake, although he has found some plastic imitations that are excellent replicas. We bought these 2 stones from him before we left to continue our journey.

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We drove to Hokitika and stopped there to book our ferry ride to the north island. We soon found out that there was a famous bike rally there this weekend called the ” Woodstock Motorcycle Rally ” because bikers were showing up from everywhere.

We had a short walk along the beach where they were having a contest to see who could create the best or funniest design with the driftwood on shore. There were definitely some unique designs.

We decided to continue our trek north and had wonderful views of the coastline along the way.

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When we arrived in Punakaiki, we stopped to view the ” Pancake Rocks “.

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One section was quite fascinating. Can you see the characters in the rocks?

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We left Panakaiki and continued north until we arrived in Westport at 9 pm. We secured a camp site and quickly drove to Cape Foulwind to see if we could capture the sunset, but it was too cloudy to see a nice sunset, however, we saw a local bird called the Weka before it got too dark to see anything.

Day 12 – Haast to Franz Josef Glazier

Thursday, Jan 28, 2016

Haast to Franz Josef

It had been a comfortable 12 C ( 56 F) overnight. We had cereal for breakfast, before starting the drive to the Franz Josef Glazier.

As we drove along the highway, it quickly became obvious that we were in a rainforest. We stopped at Ship Creek lookout to do the Kahikatea Swamp Forest Walk. We weren’t sure whether we wanted to do the walk, but afterwards, we were very glad that we did. The first thing I saw was these black swans.

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As I continued, I walked into a different world.

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The large trees are called Kahikatea by the Maori and they grow to 55 meters ( 180 ft ) height and 1 meter ( 3 ft ) in diameter, although they have known to be 80 meters ( 250 ft ) tall and 2 meters ( 6 ft ) in diameter. Because the wood of these trees is clean, light-weight and doesn’t impart an odour, it was used to make boxes for exporting butter.

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On my way out of the forest, I noticed this bird, drying his wings on the far bank of the river that flowed out to the Tasman Sea.

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One of the things that is different here is that there are a few different traffic signs than we don’t have. Because they have a lot of one-lane bridges, they had to come up with a way to direct traffic over them.

This sign means that you have the right of way unless someone is already entering or on the bridge.

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And this sign means that you do not have the right of way across the bridge and you have to yield to oncoming traffic.

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We continued our drive until we came to Fox Glazier. We hiked up to the glazier and I took a picture of Cheryl in front of it.

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We then drove into town and stopped at a cafe for some planing while we had a delicious lunch of potato and leek soup and a small plate of a few large, thick fries with aioli sauce.

We then went to the Top 10 Holiday Park nearby and secured a campsite. This is by far the nicest park we have been to yet. The lady there also suggested that I become a Top 10 member for $49 ( for 2 years ) because it would give me 10% off at all Top 10 parks, free internet, 10% off for fuel, 10% off of the $280 ferry ride to the North Island that we would be taking next week, as well as other savings in New Zealand and Australia. I wish this had been offered to me at the first Top 10 I stopped at. I could have saved a lot of money.

After we set up the tent, we drove to Franz Josef Glazier. I took a picture of the glazier from the parking lot.

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and then we hiked to ” Peters Pool ” to take a picture of its reflection in the pool.

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I hiked further while Cheryl was still taking pictures at the pool and I found these large ferns. I’m planning on taking the picture back home to set beside my ferns at home to inspire them to grow larger.

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When I returned to where Cheryl had been taking the pictures, but she was gone, so I hiked up to the glazier, thinking that she had gone there as well.

I took these pictures of the glazier, the surrounding area.

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When I returned from my hike, which took a little more than an hour, I found Cheryl in the parking lot. She had gone on a different trail. We compared our pictures and just before we got up to leave, she mentioned that she had found a camera. She was showing me the camera and asked me what she should do with it when a man, who had just driven into the parking lot, came over and asked us if we had found the camera. He looked very concerned. Cheryl explained that she had found it on the ground in the parking lot and had tried to check the pictures on it but it was damaged. He said that it was his camera and it had fallen out of his wife’s coat pocket and that he had returned to the parking lot in the hope that he could find it. He said that they have been in New Zealand for 3 weeks and all of the their pictures were on it. I suggested that he take the memory card and have the pictures copied to another card before he loses them again. He wanted to take a picture of us on the camera but he soon realized that the camera didn’t work. Cheryl and I felt that it was meant for us to compare our pictures so that he would find us there and get his camera back.

We had another full day and we returned to our campsite at Fox Glazier, had a light salad, and completed some tasks including some plans for the next day.

Day 11 – Kingston to Haast

Wednesday, Jan 27, 2016

Kingston to Haast

There was a cold spell in the Kingston area and the temperature was quite cool and damp at night, however we survived the night and when I crawled out of my tent, it was still quite cool ( 11 C, 52 F ) and damp.

We skipped breakfast in order to have brunch in Allentown. I was told that they have the “ World’s Best Pies “ so I was looking forward to having a piece of pie with a cup of coffee.

New Zealand is has a lot of Cafe’s. They have almost as many cafes as our area has Tim Horton’s coffee shops. However ,there coffee is always freshly ground and the selections are primarily speciality coffee’s, such as espresso, latte, mocha, cappuccino, etc. If you want an American-style coffee, they brew one or two espresso shots and then dilute them with hot water.

We drove around along the winding roads next to the mountains until we reached Allentown. Allentown is a quaint little town with a lot of small shops in the downtown area. We parked the car and walked down main street until I saw these chocolates in one of the shops.

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New Zealand is known for their fine chocolates and I wanted to support their business so I had to buy a dark, New Zealand chocolate bar with almonds. It was a tough decision, but it was one that I was able to make.

We continued on down to a small cafe at the end of the main street to have breakfast. Cheryl had a tea and a slice of vegetarian pie and I had a latte and a breakfast panini and we topped off our meal by splitting a slice of Boysenberry cheesecake; another sacrifice! We asked the waitress about the ” World’s Best Pies ” and we were told that they were in the store next door. We had initially stopped in that store but opted not to eat there because there was no place to sit down. After breakfast we went to the bake shop and I bought a hot and spicy chicken pie, as well as, a custard and Cheryl bought a chicken “ football “. We planned to have them for a late lunch in the afternoon.

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This is a view from the end of the street.

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We left Allentown and headed toward Wanataka. As we climbed the first mountain, we had a good view of Allentown, seen on the right in this photo.

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We then continued the winding route through the mountains until we arrived at Wanaka. Wanaka is a tourist town. It is well manicured, has a beautiful lake,

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and it has many stores and accommodations.

We looked at the weather forecast and since it was indicating rain and cool for the following day, we continued on to Haast for the night. The road from Wanaka to Haast goes past two Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. Both give beautiful views of the lakes with the mountains in the background.

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A few minutes north of Makarora, there is a short walk through NZ beech forest across a swing bridge,

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to a glacial blue water pool.

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A little further down the road we stopped to look at Fantail Falls,

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and Thunder Creek Falls,

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When we finally reached Haast, we stopped at the visitors information centre, where they informed us that the road to Jackson Bay had been completely washed out the day before and there was no access to get there. We had planned to go to Jackson Bay the following day, however, we would now have to change our plans. We continued on to a camp ground near Haast, checked in and set up camp.

There isn’t much available in Haast, including cell phone service, however, we were able to get wifi at the campsite. We had our meals that we had purchased in Allentown for a late dinner and then we planned the next leg of our trip.

It was cool in the evening and it rained a little, but it was much warmer than it had been in Kingston.

Day 10 – Te Anau to Milford Sound to Kingston

Tuesday, Jan 26 2016

Te Anau to Kingston

Our plan was to drive to Milford Sound and then return to Te Anau before driving to Lincoln.

We were a bit tired from the Monday’s adventures, so we got a late start. We cooked the last of our eggs and toasted the last of the bread for breakfast. By the time we had cleaned up and packed everything away it was 10:30 am, before we left Te Anau. It is almost 120 km to Milford Sound but it takes about 2 hours or more to drive there, depending on how many times you want to stop to take pictures. The drive to Milford Sound is very picturesque and well worth the time it takes to get there.

As we left the Te Anau, the weather was cool, but it warmed up as the day progressed. We have learned to “ layer “ our clothing because the temperatures can change very quickly, especially when your elevation changes significantly, which happens regularly in the mountains.

The landscape changed from wide flat plains of farmland between the mountains

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to forests

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and then to rain forests.

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There were many places to stop and take pictures.

Milford Sound is a rainforest area, similar to Doubtful Sound, very wet with lush landscapes. The town is quite small, with only a few buildings. Only busses are allowed to drive to the dock area where the cruises start. Cars are not allowed to drive to the dock are but it is only a short walk from the town through some spectacular rainforest to get to the entrance building for all of the cruises.

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The town can be seen from this picture taken at the end of the dock area.

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The are numerous docks for all of the cruise ships.

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Milford Sound has a popular cruise to see the fiords, very similar to the one that goes to Doubtful Sound. I was asked why we chose to go on the Doubtful Sound cruise and not the one to Milford Sound. There were several reasons we chose to cruise Doubtful Sound cruise. It was recommended to us by a few people, the Doubtful Sound cruise is almost twice as long, the Doubtful Sound cruise is not as crowded ( Milford Sound is designed more for large groups ) and we had the time to take the Doubtful Sound cruise and then drive to Milford Sound. From what I have heard, both cruises are very nice and allow the passengers to see many waterfalls (weather permitting), mountains and sea lions. The drive to Milford Sound is a must. If you only have 1 day available, I recommend that you drive to Milford Sound and take the cruise from there.

The ferns in the rainforest are huge and can grow up to 10 feet in height.

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We left Milford Sound in the early afternoon, after a quick lunch and a hike of the area. On our way back to Te Anau we continued to get some spectacular views.

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When we reached Te Anau we stopped for dinner downtown where I had an excellent greek-style salad with slivers of lamb and a vinaigrette dressing, followed by chocolate lasagna.

After dinner, we continued back towards Queenstown, until we stopped at Kingston for the night. We set up our campsite and worked on our journals in the rustic lounge area before we shivered our way back to the campsite in the cool, damp evening air.

FYI – I just realized that I hadn’t published Day 7. It is now published.

Day 9 – Manapouri and Te Anau

Monday, Jan 25, 2016

It was overcast and drizzling at 7:30 am when we finished packing to go on our cruise to Doubtful Sound.

We were informed that it is best to take the cruise twice, once when it is raining so that you can see more waterfalls and once when it isn’t raining to see the landscape, which is hard to do because this is a rainforest area that gets 7 meters ( 22 feet ) of rain every year.

The docks were only 1 km away from the campsite, so it didn’t take long for us to get there.

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We left the dock the dock in a double decker boat for the 45 minute ride across Manapouri Lake.

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When we reached the other side we got off at the location of the hydro dam. This dam is mostly underground and it supplies enough power for the entire south island, however 80% of the power is used by an aluminum mine and 20% is used to help supply power for the island.

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From the dock we took a 45 min bus ride to catch the boat for the start of our 4 hour fiord cruise to Doubtful Sound, the Tasman Sea and back again.

It rained the whole day, which gave us magnificent views of the many waterfalls that were created, through the mist of the rain. We were fortunate that it rained, because there were many more waterfalls than there normally would have been. Unfortunately, a camera can’t capture all that the eye can see.

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At the mouth of the river to the Tasman Sea, we saw many sea lions resting on a large rock.

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When we returned back to Manapouri it was 3 pm so we drove 15 km to Te Anau, where we found a campsite, purchased a plastic sheet, a canvas sheet and some rope at the local hardware store and then ate supper at the Redcliffe Restaurant. This restaurant had the highest rating in the area with TripAdvisor and it lived up to its reputation. I had the grouper special, which was delicious.

After dinner, we set up my tent with the plastic sheet under it and the canvas over it, to keep my tent dry from the rain.

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The town is small and every thing is within walking distance. Once the tent was set up we went to the dock and checked in at 6:45 pm to go to the Glowworm caves. This consisted of a boat ride to the other side of Lake Te Anau. We had a tour of the caves, followed by a video presentation about the glowworms. The tour wasn’t very long and we were back at our campsite by 9:30 pm.

We went to the lounge area to check emails and work on our journals and at 11:30 pm, Cheryl headed back to the camper, while I continued working on my blog. The young couple sitting in the area, struck up a conversation with me and we spend almost an hour discussing their travels. They were from the UK and they were travelling around the world, working just enough in each country to pay for their needs. They had recently arrived from Vietnam where they had stayed for 8 months. They planned to work ( and play ) in New Zealand for another 8 months. I was impressed that a couple in their 20’s would undertake this type of adventure.

When the couple left, I completed my blog, went to my tent in the cool evening air at 12:30 am and was soon asleep.