Thursday 10 February 2022

South Island Trip - Nov/Dec 2021 - Part 3


Part 3

Arrowtown, Franz Josef, and home

This is the third part of the holiday we had in the South Island in November/December 2021. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

Monday 30 November

We were going on the Earnslaw cruise today, and we parked on the foreshore, beyond all the hideous hotels, in a small carpark on  a promontory. The sign said four hours max, and we were going to be there for about six hours, but we just took a chance (no ticket happened). We walked the kilometre or so to the area near the Earnslaw Wharf, where we had ‘breakfast’ at “The Pier” - actually just coffee and muffins, because we knew we would get a big lunch.

Along the foreshore

Waiting for our coffee at “The Pier” (DP)

We had another hour or so to kill before we had to report at the Earnslaw at 11:40, so we walked along the foreshore, and back. John likes ducks, and he stopped to take a lovely close-up photo of one.

John crouches down to take photo of a duck

The duck - beautiful plumage

At 11:30 we boarded the Earnslaw, and found a seat on the front deck. It was another gloriously hot sunny day. The cruise was smooth, and it took about 40 minutes to get to Walter Peak Station, where we would be having our barbecue lunch.

We sat on the front deck (DP)

Arriving at Walter Peak Station

A view into the workings of the steamship on our way to disembark

The lunch was brilliantly organised. We were directed to a table with our name on it. It was just inside the edge of the building, by the flung-open doors, half in the sun, but we shifted it about a foot into the shade. Other people were on the terrace under huge sun umbrellas.

Table number 8

Breads and two types of salad were already on the table. Someone came to ask if we wanted a drink, and we had a glass of Riesling each. After a while, a plate with several types of meat and sauces was brought to us and a plate of roast vegetables. Because of Covid Level 2, food had to be delivered to tables, rather than people getting up to get their own, which was perfect, as we didn't need to queue up at the barbecue.

All the food was excellent - best I’ve had so far on this trip. To finish, there was a selection of small sweet items for dessert, and coffee. The serving staff were incredibly busy - and friendly and helpful. When we commented on how busy they were, our waitress said they were short-staffed and over-booked. But she was still very happy to take our picture a couple of times.

That was an excellent meal!

After coffee and dessert

After lunch, I went to watch a demonstration of a sheep dog bringing some sheep down off the hill, by a young woman with her dog - very impressive, and well presented. John stayed somewhere near the homestead, as “he’d seen that sort of thing before”. He was actually not feeling very well, but he still took some great pictures.


The farm dogs, resting in the shade before their working demo (DP)

The wharf awaiting …

… the return of the Earnslaw

Some of the machinery on board - a steam-driven winch

Before long, it was time to return to the Earnslaw. We got back to Queenstown at about 4pm, and rather than doing other things (we thought of going up in the Gondola, but it didn’t look as if it was running), we just came back to the cottage. John zonked out on his bed, and I dozed a bit too in the lounge, before watching the news, and then having a dinner of toast and coffee.

In the news today - There is a new Covid variant, dubbed “Omicron”, which developed in South Africa, and the experts are still trying to figure out whether it is more or less virulent than Delta, it seems to be more transmissible. Meanwhile, the new “Traffic Light” system will be coming into force on Friday, whereby you have to show your vaccination certificate to enter premises. Interesting times …


Tuesday 1 December

Today we biked the Arrow River Bridges Trail. We did this on our non-e bikes on our first biking trip eight years ago. It was another brilliantly sunny day, though it was a bit chilly to begin with, as the track runs in the shade under trees, alongside the river, but it was lovely when we got out into the open.

The track ran under the trees at first

The sheep nuts to feed the alpacas were provided in a container tacked to a fence post

There were quite a few ups and downs, and we had to cross two big suspension bridges. John biked across the shorter one, but walked the longer one. The first, shorter, bridge I biked across gave me the scares - I did not dare look down, I just had to look straight ahead to where I was heading. The ravine, or gorge, under the bridge is very deep and the river very swift and noisy below. I think I am getting worse, with the primal fear of falling into a void, or ditch (dating back to a childhood event). It is a very real and terrifying, breath-stopping fear - I just can’t help it.

The second bridge did not affect me too much

John was not feeling all that well, which expressed itself in the fact that he hardly took any photos. He really needs to concentrate on what he is doing, or he will fall. Mind you, we’d been here before …

The Kawerau Bungy Bridge was only 13.5 km away. The place was open, and two guys were checking equipment at the Bungy jump-off station, but nobody was taking the plunge. In the building, there were only about half a dozen visitors - for coffee - and I think I saw someone signing up to jump, but we didn't wait to see that happening.

The Kawerau River - such an amazing colour!

Not a lot of people in the Kawerau Bungy building (DP)

I was amused at the signs on the toilet doors (DP)

We had some coffee and a cookie, and then we were on our way back. When we got back to Arrowtown, we stopped at the Patagonia ice cream shop, for a well-deserved ice cream, and sat in the shade enjoying it.

You have to remember that you’re wearing a mask, so you don’t try to lick the melting icecream as it dribbles onto your hand!

Wednesday 2 December

We decided to try biking around Lake Hayes. It is an 8 km loop around the lake, and is supposed to be an easy intermediate track. We sort of knew in which direction to go, but stopped at a place hiring out bikes and asked for directions - the young man was very helpful and gave us a map.

The track took us through the Millbrook Resort - a rather gorgeous, flash-looking place - ‘luxury’ cottages, a huge golf course, dozens of golf buggies all lined up, lovely landscaping, several attractive ponds - all very nice. Then we had to go down ‘Christine’s Hill’, which was gravelly and very steep, so we walked down rather than rode. There was no way I wanted to come back by the same route - pushing a heavy, reluctant bike up that hill - nope!

We found our way to the lake, and as suggested (in some leaflet), we tried going in an anti-clockwise direction, but it wasn’t long before we saw that the track was going up a steep bit. We stopped at a seat by the water, before the hill, had some chocolate and were entertained by watching a mother duck and her five ducklings.

By the shore of Lake Hayes
Peaceful setting (DP)

The track beyond is going uphill (DP)

We did not want to attempt that hill, so we tried going around the other way. After a car park, the track went down a steep bit - which meant having to climb back up coming back - so we piked out and went back to Arrowtown by the road. We came across a lovely café/winery called Akarua, which looked very tempting. We had some delicious waffles - all decorated with caramelised banana, berries and flowers - for brunch (too early to call it lunch) in a garden setting.

These waffles were magnificent (DP)

After that, we turned off the main road, and rode on a ‘school bus route’, which was smooth, quiet, and pretty. It eventually took us back to the Bridges track. John steered us to Patagonia again, as we came back into Arrowtown. He felt the need for an ice-cream. I didn’t, so I just sat with him while he had his.

Before going ‘home’ we biked to the Chinese village nearby - the reconstructed remains of the Chinese pioneer miners’ cottages - tiny, made from slabs of stone, with thatched roofs (or corrugated iron now). 

The ground near there and on the Queenstown trail was covered in very fine fluff from the poplars - rather like kapok or cotton. It looked like it had been snowing.

One of the reconstructed dwellings in the Chinese Village

Fluff from the poplars made it look as if it had been snowing

A handful of poplar fluff (DP)

We made our way back to the cottage, and just pottered, started packing some of our stuff, as we were leaving the next day. The plan was to drive to Franz Josef despite the threat of rain. It was to be a long drive, with the only opportunity for a charge top-up in Wanaka, so we needed a full charge. John put the car on a long slow charge, to top it right up.

In the late afternoon we took a wander into the village and spotted an Italian place where we had a very nice pizza - an actual Italian pizza. It restored our faith in pizzas, which had been severely dented by that horrible take-away pizza in Twizel. At the time, I thought that I wouldn’t want to eat pizza again for a very long time. But this was nice, with a glass of wine and some affogato for dessert.


Our faith in pizzas restored!

Thursday 3 December

We left Arrowtown at about 9:30. We took the road to Cardrona over the Crown Range. A very good road, through quite impressive landscape, but I found Cardrona itself oddly disappointing, somehow. It did not take long to get up to the top/pass, much longer to get back down.

The ‘iconic’ Cardrona Hotel

In Wanaka we stopped at a café along the foreshore and had coffee and scones. It was the first time we had to show our vaccine pass, with the new Covid “Traffic Light” system having come into force today. After this we stopped at the i-Site just a few doors along to find out about the weather and road conditions on the West Coast, as we were still vacillating about whether to go up the West or up the East of the divide. The weather map showed rain forecast for both sides, and all the roads were open. So off we went to the West Coast.

Soon after Hawea, the rain set in, and unfortunately, it got steadily worse as the day wore on. We were still seeing lots of lupins, but once past The Neck - the bit between Lake Hawea and the top of Lake Wanaka - we started seeing foxgloves (just like we saw on our West Coast Wilderness trip). We took some photos there, and managed to get some ‘passengers’ along - sandflies - sneaky little critters, that I eventually was able to deal with.

Lake Wanaka from “The Neck”

We didn’t stop for many photos, but I took some from the car, as we were crossing bridges. I remembered the bridge over the Haast River - from the last time we were there, 48 years ago, in a VW Beetle with four adults and two babies! Those were the days!

I think this was across the Paringa River (DP)

The Cook River - getting close to Fox Glacier (DP)

It is pretty wild country, beautiful but wet, and there is nothing much in the way of habitation - nowhere for a coffee. But we found a ‘miracle’ place, in the middle of nowhere, a salmon farm with café attached, which was actually open! The place even provided a covered path from the carpark to the café so we didn’t get too wet. Obviously the place was deserted and there were just a few items in the cabinet, but we had coffee and muffins. Also, a toilet stop! What a godsend.

We drove past signs pointing the way to Lake Matheson (famous for its perfect reflections of the Alps in its still waters) and Okarito (famous for its habitat of kotuku, white heron), and it would have been great to be able to go and see these, but not in this weather.

It was a long day’s driving, and we got to Franz Joseph about 4:30, and found the charging post for the car, quite near the Scenic Franz Josef Hotel where we were staying. The hotel was very nice, but deserted - I think there were only three other couples staying.

John was amused by these banana skin-shaped signs warning of a slippery surface


Friday 4 December

It rained all night, and it was still raining hard when we had breakfast at 8:30 am. We pressed on and stopped briefly at Ross, where there is a small museum that we took a peek at.

We saw this amusing advert in the Ross Museum

This poster in the Hokitika café says it all!

We got to Hokitika by about 10:30. By this stage it was still hosing down, so we checked at the i-Site, and found out that there was less likelihood of rain on the other side of the divide, so we decided to cut our losses, cancelled our hotel booking in Westport and headed towards Arthur’s Pass.

The road over Arthur’s Pass was lovely, though wet. We stopped for photos of the Otira Gorge, and got to the Otira Viaduct, just as the cloud made the view very marginal.

The Otira River

Tunnels protecting the road from water and rocks

Seen from the lookout

The Otira Viaduct, just before it disappeared into the cloud

Almost as soon as we were over Arthur’s Pass, the rain abated. The scenery was beautiful, very dramatic with high mountains and great shingle slides. And soon we were seeing a bit of blue sky.

Dramatic high mountains with great shingle slides (DP)

Once over the divide, we decided to push on until Kaikoura. I managed to book a motel for the night, online, on my phone and we got there by 6:30. The motel was very basic, but it was opposite the beach, and we enjoyed a lovely sunset.

Sunset on the beach at Kaikoura


Saturday 5 December

John woke me at 6:45 am! Much too early for a night owl like me. He decided we would not have breakfast, we would have it somewhere along the road and we left at 7:15. Of course there was nowhere open at that time on a Sunday morning, at a time with very little tourist activity. “Oh, that’s OK, we will have breakfast at Kekerengu”, said John. We got there at 8:30, and it was not open.

So on we pushed, and got to Picton at 9:30. We went straight to the Bluebridge office, expecting it to still be closed too, but we were in luck. The woman at the counter was very helpful and was able to change our 7:15 pm booking for one on the 2pm sailing. Excellent, report at 1 pm.

Off to have some ‘breakfast’ at last. At a foreshore café, we had coffee and scones, then went for a walk, around, and around, the place while the weather was trying to rain, but never quite making it.

Picton foreshore (DP)

In Picton

Coming into Wellington Harbour - nearly home!

It was a smooth sailing, no swell, but it was raining and blowing when we got to Wellington.

It had been a great holiday, and we were really lucky with the weather, with only one day of rain.

After we got back, there was very heavy rain overnight, which caused flooding in various places around the Wellington Region. How lucky we were to have escaped such deluges while away. And now, we were quite happy to stay home.



  1. Hi - I found your blog when researching folding ebikes. I had no idea they were capable of all that you have achieved on them. I had a short test ride on one today but the stumbling block for me is that it is too heavy to lift into my small car. Does it take 2 of you to lift them? I have bookmarked your blog so I can refer to it in future to get ideas for rides when/if I finally make a decision about a bike as I live in Porirua. The bike I was looking at today was a different brand to yours but I might go take a look at one like yours tomorrow given that it has served you so well. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures via your blog. -Karen

  2. John takes the battery out, and the seat also. He also holds the folded sections together with a bungee cord, so it is a tidy unit to lift. It helps, but it is still a heavy thing to lift. Your comment was some time ago, I hope you've managed to find a bike to your liking. I haven't done much on my blog for over a year, though we have had several trips away. I will get back into it soon.