Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Mind the wallaby poo!

After a couple of weeks of sunshine and blue skies, the weather has suddenly gone a bit 'orrible here. We drove north from Queenstown to Glenorchy (on the Dart River - an interesting Scottish / Devon lineage) - a beautiful road along the banks of Lake Wakatipu. When we flew over it a few days before, the lake was calm and a startling turquoise colour but now it had dark clouds over the hills and rain squalls rushing down it.

North of Glenorchy is a tiny settlement at Kinloch and another attractive DOC campsite beside the river at the start of the Routeburn Track, one of the designated 'Great Walks' of New Zealand. We set up the tent and, after a quick raid into the bush for firewood, lit a camp fire just before the heavens opened. We huddled under the awning, delighted to have some shelter from the rain, but the swirling winds banished any thoughts of a complicated camp supper and instead we heated up a very good organic risotto ready-meal before heading for an early bed.

The night was very cold, very wet and very windy and the noise of the river beside us grew ever louder as its level rose. We were happy to stay dry but packed up the following morning in persistent cold drizzle and headed back south. The hills along the lake had changed colour overnight - snow is relatively unheard-of at this time of year (it was officially the first day of autumn) but that's what it was:

We decided to return to the campsite at Arrowtown and, for the first night in 4 weeks, we thought that a spot of indoor  sleeping might be a good idea as the rain continued to fall. We arrived to find the camp full of smart motorhomes and caravans, populated by a very different clientele. It transpired that the NZ Golf Open was taking place just down the road so many of the players and golf supporters were in town and we very were lucky to get a little 2-bed cabin (with heating!!). Neither of us know anything about golf but we picked up the information that the first day of the Open had been a bit of a shocker, with a short blizzard driving players and fans off the course.

As an aside, we love the story told by comedienne and 'News Quiz' chair Sandy Toksvig;  she decided to give the late Alan Corren, the brilliant writer and broadcaster, the gift of golf lessons for his 60th birthday, thinking it would be good to get him away from his desk where he chain-smoked as he worked. As he returned from the first lesson, she asked how it had gone.  "Terrible game, absolutely terrible" he responded, "and as for those bunkers.... It's no wonder Hitler died in one!"

Washed, dried and warm the following morning (both us and our laundry), we contemplated our next move. We had originally planned to head further south but the forecast for the next week looks very bad. A low pressure system to the east of South Island and a high pressure to the west are combining to pull cold, wet and windy conditions from the Antartic so the south looks distintly uninviting at the moment. Instead we decided to head north east, back towards Christchurch where the sun might still be shining. En route we drove through Naseby and crossed the hills via Danseys Pass, another gold-rush track built by determined men through almost impossible terrain.

We ended up at Mount Nimrod, at a very off-the-beaten track DOC campsite about 20km west of the coastal town of Timaru. It's another awesome spot and the circular hike, encompassing two peaks and a waterfall, was a great start to the following morning.

The view across the Canterbury Plains - our camp in the tiny grass strip in the woodland and the centre of the photo
The place was so good that we decided on a second night and were now the only occupants of the camp. Apart from the wallabies, that is - other campers, locals to the area, had the previous evening pointed out droppings all around our car and identified them as wallaby poo. We half expected marsupial company around the camp fire but were sadly disappointed.

This morning we drove on to Christchurch and spent the afternoon in the excellent Antarctic Centre where Dianne got to meet some Blue Penguins, much to her delight. The cold southerly wind is now delivering sudden downpours of rain and hail so we're hoping that we'll have better conditions tomorrow for a visit to the city sights.

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