Monday, 30 May 2016

Handy Accessories

I've been meaning to do this blog for a very long while but haven't found the chance, I'm always writing current blogs or catching up on past ones (which I still have plenty, waiting in the wings) but with a little bit of time up my sleeve while we're here at the canals, I thought I'll do it now. I've had some of the photos in a file since 2014!

Here are four great accessories that have made life a little easier while living on the road, perhaps they'll appeal to some of you with RVs too.

Dish Drying Mat- of course those with dishwashers need read no further. This is a God send, especially if you're not quite level when parked up. You know, when all the water that's drained off your dishes disappears down to the corner underneath things that shouldn't get wet or worse over the front and onto the floor. It's a good thick absorbent mat, also for those extra dishes that don't fit in the dish rack either. It drys quickly outside or I hang it over the back of the hob's glass lid. I store it as a 'packer' between the hob lid and the gas rings when in transit. Makes a pretty red colour behind the glass decal.

The rubber draining mat under the rack is also from Briscoes, it tends to 'hold' the drained water underneath until you wipe it up after the dishes are dried (or drained). It sits, and fits, perfectly with the rack, in the sink when not in use.

The drying mat was bought from Briscoes for as little as $10, I'm onto my second one which I purchased in their sale for $6!

Door Mat- I had a regular door mat but during the winter it would get very dirty, especially if it was raining when you're trying to remove shoes and keep dry at the same time. So I purchased a couple of dark coloured bath mats from the Warehouse. I rotate and regularly wash them, something you can't easily do with a door mat. They're also soft and absorbent, and dry your feet or slippers when you've stepped out for a moment.

Collapsible crate (Payless Plastics approx $25-30)- we're onto our third one (you do have to remember to move it before your darling hubby moves the rig off the blocks!) While parked up, we store the box under the rig just to the side of the steps (no longer behind the wheel). It has our outside shoes in it- Crocs, gumboots, Tevas(here) and it's also good for keeping odds and sods in while parked up; funnel, mat ties, bug spray etc. 

When not in use, it folds down flat for easy storage, although ours is always up. I just lift it inside before we move- it sits on the spare door mat so as not to mark the floor- and out again when we arrive at the next site. Oh, and I do keep a large rugby ball sized rock in it, first it was a place to store the rock after I found it, then it became the weight to hold the bin in place during high winds. 

Though it wasn't heavy enough when we at Moke Lake, I heard an almighty clatter while the wind was shaking the van something tremendous. I looked out to see a half collapsed crate tumbling across the ground heading for the lake, with shoes, stone etc scattered in its wake. As it disappeared over the edge of the bank I thought we were soon going to be buying crate #4. I grabbed my dressing gown and in the pouring rain, raced to the lake edge, careful not to slip over in my retrieved Crocs, to, thankfully, find the crate hooked up in the only matagouri bush on the lake edge for miles! 

And last but not least another purchase from Payless Plastics (or similar store) for about $4 each, the very handy, multiple use, plastic white hook. We have half a dozen or so of these and they suit our van very well. We have a number of areas where we can hook them over; all along the the top of the slide-out and the top of the shower, amongst others. Here two have been used, one at each end, as rod holders off the slide out while we're parked up (that's part of the ceiling joining strip above the hook- bad photo composition). 

We can hang multiple coathangers with drying washing on them, the coathangers can be stacked across the bottom, sometimes we hang out jackets on them in the corner, and they're used as towel holders inside the shower when the shower is not in use and then they hold the towels on the outside of the shower, when we are in the shower. Not the most elegant of accessories but they suit us down to the ground.

Hopefully some of these may be of interest to some of you too.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Trout for Dinner!

Yee-haa! Finally the Evans Ohau Canal drought has been broken....even if he did catch this little beauty as it entered the canal. I told him I didn't want trout, I wanted a salmon for dinner, now get back out there........while I make you a cup of tea, darling! Ungrateful sod aren't I? 

And here's what the weather's been like, nearly but not quite brass monkey weather!

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Cover Photo

It was with great excitement to find out that I'd managed to score the front cover of the latest NZMCA magazine once again; I needed one more to fill a spare gap on the van's wall. Anymore and I'll have to hang them in the loo!

This was taken in Wanaka while I was out and about doing my own personal tiki-tour, capturing the autumn colours while David was fishing. 

The blurb (which I have to supply) reads- Autumn at Albert Town Camping Ground. Located on the banks of the mighty Clutha River just downstream from the river's Lake Wanaka outlet. The camp ground is surrounded by many walking and cycle tracks along both sides of the river, south to Luggate and into Wanaka township.

Hey, I like these short blogs (I bet you do too)!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

If Plan 'A' Doesn't Work...

...the alphabet has 25 more letters. And we have all the time in the world.

The day started out a lot better than the last few; Lowburn looked very peaceful with no wind, no fog and thankfully no rain!

I finished getting the inside ship-shape while David was doing his outside chores, preparing to hitch up before we pulled out, heading for the West Coast. The sun came out...

... so while David was busy, I wandered down to the end of the reserve beside the boat ramp to take some shots of the reflections in Lake Dunstan. 

We call this the 'The Island', although it's not an island at all, it's just a bubble of land at the end of a finger that forms a sheltered harbour.

Snow on the Carrick Range behind Bannockburn, the Nevis Road heads through there somewhere. 

We said good-bye to Robyn & Ross, they'd pulled in behind us last night. We met them at the Autumn Festival rally where they were parked not too far from us with their lovely family of pets. Look how low that snow is on the Pisa Range behind, no wonder we had a couple of cold nights!

We pulled out and headed to the dump station back in Cromwell to empty; following our motto of 'dump, pump and fill' whenever we have the chance. You never know when plans are going to change. And then we headed back past Lowburn, stopping one more time to fill up with sweet spring water from our 'secret' spring nearby. And then it was finally off down the road towards Wanaka past dozens of vineyards with rows and rows of bare vines. Last time we came past here the vines were all in their autumn colours. 

About half way along the lake, we suddenly decided to change our plans. Tomorrow's forecast was for fine weather but then it was rain for the next 2-3 days, and we just couldn't face another couple of days of rain with no internet and nothing much to do at a isolated DOC camp at the head of Lake Hawea (our intended first stop on the way through Haast Pass). We also heard a big fish calling 'Daaa...vid, Daaa...vid'.

So we hung a right at Luggate and crossed over the Clutha River, one bridge sooner than expected...

...and pulled into a gravel pit on the otherside to have some lunch, we had a longer than expected drive ahead of us now. It was also a last chance to change our minds again and take a different route to Lake Hawea if we wanted. Across the plains we could see that the mountains around Wanaka were covered in a lot of snow too. 

Minds made up and energy restored, we headed off in the direction of Lindis Pass...

...where snow had fallen, but nowhere near as much as when I drove through the Lindis at the same time last winter 

Heading down the north side of the Lindis Pass...

...and into Omarama with a nice coating of snow on the Benmore Range...

...past the DOC camp beside the Ahuriri River, where we stopped for a few days last spring, when the area was covered in beautiful lupins instead of surrounded by lovely snow...

... and onto a very familiar spot beside a very familiar canal where somewhere in there, is a fish (or two) swimming around with David's name on it. 

And if it rains, well you can still fish in the rain and as you can see, we have the internet, so we should be able to sit out the predicted bad weather over the weekend. And if the fish continue to elude David (this will be our fourth visit to the canals- he's had no luck on our previous visits), I'll be heading over the bridge to the salmon farm! 

I won't be telling him, that it's been a similar time of the year each visit...perhaps that what's wrong. The fish have headed to the depths to escape the cold. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Winter Has Arrived


Blog posts will be a little intermittent over the next few weeks as we'll have limited connection as we move through Haast Pass and up the West Coast at a snail's pace. Well, I'm hoping it will be a snail's pace but if the weather is anything like it has been the last three weeks, we'll be through there quicker than we think.  It has rained 14 days out of our last 18; we shift and it rains, we shift and it rains, we shift and it snows! 

You'll recall we went to Moke Lake, south of Queenstown a couple of weeks ago. There we had one fine day out of 5 before we decided to move back to Queenstown to wait for a weather change before heading to Glenorchy. Well, it rained for 3 out of 4 days there, luckily we managed to fit Skippers in before it got too muddy and well before the snow that has now fallen.

The day before a forecast fine day, we left for Glenorchy in the pouring rain so we'd be set to go when the sun came out. Which it did, we had 2 fine days out of 5 there and managed to fit in a trip around the lake to Kinloch and to the end of the road where Greenstone/Caples tramping track leaves from. This is the view across the lake from near Kinloch.

We also managed a trip out to Paradise (LOTR famous now) and a walk around Lake Sylvan while the sun shone. I will do blog posts on our Glenorchy activities soon.

But for most of the time it rained and rained and rained some more. We haven't had to top up our tanks with tap water for a few weeks, collecting it off the roof and awning every wet day. While most of the time it rained, we stayed indoors (power and free wi-fi allowed us both to catch up on computer jobs), we did manage to walk the Glenorchy Lagoon walkway. 

Rees River- Routeburn Valley back left, Rees Valley back right
It was pretty dismal and the rain started again not long after we headed out but it was good to get some fresh air into our lungs albeit cold fresh air.

I wanted to capture the wharf shed in the sun but we didn't get back in time. I just managed to shoot it as the sun was going down here.

Finally, the rain just got too much for us and we headed back to the pouring rain! Which meant we didn't get to see any of the beautiful scenery along the lake, there or back.

We were intending to stop at Lake Hayes again for a couple of nights so we could do another road trip that was on our 'to do' list; up the Remarkables ski field road, the one that appears in many of my Queenstown photos, zig-zagging its way up the side of the mountain. But it was torrential rain by the time we drove through the town and we decided that when the rain eventually did stop there was probably going to be a whole lot of snow up there. We'd left our run too late for this trip. Our Indian summer had really come to an end.

After lunch, parked on the edge of a very soggy and miserable Lake Hayes, we carried on through the gorge to Cromwell. And with a howling gale blowing and horizontal rain, we decided it would be more sheltered at the NZMCA Rotary Glen Park, than the more exposed Lowburn just down the road.  Well, it was as miserable as sin there. It rained solid for two whole days, rivers of water flowed through camp, mud coated anything and everything and the cloud and fog pressed down on us in our little hollow. And when there was a break in the cloud we could see the source of the cold; snow on all the nearby ranges. We also decided we're not the only mad buggers 'Out There' either.  

On the third day the sun came out and I'd had enough of Rotary Glen. Did I mention the leaves- great waves of leaves blew across the park with every gust of wind, catching on the fence and then washing over the top, breaking free and tumbling down to gather at the lake edge.

We still had a couple things to do in Cromwell so we shifted to a more settled Lowburn...

...where we had the place to ourselves. Very different to the last few times we've stopped here when it's been bumper to bumper RVs! It was a lovely afternoon- snow all around us, warm sun and calm air...

 ...but look what we awoke to this morning, thick pea soup! A forum friend told me, 'Fog is just clouds too darn lazy to get out of bed' I like it!

It took all morning but eventually the fog rolled back to reveal a reasonable day; it was another couple of hours before it lifted off Cromwell town at the bottom of the lake.

I decided to drive through to Queenstown this afternoon for one last visit before we leave for the West Coast. After all the rain, low cloud and cold temperatures, I wanted to see how much snow had fallen and see if I could get a few photos. I'm please I did, it was lovely to see familiar scenes in a different season. Here's the Crown Range behind Arrowtown- 

Lake Hayes and The Remarkables reflected in an icy pool- we parked here for lunch the other day when it was pouring with rain. We could hardly see the lake.

And this might look familar; the Lower Shotover River with The Remarkables behind... 

I took the same shot 4 weeks ago; there's been a lot of water under the bridge since then.

Upstream, with Coronet Peak on the far left...

And 4four weeks ago, isn't nature a wonderful thing?

And one last photo of Lake Hayes from the other end, looking towards Arrowtown and the Crown Range.

I love the Queenstown area, it's so beautiful with stunning scenery in every direction, it's just a pity it rained so much for us on this, our fourth (or is that 5th?) visit. But still, I managed to squeeze in some great shots and I'm sure we'll be back through here again in the not too distant future. 

It's time to see what the West Coast can throw at us. 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Famous Skippers Road - Part 2

Continued on from Part 1

Once across the Skippers Suspension Bridge, the road narrowed as we followed it up a few sharp switchbacks before arriving out on an open plateau.

We pulled in near the information shelter and decided to have lunch there while we were at it...

...rather than across the valley at the remnants of the Skippers township. A car containing a large family had passed us at the bridge, and now had the only picnic table in the sun (if you don't count another one that had collapsed). The sun shone brightly on the autumn gold of an exotic tree near the homestead, contrasting spectacularly with dead wilding pines that surrounded the settlement.

Plus, I wanted to check out the Skippers Cemetery before we drove over to the other side. 

A picket and stone fence surrounds the cemetery which contains about 20 headstones and the marked graves of early Skippers residents.  

There are many unmarked and unidentified graves too. 

The cemetery overlooks the Skippers Canyon, a fitting resting place for the hardy pioneers of this remote settlement.

Across the canyon, just above the sheer cliffs, another road cuts around the side of the mountain, it leaves the Skippers Road not far before the bridge. Branches Road provides access to the huge and isolated 45,000ha high country Branches Station. The station takes it's name from the many tributaries that form the upper reaches of the Shotover River and is about as remote as they come. With permission experienced trampers can cross through the station, over the Shotover Saddle and into Lake Wanaka's  Matukituki Valley.

On this side of the canyon, a 2-3hr walking track heads past the cemetery and on up Skippers Creek to another old gold mining settlement; Bullendale. The remains of the Bullendale Hotel, the only hotel that was in this area, are along the way. Miners from Skippers, and further down the Shotover, had a fair hike to the pub after a days' work.

We gave Bullendale a miss and headed over the valley to Skippers where the historic Skippers Point School still stands proud and grand...

And looking just a little out of place in this faraway place...

After the school closed in 1927, it became a woolshed and then it was left derelict for over 20 years. In 1992 it was restored by the Department of Conservation, inside and out and visitors are free to wander at their leisure.

We both noticed how chilly it was indoors behind the thick stone exterior. I guess with a fire going on school days, the solid walls would have kept the heat inside, which is just as well because I'm sure there would have also been days when snow lay thick on the ground outside. 

Skippers was never a mining town in the popular sense, there wasn't a main street lined with hotels and stores. The settlement was spread out across limited flat ground over two terraces. The school and Mt Aurum Homestead were on Burkes Terrace along with a few miners cottages but most of the population were located close to their mining claims along the banks of the river and nearby creeks.

By the 1940s the only permanent residents of Skippers were the owners of Mt Aurum Station. The station homestead has now also been restored. It was very interesting exploring inside both these buildings, with are a good number of information panels explaining the dynamics of the settlement, and the hard life and harsh environment that people lived in along the Shotover River. Winters were especially difficult with snow and ice laying on the ground for weeks at a time with no access along the track back to Queenstown.

The restored miner cottage was still sitting in the sun (or perhaps it was the Station's toolshed, I couldn't quite decide).

Behind the homestead there's a small DOC camp surrounded by very tall dead pines and a warning to watch out in high winds (the wilding pines in this area were sprayed in 2014). There are a number of tramping tracks and huts further on into the 9,100ha Mt Aurum Recreation Reserve, I guess this site provides a stepping stone for trampers and also a site for mountainbikers and visitors with tents or small camper vans who visit Skippers and might want to overnight. 

I think it would be quite an experience camping out in a place that has so much history behind it, perhaps there's a ghost or two that might enjoy the company too. It's a pity 'Out There' wouldn't fit down here.

After exploring the immediate area it was time to head back to civilization. I would have liked to have done the one hour return 'Pleasant Creek Terrace Historic Walk' along the plateau, past some of the sluicing scars we'd seen from the other side of the river as we drove in. But, it was getting late and I still wanted to do a few photo stops on the way home. 

In particular the Skippers Bridge again, now that that there was no one about and I could take my time. 

The family I mentioned earlier were scrambling all over the bridge on the way in- the mother in panic mode as two boys climbed the fence and were standing out on a small rock overlooking the drop off into the river below.

And when they weren't clambering over the bridge they were paddling in the small pool below the nearby Bridal Veil Falls! 

To give them their dues though, they were paddling while retrieving rubbish; bottles and wrappers. 

We stopped at another lookout near Maori Point to look back up the river and over the plateaus. With the sun dropping, the detail across the terraces was highlighted even more, we were also a little higher up at this spot. Here you can see the distinct ridges of the water sluicing pipes and canals snaking across the land both on the terrace in the foreground and the one up behind. I wondered how they managed to get to the plateau in the foreground, it looks like they sluiced their escape route away! 

You can see a small piece of the the river in the bottom left corner. There were a few old rusted mining relics laying on the side of the river down there.

And this looking back towards Skippers, you can see the white of the school building in the centre of the dead trees at the back right. You can also see the other end of terrace with no access, which is in the foreground above. 

And at the centre back, the little cottage I mentioned in 'Part 1' of the Skippers Blog, here, I've zoomed in for you. This is where the one hour return walk from Skippers finished. You can see an information board on the edge of the sluicing scar. At first I thought it was a horse until I cropped it some more! I believe the cottage is privately owned, perhaps by someone that still has a claim nearby.

Anyway, enough of the details, it's time to retrace our tracks. There are still a small number of people living along the Skippers Road, some are still living as the pioneers did, in ramshackle homes with basic amenities, living off the land and probably their gold claims. There are also a few farms and I wonder how they move their stock in and out, probably by droving them. You can see a house and farm buildings near the Pipeline Bungy bridge in the photo below.

It's not long before we're back onto the rock cutting through Pinchers Bluff slowly climbing above the river below...

It's just as scary second time around, but at least David can now see how close he is to the edge and it's now me that's ducking my head as an overhanging rock approaches.

Although when I get out to take some photos, it doesn't look so long as you don't trip on the soft edging and tumble down the cliff. 

Now I'm hoping we're not going to meet anybody coming the other way.

We make it out safely (ye of little faith), and stop for another breather and a last view down the Shotover Gorge before we turn inland and head up Long Gully. Just imagine if the wildling pines and other exotic plant pests were allowed to take over, these spectacular views would be gone forever.

A tiny miner's hut sits all on it's own not too far up Long Gully. It was in the shade when we came through this morning but is now bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun, making it a perfect subject!

I bet it looks spectacular in the autumn too, when the nearby poplars are a brilliant yellow and the hawthorne bushes are covered in their bright red berries.

There's still a few narrow sections to watch out for...

....and unusual rock formations to see, on our long climb back up the gully. This is the aptly named 'Lighthouse Rock'- it not only looks like a lighthouse but also stands proud near the top of the road and 'guides' us back home.

I manage to take a few shots out the side window, of the dramatic rocky landscape across the gully. There are only so many times I can shout 'Stop!' at my ever patient husband...especially on the homeward bound journey!

But I manage to twist his arm one more time so I can take a last shot of the colours and contours of the tussock covered slopes down the gully.

Then that was it, we crossed back over the cattle-stop and re-joined the hustle & bustle of a busy tourist town so far removed from a little piece of paradise just twenty of so kilometres up the road. There and back along the famous Skippers Road, a thrilling drive and a great journey along an iconic piece of New Zealand's history. A road that has, since 2006, been protected by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. I hope you enjoyed the ride too.