We had an early start to the day as we knew we had much to see and a way to travel. I had planned the trip in “bunny hops” so we didn’t have to back-track at all and had plenty of time to explore this beautiful and scenic New Zealand highway… with so many one-way bridges!
Our first planned stop was Okarito [Info spot: Okarito is known for its many species of wading birds, notably the extremely rare (in New Zealand) kotuku. Ōkārito is the kōtuku’s only New Zealand breeding place.]. However, as we were enjoying the windy trip through the luscious bush a lake with an unusual name popped into view.
Lake Ianthe was so clear, the reflections mirror-like, morning mist still rising – what a photo opportunity with a jetty as well… disturbed only by an overnight “freedom camper” still eating her breakfast.
It was soon after this short break that we almost met some Asian travellers head on! Their campervan was straddling the white and yellow lines in the centre of the road. As we pulled over to let a police car past, the police car followed us…”Uh,oh… Jim? were you speeding?” But no, the yellow, blue and white car immediately swung a U-turn – we weren’t the only ones to have seen the wandering campervan!
Twenty-five-ish years ago I sped down the Waitangiroto River in a jet boat to see the nesting Kotuku. Today I knew I wouldn’t see any of these beautiful birds but was keen to visit the famous lagoon anyway. I wasn’t disappointed and have noted that it is a place I would love to return to to stay, such is the peace we felt there. It was time for morning tea and a picnic table was perfectly placed.
Photos aplenty of the simply serene lagoon and the quirky, beautifully- coloured baches, a short wander along the stoney beach (yes, Jim kept his nose down looking for greenstone!) and a quick and very short amble into the bush by Steve looking for the rare kiwi [Info spot: Rowi are the rarest of the five species of kiwi] known only to that area and we soon headed back to the main highway.
It is well-known that many sandflies chose (well… maybe that’s not quite the right word!) to live in Westland. And it is also known that sandflies are more attracted to some folk than to others. Rosemary must have “delicious” blood… they soon found her and loved what they found! But only her, much to her disgust – we other three were not at all desirable!!!
A quick tour around Franz Joseph township told us that Fox Glacier was more accessible so we continued heading south. At the town of Fox we saw the signs pointing us to our next “must see” – Lake Matheson. This must be one of the most photographed lakes in New Zealand and I was keen to add some personal ones to my library. I knew that dawn and dusk were the most desirable times to take photos as that is when the reflections of Aorangi/Mt Cook are the clearest but we were truly blessed when we arrived early afternoon. Because of time restraints we walked to the closest viewpoint – the jetty. “Wow!” and “Wow!” and “Wow!” yet again … Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman were mirrored perfectly in the calm waters of the lake…. the photos capture it all…
On our short walk back to the vehicle for lunch, Jim complained of a sore toe – probably caused by a toenail which should have been trimmed. Steve had a couple of solutions for him… “I could find a suitable stone and grind it off for you…. or….maybe cut it with a sharp stone and chisel…” (Maybe he’d seen a greenstone chisel back in Hokitika and fancied testing its sharpness!). Jim continued walking without further complaint!
Still in day three of our tour we continue to Fox Glacier…