Friday, December 17, 2010

TWO FATS BLOKES TOUR OF STH IS NZ Nov 2010

This is a report of a 2 week trip to New Zealand.

Some may find it long, drawn out and boring. Just don’t start to read it . Please.

It lacks educational value but does have elements of truth interwoven in its content. Hopefully entertaining to some.

It is a description of how I see the world.

My mate and I ( although he probably will not admit to it) Greg Neill, were having a yarn one day and we thought that it would be great to be famous, the simplest way in this modern age was to be a TV celebrity. You have seen them on TV. Michael Palin, Stephen Fry and even David Attenborough. All they do is travel around the world visiting unusual places and talking to different people while sampling all the various cuisines the world has to offer. Piece of cake so to speak.

For this enterprise we needed a catchy name, something that stood out, something new and vibrant. Something unique.

The Two Fat Men. Perfect. Well one of us is fat. I will just have to pretend.

Now seeing as how we were not yet famous we were a bit short of cash so for our first adventure we booked flights overseas to New Zealand. Lots of yous have not heard of New Zealand. It consists of two little islands just off the coast of Sydney and has lots of strange speaking people. Some of you may know my friend Windy, she comes from there.

We landed in Christchurch one Friday afternoon on a Air New Zealand plane that had two good engines and were driven to our YHA Hostel by a Singaporean gentleman in an airport transit van. Nothing but the best when you are a celebrity.

At the front counter we were greeted by an English girl who I think was speaking English and by a system of sign language we were directed to our room.

Now us world celebrities are not expected to cook so we wandered downtown past some earthquake damage to get some dinner at this Irish Pub. Could not understand the Menu as it was written in Irish but luckily Greg recognised the word Beer so we sat down and ordered Irish hamburgers.

Had an interesting night as the hostel had a bit of a shake, I thought it was Greg snoring but turned out to be a tremor.

Saturday.

Next day we bought some supplies, the checkout chick was this lovely Australian girl from the Sunshine Coast, and grabbed a hire car for our adventure.

Sunday.

The script had us driving down to Mt Cook and if the weather was okay we were going to walk, or in NZ parlance tramp, up to Mueller Hut at 1800mt to interview any world famous celebrities or snow bunnies who just might be hanging about.

Monday

Bit of a problem, 80 to 100kmh winds with showers were forecast so we opted out and went for a walk up to Hooker Lake and glacier.( I hope those snow bunnies had some warm clothes.)

The TFM (Two Fat Men) went well although we were constantly being passed by a Japanese tour group with their tour guide and interpreter. Why do Japanese people wear coats, gloves and scarves and carry huge photographic canons when everybody else wears T-shirts and carry brownie cameras?

Carried out our first in depth interview with a likeable Pommie visitor who used to be in the Royal Navy as a Submariner. I guess that can not be a well paying job until you become a proper mariner. At least you would not get sunburnt. Low and behold when he got out of the Navy, the Australian Navy was so desperate for these Submariner fellows that they offered him a job in one of the Australian submarines.

As we walked along we thought it strange that we were constantly being passed. We thought that maybe they were giving out free lunches up ahead. Hooker Lake and the Glacier was interesting but is only really tourist fodder.

We still had time to kill so off we went to the Tasman Glacier. The big attraction here is all the icebergs in the Lake but it was obvious it was not well looked after as all the icebergs were filthy with rocks and dirt all over them. You would think that somebody would clean them up like they do in the Antarctic, down there they are glistening white. At least all the David Attenborough ones are.

We gave the Mt Cook area a big miss as the Ranger thought we would be idiots if we were going to go up to Mueller Hut in the forecast weather for the next 2 to 3 days. The way we had been walking we thought we were idiots if we left the Hostel.

Tuesday.

Off to the town of Wanaka which is situated north of Queenstown on Lake Wanaka and in the Mt Aspiring area. The Wanaka area has 750km of walking tracks, all of which go up. And up, and up and up. The first track we tried was a easy one up Mt Iron which is just out of town. They say it is only 240mt high but Greg and I know better. We assumed they were measuring in NZ metres instead of Aust metres As after doing it we figured it was more like 500mt. Good view over Wanaka though spoilt only by some smart arse woman who insisted running to the top and then back down. There is always someone there to spoil our effort.

The Wanaka Hostel is unique as it is called the Purple Cow. Didn’t dare ask why, some times us interviewers have to keep our mouths shut. It is very cosmopolitan, depending on your ilk you can be served at the front counter by either a Brazilian or American girl and that’s not a American with a Brazilian. A Scotsman from Kelso, a Irishman and the Manager is English.

Funny how you notice peoples mannerisms when you travel with them. I always get Greg worried when I say " I’ve been thinking Greg" and Greg’s favourite is " Oh, dearie, dearie me. And if it is really worrying "Oh dearie, dearie, dearie me. That’s only for when the sky falls in. With our standard of fitness there was a lot of Dearie me's.

Wednesday.

Visited Rob Roy Glacier which is a day walk branching off the Matukitukiukituitikiukti Valley or some name like that. The same valley in which Aspiring Hut resides.

A reasonable walk except it was up most of the way. Weather was a little overcast and we kept getting passed by a party of elderly Japanese. Then once again, we kept getting passed by everyone. You would think people could be a little more polite.

Right next to the edge of the glacier is a huge waterfall, then there are huge waterfalls every where.

Lamington National Park waterfalls would not even get a look or a mention.

Called in to Diamond Lake on the way home. With a name like that it sounded interesting. My theory is that anything that is only 20min walk from the road can not be any good, and I was right. Grotty little swamp surrounded by scrub. Greg wanted to walk to the lookout we could see on the cliffs way above us and I had to point out to the big oaf that if we could see the lookout above us then to get there we would have to walk UP. Oh Deary,deary me.

Sanity prevailed, we strolled back down to the cars and went home to be ready for the next major decision by the TFM. Which restaurant to have dinner at?

Must tell you of a little incident.

As we were driving along the road to the start of the Rob Roy Track the last 7 or 8 km is dirt with quite a few small creek crossings that you have to negotiate slowly. About 6km before the end we drove pass a fellow with pack and a girl all decked out in boots and walking gear except they were running and at quite a clip. We assumed they were training for a round the world triathlon or something .Did not think any more of it except we thought they were mad. We drove the 6km to the car park, walked the 2hrs up to the Rob Roy Glacier and who do you think passed us just before the end? Yep, the two mad people. Turns out they were overseas visitors in a camper van and thought they were not going to get the camper van through the creek crossings.

So they ran. Wish I had a woman like that. Then again she wished she had a man like that. Never mind.

We gave them a lift back to their vehicle on our way out.

Now I told Greg I would not mention about the Keas sneaking up behind him and pinching his lunch up at the Rob Roy Glacier so I won’t. And I do not expect you to believe his story about me cleaning my teeth with a tube of pain and itch relief gel. At least I did not put toothpaste on my Sandfly bites. That would be stupid.

Thursday.

The Two Fat Men are in conference and that’s quite a sight. Beer, cheese, avocado dip, coca cola and ice cream. We had to make a decision and in between slurps, crunches and burps we decided to have a break from our strict training regime and have a rest day. Just lol about and go for a casual bike ride. We hired two bikes, a light weight one for me and a extra heavy duty one for the big fella and set off at 11am. With a camera and light lunch in my daypack and Greg's camera and 50kg of provisions in his through walk pack we pedalled around Lake Wanaka on the bike track. That is to the right for all those following our exploits on a map.

The good thing about following a track around the Lake is that lakes are generally flat so subsequently so is the track. Lake Wanaka is a big lake and gets a lot of runoff from the melting snow but if there was no outlet then the towns and villages would be inundated so God made the mighty Clutha River the outlet for Lake Wanaka which flows wide, clean and fast. Would be great on a lilo in a Queensland summer.

Can I digress.

I was walking beside the lake one morning early, I had to walk up to the shop to get the paper for his lordship because Annette said Greg was not allowed to get out of bed early because of his illness. It was a little cool and I noticed this pretty young lady walking towards the lake wearing jeans and jumper and carrying a towel.

I thought, Nah. She can’t be. So I followed her down to the lake side just like those detective movies. Where upon she removed her clothes and clad only in a two piece costume proceeded to walk in the lake and swim away. And I thought I was the silly one for wandering around so early in the morning.

Back to the Clutha River.

This river flows over 300km through various storage lakes and dams all the way to the S/E corner of the South Island. We pedalled our bikes along the bike track following the river which in places has high cut away river banks. To get around these obstacles it is necessary to ride UP the track to many metres above the river. There is that word UP again.

Now Greg rides much faster than me due to his greater fuel intake. If I can keep the wheels turning without falling over then that is fast enough for me.

Greg even rides up the hills, have you ever heard of such stupidity. I don’t even get a run on, I commit hari kari at the bottom and walk up like a true gentleman. Never the less the TFM kept pedalling along and then followed the highway back to Wanaka.

Sore legs and sore bum, so much for a rest day.

Friday.

Meg Hut or as I like to call it. Meg Ryan Hut

You think of a lot of things when you are walking and that is one of them.

Meg Hut track starts down the road a bit towards Queenstown, you park up a side lane off the main road and then walk UP. Again.

Does that have a familiar ring about it.

You start walking at about 400mt and follow a old fwd track up to the top of a open rolling Pisa Range, sheep country in the summer. Ski country in winter and 1200mt high. Then according to the guide book "A short walk down the other side to Meg Hut"

You wish. The only word they got right was down. But it was worth it. Meg Hut is a lovely little hut that sleeps 8, nestled in a valley surrounded by steep rolling grassy hills with a gushing stream whizzing past the door step. A great place to spend a night of a full moon or maybe a snowshoe walk in winter. Just plain cosy with character. Meg Ryan hut still sounds better. Next time for sure.

A 2hr walk in NZ currency, the TFM took 3/4hr longer than that because we took a photo. Our story and we are sticking to it.

Saturday.

Had a bit of a bludge, Greg indulged in pancakes for breakfast from one of the local eateries while I had 3 tablespoons of polyuncarbonated muesli with high calcium, low fat milk. Delicious, Greg was really jealous when he found out.

Visited the Transport Museum and well worth the visit for any collectable enthusiasts and old car fanatics.

Greg also visited the Fighter Pilots' Museum while I read the comics in the paper and ate special health ice-cream.

Sunday.

Did a day walk to Fern Burn Hut, a burn being a creek or stream. Don’t know why they don’t say creek and be done with it. Must be posh. The track then continues on in higher country for a further two days called the Motatapu Track.

We are not silly; we did the lower part of the track which was quite pleasant but nothing special except for one section. Walking up the track beside the stream you walk for 1/2hr through a Beech forest, on our return the wind had picked up and all the golden leaves from the trees drifted down like an early Autumn or a light snowfall. We just sat and watched. And that’s why we were slow on that walk.

Monday

At this stage the weather was on the improve and we seized the opportunity to get higher up in the mountains and do what the trip was planned around, spend a night in French Ridge Hut.

You first have to walk up the valley with the unpronounceable name. The Matukituki Valley, past the Rob Roy Glacier turnoff and onto Aspiring Hut. This hut is owned by the NZ Alpine Club, sleeps 38 and even has gas stoves and is a veritable mansion with its big bay windows looking up the valley to Aspiring Peak at 3000mt and Mt Bevan and Mt Barff at 2000mt.

The walk in up the valley is 2 to 21/2hrs but as we were getting much fitter we improved on that and took 3hrs.

The walk up the valley is through open grassy paddocks and beside a wide, fast flowing river. A very pretty walk.

Tuesday.

The day was clear and we headed off to French Ridge Hut going up the valley for a couple of hours through forests and open fields before it goes UP on to French Ridge. There’s that word again. Only this time it is a real up. Equivalent to climbing Mt Barney to east peak only much steeper.

At this stage we were getting super fit and tackled this UP with gusto. The track starts off as overhanging, climbing up tree roots and forest for a hour and after a while, when you get above the tree line, flattens out to vertical. Well it felt like it.

Eventually after numerous stops and towards the end it was every 20metres, we arrived at the hut. It’s a 3 hour climb, one person we spoke to at the bottom has done it in 2hrs and he was off to climb Aspiring. We managed it in 4hrs.

We arrived at the hut at 3pm, Greg had a rest and wandered off to take photos. I had a rest and wandered off to bed.

I was stuffed. Knees were sore, body was tired, hands were shaking and I had the chills.

After a bit of a sleep I came good. Didn’t really come good just was not as bad as before.

Absolutely fantastic view sitting on the balcony looking around at all the snow clad mountains and huge ice encrusted glaciers and the warm setting sun shining directly on your face.

Well worth the effort. For those who went on our previous trip to NZ it was like the feeling you got up on the Kakapo Peak area. Maybe there is a God.

While we were in the hut 2 climbers from Aspiring came down the snow slope behind the hut as this is the way out. One was going well with all his climbing gear dangling around him and the other was staggering. He looked worse than I felt. He was gone.

Wednesday.

The weather was fine but on the wain and as we could not go any higher without crampons or ice axe we headed back down to Aspiring Hut, way down the valley. We had planned to walk out that afternoon but we came down with something. Slackness.

So Aspiring Hut is where we stayed for the night.

Thursday

Early start, away by 8.30am and back to the car and into Wanaka to the Red Star Luxury Hamburger shop. Remember that name it may save your life. It did ours.

After lunch and following the advice of one of the climbers who had come from down that way, we headed to Dunedin via Cromwell, Alexandra and Milton following the mighty Clutha River.

Driving along, mind in neutral. All of a sudden Greg jumped on the brakes. We were passing through Clyde and Greg abruptly stopped. I thought he was having another one of his attacks. " Oh,dearie dearie me" says Greg, jumped out of the car and into the ice cream shop he charges. I grabbed my cheque book and followed. The man in the shop already had a cone in his hand as Greg walked up to the counter. " How did you know what we wanted" I asked. The shopkeeper just nodded towards Greg and said

" Look at him" I just nodded in agreement.

Had to get photos of me standing in front of the sign announcing the town of Roxburgh. There is another one in Scotland.

Very pretty drive, rolling cultivated green hills and my favourite. Ploughed paddocks. There is nothing like a freshly ploughed paddock, all the furrows running away in parallel lines and the rich soil fairly bristling with life. You can almost hear it saying.

Plant me, plant me, plant me.

The finer things in life are free. Well almost. We had a nice meal at a pub in Dunedin. Pork, salad and chips, a few beers, watched the cricket on TV. Ah, the TFM version of bliss.

Friday.

Went for a drive on the Otago Peninsula for a bit of bird watching but as it was a little cool they all had their clothes on. Stormy Petrel was the name of the sheila Greg was after. I think she might have been a stripper. Now Greg had the only pair of binoculars and I kept telling him that he was not going to see any sheilas out to sea but he still kept looking. Some people think they know everything.

As we were now heading north up the coast the TFM started acting tourist. We called into a cheese factory, bought some cheese and on the proprietor’s recommendation stopped at the next town called Waikouaiti. Great bakery, bought a vanilla slice and a loaf of fresh bread, into another shop to get some tomatoes and a coca cola. Driving up the highway with a CD of the Battlefield Band blaring out we turned down a road to the coast and had a lovely picnic by the sea. Long, flat quiet beach. Headlands at either end. Low rolling breakers, blue sea, blue sky and fresh bread, salami, tomatoes and 3 types of cheese for lunch. Where were you at lunchtime on the 26th November?

We then headed further up the coast and checked out the seals and Yellow Eyed penguins at various sites and also the famous Moeraki Boulders.

Stayed that night at Timaru.

Saturday

Drove into Christchurch and hopped on a plane for home.

Great trip. Thank you Greg , you are a great travelling companion and good fun.

To anybody who lasted the distance reading about our travels. I hope you enjoyed some of it.

author LANCE posted by Greg

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