Saturday, June 7, 2008

New Zealand Artist's Tour: First visit

South to the Majestic Marlborough Sounds

In 1997 I visited New Zealand for the first time. I flew direct with a ten hour break at Honolulu airport which has a shower, bliss. The whole event of getting to New Zealand was an experience never to be forgotten and never to be repeated.

This first visit was on a shoe string budget which was eked out with NZers benevolence and I am greatly indebted to those that helped me on numerous occasions .

Having arrived in Auckland I was in desperate need of some sleep after a thirty six hour flight and I booked into the Rosanna Guest house at Ponsonby - Auckland. I had arrived on Waitangi weekend which meant that Auckland was quiet and deserted .

I spent the good part of the week in Auckland getting my bearings and sunburnt . Some thing I did not expect but the NZ sun is harsh and unforgiving . One of the places visited was Piha beach just north of Auckland .

I was advised to travel south as quickly as possible before the weather turned , advice I took without hesitation. Catching the overnight train from Auckland to Wellington I arrived in Wellington and boarded the interisland ferry.

The ferry sailing was pleasant and calm. I was not prepared for the splendor of the cruise down Queen Charlotte sound to Picton sailed between the high hills on either side with small communities dotted on the hills and in the bays. I stayed in Picton and then ventured forth on a bus to the West Coast - Westport . The journey took all day traveling through the Buller Gorge and arriving in the evening just as it started to rain.

I stayed in Westport two days doing some painting and sight seeing and then started walking north towards Karamea which was recommended to me as a peaceful place with bush walks and a sub tropical climate.

My legs were barely able to get me to Mokihinui where there is a camp site right on the beach , the amenities are basic but sufficient, so I stayed here to rest and then set off walking over the hills to Karamea.

I ended up getting a lift which was beneficial as I was given sound advice to camp at the domain and not the camp site , even though it looked pleasant enough I took it . A domain in NZ is like a park and in some places you can camp in them .

The Karamea domain was a large field with a block house that had a shower . I spent a week in this nice quiet town that was close to the beach and not far from some bush walks that had some caves as well . It was here that I had my first taste of NZ sand flies and their taste of me , alas not the last may I add , my ankles suffered for my art on a number of occasions.

Over the hills from Okarito to Fox

The next stretch of my tour of South Island was to take me to Hokitika. I traveling back to Westport , onto Greymouth and then to Hokitika. This took most of the day , mainly waiting for bus connections. I arrived in Hokitika and had a busy four days visiting Lake Kenaire , exploring the debris filled beach , Hokitika backs onto the Southern Alp's and trees get washed down from the mountains in severe storm's and washed up on the beach's on the West Coast .

I moved on walking along the road south towards Ross. From here I got a series of lifts until I asked to be dropped at Lake Ianthe . This is a lake that has an iridescent green tint to it when the sun shines on the surface .I camped here for the night then carried on until I reached Lake Wahapo which is just off the road, no amenities but a peaceful place to stay which I found hard to leave. I moved on after a weekend here and then turned off the main highway for Okarito which was recommended to me as a pleasant place to visit .

I stayed at Okarito for four days exploring the local countryside and mixing with some good company. Okarito has a commanding view of the Southern Alp's from the trig point above the small community which is accessible via a bush walk . I moved on from Okarito with the intention of walking to Fox . As far as I understood there were just a few hills to traverse . A few turned into three rather long steep hills and no sign of a lift .

To get over the strenuous tramp to Fox I rested for four days at the camp site . The camp site at Fox is pleasant with majestic views of Fox Glacier and easy access to the face of the glacier and also Lake Matheson .

I caught the bus to Wanaka which is a small town at the head of Lake Wanaka . I spent a few days here and decided that I would walk over the Cardronna range to Queenstown, not an easy fete but worth the trip .

The climb from Wanaka is steady and as you walk between a gully at the top you come out to a view that has Ben Nevis and Lake Wakatipu before you. I chose to stay here for the night and walk into Queenstown the next morning ,at 2000 metres it was cold that night .

The walk down from the Cardronna range the next morning was refreshing, arriving in Queenstown about midday I booked into the Queenstown municipal campsite , a boisterous place that houses some 300 tents . The noise got the better of me after a few days and I moved to a camp site down the road , with its own bar may I add .

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