Harbour Cone, Otago Peninsula

It’s been a while since I have properly posted anything, but I’ve been a busy, busy bee. I do however have plenty of exciting walks to share with you. The most recent was on Harbour Cone. If you’ve read my posts before you’ll probably know that I’m an Otago Peninsula fanatic. I’m considering staring a fan club. Harbour Cone was brought to my attention while looking around the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. There I saw this very cool painting below, which detailed that it was the largest hill on the Peninsula. So the next day, when it wasn’t siling it down with rain, we embarked to the OP and set off walking over the rolling hills.

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(Robin White, Harbour Cone)

There were several different approaches you could go to on the hike, and we chose the one starting from Broad Bay. From there, we were given the choice of the left-hand Bacon St track, or continue right on the Highcliffe Rd track. We chose the latter after a local advised us it was a less arduous, but longer route, offering better views on the way. The first half of the walk was a beautiful country stroll through farmers fields. You are surrounded by sheep, lush green hills, and the odd glimpse of the ocean. Some of the crossings were fairly overgrown, which meant you had to cross over the main road a few times, but it was always clear which direction the route was meant to go.

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After about an hour you reach the bottom of a steep track up to the summit of Harbour Cone. This proved challenging but a lot of fun. The Bacon Rd track which we decided against was meant to have been like that for the entire walk. I think here we definitely chose wisely.

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As we made our way up we turned away from the hill every so often to see a more spectacular view each time. Once we had reached the top we were greeted with a stunning 360 panoramic of the Dunedin harbour, the peninsula, Hoopers Inlet, and many of the different beaches I have written about before. If we hadn’t hiked up to Mount Cargill the previous week, I would have said that it was the best view Dunedin has to offer. It is stunning. To me, the picture below has the appearance of an oil painting, and my memory of it is very similar. Hoopers Inlet, which is the body of water in the centre of the picture, looks rather boggy driving next to it. From above it is incredible. The beach to the right of the image is Allan’s.

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Harbour Cone is a fantastic walk that I would recommend to anyone in the area. Much of it is easy-going, and the last stint is fairly difficult, but the views along the way and at the top are well worth it. For anyone wanting to join the Otago Peninsula Fan Club, henceforth known as OPFC, drop me a message. T-shirts for all its members! (members must purchase there own T-shirts)

(I will write about our Mount Cargill hike and Wanaka Part 2 very soon I promise)

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Wanaka (Part 1)

Last weekend we decided to strap our boots, stretch our glutes, and take a trip to Wanaka. This place is sublime. I know I often say that certain places are my favourite, but this is now at the top spot. It has got everything you could possibly want: mountains, lakes, kayaking, hiking, biking, bars, restaurants etc. I could go on further. This edition has been penned ‘Part 1’ because we did two main activities while we were there, and I want to focus on both more closely. This first part will centre on our journey to Wanaka, which was a bit of a disaster, and my new favourite sport: kayaking.

We departed from dry Dunedin on Friday afternoon and were in high spirits ready for a fun filled weekend. Our first stop was Roxburgh on the way to Wanaka where we had booked to stay in an AirBNB overnight. When you hear yourself saying, ‘the worst case scenario will be that we sleep in the car’, you know you’re not in a great situation. As we got to around Lawrence the heavens opened and we were driving in torrential rain. It was almost as if we had entered the Bermuda Triangle. All at once it started to rain, my phone died, and my girlfriend’s phone reception went off the radar. It was a pretty dire situation, as we didn’t have our Satnav with us.

After driving for far longer then it should have taken we reached Roxburgh and now had the dilemma of finding the house. We somehow managed to call the owners, who through a  crackly speaker explained, ‘… near lake Roxburgh… third left… after big sign…’ And so we searched on for a while longer, losing signal again. After a while we decided to turn into the first house we could see and ask for directions. By a miraculous turn of events it was the correct address, and they welcomed us with open arms and a warm bed.

We arose Saturday morning a tad groggy from the ordeal of the previous night. However, as we reached the outskirts of Wanaka our spirits were greatly lifted. What a place! It is a haven. For anyone that has visited Queenstown it certainly has similarities but is strikingly different in one way; there are far less people. If only Queenstown was not such a tourist hub it would be a great place. But there were too many people and there was too much going on. Wanaka is far better, and we instantly felt as we were on holiday. We had some breakfast and then took to the lake.

 

The vast lake is a sight to behold. Engrossed in the towering mountains it lies peacefully-still in the isolated town of Wanaka. After some deliberation on what activity to do first we decided on kayaking. At the reasonable price of $20 per hour each, we grabbed our paddles, secured our life jackets and thrust our kayaks into the water.

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It has been 10+ years since I had last been kayaking. And this was on the rather gross Pugneys Lake in Wakefield, UK. I remember thoroughly enjoying it then. We had gone as an end of season football trip, and thinking back I don’t know why I didn’t go back and do it again. It is great fun. You can imagine that I enjoyed it tenfold this time, as I had transferred the murky waters of Wakefield to the clear lake surrounded by mountains in Wanaka.

We paddled out to the advised limit and sat staring at the wonders before us. Here we were lying in the very middle of a lake, in the centre of a huge mountain range, and we couldn’t hear a single sound. It was probably the most peaceful thing I have ever done.

The next day we learned that you can paddle to a small island, and also to the famous Wanaka tree. Both of which we had somehow not noticed (much to the amusement of one of the locals). After finding out this information we decided to take to the lake again. So on this occasion we rented the kayaks for 2 hours and set off to the Wanaka Tree. The tree is submerged in the water and from the right angle you can get an incredible picture. From the lake though, all you are looking at is a multitude of tourists. Therefore, we decided to walk back to it later. Just as some of the tourists were moving away I thought it would be a great opportunity to wade out to the tree and get a picture next to it. I nearly fell several times but I got the picture. When I came back I could see that the people had all congregated again like sheep, ready to take my picture. One of the locals had explained that in all her years she had never seen anyone stood next to it. I asked myself, ‘I am a local hero, or did I just kind of deface a famous heritage tree?’

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Once we had realised we could not get a good picture of the tree on the kayaks, we pursued on to Ruby Island. I really have no idea how we missed it. It is fairly big. But I guess we were too consumed with the surrounding mountains. We got out and had a look around, skimmed some rocks, and soon realised we were running out of time. We had booked for two hours, but now only had 35 minutes to get back to shore. Moreover, we were definitely the most tired we had been while paddling. It took a lot of effort to get back in time, and we were thrashing the water a lot more than we had before. We turned up on land fairly drenched, and both looked liked we had been swimming, but we were on time. My right sleeve was soaked in water from where I had tried to turn around and nearly flipped the kayak. Oh well, it was still a whole lotta fun.

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To sum up Wanaka Part 1, this place is very special. There is so much to do, and I’ve only really talked about Kayaking so far. In the next part, I will be talking about the hikes we did while we were there, and I may write more when we decide to go back in the next couple of weeks. I can’t speak for the North Island, but certainly for the South Island, if you are here, go and visit Wanaka, you will not be disappointed, and you will not want to leave.

 

 

Brighton Beach, Dunedin

Okay, I’ll admit that this isn’t as much a beach review as it is advice on how to spend a jolly good Saturday morning. We just happened to choose Brighton Beach which turned out to be an excellent setting.

We started our day early by going to the bustling Dunedin Farmers Market. This is a place we’ve frequented regularly on our Saturday mornings, as it is a great chance to pick up some regional fruit, veg, and what we love most, cheese & bread. We decided on a loaf of Focaccia, and four different segments of cheeses. The market sells fantastic products, and there are usually a few guitar, violin, or piano players around, which adds to the vibrant atmosphere.

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Once we had made our purchases we wandered home to pick up supplies and set off to Brighton Beach, which lies about 20 kilometres south west of Dunedin. The beach is long, but doesn’t have as many of the cool features I have come across at other New Zealand beaches. That should not deter you though, as it makes for a great walk, run or picnic. It is a fairly popular destination, but in typical New Zealand fashion it was pretty deserted barring a few families, and so we set up our extravagant picnic in the perfect isolated spot. The views were wonderful, and the whole scene made for a relaxing lunch. All we needed was a bottle of Speight’s Golden Ale to bring it all together, but we settled for a nice cup of tea instead. We’ve become exceedingly British in the fact that we take a flask with tea in everywhere we go now. We probably keep it over water on most trips. On this occasion we took our cups with us while we went for a paddle. Not noticing the tide coming in rapidly we turned to find it was upon us and a large wave showered us. You’ll be pleased to hear our cups of tea made it out alive, much to our relief. Take our clothes but never take our tea.

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Our Saturday morning was well spent at a great beach and with great food. While I would encourage you to check out Brighton Beach, the more important message would be to get out and enjoy yourself outside. It’s been a long time since I’d had a picnic and if you are the same, get to the market, get your tupperware out and head to the beach. This is probably easier done than said for those in New Zealand, but everyone should do it. I may be preaching to the choir here with travel bloggers, but it’s called the great outdoors for a reason, right?

 

 

The Road to Milford Sound

While I have already written about the natural wonder that is Milford Sound, the journey to it was nearly as magical. With many places to stop, the Fiordland National Park is the perfect place to spend a day exploring the bush. There is a chunky list of things to do en route to the Sound, but alas, we only had time to do a few. The ones we chose at random were The Mirror Lake, another one I can’t remember, and Lake Marian.

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From Te Anau, it is a 120km drive up to Piopiotahi, and the views on the road are quite spectacular. The change in environment as you make your way are noteworthy. You come from open town, through forest and bush, through towering mountain ranges and to the still lakes of the Sound. This route can be fairly treacherous though, and there are a number of reasons why. The snow, ice and possibility of rock slides can cause issues, but I think the biggest issues come from the pesky Kia’s. These large mountain birds are known by many to be extremely peevish. The first one we saw we got out of our cars and had pictures next to. We will never make this mistake again. This crafty little bugger was acting as a decoy while its friends tried to pinch our belongings from the top of our car. I imagined it with the Italian Job or Mission Impossible music going on in the background while they made there great heist. “I only told you to peck the bloody doors off!”, he squawked.

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Our first stop was at the Mirror Lakes. While you can see a mirroring effect on the Sound itself, it wasn’t quite as motionless as this one. It is relatively small, but the gargantuan mountain overhead shown in the lake is a sight to behold. One does wish that the lake was larger to gather a greater image of the mountain, but it is still very cool.

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Next, we stopped at a trail described as a beautiful waterfall. The problem I have here is that I cannot remember what it was called. I have tried and tried to think, but to no avail. It is definitely one of the points between the Mirror Lakes and Lake Marion (but this doesn’t really help because there are quite a lot in the middle of them.) While I cannot remember where it was, I certainly remember that it was indeed beautiful. It offered a picturesque creek and a stunning waterfall. As the water came down it looked like silk on the back of the smooth dark rock. Mixed with the hearty greenery of the bush, it is worth checking out. (Even if this does mean you have to have a guess where it is)

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Our final stop on the journey was Lake Marion. On this occasion I have saved the best for last. What a treat to stumble upon, and we didn’t even walk the whole trail! You first cross a swinging bridge over a creek, and then it is a steady ascent up and then back down to the lake. We were strapped for time, so we only got the chance to walk for around 40 minutes. On the incline, you walk along the running stream and pass waterfall, after waterfall, after waterfall. Each more stunning than the last. There is something very soothing about the noise of falling water as you stroll through the bush. We had to shoot back to the car as we were going to the glow worm caves later that afternoon, but how I long to see the end of that track. It was wonderful.

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All in all the journey to Milford Sound was nearly as delightful as the place itself. While it is great to be ferried around on a boat and leisurely gaze upon the mountains in the Sound, it is another thing to strap on your boots and explore yourself. I think the trip highlighted for me that I am the type of person that enjoys the latter much more. We will be traveling back here soon to visit the other possibilities on the journey to the Sound, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. (I may even find the name of the forgotten waterfall)

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