Journal of a visit to New Zealand, via Singapore

The Land of the Long White Cloud
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This page last updated: 5th March 2005.
Day 12: Wanaka Map

Day 12 After another of Suzy's excellent breakfasts, we gather ourselves together and say our goodbyes.

We head south and at Fox Glacier pick up a Japanese hitchhiker. He is a tired young man, having been on a seven-hour trek of the glaciers the previous day, now on his way to Queenstown. We stop briefly at Knights Point to view the coastal scenery and use the toilet. Our hitchhiker does some exercises. On reaching the Haast River, we drop him off.

We leave the main road and go down to Okuru. Here we find a cottage selling handcrafts. We buy a nice-looking fridge-magnet. The road ends at Jackson Bay. Although lying no further south than Geraldine on the East Coast, with the exception of Milford Sound, it is the southernmost point on the West Coast that is accessible by road. The only eating-house open is a mobile-café, of the kind that, in the UK, are found in laybys on main roads and cater for lorry-drivers. Christine has some mussels while I have a burger and we share some chips. The tea is excellent.

The road to Jackson Bay is well-surfaced and it doesn't take us too long to get back to the main road at Haast Village. However, the diversion has eaten into the afternoon and Christine is nodding off, so I ignore the invitations to stop at some of the forest walks and view the waterfalls which have names like Thunder Creek Falls and Fantail Falls. I stop for petrol at the small settlement of Makarora, where the attendant wants to ask me about the fortunes of Manchester United.

The scenery now starts to remind us of the Highlands of Scotland as we leave the forest and descend to Lake Wanaka. Then the road follows the northeastern shore of the lake for some distance. It then leaves the lakeside and we find the southwestern shore of Lake Hawea on our left.

It is around 5.30 p.m. when we arrive on the outskirts of Wanaka. We have a little map showing the location of our overnight accomodation, Willow Cottage. We cross over into Riverbank Road, which appears to be not so much "unmade" as "under construction". The surface consists of quite large-sized pebbles — what in the UK would be considered "hard-core" put down before being levelled with a roller. It is very rutted and difficult to drive over. After a couple of turns on scarcely-better surfaced roads we find Maxwell Road. Half-way along there is a track leading down to a farm, but it isn't signed at all. Driving to the end, we discover that there are no other dwellings on the road, so retrace our steps.

An 1870s stone cottage, Willow Cottage is very spacious. Although the furniture is mostly of the colonial period, the fittings are modern. A gas-fired stove keeps the chill air out and the equipment provided includes a washing-machine and dryer. Our arrival is seen by Pip Ullrich, who with her husband Mark only took the place over this year. They are hoping to run it as a deer-farm and the fencing is still being erected. Pip arrives with her five-week-old baby in a pushchair. She welcomes us in and shows us how to light the fire. After unloading the luggage I follow her back to the farmhouse to make some phone-calls.

One of those phone-calls is to Pip Sheehan, a local author. We meet up with her in the early evening at Relishes Restaurant, where we have an excellent meal. Pip, originally from Australia, has been settled in Wanaka with her husband and two children for a number of years. We chatted about poetry and other things. Pip told us about the local writers' group she runs. Recently she edited a book telling the story of Wanaka Hall, an old meeting house, recently demolished.

It is very dark as we drive back over the unmade roads. The whole sky is ablaze with stars, Orion's Belt and the Milky Way especially prominent.

Journal - Day 13 Photographs - Day 12