Monday, March 8, 2010

Tour day 3 – Mucking about in boats

Being in a tent I was up with the sun and took a trip to the old boathouse overlooking the lagoon for breakfast. Mist was drifting across the water and the air smelt sweet. It was going to be a lovely day. I took some arty photos and strugged through another OSM, then I went back to my campsite. After stringing up a washing line I grabbed some money and went and hired a kayak.

I spent a tiring, but wonderful 2 and a bit hours paddling round on the lagoon. I got up close to a couple of beautiful white herons, watched dotterel's diving for fish, saw schools of fish swim under my boat and drifted up stream through narrow river bends to secret places in the forest. It was amazing paddling on beautiful clear, but amber coloured water, seeing great fallen trees under the surface like monsters of the deep. Forest birds came down to chat and it was just magical. My arms hurt by the end of my trip, but I felt energised by the wonderful serenity of splashing around in this special place.

Driven by hunger I packed up my gear and got on the road for Franz Joseph, wishing I could stay in Okarito another day. I will definitely be back there with my lovely husband and together we'll go out at night and find wild kiwi and fully explore the lagoon. And we’ll bring plenty of food! The ride up out of Okarito seemed quicker and easier than the ride in, but that probably isn’t such a strange thing. It was yet another stunningly gorgeous day with perfect blue skies above the forests around me. I stopped briefly at Lake Matheson for a nibble and a photo. I struggled to my feet at the end of the wharf and then had to sit back down so a tourist could take a photo of me. I’m so interesting! Up round the corner and I could see the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps and they drew me on. Then tragedy.

As I rode up a small hill and round a corner I came across more road-kill, but this looked slightly different and on closer inspection I saw it was a kiwi. I almost cried at seeing it, my first wild kiwi, crushed on the road like that. Its graceful beak crushed into its side, its neck twisted round and its delicate brown feathers wafting in the breeze. It was heartbreaking and I wanted to stop and move it off the road, but it was far too dangerous so I rode on in sadness. The only thing that lifted my spirits was my first glimpse of the mighty Franz Joseph glacier up ahead. The mighty glacier is quite a sight, even from kilometres away.

I rolled into Franz mid-afternoon, a very hungry girl, but sorted myself out an extremely expensive tent site before heading into town for food. My luck was in when I found a bar that was doing a happy hour special of $20 for a pint and a big plate of spag bol. Just what the doctor ordered. I sat outside to wait for my meal and listened to the ever present buzz of helicopters coming and going from the glacier. Being thirsty I also got stuck into my beer and before I knew it I’d drunk half a pint on an empty stomach and when I rang my hubby I found it quite difficult to speak properly. We both found this rather hilarious. The spag bol was fantastic and once I’d wolfed it down I got back on my bike and headed up the road to see the glacier.

I’ll admit the reason I missed the sign leading to the foot of the glacier was that pint of beer, but I wasn’t too worried. I had a nice hour long walk in the bush, saw the glacier from a distance, talked to the birds, and discovered the old swing bridge from when I was a kid. Back then it didn’t have all the additional support and my mum wouldn’t let us cross it, so I finally got to cross this bridge, but it wasn’t as exciting as back then.

The ride back to town was fast and downhill and after stopping at the shop for second dinner I headed back to the camp ground, ate more, did more washing and was tucked up in bed late. Again sleeping on the ground was pretty painful for my poor shoulders and chest, and this was not helped by the morepork that took up residence in the tree I was camped under, or the crying baby in another tent. Sigh. The joys of tenting.

Okarito to Franz Joseph - 40km in 2hrs 15

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