Travel blog on one-of-a-kind travel experiences

Justine’s tramping boots go on a roadie

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Justine Tyerman’s TBs (tramping boots) spend an idyllic week with a beautiful Italian…

The TBs were deliriously happy travelling with Lucy. She was everything they had ever dreamed of – buxom, powerful, aristocratic… and Italian. Furthermore, they had no competition. They were the footwear of choice every day and there were no poncy HHs (high heels) strutting about to cause aggravation.

Tramping Boots

The TBs setting off for a day’s hiking

We spent an idyllic winter week ambling from Christchurch to Queenstown via the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island in a luxurious 6-berth JUCY Casa Plus motorhome – nicknamed Lucy after the curvaceous woman on the outside of the Italian-made Fiat Ducato – stopping wherever we pleased for as long as we wished, which gave us a giddy sense of freedom. My husband Chris and I were like a couple of teenagers who had run away from home.

Lunch by the camper

Lunch by the camper LUCY at Hokitika

Chris happy at the wheel of the motorhome

Chris happy at the wheel

The TBs were on my feet from dawn until well after dark when they snuggled up with their best mates, Chris’s TBs, beside Lucy’s efficient heater. They were in their element that week, hiking along mountain tracks, beaches, rivers and lakes we had always been in too much of a hurry to explore on earlier trips.

The TBs loved the spectacular limestone rock formations at Castle Hill, climbing up to the Devil’s Punchbowl, a magnificent 131m waterfall high above the Bealey River at Arthur’s Pass, and trudging up the valley through ankle-deep snow on a gnarly side-track to the foot of Mt Rolleston.

Castle Hill rock formations

Castle Hill rock formations

At Lake Brunner, we were treated to a watercolour sunset over a golden lake. We walked across a long swing bridge over the river and spotted the whio or rare blue duck which inhabit the area, a thrill for the TBs who are wild-life aficionados.

Wandering along deserted West Coast beaches with the occasional dip in the Tasman Sea was a new experience for the TBs who are more accustomed to river silt and snow.

Okarito Beach

At Hokitika, we lunched beside a calm, silver sea and strolled down the beach to the river mouth past a memorial to the many ship wrecks that have occurred on the coast. The West Coast sunsets were dazzling especially at remote Okarito Beach where we sat on a driftwood log and toasted the fiery orb as it sank into the sea in a kaleidoscope of gold.

Sunset at Okarito

Sunset at Okarito

sunset at Okarito Beach

A stunning sunset at Okarito Beach on the West Coast of the South Island

Sunset at Okarito Beach

Sunset at Okarito Beach

We parked up overnight at the tiny settlement of Okarito by a sparkling lagoon, the nesting ground of the rare kotuku (white heron), sacred to Maori. Thousands of native birds from more than 76 different species visit the lagoon, another thrill for the TBs. A small population of rowi or Okarito brown kiwi also lives nearby in an area of bush protected by the Department of Conservation.

Hiking Franz Josef Glacier

One of the few times the TBs were upstaged was the day we did the Franz Josef Glacier heli-hike expedition which required special boots and crampons. They were consigned to a locker with Chris’s TBs, both plotting karmic backlash for the ignominy of being incarcerated in an airless box for four or five hours.

We flew by helicopter from NZ Glacier Guides’ Base in Franz Josef village to a landing site at The Pinnacles, high up the11-kilometre river of ice. We spent an afternoon with expert guide Tim Bluett exploring the maze of blue crevasses, ice caves and fractured chunks and spikes on the world’s steepest and fastest-flowing commercially-guided glacier.

Franz Josef Glacier

A perfect day on Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier New Zealand, photo © Ngai Tahu Tourism

Hikers dwarfed by the immense size of Franz Josef Glacier
© Ngai Tahu Tourism

Franz Josef Glacier hikers

Guide Tim posing with some of our glacier group

With husband Chris on Franz Josef Glacier

Justine and Chris on Franz Josef Glacier

The day ended with a massage and a soak in the hot pools at Glacier Base – absolute bliss. By the time we retrieved the TBs from their ‘prison cell’, there was steam coming off their soles. To appease them, I promised we would do their favourite hike once we reached Wanaka.

They recovered their good humour as we hiked around Lake Matheson, famous for the reflections of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in the black satin water. The walk took us through rainforest where the moss was iridescent green, sparkling with diamantes of dew.

We struck wild weather at Jackson Bay at the end of the West Coast road but being fully self-contained with kitchen and bathroom facilities meant we did not have to set foot outside. The pounding sea just metres away added to the sense of cosiness and security we felt inside sturdy Lucy. Even the TBs were happy to hunker down and wait out the storm.

Wanaka

At Haast, we farewelled the West Coast and headed for Wanaka. En route we hiked through native forest to the Blue Pools where the Makarora and Blue Rivers meet. The glacier-fed water is described as azure-blue but the TBs disputed this saying the water was startlingly turquoise-green. For once, I had to agree.

Sunset in Wanaka

Sunset in Wanaka

In Wanaka we parked on the lake edge at Glendhu Bay and as promised, took the TBs on their favourite hike to Rob Roy Glacier in the Mt Aspiring National Park, part of Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage site. They knew the route so well, I had trouble keeping up with them. We’ve climbed to the foot of the glacier a dozen times in all seasons but it never ceases to astound and delight me. The cold blue gleam of the glacier face is mesmerisingly beautiful. Occasionally, huge slabs of ice on the terminal face lose the fight against gravity and thunder down the valley in a white cloud, an awesome sight from a safe vantage point.

Mt Aspiring from the Millennium Track

Mt Aspiring from the Millennium Track, Wanaka

Rob Roy Glacier

The TB’s favourite hike, Rob Roy Glacier

The following day, we hired SmartMotion electric bikes from Solarcycles in Wanaka and cycled along the mighty Clutha River to Luggate and back, 50km return. It was such a thrill for me to be able to keep up with my super-fit husband for once. The TBs happily stayed home with Lucy that day. Cycling is not their thing. They get dizzy with all that pedalling.

Clutha River near Wanaka

Our e-bike expedition on the Clutha River near Wanaka

Smart Motion electric bike

Justine with her Smart Motion electric bike from Solarcycles

We also hiked the 15km lake-edge Millennium Track which links dozens of pristine beaches with stunning views of Mt Aspiring, and skied at Treble Cone with free lift tickets thanks to JUCY’s Ski4Free deal.

On our last day we drove over the Crown Range to Arrowtown, my childhood holiday home. We parked Lucy by the Arrow River and walked up the gorge towards the old gold mining ghost town of Macetown, retracing the steps of my childhood days. The TBs found all the reminiscing a bit tedious but they did enjoy splashing through the river and getting a good coating of silt.

Cardrona Hotel on the Crown Range road

The iconic Cardrona Hotel on the Crown Range road

Handing over Lucy’s keys to Megan at the Queenstown Airport JUCY depot was an emotional moment. She had carried us safely for 1000km over mountain passes and down the length of the West Coast through snow, rain, gales and sunshine, and for such a big rig, she was a dream to drive and operate.

The TBs loved Lucy for her European sophistication and good looks but for us it was her capacity to look after all our needs and grant us freedom from a fixed itinerary that won our hearts. Loaded up with enough supplies for a week, we thought we might have to stow some non-perishables in the outside storage compartments but we were surprised to find everything fitted in her ample fridge and cupboards.

And having a bathroom with shower and toilet facilities was the ultimate luxury… not to mention wifi, a DVD player and GPS.

Despite predictions from our friends that we would freeze to death in a motorhome in the winter in the South Island, Lucy kept us warm at all times, even when temperatures plummeted to minus-something. On our first night in a blizzard at Arthur’s Pass, we tossed out our hot water bottles, threw off the extra duvets and opened the skylights.

We both relished the simple life we led on the road and didn’t want to return to our high-pressure lives ruled by deadlines and a fixed abode.

The TBs shed a tear as we said goodbye to Lucy – they whispered ‘arrivederci… see you again in the summer’.

Factbox

  • Justine Tyerman travelled in a JUCY Casa Plus motorhome courtesy of JUCY Rentals.
  • JUCY’s Ski4Free deal gives you free skiing at Treble Cone near Wanaka.
  • Franz Josef Glacier Guides NZ run the Glacier Explorer heli-hike expedition.
  • Getting there: Air NZ flies direct Auckland to Christchurch and Auckland to Queenstown, return.
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About Author

Justine Tyerman is an award-winning New Zealand journalist, travel writer and sub-editor with 18 years’ experience in newspaper and freelance work.
She has worked as a news reporter, feature writer, designer of an award-winning Newspapers in Education programme and sub-editor on local, national, business, education and international desks.

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