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The Road To Queenstown

The drive from Holitika to Queenstown is simply magnificent. We saw beaches, pastures, mountains and even caught a glimpse of the Franz Josef Glacier. It’s located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park and is near a town named after the glacier itself. This 7000 year old glacier is the steepest and fastest moving glacier in New Zealand. It moves at a staggering 4 meters per day. The average speed of a glacier is 1 metre per day. It’s also one of the most accessible glaciers in the world and can be reached via a hike through the rainforest. Yes, I said, “Rainforest”.

While you can walk up to the base of the glacier, it’s a 1.5 hour hike each way and we just didn’t have the time so we settled for a viewing area up in the mountains. We did also consider taking a helicopter ride where they actually land on the glacier but it’s quite pricey. It runs about $260 NZD per person for a 20 minute ride and an 8-10 minute stop on the glacier. Given the fact that New Zealand has had their hands deep in our pockets this entire trip we decided to forgo the ride and just take in the view.

After a brief stop to take in the glacier we were back on the twisty turning roads through the mountains. There were many beautiful places we could have stopped to spend time but we had a lot of ground to cover…seven hours, not including the stops. Of course we did make a few stops along the way. How can you not stop to see some of these amazing places? Who knows when or if we will ever be back here? And there’s nothing like seeing honest to goodness glacier water running down a river. It’s as clear as the waters we saw in the islands last summer only much, much colder.

So here we are driving down the road. Jack is driving at this point which is a little like being on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney but even as tough as Dan is we had to give him a break from driving once in a while. Anyway, we are driving through Cardrona Valley and we are all chatting and checking out the scenery when Jack slows down and starts to turn around. What is it? What did we miss that only Jack seemed to see? Well, you’d never believe it unless I had pictures to prove it. Along side of the road is a fence that literally has thousands and thousands of bras attached to it. YES, I said, “Bras!” This place is called Bradona and the fence is there to support (no pun intended) breast cancer awareness. I’ve read that it has been there for over 20 years.

The story goes that back in 1999 four bras appeared on a fence along the highway one night. The locals are a bit stuffy and didn’t really appreciate it but much to their chagrin more bras were being added to the fence almost daily. Then some unknown bra thief decided to cut the bras away in the dark of night. Every time this thief removed them, more would appear the following day. It was sort of a tit for tat (sorry, couldn’t resist) sort of thing that continued and eventually raised the attention of the media. Before long there were so many people stopping to take photos and leave their unmentionables that they had to move the display to a nearby driveway to keep people from stopping on the main highway. In 2015 the owners of the The Cardrona, a horse trekking and quad biking business whose driveway was used for the display, took over the maintenance of this fence and turned it into a tribute to breast cancer awareness. There are times that they actually have to remove some bras because there are so many they are afraid the fence will collapse! If you want to have your bra place on the fence you can actually mail it to them and they will put it there for you. (Seriously!) There is a donation box there so if you stop to take photos be sure to leave a few dollars in the box. In one year it generated more than $40K for the Cancer Society of New Zealand! I wonder if the person or people who left their bras on that fence back in 1999 had any idea what would have become of them?

The fence is so long we couldn’t get it all in one photograph!

In case you’re wondering, Mary and I both left there with all the bras we had when we arrived. It’s not like I wouldn’t have loved to ditch ALL my bras but, you know, a good southern gal has to dress properly and that includes having the appropriate undergarments. After all, what would mama have said if I’d have stripped my bra and left it on some fence? That said, we did make a donation to the Cancer Society before we headed on down the road.

Just when we thought the day’s journey would never end we came up over a mountain with a lookout that looked right down the valley toward Queenstown. WOW! This is some view! I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t any snow left atop the mountains but when you see how beautiful everything is there you really just couldn’t be disappointed.

Of course Grape Ape loved getting out and having a chance to explore the mountaintop. We did tell him not to go on the other side of the fence but sometimes he just can’t help himself. There were so many tourists there taking pictures that he just had to get away for a bit.

Grape Ape just loves to photobomb us but when you see that smile you just have to melt!
The fabulous view from our Air B&B

The lookout was our final stop before we made our way into Queenstown and to the Kiwi Bach Air B&B. It sits up on the side of the mountain overlooking the ice blue lake. And while this place was very, very dated with a tiny kitchen and a pool table that looked like new in the photos but was more like a dilapidated child’s toy in person, it worked just fine for us. It was clean and the beds were comfy too. Of course there’s that view….just look at that view! By now you know our saying….“We’re not buying it!”

We were exhausted by the time we arrived and all we wanted to do was put our things away and relax. Well, you know, the best laid plans yada, yada, yada. It turns out the rental company didn’t send us the code to the lockbox. It was late in the afternoon on a Friday and I called the number that had called us a couple of days prior to confirm the rental. Apparently it was the cell phone of one of the guys in the rental office. He answered and when I explained the issue he said he was already off work for the weekend and we should call another number he was going to give me. Seriously? I was tired and ready for a hot shower and a cocktail and he was NOT helping my attitude so I pressed him a bit and told him we needed this code and now. I further explained that failure on their part to provide us the appropriate information was not my problem and he needed to take time out of his partying (I could hear he was at a bar) to assist me. I further explained that I would be speaking of our experience on our blog and suddenly, like magic, that code must have appeared to him like an apparition. Within a second of me making my demands he was able to give it to me and I was able to access our key. There now, was that so freaking difficult you lazy little turd? As I promised him….I’m writing about our experience and if you click on the Kiwi Back link here you will find their Air B&B listing. While the place was fine for a couple of nights I certainly wouldn’t go back nor would I recommend it to anyone.

Anyway, once I had the code and retrieved the key we put our things away, made a few cocktails and tried to order food for delivery. This turned out to be a bit of a challenge due to the fact we have US credit cards. We couldn’t order online unless we ordered pizza and we couldn’t get the “Uber Eats” people to talk to us via the phone. When we couldn’t make it happen Dan & Jack just decided to go pick up something for us. Mary and I relaxed and took in the amazing views while the boys went hunting and gathering. They came back, we ate and they played pool on the wobbly pool table. Of course Dan couldn’t stand the fact that it was so wobbly so he got out his tools and tried to tighten it up a bit. It was better but I still wouldn’t have wanted to have a small child running about because one hit and it could have come crashing down.

All in all it was an amazing day with many spectacular sights along the way and tomorrow there’s more adventures to be had as we check out the -5° Ice Bar! It’s sure to be a very “cool” experience.


Jilly & Dan

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Hokitika Time

After a very long day of traveling including the ferry crossing we finally made it to our home in Hokitika on the South Island’s west coast. The Keogan Road Retreat Air B& B in Hokitika turned out to be a perfect place for us. It would make a wonderful home for a family as well. It was actually a bit large for the four of us but the price was right and the location was spot on! It’s not located right on the beach or within walking distance of town but at just two miles away, nestled in a farming area with lots of land and animals around, it really was a special find. And, the hosts made it so easy. We definitely recommend this spot.

My new friend, Mahere!

We were here but a few moments when Mary and I immediately went to the fence to pet this wonderful, woolly creature. We were calling it a her until Jack and Dan came over and Dan said, “Her? This is clearly not a her! Have you seen the size of the kahunas on this thing?” No, we didn’t. We were concentrating on the sweet face, not the lower end of the beast. And since the horns were clipped and hidden under the woolly coat we just assumed it was a female. We peered at the undercarriage and Dan was right. The gonads on this sucker were the size of small basketballs! HOLY COW! I mean RAM! Seriously! I’ve never seen anything quite like it before and hopefully never will again. It was a bit frightening!

Once we ascertained the sex it was time to come up with a name and given the large junk we decided “Stud” was a good name but we wanted to stick with something that sounded a bit more Māori-esque so we translated stud into Māori and it’s Mahere! And that’s was that!

Mahere loved us being there. Whenever we came out to the fence he came from the furtherest corners of the field. He loved being petted and talked to and I felt bad for him. He was sequestered in his own field. Yes, all by himself! The best reasoning we could come up with is that he probably is the “stud” of the flock and has to be kept from the women folk at times. I tried to keep him from being lonely by visiting him regularly throughout the days and of course I fed him every extra scrap of food we had. I found out that he loves peanut brittle and strawberries and other fruits but ironically enough he did not like salad. Maybe it was the dressing. And, he really didn’t like cooked beets but seriously, who really likes cooked beets? I couldn’t hold that against him.

We spent three days here in Hokitika and the first full day we were here it rained all day so we stayed in and just enjoyed the beautiful home, played games and relaxed. After five days of going hard it was nice to sit and enjoy a little down time. When I got tired of being inside I’d head out in the rain and walk the country roads. When you have good foul weather gear, rain is nothing and sometimes it’s really enjoyable. I saw a very cool entrance to someone’s house on one of my walks. I particularly love the stone tiki at the end of the drive.

One day we took a drive out to Hokitika Gorge. It’s one of the few FREE attractions we found on our journey and WOW WHAT A PLACE! The walk to the gorge is truly beautiful and very accessible with a wide path, boardwalks and stairs where you need them most. The walk to the first viewing area is less than five minutes and can be reached by even the most out of shape person. From there we walked another fifteen or so minutes and crossed a long suspension bridge over the water. Mary is not a big fan of these things but with a little coaching and some humor we were able to coax her across. She’s a true champion for facing her fears head on! This part of the walk was pretty much downhill and easy but if you aren’t in at least decent shape you probably would be better off to stop at the first overlook as it was steep in some areas and not nearly as easy to traverse on the return trip. But, if you do take the walk all the way to the end you certainly won’t regret it as the walk and the views were truly wonderful.

The water in the gorge was a milky grey color that day. Sometimes it can be a brilliant, icy blue. How does this happen? Well, it’s a combination of “rock flour” which is actually ground schist and greywacke rock produced by the shifting of the rocks and mountains. Then the glacier water that streams down the mountain meets with the river water. The three combined produce amazing color results. It had rained pretty heavily the two days prior to our arrival so we got the silky grey color. Wold have preferred the icy blue but either way it was spectacular!

Once you’ve visited the beautiful gorge and enjoyed a wonderful and refreshing walk through the woods you can stop back by the little food truck at the entrance to the trail for some lunch or coffee. We had plans to eat in town but we did stop in and have a cup of java and enjoyed the views of the valley.

Another afternoon we headed into the town centre that’s located right on the beach. It was pretty windy but sunny and nice. They were hosting their annual Hokitika Driftwood and Sand Festival. While you will see some pretty cool driftwood sculptures if you click the link above, we certainly didn’t see anything like them. This is probably because it rained and blew like heck the day before. Any statues that had already been up were likely knocked down by the 30-40 knot winds and/or the huge waves beating on the black sand beach. And, even though we didn’t get to see a beach full of artistic masterpieces we enjoyed our stroll along the beach and through town. Jack even found a special purchase. Yes…it’s so Jack!

Mary’s just chilling and taking in the view.

Hokitika is a great little beachside town to stop and visit. We enjoyed a wonderful, rainy day relaxing at our B&B and still got a chance to see some of the nice things this area has to offer. I’m sure there’s a lot more to the area than what we had a chance to see but the time has come to move on to Queenstown. We’ve still so much more to see on our trip.

Hope to see you down the road!


Jilly & Dan