The Hendersons Week 4 of our 2004 Morgan tour of New Zealand
Moggie's Big Adventure - Morgans to New Zealand
February 8th – Sunday – Dunedin to Te Anau
I suppose Fr. McCulloch would be surprised, but today we decided to attend service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Dunedin. The Dean there is from North Carolina and his wife from Louisiana, but they have lived twelve years in England and 10 in NZ. It was nice to attend church again after so many months and the service was 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which was like going home again.
We heard that Gerry Pell had a spot of trouble with his car – apparently a local man, well known to the authorities, had a row with his girlfriend – rumor is that she pushed him through a plate glass window. He was looking for a place to sleep (and sleep it off) and explored the cars in the parking lot next to the hotel. The Morgans with their tonneau covers didn’t provide enough protection, there was a tin top of some make that was locked, but Gerry had put his hood up and forgotten to lock one of the doors – this fellow let himself into the car and spent the night there. When Gerry got to his car the next morning, he saw this guy, who had been bleeding and was quite pale – at first Gerry thought he was dead. Gerry called the police and they came and arrested the fellow – Maggie told them to treat him kindly, but the police told her he was a ‘bad lot.’
After the service, we packed up our belongings and headed toward the next destination, Te Anau. We had been advised to try a scenic route, taking in Invercargill, then up to Te Anau. The day was pretty blustery and after not too many miles, we were in very unpleasant weather. However, typical of NZ, the weather changed within several miles and was actually quite nice.
We drove to a point called Bluff, which some say is the furthest point south on the South Island, but actually is the second furthest south, the furthest being a few miles east. There is a directional post at Bluff with markings of distance to London, etc, so we took a few shots.
While we were there a woman from London and her Kiwi friend stopped and told us that they had happened across a couple in a Morgan who had a spot of trouble – they had failed to negotiate a curve and ended in a field, although neither were injured. Their names were Dick and Lynne. We watched for them along the way back to the main road, but didn’t spot them. We stopped at Riverton, which bills itself, as the Riviera of the South, but the water is still darn cold, so that is a stretch of the imagination.
The rest of the drive was pleasant, with some beautiful scenery along the way.
There isn’t much going on in Te Anau – the big attraction is the proximity to Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound. Unfortunately, there had been an act of sabotage at Milford Sound, where we had booked a cruise and all cruises were cancelled. Someone had deliberately put a water hose in the fuel tank of one of the boats and filled the tank, causing the diesel fuel to overflow the tank and spill into the sound. Because of that, the trips to Doubtful Sound were sold out.
We learned that Dick (Dice) and Lynne (Dale-Johnson) had indeed run off the road into a pasture. The windscreen was shattered and the car was pulling significantly to one side, so they had left it in Invercargill and rented a car that they drove to Te Anau. Dick was going back the next day to check on the car.
We had dinner at a little Italian place in Te Anau with Ray Ellis and Sara-Jane Bennington – it was very nice and the food was quite good. Our accommodations at The Fiordland Hotel weren’t all that great – the hotel is ‘really tired’ – it looks like a 1970’s vintage decorating scheme and the rooms were amazingly small. However, it was only for two nights.
February 9th – Monday – Te Anau
Watching the Japanese tourists in the restaurant this morning was a real eye opener. The staff put out toast in baskets and I observed three women pick up one piece of toast, turn it over, and put it back into the basket. Unbelievable.
After breakfast, Tom and I got into Moggie and headed up the road to Milford Sound. The drive is absolutely beautiful. It was marred, however, by the endless tour buses. We stopped at one particular place, Mirror Lakes, and three tour buses of Japanese pulled up – they dutifully piled off the buses and pushed their way to the best viewing points. We did get a few photos, but the moment was spoiled when I saw one Japanese woman leaning against Moggie so she could have her photo taken. Tom and I decided that we would drive straight up to Milford Sound, hopefully beating the tour buses, and then sightsee on our way back. This proved to be a good solution, although by the time we got back to Mirror Lakes, it was windy, so the mirror effect was spoiled.
The road up to Milford Sound goes through spectacular scenery – huge hills, broad, flat valleys, curving roads.
Milford Sound itself is a fiord, with a beautiful peak, Mitre Peak just across the way. While we were parked at Milford Sound some westerners decided to lean against Ray Ellis’ car for a photo op and we told them don’t touch the car – they were really offended!
On the way back we stopped at The Chasm – it is absolutely spectacular! The photos are the only way to describe it.
Once back at the hotel, I tried to do some laundry – succeeded eventually, but the dryers decided to no longer be interested in drying part of the way through the process. Oh well, it was the last night and eventually I did get the drying done.
We had an impromptu group dinner in Te Anau – I sat next to Vivienne Welch and learned more about their trip in 2003 to South Africa – what an experience they had, although Vivienne says she wouldn’t do it in a Morgan again – they had a lot of problems with cars overheating, even though theirs is a relatively new car (1995).
February 10th - Tuesday – Te Anau to Queenstown
At breakfast we sat at a table with Jack and Gladys McNaughton – they are from Southern California – I had heard from Bob and Barb Stinson that they had driven across Russia in their Morgan, so over breakfast they told us about it. It was in 1994 – they had sort of a challenge from a group of European Morgan owners – the Europeans drove east from France, Jack and Gladys shipped their car to Japan, then Russia and drove west, although there wasn’t a road a Vladavostock, so they had to load their car on a train for the first 3 ½ days, then drove it, along with a guard and a guide who were in a Russian Fiat, for 4,000 miles, ending up at the Finnish border. From their, they went to Sweden, then across Denmark, Belgium, France, up to England, then shipped their car to Nova Scotia, where there is a big port for car imports. Then they drove down the east coast of the US, across the south (through Texas), then on to California.
We checked out of the hotel and made the reasonably short trip to Queenstown. Along the way we stopped at a place and had coffee, Alison and Tim, Barb and Bob and Lynne (who was riding with Sara) also stopped. Then we drove a bit further and looked at the Kingston Flyer, a vintage steam train. Several of us ended up at the train station at the same time, so we had a nice photo op.
On to Queenstown, through some beautiful countryside.
Queenstown itself is pretty touristy and bills itself as the Adventure Capitol of the World – you can whitewater raft, bungee jump, parasail, jet boat, etc. etc. here. The shops are rather posh for the most part. We have some fun activities planned – a cruise on a steamboat, a jet boat ride and a dinner at the top of the nearest mountain.
Apparently today, some Japanese tourists decided to have their picture taken next to Gerry Pell’s car – the subject put her purse down next to the car, then proceeded to lean across the hood – Gerry told her not to touch the car and her interpreter told him to ‘say please’ – As any one who reads this can tell, I’m thoroughly fed up with people who think they have a right to have their photo taken with our cars, particularly if they can’t keep their hands off the cars! Ray Ellis is trying to get one of the Japanese guides to write a sign in Japanese to tell people not to touch the cars. Tom has created a sign in English to tell people they can look and photograph the car, but don’t touch!
Dick Dice was able to retrieve his car today – I think it was more badly damaged than we had originally understood, but it will be OK for the rest of the trip.
We stayed at the Copthorne Lakefront Resort in Queenstown – it was the most confusing hotel I’ve even been in – it consisted of several separate buildings, but they were connected by stairways and hallways. However, our room was large and quiet and there was room to park the cars next to the room, so we were fine. I’m not sure why they called it a resort – there weren’t any amenities other than a couple of saunas.
February 11th – Wednesday - Queenstown
Tom met one of the local Morgan owners yesterday who volunteered to help him change the oil in Moggie, so he left in the morning and met this fellow, Jeff, at a local coffee shop, then drove out to the fellow’s house and changed the oil and greased the fittings. This guy has a Morgan super sport, which is supposed to be a hot number. He also has a fully restored Aston Martin that is a thing of beauty. While Tom did that, I had a massage, which felt wonderful. Afterwards, we drove to a pretty, former mining town near Queenstown, called Arrowtown. We parked Moggie on the main street and she was the belle of the ball. We had lunch in a restaurant that Jeff had recommended (Saffron) – our lunch was grilled wild mushrooms on walnut polenta, served with bacon and a hollandaise sauce. It was wonderful!
Jeff also told Tom about a little art theater behind the Saffron, so we poked around there for a few minutes – it was something – they show first run films, but also foreign and documentaries. It is very civilized – you can buy cheese and wine and sit in these very comfortable looking chairs and enjoy while you watch the film.
Arrowtown is the first NZ town that I’ve really liked – most of them are pretty characterless, but this one is a collection of buildings that sort of look Wild West and there is a small park right in the center where people can picnic. It was a gold rush town in the late 1800s.
Several of our fellow Morganeers showed up while we were having lunch and we recommended the Saffron. While they were lunching, we walked around the town a bit and stopped at one shop to look at garments made from merino wool and possum. They are beautiful and incredibly light – also really pricey. The NZ women call the possum “Southern Tree Mink” – the fur isn’t at all like the fur on our opossums – rather than coarse and gray, it is fine and an attractive brown.
We walked back to the car to find a note tucked under the tonneau – in a sort of Japanese script: it said thank you for letting us photograph your beautiful car and sit in it. It was signed with an illegible name, followed by “Japan” – just as we were reading it, Gerry Pell walked across the street, looking very guilty. We learned later that the lot of the Morganeers who were in town were hiding behind a wall, waiting to snap our picture as we read the note. What a hoot. It was actually Ray Ellis who wrote the note.
We drove up to Cromwell, passing a lot of wineries on the way. Cromwell is the windiest place I’ve ever been – the new town doesn’t have much to offer, although it is tidy and modern. There is a restored old town with six or so buildings along the lake’s edge – mostly art galleries now.
On the way back to Queenstown we stopped at Peregrine Winery and sampled two wines – their Pinot Gris (OK, not great) and their Sauvignon Blanc, which was superb. We really like the NZ Sauvignon Blancs – they aren’t as thin and the ones from North America.
That evening we had a super experience – we all boarded the old steamship the Earnslaw for a cruise up Lake Wakatipu. The scenery was beautiful and the ship was amazingly fast.
Then we disembarked and went into a large ‘farmhouse’ (really a modern restaurant) and had a buffet dinner.
There were a lot of people – 230 or so – but the food was reasonably good. During the dinner the flasher got passed around – first from Rod Dale-Johnson to Tim Ingham, then back to Rod, then to Gerry Pell and finally ended up with Richard Welch. Ray had also arranged to have some T-shirts made for the people whose cars failed the MAF inspection – “We failed our MAFF’s” test. Finally, Tom was able to tell everyone about the Japanese note and thank Ray.
The ride back to Queenstown was the most fun I’ve had in years – there is a piano at the stern of the boat and they give you songbooks. The pianist was really good and everyone sat around singing old songs like “Daisy, Daisy”, “Waltzing Matilda” and “My Darling Clementine”. Especially fun was “Maggie” since we have our very own Maggie on the tour. At the end we all joined hands (cross hands, actually, in the traditional style) and sang “Auld Lang Syne”, then tried to do the Chicken Dance in very confined space. There were Americans, Brits, Canadians, Australians and Kiwis all together singing at the top of our lungs. If there were any non-English speakers on board, I’ll bet they hadn’t a clue about what we were doing.
The walk back to the hotel was led by Richard, flasher in the air, in the mode of a tour guide. What a fun night!
February 12th – Thursday - Queenstown
In the early afternoon we had to drive to Glenorchy, for a trip up the Dart River on a jet boat – we didn’t really do anything special in the morning prior to departure. We left Queenstown around 11:30 and made the drive – the scenery was absolutely wonderful. We got to Glenarchy, had a light lunch, then donned our ‘raincoats’ and life vests, boarded a couple of buses and were driven to the landing. We boarded the boats, which could hold about 14 passengers each, plus the captain. Our captain was Rod and he was very knowledgeable about the local geography.
The jet boats are rather interesting – they only draw 3”, so they can go virtually anywhere in the river. However, the riverbed is constantly changing, as the rain comes on quite rapidly, causing the river to swell, then the river drains, causing the river to shrink. Rod told us that every day the channels are different.
We got as many photos as we could, but the boat moved pretty rapidly and taking photos wasn’t all that easy.
At the end of the boat tour, we had a little forest walk, complete with the accursed sand flies that are very ravenous for human blood. We got back to the village around 4:30, then drove in caravan to Jeff’s house, about 13 miles from Queenstown. Jeff and his wife, Nickie, had light hors d’oeurves and wine for the group, and we looked around their truly amazing house – they had acquired an old barn (circa 1870) and converted it to a holiday home, then later added a modern addition that had a wonderful kitchen, complete with an Aga stove and a wall of glass that opened onto a patio. It was beautiful! Additionally, Jeff had a restored Aston-Martin DB-4 that was worth a fortune, a Morgan +4 Super Sport and a Citroen deux chevaux that was their daily driver.
Later that evening a group of us went to the Skyline Restaurant, overlooking Queenstown. To get there, one took a gondola and went up to the top of a very tall hill overlooking the town. The view was wonderful! The food was very good, considering that it was a buffet and there were hundreds of people milling about. After dinner, we took the gondola back to sea level, then a bus back to the hotel.
February 13th – Friday – Queenstown to Franz Joseph
Hmm, Friday the Thirteenth. Well, as it was, we didn’t have any bad luck, so much for that old superstition.
We drove from Queenstown to Franz Joseph Glacier. The drive was quite pleasant, once we got past the thousands of bicyclists who were doing some sort of charity event that included going over a very substantial mountain pass. The first several miles were absolutely nerve wracking, as we expected any minute to have one of the bicyclists pull out in front of us or do something foolish. The only really foolish thing we saw was a jock who had made it to the summit and decided to ride the way to the other side in the middle of the road, heedless of the auto traffic.
We made a brief stop in a town called Wanaka, where there was an air museum. Inside they had several WWI and WWII aircraft on display. Our understanding is that they hold air shows every year in the vintage aircraft.
We arrived at Franz Joseph in the late afternoon and checked into the motel. It really wasn’t much – the room was Ok, but I believe that there was a problem with dust, for my dust allergies, which haven’t been a problem for years, came on pretty strong. The motel was the Glacier Gateway Motel and I would not recommend it to anyone.
The group of us had dinner at the ‘best’ restaurant in town, The Beeches. The dinner was actually quite good, although noisy, as we have come to expect all of the restaurants in NZ. The men presented the ladies with little stuffed kiwis as a Valentine’s Day remembrance. Tom and I were presented with T-Shirts that Ray and Sara had made up – they were imprinted with the same text as the sign Tom had printed for the car: “You may look at the car, you may photograph the car, but if you value your life – DON’T TOUCH THE CAR”
On the way back from dinner, we met a young man who invited Tom and me into the local Anglican Church for an impromptu prayer. The altar was in front of windows looking out over the glacier. One could not design a rose window as spectacular.
February 14th – Saturday – Franz Joseph
We woke to incredible rain – it was blowing sideways. This was followed by the most dismal breakfast we’ve seen yet. It was delivered to our room – we were expected to fix our own toast (bread provided) and make coffee (instant provided). The juice was an apple juice based orange juice. Tom had ordered sausages, but he took one bite (we found out later this was the standard) and gave up the rest as bad business.
Several of the group were going to hike to the foot of the glacier, but the day was very unpleasant, so Tom and I opted to drive to Hokitika. The drive wasn’t all that bad, given how wet it was. We had read in the guidebook that there was a place where you could buy a bit of jade and they would teach you how to carve your own piece. Well, that particular place had been converted into a backpackers motel. Ah well, we had a nice lunch at a restaurant in town, poked around the town when there were respites from the rain (one of the jade shops had an amazing carving in jade of the America’s cup – it was absolutely incredible).
We drove back to Franz Joseph as the skies started to clear. The thing that is really interesting about this glacier is that it moves with incredible speed for a glacier. It has been on the advance until the last few years – as a matter of fact, it was at one point about 5 km from the town. It has retreated a bit, but who knows when it will start advancing again and wipe out the little village.
Back at Franz Joseph, we got on clothes suitable for walking to the base of the glacier, drove Moggie to the parking lot, and headed out – it wasn’t that far a walk – a few km, but the going was a bit rough over the former lake bed. At the head of the trail there was a picture of happy boaters in the lake in the 1930’s that has since been filled up by rock and debris. It was over this debris that we had to walk. However, we made it, and back, not the worse for wear.
We had dinner again at the Beeches and the ladies presented the men with little ‘gold’ kiwis for their hats.