We woke up to bright sunshine ready for our whale watch trip but… out to sea there were gale force winds, so all the morning’s boats were cancelled.
We jumped back in the van and headed inland away from the gales to Hanmer Springs. This is a massive tourist trap, but a really nice one! Because of our early morning whale disappointment we got to Hanmer before lunch, in good time to pack up sandwiches and get out for a walk. We climbed Mount Isobel just behind the town. It was very hot, but really beautiful. Lots of mountains around, as well as some wide river valleys. It turned out to be quite a long walk, with a lot of ascent (the mountain is over 1300m), but totally worth it.
It also meant we could have a guilt-free trip to the hot springs afterwards. These are fake pools but some of them do have genuine thermal spring water in them. It is like a big outdoor Centre Parcs swimming complex, but with better slides. And a café that does decent burgers.
The next morning we made it to church – a lovely little wooden Anglican church that was packed out because there was a massive family reunion who supplied 30 of the visitors. The vicar was from Warrington. Afterwards they served what looked to be mincemeat pies, but turned out to be minced meat pies. Not complaining.
After lunch it seemed appropriate to take the bikes out for one last time. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing, at first. It was a bit hot, to be sure, but we went along our chosen circuit at a nice pace, stopping at Waiau for some wonderful ice creams. Then we hit a massive headwind for the remaining 20km of our ride. James still hasn't recovered.
Then we had to do our laundry, pack and spend our last night in the van.
We are now at a Chinese/Irish B&B in Christchurch, having delivered the van back. They were really chilled out and didn't even do an inspection. After nearly a month it felt like there should have been a bit more ceremony about the handover.
Tomorrow morning we fly to Queenstown for our briefing ahead of our ‘great walks’. We’re doing the Milford and Routeburn Tracks in combination. While on these our connectivity will be almost nothing – so don’t panic if you don’t hear from us! Hopefully it won’t rain too much – but it is Fiordland – over 6000mm (that’s 6 metres) of rain a year.
Some photos from our trip up Mount Isobel: