Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

Beer, boulders, blue ice, blue pools and the blue (or white) house

It's not good to get up and go straight to the brewery so we had coffee and scones and muffins at the Smelting Pot first, and then went to get a nice piece of jade for my mum to stop her eying up mine every time we visit - and then we went to the brewery.

Monteith's is as good as ever and a prize example of number nine baling wire culture with urinals and sinks fashioned from kegs. The beer lives up to the slogan - all beer is good, some beer is better. We arrived as the beer was leaving the lautering tank and into the hot wort; by the time we'd tasted the malts and seen the heat exchanger and the first batch of the day gassing up a nice head in the tank they were adding the hops and two bags of sugar. The newer furnace was firing away, with a wheelbarrow of ashes to show for two days burning at a ton of coal a day. They weren't running the bottling line because the bad weather in North Island stopped the ferry and they didn't get their bottles. The good news is that Monteith's is now available in the UK, the bad news is we don't know who from, the good news is it isn't Tescos.

A quick stop (well, not that quick) at the Jade Boulder gallery, where they have a large jade boulder, in a gallery :) There's some lovely jade too - contemporary, Maori and some Aztec too.

Driving down the coast along the abandoned railway line, over one lane bridges shared with the railway track, in sight of the sea or the lagoon and then inland to Franz Joseph, Fox and Lake Mattheson. Another quick stop at Hokitika, where the beach is grey and there's a painted concrete armchair on the seafront and a competition for the design of next year's art seat to go near it.

Then further inland, through hills, past Pete's Possum Pies and the turning for Okarito lagoon. From a distance Raffes Knob looks rather like a steamed pudding. This time we weren't following a milk truck round the hairpin bends on SH6 to the glaciers: it was behind us, caught up with us by lake Waihapo and we had to let it pass us. The glacier at Franz Joseph is a long way down the valley - you can see it from the road as you drive past. We did drive past, on through Fox (glacier also showing) and across to Lake Mattheson, the reflecting lake. This reflects an excellent view of the mountain peaks when it's not raining, windy or cloudy. As it was windy we saw mainly the eels and as it was cloudy there were no peaks but it's still a nice walk and a nice view but damn the sandflies.

The halflife of some restaurants in New Zealand is rather like London; The Landing in Franz Joseph is a perfectly decent bar with food - it's just that we remember it as a delicious restaurant with great wine, plus my chicken pasta left me awake at 3am convinced I was going to throw up. So it was a gentle start this morning: I looked at Fox Glacier from the comfort of the car park while Simon walked up and snapped photos of the amazing blue ice, then we drove across rivers of amazing blue on one lane bridges of amazing construction, through the delightful desolation of Bruce Bay and on for brunch at the salmon farm (chowder rather than fritters - all salmon, naturally). The open fire was very welcome too.

The salmon farm is a set of hexagonal pools; in one tiny fry, in another big fish - we saw fish leap in all four pools including the tinies. And in the lake the hexagons are set in we saw the old, canny fish ambling along.

Along to the coast through low bush, and a stop at Knight's Point Lookout. Down on the beach are seals, up on the lookout are sandflies but the sea is so blue and the surf so white it's worse braving the bites and the milling tourists.

The road crosses the Haast - a huge wide braided river snd just as it turns inland is the Haast visitor centre, with steps and stepping stones across the lagoon. Inland to the mountains, past Mosquito Peak and over the Gates of Haast, a long tumbling cascade of water in improbable blue grey.

Various unscheduled pauses by the side of the road to gaze at the view and snap photos.
The waterfall I still can't remember the name of even though this is my second visit - by the map I think it's Thunder Creek falls, it's where the InterCity bus drivers swap over on the Franz Joseph/Queenstown run. The water here is blue green; it's impossible to describe the shades and colours of these rivers - you see some of these colours in glass but nothing matches glacial water colours.
The Fantail falls are across a gravel plain, with deep glassy green water and the falls spread out - well, quite like a fantail though I thought a fish tail at first. We skipped stones and wandered off.
Cameron Flats - we stopped for the map and a comfort break but the view is wonderf_l, mountains in every direction with shy alpine peaks tucked between every third mountain, shap and snow dusted.
The Blue pools - walk further than you think down and through the beech woods, with enormous white fungi studding the trees, and across a swing bridge - fun even though it's rickety and the cable in the middle is covered in duct tape because you look down to a blue braided river with a huge lazy trout. Then along a boardwalk clinging to the side of the mountain to a chasm with water so blue you think it must be a swimming pool. It's cold and utterly clear so it refracts light wonderfully; the wind ripples some of the surfafe but where it's clear it's absolutely swimming pool colour. We hurried off because of the sandflies but I stopped to try and record the three -four note of the warbler and Simon was brave enough to stop in the middle of the bridge to pose for a photo when he doesn't like heights.

First the road runs along Lake Wanaka then it kinks across at the neck to follow Lake Huwai - surrounded by slopes and peaks and quite quite lovely. Wanaka itself is a tangle of streets - the lakefront is mostly park and parking, and the puns are building up (Wana-taxi, Wana-takeaway). We found a nice motel behind the park - nice view and close enough to walk in (Fern Lodge, for reference).

The motel said 'spa pool' on the wall but it was closed for the summer. The manager suggested Oakridge - but they're expensive; $12 dollars he warned us. That's not bad for two swimming pools and a set of 40 degree hot tubs, set in tumbling rocks in a swish spa with fabulous mountain views. But New Zealand service normally does better than waiting to tell you it's extra to rent the towels until you're getting out the pool soaking wet.

Thankfully the Blue House or the White House (it's an art deco square in white with blue trim) was as fabulous as ever. I forget the name of the Hawkes Bay Viognier which was superb - I may have to try a lot before I find it again, oh dear. Aubergine bruschetta with sheep milk camembert and roasted red pepper, halloumi fried with pernod and tomato, venison and kalamari with garlic, soy, lemon and mint - white chocolate raspberry ice cream and poached apricots with cheese. The only thing not to die for was the cumin shortbread. Best food for miles around and then some. And wine by the glass is the same price as by the bottle scaled down. Yum.
Tags: food, new zealand, travel

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