About Us

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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Yea, yea, yea....at long last!

I will give you one guess who got the time wrong? Bit of a recurring event from that hubby of mine. "Must set the alarm for 5.45am as the boat taking us to the glowworm caves leaves at 7 and we have to be there for 6.50am"  said he last night. There was to be no pick up outside the Top 10 today, a good 15-minute walk was required to reach the wharf in Te Anau. So we are up and ready to leave by 6.30am, but then, "I'll just have a peek at the brochure to confirm the time " thought I and that's when I noticed we didn't have to be there until 7.50am!

Two cups of tea later we set off and I must say this was a very enjoyable couple of hours. A 30-minute crossing by Catamaran before setting foot on the small jetty to the Te Ana-ua Cave. This taken from Wiki,
 The Te Ana-au caves are a culturally and ecologically important system of limestone caves on the western shore of Lake Te Anau, in the southwest of New Zealand. It was discovered in 1948 by Lawson Burrows, who found the upper entry after three years of searching, following clues in old Māori legends.


A selfie taken on my small waterproof camera
 The cave is young only a mere 13000 years since it formed (hence no stalactites and the river is still cutting through the rock) but what it lacks in features it makes up for in the sheer number of glowworms.  After walking a fair way into the cave system we went on a silent journey by punt to where thousands of the glowworms had accumulated on the walls, ceiling and overhanging ledges. No photography allowed but I did take these photos from the video stills

Underground waterfall

Glowworms send down lines with sticky beads to trap the flying insects.

One of the two cave waterfalls seen.


We got to see a Weta (so I got the spelling wrong as Marilyn was VERY quick to point out. A Weta is a very large prehistoric-looking cricket!)


 So this was a Weka. It looks remarkably like a Kiwi but without the long snout.





By mid-morning, we were back and on our way to Milford Sound. Yep, we decided to do it by car and stop at all the places our coach driver failed to stop at. I also hoped that the elusive Kea may put in an appearance. The Police were still in the same layby and still stopping everyone who was headed up the Milford road. This time a very nice officer stopped for a chat. In his hand was something that looked like a walky-talky thingymabob, and suddenly it bleeped. "Okay," he said "You are free to go. Enjoy your day" and with that, we left. Ian then informs me that the thingymabob in his hand was actually a detector to see if there was alcohol on his breath. Wow, that's a bit sneaky. Good job we went to bed early last night having had but one drink!



Some of the views missed two days ago on the coach




  First stop was Monkey Creek. two coaches full of Chinese tourists arrived at roughly the same time. I was just putting the kettle on for a cup of tea when squeals were heard. I rushed out of RP and...OMG there...finally...a Kea.





Talk about ecstatic. If it hadn't been for those Chinese I would once again have missed the sighting.

We then decided on going through Homer Tunnel and would you credit it another Kea on top of the coach in front. This time I managed a 'takeoff' shot.





This video was taken by Ian



And then to make the day complete, on our return through the tunnel another 3 were seen on cars waiting to go through. Couldn't stop unfortunately because of the cars behind us but it seems that what we were told was correct. Monkey Creek and Homer Tunnel, two of the places Kea always visit.

Had a quick stop at the Mirror Lakes on the way back. So glad we stopped a few days ago because this time there was a breeze blowing and ducks were disturbing the water.


Our plan was to freedom camp tonight at a place called Nightcap! Roughly halfway between Te Anau and Invercargill. Ian typed in the coordinates into the sat nav and OMG where on earth were we going? Down a gravel road that's where and having driven 11k of it suddenly a sign stating 'No exit ahead! She, who should be obeyed because she is supposed to no it all, kept telling us to go straight ahead.

Blimey this rabbit ran faster than us and we were doing 30kph!


The views were stunning.


 The abuse we shouted at 'she who must be obeyed' (sat nav) well as if that would do us any good (made us feel better though) so what to do now. We were not prepared to go back so the trusty map came in useful and directed us a further 9k down another gravel road to a place called Ohai, a small town with the railway running down the side, seemed more like a ghost town. Plenty of boarded-up buildings although new homes seemed to have sprung up on the outskirts.


And did I mention the gales? Blimey stopping to read the map at that no exit sign, I had visions of the RP being blown over! Looking at the regions weather the gusts were 76+km/h



We finally made it to Nightcap, found the park and pulled up by the disused toilets. Thought we were well away from those trees but those gusts...branches were falling and I feared for the RP. So we moved to open space but of course, this meant more buffeting by the wind but at least if a tree fell it wouldn't fall on us!

First spot

Too near to those trees for our liking.



Bit more open
 And seen at the park, a novel way to exercise horses.



And wildlife,









Thursday, 30 January 2020

Doubtful sound

 Today's excursion was very different from yesterday because (a) the weather was awful and (b) the journey involved 2 coaches and two boats. Destination Doubtful Sound

At 6.45am coach number one picked us up outside the reception of the Top 10-holiday park for the first leg of the journey and a further 12 others collected from Motels around Te Anua.

The rainbow could be seen nearly all the way to Manapouri


  The second leg was by boat from lake Manapouri and we were joined by another 30 or so people for the 30-minute cruise to the West Arm of Lake Manapouri.  





Manapouri Power Station on the left


The third leg was by coach over the Wilmot Pass, more of a dirt track with hairpin bends and long drops on one side. No other vehicles can make it to Deep Cove because of the dense forests so it is only a barge that brings over supplies for the power station. Occasionally groups come over by car or campervan but they need to brave enough to stay and contend with the thousands of bitting sandflies which invade the backpacker's huts with the long drops and once that boat leaves, that's it, your there for the week! The chances therefore of the coaches meeting oncoming traffic were slim.




Deep Cove
 At Deep Cove, the fourth leg of the journey, the Catamaran waiting which was to take us on the cruise around Doubtful Sound. By now the weather had really deteriorated and visibility was poor but the scenery was still amazing. Trying to stand at the front on the top deck was almost impossible what with the wind and spray so for most of the journey we kept undercover on the second deck.


Really shocking weather.




The cruise was for three hours and by far the better of the two 'sound' excursions. Milford sound had the fabulous scenery, granted, but a much smaller area to cruise whereas Doubtful was way better in the fact that the many 'arms' could be explored and with the cruise being longer, took us out into the Tasman Sea to view the seals.
The weather had improved greatly as the afternoon wore on






It was a long day but worth every penny and if only one of the sounds can be done, my recommendation is to do Doubtful rather than Milford.

And seen in the Ladies loo (no I don't usually take my camera into the toilets but when I saw these, just had to go back and fetch it.)




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