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.

Tuesday 31 January 2023

To many brown signs!

 January 30th

One of the last to leave the overnight spot at Clifton car park, again we set off for Invercargill. This time we were determined to get there. A Liquid Launderette was what we wanted, and although we did most of what I call 'the smalls washing' yesterday, today we wanted to freshen up all the bedding. Trouble was those brown finger signpost showed interesting places to visit as we drove along the highway which kept distracting our purpose. We came to McCracken's Rest lookout over Te Waewae Bay. The name intrigued us, and as we pulled into the car park, a yellow finger post pointing in all manner of directions (similar to that of Bluff) was the most prominent feature. 

On a clear day the tiny one million-year-old Solander Islands, formed by the eroded skeleton of a volcano, could be seen. According to Maori legend, the Solanders are the broken tooth and crumbs tossed aside by Kewa the whale, when it chewed between Stewart Island (Rakiura) and the mainland. Nothing to be seen today though, too much cloud and mist obscuring our view.


 Just a short drive further and another brown signpost, this time to Gemstone beach. "Fancy finding some Gemstones"? I enquired. We did no more than follow the signs. The surf has been known to wash up semi-precious gems such as garnet, jasper, quartz and nephrite and because the beach constantly changes from sand to stones after storms and tides, Gems have often been found amongst the coloured rocks.

A short sandy ramp led the way to the beach. I looked for gemstones, so did Ian, we didn't find any, so I went paddling instead.

Onward again and not 5 minutes along the road and yet another brown sign. This time to Monkey Island near Orepuki. If anyone wonders why it is called that it is thought to stem from the monkey winch used to haul the boats ashore. At low tide one can walk across to the island. We tried in 2020 and failed because the tides were wrong and guess what...they were also wrong today.


Now surely we could continue on to Invercargill. But oh no...Cosy nook, 3 km off the main drag just had to be visited. Crikey at this rate we will never get to Invercargill.This picturesque rocky cove shelter several fishing boats and holiday batches. It is also an important cultural and historical Maori settlement site. The name came from the Bluff harbourmaster (George Thompson) after Cosy Nuek, his village in Scotland.


This was to be the last of our impromptu excursions, we decided then and there we would do no more exploring. Time was getting on, and we had to get to our destination. But then we reached Riverton. First thing we spied was the locomotive, groan we could not drive through that town without seeing it. What a lovely place with a fabulous church and harbour. Not stopping would have been sacrilege.

And before we left a late lunch was had at the Rocky Beach Riverton.


Finally we  arrived at Invercargill. Liquid Laundrette was found, bedding and towels washed, and then it was plan for where we would stop overnight. Would you believe there were no freedom campsites, or DOC sites in Invercargill! A NZMCA came up, but I prefer sites with toilets and tquite a few of the NZMCA places are just overnight stopovers with no facilities. There was nothing for it but to drive 29 km back along the highway to a place called Aparima Thornbury campsite. Its fabulous, so far only two vans are here and we could pick our spot. The loo is a long drop but what a fabulous way to make what is usually very unattractive, attractive. 


And seen on route

This worried me. I wondered if a wasp had built its nest in the Toy's bumper.

Monday 30 January 2023

DOC enforcement and floods in Auckland.

 January 29th

Well, well, well. 7.45 am and a Department of Conservation (DOC)  officer arrives to check number plates to see who has paid and who has not. Of the vehicles that were left (many had already gone) at least three heard a knock from the guy. It should be an immediate fine for not complying with the rules, and we heard two German girls begging to be allowed to pay the site fees and not the fine. This chap was lovely. Gave them a stern telling off in the nicest possible way and allowed the site payment to go ahead. I doubt they will try to avoid payment again in future. DOC charge for the upkeep of the grounds and toilets even though most are long drops. The charge is usually $10 each, that's a fiver to us in the UK. Madness then not to pay. They do a sterling job conserving New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage and for such a small fee for the privilege of staying in some of the most scenic places in New Zealand, it's criminal not to part with your cash.

By the time we were ready to leave it was nearly 9 am. Te Anau was about a 15-minute drive and having had WiFi signal last night Ian found out about the laundrette and public showers. Yea...clothes and bodies washed, and about time too! Shopping and waste disposal was next, it was well after midday and before leaving stopped for a bite of lunch at the lake edge. A seaplane was coming into land. Never been in a seaplane and both of us would have loved to have flown in one but at $165 each for 15 minutes it was an expense we couldn't justify. 

Ian happened to be looking at the NZ news. Gosh, we couldn't believe it. On the North Island a state of emergency had been declared due to flooding. I found this on the web. Click here Mainly in the Auckland area but also as far a field as The Bay of Plenty and Gisborne. This from Wikipedia So isolated on the South island we had no idea any of this was going on. I still say that climate change is the cause of all these weird weather events! 

We like to get off the main highways so after lunch the route we took was along the SH 95, Fiordlands Southern scenic route. Invercargill was our destination, a 154 km drive. We never did make it that far.

Stopping at a scenic lookout, we noticed a dam across the Waiau River. Apparently this was one of the first hydro schemes in New Zealand.

On the map was Clifton Suspension bridge, it rang a bell, had we been to it before? We decided to find out. The answer was yes as was the Clifton Cave we had also thought about going to see. Before the bridge was a huge car park with fancy toilets, and they were the flushing kind too. This was also a freedom camp site and as time was getting on (it was mid afternoon) this would do for tonight.

Sunday 29 January 2023

Walks, waterfalls and ignorant bikers.

 January 28th

This photo taken last night at Cascade Creek. Lovely clear skies but no good for stars with that moon out.

It was chilly this morning, the sun hadn't yet reached us but blue skies overhead told of the scorcher today would become. Jumpers and long trousers worn for the first time in a while, we were going trekking to find the Humboldt falls and the series of waterfalls along the Lake Marian track.

Just a short journey back from Cascade Creek, the turn off was along the Hollyford Road and along a dirt track for about 17 km.

A cheeky New Zealand Robin greeted us on arrival. They appear as tame as our Robins back in the UK.

A 15-minute walk got us to the viewing platform, one of the better tracks we have been on but again an uphill climb.

Not quite what we had expected. More like those waterfalls seen coming from the mountains yesterday morning on that rainy day heading for Milford Sound. 

Slightly disappointing as the write-up told of impressive falls. The car park took less than 10 minutes walk to get back too but before heading off on our journey again Here you could see a swing bridge which was the start of the Hollyford tack. That bridge over the river looked inviting, it was a chance of another photo opportunity. A lovely lass came along and offered to take our photo. She and her mum were doing the Hidden Falls Hut trek and staying overnight. I was amazed when I met her mum, I would have said they were sisters not mum and daughter. Must be the New Zealand air quality. Keeps everyone young.

Drove back along that dirt track until we reached the sign for Miriam Lake. Gosh this place was heaving. The trek to the Lake was a good 1.5 hour uphill climb. Classed as an alpine lake in the hanging valley. Sounded wonderful and if it hadn't been for that continual climb, may have thought about giving it a go. Going up, no problem although no doubt I would have had to have a fair few 'get my breath back' stops. It's always about the descent for me though and 90 minutes of pain from that knee didn't appeal one bit. So instead we followed the track, crossing a swing bridge to another series of waterfalls. Now these were more impressive and more to our liking.

For this large trunk to be deposited on that rock, that river must have risen substantially. Maybe during the 2020 storms.

There had also been another swing bridge seen on our way back toward Marian Lake at Moraine Creek walk. Of course, we had to go and have a play. This one was not at all stable. In fact, I had difficulty in staying upright, not helped by Ian swinging that bridge at all, the rotter!

At the junction we very nearly turned right towards Te Anau but spur of the moment decision, go back to Homer Tunnel to see if we could see another Kea. The views today were amazing.

The traffic was moving as we approached the traffic lights to the tunnel but changed just as we got there. Oh, well it was only an eight-minute wait. No sign of Kea but look at the difference of the mountain face from yesterday morning. Now not a waterfall in sight.


Now bikers, can anyone tell me why they think they have the right to bypass a queue of traffic waiting for the signal, pull up alongside the front vehicle and then deliberately stop that vehicle from going ahead when the lights changed? 

This was the reason for that manoeuvre. To allow all his mates to get in front! Totally unacceptable in my opinion and rules of the road are to be followed no matter what. This lot also spread out and took all the car parking area once through the tunnel where many a vehicle stops to admire the view!

Rant over we headed off after them through the tunnel, turned around in the first lay-by and sat to wait for the Kea. Below were those bikers at the viewing spot.

 Well we waited for a good 15 minutes. Not a sign of a Kea, I was very lucky and glad to get that one yesterday. So back through the tunnel, we were in front this time.

And our last destination for today was Mirror Lake.

Hardly a breeze to move leaves on the journey to the lake but another of those disappointments, a slight wind was enough to cause ripples and hide that reflection, so it was not to be today. We had seen the reflections back in 2020. Then they were impressive indeed.

 These were the photos from 2020

Mirror Lake

Our stop overnight was at a Henry Creek, another DOC site. This time we did managed to book online. a very weak signal could be had from the top road, we were near enough to Te Anau to get the benefit.

And view heading toward Henry Creek.

And wildlife

Loads of cicadas again. They were on the swing bridge and bridge uprights.

This was a very big fly! Maybe a horse fly?

Evil looking and didn't fancy messing with that!

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