Published: October 24th 2008August 18th 2008
New Zealand isn´t about crazy stories of getting lost, or dodgy hitchhikers, or eating bugs, or language barriers. We didn´t ever feel scared or intimidated and we didn´t find oursleves doing anything unexpected. New Zealand is about jaw dropping scenery and wide open spaces, tranquility and a sense of the old fashioned, traditional life. There are the adrenaline junkie adventures of course, and we did touch upon those a little, but the most adrenaline we felt was pumping from me as a passenger to Stuey´s driving of a high sided vehicle on the mountain passes.... and of course the thought of having Jen & Frank joining us for a month....
So that picks up where we left off, leaving the Glaciers and entering into Fiordland and Milford Sound. Unfortunatley getting there just wasn´t that simple. It´s many hours of driving, and as there are no direct roads we had to go to Queenstown first and then to Te Anau, just to get the access road to the Milford Sound, (which was named after Milford Haven apparently). Through our many hours of driving we passed through thick heavy snow storms and literally an hour later it would be beautiful sunshine. You
really can understand why the kiwis are so obssessed with the weather, it just cannot be trusted. It was the strangest feeling driving through thick heavy snow on August Bank Holiday!
So on route we stopped at stunning and quiet Jackson´s Bay in the hope of spotting some penguins, but alas no luck, but we had a nice trek to a secluded beach anyway. That night we camped at Lake Hawea near Wanaka. It was freezing! But we were ok thanks to the great heaters in our trusted Ford Transit.
We thought we would pass through Wanaka and join the posh people in a spot of cafe culture (well we had to get some practice in ready for the Smith´s arrival, marathon latte drinking isn't as easy as it sounds). It was certainly the place to be seen, matching designer ski wear a must. ( There are 3 famous ski areas in the vicinity). But nevertheless I imagine it is a lot less snobby than the european couterparts. Queenstown is not far from Wanaka and is much bigger with a more adrenaline pumped party vibe. We didn´t linger as we had picked alternative ski fields in the more
peaceful areas accessed from the east coast, and as usual the weather had changed again from beautiful sunshine to wind and snow storms. We pressed onto Milford Sound.
We managed to make it to Te Anau before nightfall and camped in a spot near the Lake. The next morning we moved on to the approach road to Milford. It took a couple of hours, maybe longer as we stopped frequently for photos and to play in the snow. The final part of the road had a real alpine feel, with tight bends and signs warning of the avalance risks, and passing through an old tunnel with giant icicles running down it. The Lodge camp at Milford was stunning, set right at the foot of the mountains. I hope the photos do it justice. We had a cream tea in Jen´s honour preparing for the arrival and were soon joined by an inquisitive Kea, which is a NZ parrot, and a fine looking thing.
After another freezing night we woke early and cracked the ice outside and headed for our boat cruise on the sound. We were especially pleased to get it half price as well as there being
only 8 people on a boat for 150! It´s great travelling off season. Well the first thing to tell you about the trip was that it was the coldest I had been for a long time, you know when your hands stick to your camera! But it was jaw dropping again, great vast mountains with huge drops into the deep dark calm ocean, spotting the odd dolphin and seal lolling around. We combined it with a stop at the underwater observatory. There is some strange phenomenon about the water temperature in the sound and how it is able to have deep water creatures at only 10m below the surface, so they have built a giant platform in its honour. It was interesting, but not desperatly exciting.
Our next port of call was to hit the very south coast of the south island, and will probably be the most southly point in the world that we will ever reach. It looked alot like the countryside at home. Rolling fields of farm land, and those sheep, 40 million of them. Anyway we hit the town of Invercargill as we had a few jobs to do. I wouldn't ever recommend going there,
it has nothing much to it, is quite old fashioned and definitely lacked character, but it served its purpose. We pressed on to some surfing beaches where Stu was able to get in and enjoy the small but perfect waves that had formed. The weather was also much milder than it had been our whole time in NZ so far. We stayed in the sufing village of Colac beach, (the name kind of reminds me of a remedy for IBS....) and then explored the Catlins Coast.
This was a real highlight. We pulled up on a deserted beach nearing dusk. There was a lighthouse, and sand dunes, and the sky had turned various moody colours. There were giant sea birds ignoring our presence and huge leaves of kelp floating in the surf ominously pretending to be orca whales in the dimming light. Then we almost stepped on it. An enormous sea lion sleeping in the sand dunes. On the beach there was an even bigger specimen who was quite awake and showing us that he means business standing up onto his flippers. We were able to watch another come out of the sea and get chased away again, and
get close enough for some good photos. Breathtaking. This wonderful find spurred us on for the great penguin search.
There are more photos below