Many thanks to Calum, my avian expert, for the bird IDs.
The next few posts will rapidly descend into pictures. New Zealand is amazing but after the first week there weren’t too many notable incidences. Plus I am aware it doesn’t read well, but probably best to take it as purely our record of our trip and just look at the photos.
Day 6 continued…: Stupidly we broke the cardinal rule of Milford Sound- fill up your tank before you leave Te Anau. There were petrol stations (according to our app) at Milford Sound so we were slightly but not overly worried plus there was one at our campsite (at 1.5+ the regular retail price we would later discover) so we figured in a pinch we could pay through the nose for a dribble to get us back to civilisation at least.
Eventually after travelling through some amazing scenery of snow-capped mountains and glacial valleys with beds of golden grass ringed with mixed woodland and scrubland, we arrived at our digs for the evening Gunn’s Camp. A private camp with a rather random museum (we didn’t visit it), a giftshop (I was in it briefly to register and pay the camp fees) and some surprisingly hot showers heated by wood stove. They also had some weird curios about the place which I didn’t really care for. They were of the self-deprecating Irish kind and I found them in poor taste e.g.- a pair of booted legs appearing out of a flower bed which were the remains of the only Irish skydiver there, an Irish babies bottle (Guinness with a teat), plus loads of other tat. The showers were good though. We also got eaten by sandflies here, then it rained hard all night neither of these were much fun as you can imagine.
We had heard about the sandflies from a kiwi friend when we were planning the trip, that they were sort of like midges back home so very irritating. I think he downplayed how irritating these little bastards are. They are like a mix between a mosquito and a leech for want of a better description and go for the feet mostly. Vampires. When they bite it hurts but only on the sensitive skin (like the inside of your heel or along there towards the toe), the harder skin you don’t notice until you look down and you are covered in little drops of blood, they pierce the skin, inject anticoagulant and then feast on you. Plus unlike most other insects it doesn’t get itchy straight away. No you have to wait until the middle of the night and then you are woken with skin so itchy you want to tear it off! It was said they were created by a Maori goddess to keep men grounded for the sight of Milford Sound was too beautiful and they would forget themselves looking at it which was nice of her. If it is raining they disappear though thankfully.
Day 7: We awoke to it still raining and we had booked a cruise later in the afternoon for Milford Sound. Although slightly anxious with the weather we figured we were surrounded by mountains and the weather might be different an hour down the road and over the mountain. So off we headed at 10.30 am (kick out time) towards the Sound. My plan for a load of scenic stops along the way were dashed very quickly as the rain and mist reduced visibility to as far as the next bend in the road. However in odd spots the mist cleared and we saw what Milford is famous for, waterfalls, millions of them! Cascading down the cliffs like strands of white hair.
Our journey took us through the Homer tunnel and along a long and winding road through the waterfall clad mountains.
When we arrived it was still raining hard, everyone was in the Tourist Information (Milford Sound is tiny much to our surprise, it has a permanent population of around 60 or so up to 200 in the summer) as it also had a coffee shop. Due to the rain we had left without breakfast figuring we could get something at the many shops we anticipated being here. So we sat for a while discussing at length who should go in to get the coffee and some food. In the end we just waited for the rain to ease a bit and make a run for it. Grabbed a coffee and then tried to get petrol, but the pump was empty. This is the only pump, the other one maps.me showed us was diesel for the boats. Luckily the main pump did get refilled later but Gav figured we had just enough to get back to Gunn Camp if necessary. We also helped some italians here as they only had cash and the machine only accepted card.
Anyway back to the cruise- It did clear in time for our tour, during the first hour (it is a 3 hour tour) we were all invited to come out onto the bow of the boat (a word of warning do not do this on the second waterfall if you do this tour). Then we were driven into a waterfall. I was wet and cold for the rest of the cruise.
On the way back we stopped off at THE CHASM, a beautiful spot where the river had gauged out a series of rather interesting paths through the rocks.
The rain continued to clear as we made our way back down the valley, stopping at a few places, most notable Mirror lake where there were loads of birds.
Day 8: The following morning we headed back to Te Anau, it was overcast with a low fog, not a day for sightseeing but the perfect day for laundry, which really needed doing. Once that was complete we grabbed some more groceries, popped into the Fiordland Museum, did a quick walk on the Kepler track before we headed towards our next stop of Queenstown. We actually ended up stopping just shy of it at Kingston (Queenstown was twice the price).
Day 9: So after breakfast we headed to uber touristy Queenstown, as we entered the town, Gav exclaimed that it was exactly like Windamere in the UK Lake District. We continued on to Glenochry, the drive up is reputed to be one of the top 10 drives in the world. It was quite good, but a tad samey.
Drive to Glenochry…..
We grabbed a coffee in a weird coffee shop- it was like a mix between a community centre and someone’s front room, threw our car in under a tree and went for a walk down the trail.
On the way back we wandered around Queenstown, grabbed an ice-cream, mine was fig and pistachio and Gav’s was white chocolate and hazelnut. Nice texture but vague flavour -Patagonia ice cream shop. Being crazy touristy you could do anything you liked there (including this), all manner of ways to spend your money but a bit too pricey for us considering what cool stuff you can do for free here. That night we were going to stay near Wanaka.
En route we popped into Arrowtown, a Chinese settlement and also a LOTR film location.
After that it was a shot drive along the side of the gorge (featured in the Fellowship of the Ring as Argonath). Further along the road is the location for the first ever bungee jump in the world! Five seconds of adrenaline for 195$ (£100/$140 US) pp. We didn’t jump (if it was half that we probably would have).
Drive through wine and fruit country Otago, vines, cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines and berries as far as the eye could see.
Our campground for the night was Luggate cricket ground. $5 and showers a bargain!
Day 10: It was raining. Boo. We had planned to go to see the Rob Roy Glacier, but it was far, far too wet for that. So we went to Puzzling World, along with everyone else….
The weather had started to clear up but we had booked tickets to the local cinema- Cinema Paradisio to see Joy (Star Wars was all booked up, by 10 am when we got our tickets). A cool little cinema, freshly baked (still warm!) cookies, beer and wine and you can order food for the intermission if you want (yep it had an intermission- genius for them as you spend twice as much you would normally at the cinema). Plus their seats are all recycled, we ended up sitting on a big leather couch, but there were airline seats, a dentist chair, armchairs- a varying assortment.
Later that evening we headed back to the (now) packed cricket ground for the evening, it was completely rammed. Gav managed to wedge our car into a tiny gap between two cars, luckily we had nice neighbours!
Day 11: A sunny day again! Hurrah! So off we headed for the Rob Roy road and Aspiring National Park. Unfortunately the road was a very long gravel road, past loads of farms- deer, sheep and stud farms with loads of loose bulls hanging about very nonchalantly right on the road plus the usual sheep all over the place. When we got there Gav’s ankle was still at him, and on seeing how far away it was he decided to sit it out so off I went on my own.
That night we camped at Boundary Creek on Lake Wanaka.
Day 12: We headed towards Glacier country to our next stop of Fox Glacier plus stopped at a few points along the road.
First the Blue pools….
Thunder creek falls where I almost stepped on a cicada, he was quite happy to climb up on my hand and then sat on my jumper sleeve for a bit until I found him a suitable tree (he really wasn’t interested in moving).
Coffee and whitebait pattie in Haast.
Knights point- see seals or elephant seals on the beach-at full zoom it was hard to tell.
Monro beach walk….
As we got closer to Fox Glacier, heavy cloud appeared and with the spitting rain there was no view at all for the last hour or so drive. We had planned to stay at Fox Glacier in Pod Hostel that night, it had mixed reviews and we would be sleeping in the carpark but according to our App it was $15 pp ($10 US/£7), but when we called there they were “under new management” and the price had increased to $20 pp (it included free breakfast, toast and tea basically)- but it was noisy (as you were in a carpark in the centre of the village) and there was no wifi (pot luck if it would work and it didn’t seem to) so we decided to try somewhere else. We ended up going to Top Ten, a complete bitch of a receptionist and it was $2 more ($22 pp) but unlimited showers, a laundry (where we charged everything!!) and a massive kitchen with 100MB free wifi.
There was also a glowworm forest walk which we did, was really cool- loads of little galaxies of glowworms under up rooted trees and all sorts of damp crevices. Unfortunately most people there didn’t seem to realise that glowworms cannot be seen with a torch, so we politely asked a few people to switch of their torches and there was much excitement when they spotted them.
Day 13: It was still cloudy so our hopes to see Mount Cook were in tatters so we went to see the Glacier, first from the Fox Glacier View walk and then the Glacier itself.
Afterwards we swung round to Heading by the viewpoint for Mount Cook- there was still no joy and we made a little detour to Gillespie beach where various methods of gold extraction was used including the bucket method
Late afternoon we arrived in Franz Josef, in all honesty we didn’t fancy a second glacier walk so we just did the short walks to a few view points to have a look. It is truly shocking how far both this and the Fox Glaciers have receded in the last 50 years.
The village is nice enough though, we grabbed a coffee and some supplies before heading north to our next campsite- the Empire Hotel in Ross. A local town for local people but quite friendly and very easy-going.
Day 14::The following morning we did some Gold panning and managed to find some gold! Alas not enough to retire on, other than the fact that it is punishment for your legs it was very relaxing.
Walk to Mananui Beach- not much going on there.
A quick stop at Hokitika for coffee a pop to the beach and to see one of the many jade showrooms and workshops there.
Then it started raining, possibly the worst conditions for Arthur’s Pass but we had to continue. Once we got past Arthur’s pass to the viaduct, the rain cleared and we had gorgeous views down the valley to our campsite at Lake Pearson.
Next up South Island Part 3….