Friday, 11 March 2016

NZ: Milford Sounds, Te Anau and Bluff

I dropped Belle and Chris off at their campsite in Te Anau and headed to my hostel where I met Rinse, Rike and Max, they had been in Queenstown with us and were friends of Toria’s.  I’d arranged to travel with them the following day to Milford Sounds for a morning cruise, something I have wanted to do for years.

We got up really early and drove the 2 hours to Milford in Rinse’s car, I napped most of the way but woke up at just the right time when Rinse stopped for a photo opportunity – I felt like I was in Avatar, the huge rocky mountains looming either side of us had waterfalls pouring down them and the peaks rose from the clouds, it was really magical. 


Mitre Peak





Luckily it wasn’t raining but it was a bit misty so the photos haven’t come out that great, but the boat trip was really nice.  On the way back to the port the boat stopped at a huge waterfall and went really close so you end up getting soaked, we also saw sea lions, and native sea kayakers in their yellow life jackets.




We took a slow drive back to Te Anau to take in the scenery, stopping at Mirror Lakes (exactly what it says on the tin, crystal clear lakes which reflect the mountains opposite), The Chasm (also exactly what it says on the tin, a waterfall that’s sliced through the rock to create a large chasm) and the Eglington Valley, where we had a silly photoshoot in the yellow grass. 











I am getting good at picking travel buddies – Max loves cooking so we stopped to get groceries, split the cost and Max and Rike cooked up a delicious chicken curry.  As he had loads of flour left over from making a quiche the day before (which we had for lunch – it was the best quiche I have ever had) they also made scones, but a variety of flavours including cheese and curry, cheese and chive, cinnamon and peanut butter, caramel and chocolate.  They were surprisingly very delicious and now I want to set up a scone restaurant and steal their ideas.  We sat and ate overlooking the lake in the sun, then drank wine and watched Lord of the Rings (I still didn’t make it all the way through….).



The next day it was pouring with rain, but not ones to sit around doing nothing, we decided to go on a walk.  We convinced some of Rinse’s friends who happened to be in the same campsite – Wouter and Daan, and Arne (I bumped into him in my hostel –turns out he also knows Wouter and Daan as he’d hitched with them a few days previously – it’s so small down here!) and we headed off to do a 4 hour hike in the rain to the Hidden Falls.  This led to hilarious scenes of us shouting ‘hidden falls’ every time we passed a waterfall.  You probably had to be there – we were soaked and cold and trying to keep spirits up…

NOT the hidden fall

This is the hidden fall


We did eventually find the falls, they are vaguely hidden, but also quite big and anyone who has working ears could find them.  We went a bit further to the Hidden Falls back country hut and dried off a bit, ate lunch, played cards then headed back out into the rain where we power marched all the way back to the car.

Dinner was a well-deserved pizza and pudding in the local Italian where the boys charmed the socks off (or just embarrassed) the 16 year old waitress and I laughed until I cried – the Dutch are funny! Then back to the dorm room where we found Rike teaching English to a bunch of Taiwanese girls, who thought I was aged between 21 and 24. They are now my favourite people!!

As me, Rinse and Rike were heading the same direction we decided to buddy up.  The following day we drove to Pahia, it was another wet and rainy day, though to be fair the Fiordlands are the wettest place in New Zealand so it’s not like it was unexpected! 

Rike is a Lonely Planet lover and so we stopped at several places on the way down that were recommend, including Clifden Caves – a maze of limestone caves that go 1km or so into the hillside.  This was a pretty cool experience, they’re free and there’s loads of glow worms inside, and you have to clamber over and under rocks and crawl through little gaps.  I was worried I would get claustrophobic after my experience in the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam but I was OK!! We clambered through the darkness until we reached a very cold and dark pond that you had to swim across to get to the next cave section, which none of us were beave enough/could be bothered enough to do, so we headed on to our next pit stop, Lake Hauroko.  This is New Zealand’s deepest lake at 462m deep, which actually ends up at below sea level.  It was a really nice lake as lakes go, but due to the miserable weather and sand fly attacks we made hasty retreat and drove onwards to our free camping spot for the evening, at Monkey Island. 





Monkey Island camp site



Skies on the drive to the Catlins


It was wet and blustery but wild and beautiful and it’s amazing that there’s so many free camping spots in New Zealand – they’re usually run by the Department of Conservation and will have a long drop or compost toilet and sometimes a little shelter.  This one had a small shelter so we had a quick dinner of pasta before retreating to Rinse’s car for a game of Monopoly Deal (I am spreading the love ever further Amy!) and bed.


Beautiful free camp spot


The following morning I woke up early and as it was low tide I headed out to the Monkey Island, a tiny little rocky outcrop that used to be an old Maori whale look out spot.  I didn’t see any whales (or monkey for that matter) and we packed up and drove off to our next stop in Invercargill. 



There’s really not much to do there, so we instead went to Bluff, which is the southernmost town on the island.  We met up with the Dutchies (Wouter and Daan) again and drove to the Bluff lookout spot, did a little walk, recreated a family photo for Wouter to send to his mum (he’d been to the same spot previously when he was a kid) and picked up a new member of the family – Anke, a 27 year old girl from Germany.








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