Sunday, 6 February 2011

Conversations and heading towards Milford

South Island to Te Anau

You are shopping in the supermarket, you have chosen your goods and approach the checkout:

Cashier: “How’s your day?”

Response: “OK” (said with enthusiasm and conviction)

Cashier: “Not awesome then, that’s a pity”

It seems here that days are not allowed to be simply OK or alright or fine. They have to be better than that.

Vowels - Kiwis seem to have the ability to move vowels around in words such that they sound like totally new but quite plausible words you have never met before. For some time, we thought that there was a type of tree of historic importance to New Zealand that was not the Kauri tree but possibly a Coori tree. To give us some language training, we have changed the voice on our SatNav to a New Zealand voice - for many years we have used Kate from Ireland or Bruce from Australia. This is helping but we fear that still more confusion lies ahead of us.

Sam – we saw a Sea Plane take off today from the lake –

Sea Plane Taking Off

here is a picture of it.

We have discovered paradise and it is Lake Hawea

After a very rainy night close to the beach near a small town called Haast, we awoke to a bright day with blue

Southern Alps from the West skies and clouds rising above the mountains through which we were to drive (the above photos will be stitched together to make one wide one we we get back to the UK, our notebook cannot do it)

The road went through some very large landscapes with

Thunder Creek Falls Gates of Haast Upstream
Thunder Creek Falls 28 m high The “Gates of Hast” Rapids

lots of running water, and rain forest jungles with trees,

Rain Forrest 1

creepers and fungi

Rain Forrest Fungus 

and lots of rotting wood.

 Rain Forrest Rotting Trunk

The Blue Pools are also on our route. So named because they are where two rivers meet, the water looks blue and

Blue Pool

trout like to congregate there. To get to them, you follow a short walk through the rain forest, and cross a couple of swing bridges to stand over one of the pools – then the trout are below you in the water. It is another good example of how the New Zealand Department of Conservation have created an easy way for travellers to sample the natural delights of the country.

Eventually we came to a couple of large lakes – Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. The former is large and magnificent and you soon run out of descriptive words, the latter seems larger and in need of even better words. By larger I mean it is 38km long and 418m deep and very wide.

We found the most idyllic spot to stop overlooking the lake. Nothing but us, the lake,the wind, the sheep and the view (and the sand flies).

Lake Hawea 3 

A video sweep gives a better impression of the landscape but not the warmth of the sun, the sound of the crickets, the freshness of the air and the cold beer we are drinking.

Neither does a picture convey the total peace of the area, the wonderful sky, the texture of the rock, the infinite shades of green which make up the hillside.

So forget Russell, Cape Farewell, Cape Foulwind, The Forgotten Highway or anywhere else, paradise is definitely Lake Hawea (until we find the next spot).

Eppie (our van EPY637) became an old lady today

100,000 kms

clocking up her 100,000th kilometre and she decided to show it by developing a fault with part of the rear cabin electrics – not holiday ruining but a little inconvenient so we will test out Wilderness's service support on Monday and see how they respond. More in a later blog.

In the nearby town of Wanaka (a town focused on outdoor holidays), there is not much except the outdoor life and the Cinema Paradiso. This is another of those Kiwi Icons which travellers find a reason to visit.

Cinema Paradiso

It shows a great variety of films during the week, serves

Paradiso at Night

interesting meals, has amazing ice cream which in itself is enough of a reason to visit and has a most unusually furnished auditorium. As well as biscuits, the cinema boasts a good cafe serving

Paradiso Cafe

a variety of freshly cooked food and also cookies home made just before the film interval (yes, they stop the film half way through to let you buy ice cream, cookies and do the necessaries).

So we went to see “Love and Other Drugs” because when we wanted to go to the cinema that was the film that was on. It was described as “a romantic drama with luminous performances, involving and engrossing……… (and lots of other long words)”. It was indeed a romantic drama and was quite entertaining (as was the cinema).

We chose a settee close to the front having decided that

Paradiso Inside

the Morris Minor seats might be a bit uncomfortable for a

Paradiso Settee

two hour film. All in all it was a good night out even if a pizza, ice cream and large peanut cookie was far too much food!

The road south towards Arrowtown, Queenstown and Te Anau passes over the Crown Range Saddle which provides the usual remarkable view from around

View from Crown Range Saddle

1100 metres above sea level. The road down (south) from the summit towards Arrowtown is an interesting drive with 9 180 degree bends on a steep downward slope within a distance of a few kilometres. It is not a drive for the faint hearted nor those in a large vehicle.

Arrowtown is famous because it is near to Queenstown (which we are not going to because of eye problems, I am not allowed to Bungi Jump) and it has some 80 original buildings dating from the 1860s still in use.

AT 7 

Since it lay on the way to Te Anau, we called in for another old building visual overload.

AT Main Street 

It is a lovely place to visit but there is a cost. The main street shows the problem – it is an old town with old buildings that has (in my opinion) been disfigured with parking signs, tarmac and cars. How much better would the town be if the main street was turned into a vehicle free zone and all modern street furniture (signs, bins etc) removed.

AT 1 

It must be a dreadful place to live since it is swamped with tourists but of course, it is them which keeps the town open.

AT 4-1

AT 4 

AT 3

This building is one of the original 1860s living huts

AT 2

Also near the town are some of the original (or rebuilt) buildings used by Chinese immigrants who came for work (because they could earn far more than at home) in the 1800’s.

AT Ch 1

They may look shacks to us, but at the time they were quite reasonable houses for labourers.

AT ch 4

AT ch 3

AT Ch 2

The Chinese had a very hard time and were not universally welcomed but were often admired for their hard work.

We are running out of words to describe the scenery, south of Arrowtown one comes across the point where Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu and Remarkables

meets The Remarkables - the name for the mountain range. The lake is enormous, the mountains are craggy and expressive, one could just sit there and look and look and look and go nowhere else for ages. The lake is truly long, the landscape impressive and large.

After 2 1/2 days of no rain, we reach Te Anau ready for Milford Sound. It starts to rain in Noah like quantities plus thunder and lightening. Although this is the wettest place in New Zealand with just over 10,000 mm last year on 200 rainy days, the amount of rain last night surprised even the locals.

Te Anau is the gateway to Milford Sound and thus is passed through by many tourists. Despite this traffic, it manages to maintain a quiet life. Its claims to fame include a small cinema (57 seats) which repeatedly screens the film “Ata Whenua” which is all about the beauty of Fjord land. A local helicopter pilot spent 10 years filming it and then found that he also had to build a cinema to show it in – it is well worth seeing if ever you are in the town.

It is also famous for Miles Pies – truly monumental pies

Pie Eater

which one of our travelling party managed to sample (Venison), regrettably they had run out of Veg pies for me.

Te Anau Glow worm caves are another claim to fame – there are no pictures of them because they are camera shy and therefore photos are not allowed. They were flooded the first time we tried to go to them (that heavy rain).

It also has an amazingly designed church with glass walls,

Church Te Anau

the altar end looking out onto Lake Te Anau – with a view like this

Lake Te Anau 1

you would have to believe in something.

Near to Te Anau is a Bird Park showing some of New Zealand’s rare birds and for your education, I show the


The Kereru, the New Zealand Pigeon


The Kea – the largest flightless parrot in the world

Antipodes Paraket

and an Antipodes Parakeet (asleep).

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