Those darned pesky sandflies !!!
21.11.2007 - 29.11.2007 20 °C
The trip to Queenstown was absolutely breathtaking! At one point we stopped in a lay-by at the side of the road, got our camping chairs out of the campa, put the kettle on to boil, made some sandwiches and had our lunch overlooking Queenstown. We couldn’t have wished to have our lunch in any better place. The road down to Queenstown was a very steep, with lots of hairpin bends, it was a bit like a roller coaster at times! We stopped in the main town to take the car to the hire company to get the battery connection repaired properly and then drove on to find our campsite for the night. Again it was a nice campsite in the foothills of some rather large snow capped mountains. While there I booked a cruise on Milford Sound for Friday and also booked us and the car on the Inter Island Ferry to take us up to the North Island in two weeks time.
We had discovered that on the road to Milford Sound there were eleven Directorate of Conservation campsites (or DOC sites as they’re called in New Zealand) and as we were going to rough camp these would be ideal for us. So we were up early to get petrol and victuals for our few days “out in the wilds”. Our first DOC site, Henry’s Creek, was 25km outside of the town of Te Anau. It was right by the Te Anau Lake, but it was very windy. It was very basic, just a bio toilet, no showers, no laundry, no camp kitchen. This was roughing it! I’m just glad that we were sleeping in the campa because it was cold due to the wind. Steve even had to make a makeshift wind break out of his poncho so that we could boil a kettle and cook our tea. (I bet he made a good Boy Scout!!!) We were joined later on by two other couples in their vehicles. I got up at about 3am to use the “facilities”, and shone my torch around looking for beady eyes staring back at me through the undergrowth, but unfortunately I didn’t see any of the many Possums that there are supposed to be in New Zealand. Possums were introduced into New Zealand, they have thrived here and have become a problem, they are classed as vermin and are the subject of a big extermination programme.
By next morning the wind had dropped and we were able to make a cuppa without too much trouble. After breakfast we decided that we wanted to climb a mountain! We had heard that one of the best views in Fiordland was from the top of Key Summit. So we went for a three hour walk on a good path, albeit steep, up to the top, a mere 919 metres above sea level. The weather was very damp and very misty. By the time we got up to the top, we were wet with sweat, rain and mist. And the view… well if it had been a nice day I expect it was fantastic. It was very cloudy and you could hardly see your hand in front of your face. Good exercise though!!!
Our next camp was at the very picturesque Lake Gunn, but again very basic. We managed to park under the trees, right on the shore of the lake. The lake contained very large Rainbow Trout and you could see them in the very clear shallow water. Steve was peeved, as he had some fishing gear, but didn’t have a trout licence, so he couldn’t have a go at catching one. A very large motorhome with the name of the “The Shepherd’s Hut” had already pitched and we were joined by about three other campervans during the afternoon. It seemed to be a very popular DOC site as throughout the rest of the afternoon, other vehicles arrive and looked to see if they could park up there, but it was only a small site. Gavin and Joyce (of The Shepherd’s Hut) invited us in for a drink and a natter. They were New Zealanders from Whangarei, North Island having a six month trip on the South Island. Their kind invitation was very welcome, as by that time (late afternoon), it was so cold that I already had three layers of clothing on. After two glasses of wine, my face was beginning to feel rather warm though.
The next day we didn’t leave too early, as our cruise wasn’t until the early afternoon and we were only about 30km away. It was still cloudy and drizzly. We made our way through the mountains towards the Fiords. I know I keep saying it, but it is truly amazing scenery. While we were queuing to go through the Homer Tunnel we saw a Kea, a native bird of New Zealand. It’s a relative of the parrot. I got a couple of photos of it as it was so near to the cars. I think it was squawking to be fed, but all over the National Parks there are signs saying, “Do not to feed the Kea.” Going through the Homer Tunnel was an experience as it was fairly dark and had a steep gradient. Work started on it in 1935 to provide work for the unemployed during the Depression and it wasn’t finished on it until 1953. At either side of the tunnel were magnificent views (even through the cloud)
The cruise on Milford Sound was very good but we couldn’t see much of the mountains surrounding the lake as it was so misty, cloudy and rainy. Apparently the Fiord area of New Zealand get up to 7 metres of rain over 200 days per year! The crew on the Milford Adventurer were excellent and gave us a wonderful commentary about the various aspects of Milford Sound. They even gave us a good soaking from one of the waterfalls, by getting so close you could reach out and get a cup of water from the fall. We went out as far as the entrance to the Tasman Sea and then started back stopping off to look at Sea Lions basking on the rocks. It was a very good cruise.
Our last DOC site of this leg of the journey was Totara. This was rather a larger site than Lake Gunn, and we thought that there would be lots of camping going on, but there was only us and another campervan who had arrived before us. This was another nice basic site. We parked up alongside a picnic table and a type of barbeque area, which Steve got to lighting more or less as soon as we arrived, but we had to delay that idea for an hour or so, as the heavens opened and we were confined to the campa. When it stopped raining we collected dry wood from under the trees and Steve got the barbeque alight again and we soon had our evening meal on the go. There’s only one problem with being in this area, and that is the amount of Sandflies there are, and they bite as well.
We decided the next day that we could do with a shower, catch up with our emails, and do the laundry, so when we got to Te Anau, we luckily found a place called “Wash and Surf” an internet cafe where you could do your laundry at the same time. So we managed to get one lot of washing on the go while we did our bits and pieces on the internet. We found a nice campsite and booked in for two days. The next day we decided that we would walk some of the Kepler Trail. It is a 67km loop trail to and from Te Anau and some of the area was a location area for the filming of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I could just imagine Elijah Wood and Orlando Bloom doing their stuff in the middle of the forest. We joined the path at a place called Rainbow Reach and decided that we would walk one and a half hours to a place called Shallow Beach and then walk back. It is a Kiwi protected area but unfortunately we didn’t see one. The walk was good though, and great exercise.
We Left Fiordland on Monday and headed east via Invercargill towards the Caitlins. We had a brief overnight stop in Invercargill and replenished with food, petrol and cash. On Tuesday we headed towards Papaotawi, the weather was abysmal, very windy and very rainy. So we decided not to stop there but head for Kaka Point. On the way we stopped at the New Zealand Niagara falls, the Mc Lean Falls and Nugget point. The falls were impressive, but Nugget point was amazing. We saw loads of Sealions, Fur Seals and penguins. We absolutely fell in love with Kaka Point and decided to stay a couple of days. It’s a small village right on the shore, with a good pub and a lovely beach, what more do you need. We are now in Dunedin, It’s the last day for Christmas Cards for the UK so we are sorting them out, before heading north.
Love to everybody. See you all soon.