Sunday, January 31, 2010


The last part of our time in New Zealand was in the southern mountains and fjordlands, said to be the most spectacular part of the South Island.  It, like the rest of the country, delivered.

The drive from Wanaka to Te Anau was half dry alpine desolation and half pastoral farmland.  The mountains above outside the town of Queenstown are called the Remarkables.

The view down toward Queenstown.

Te Anau is situated on a lake of the same name.  It is the largest body of freshwater in all of Australasia, according to the boat captain who took us out on the lake and to the local glow worm dell.  We hiked inside a twisted limestone cave and took a handpulled boat into the darkness to observe the little glowing worms.

The lake is totally pure and drinkable.  It is surrounded by pristine primeval forests on almost all sides.

The town itself has some interesting architecture.  This little number above was right in our path when walking into town, and we passed it half a dozen times.  Each time I obsessed a new horrifying detail, and the end of our time in Te Anau, I think I actually began to enjoy appreciating what an abomonation it was.  Something like a 1980's McDonald's morphed into a 4,000 square foot family home.

One thing I have to give the hideous house, and the entire town, was their gorgeous flowers.  This Dahlia put mine to shame.

We rose early one morning and headed to Milford Sound (with, we found later, barely enough gas to make it there and back... we coasted into Te Anau at the end of the day on fumes).  Besides that minor stress, the drive was tremendous.

We climed higher and higher into the mountains.

Finally we came to a tunnel bored into this mountain side.  We emerged on the other side looking strait down into Milford Sound.

We took the required boat tour of the sound.  Here are two 4,500 foot peaks that plunge directly into the sea.  Notice the seemingly tiny 500 foot waterfall emerging between them and falling into the sea below.  Milford Sound and its surrounds are big, impressive sights to say the least.

Those 4,500 foot mountains are small fries compared to Mitre Peak, a 6,000 foot mountain that towers above the sound, and surrounding clouds.  It is impossible to understand the scale of the things around you as you cruise the area.  We were told if a person were hiking on the top of the smaller mountains, such as the one in the previous pictures, you would not be able to see them with the naked eye.

As we headed back into the head of the sound from the Tasman Sea, we saw some fur seals sunning on a rock.

Here is that 500 foot waterfall up close.


Our trusty, if empty, Corolla station wagon on the way back to Te Anau.

On the way back to town, just off the side of the road, are the Mirror Lakes.  These are oxbow lakes cut off from the nearby river.  They are crystal clear and very dramatic.

Where do you go to see dramatic nature after you have been places such as this?