Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Exploring Southland

We have just returned from our first getaway in New Zealand. Being without a car for the last 6 months has made it difficult to do a lot of exploring (minus the help of some great friends who have taken us around a bit) so we were really excited for the opportunity to rent a car and hit the road.

Dunedin, where we live, is on the east coast of the south island and we drove towards the west coast to Te Anau, a small but busy touristy town. Here, you can find the start of many of New Zealand's Great Walks (hiking trails/tracks) and the famous Milford Highway.

Josh and I spent two night/3days on the Kepler Track. While the whole loop is normally a three to four day walk, for this trip we decided to stay at a campsite about 4 miles in on Lake Te Anau and then day hike to the first of three huts on the track. 

At the trailhead.

Josh on the track to the Lake Te Anau campsite.    
                                                                Fiordland sign at camp.       

They like to label distances in hours, not km or miles. But we did in half the time!

Gigantic ferns on the trail.

Huts are very common on New Zealand tracks, much more than tent camping actually. After seeing the 'luxury' of the huts, we've decided that this is probably the way to go next time! Here are some pictures to get an idea of what they're like. I have no idea if this represents the majority of NZ huts though...

The Luxmore Hut. 


The bunks - about 10 per room.

                                        The common room - gas burners, tables and chairs, and sinks

Here's a few pictures from up around the hut. Once we got above the tree line the view was pretty amazing in all directions.

And back to the campsite... the highlight was beautiful lake Te Anau and the lowlight were the sandflys! :)

After hiking we headed into the town of Te Anau to Loch Sloy Bed and Breakfast. We will highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Te Anau. It was a beautiful place with lovely hosts. Not to mention an amazing Kiwi breakfast!

View from the deck off our room and the B&B.

Then it was time for the drive of a lifetime! We were originally planning to wait until visitors came to do a boat trip or something on Milford or Doubtful Sound. But we were told by numerous friends, "No, don't wait, at least drive it!". And we are so glad we did. It was really an amazing drive (and at times dangerous - sometimes one lane and often no side rail). Here are some pictures from stops along the road and then at the actual Milford Sound entrance.

If I had a nicer camera I may have been able to capture this better - basically every where you turned had cascading waterfalls. It was really amazing.

Milford Sound. To the right is where the boat tours take off and behind is a lodge.

A boat heading out. That looks like a fishing boat, but I'm not sure.


    Lupine along the road.  

There are streams everywhere up there. They get lots of rain so there is basically water all over (much like Washington).

And we got to see some wildlife! This is a Kea, otherwise known as New Zealand's Alpine Parrot. New Zealand doesn't have a lot of wild animals, mostly small critters and bird species. The birds here are really amazing and this is one of many that we'd hoped to see while here. Now this one unfortunately has obviously been fed by some stupid tourists, but it is a wild Kea.

Kea, Mountain Parrot

And finally, our drive home. We decided to take the long route; 6 hours in stead of 3.5. As you see in the map above, we drove down to the southern coast looking towards Antarctica and through the Catlins Rainforest. It was wet and windy, but we still had some good views. We also stopped in Invercargill, the largest city in the Southland and apparently one of the southernmost cities in the world.  

This point is the farthest south-western point you can drive in New Zealand. Looking towards the Southern Ocean.

This is a stop along the ocean in the Catlins Forest. There are about three surfers in the water. 

And we are now back home in beautiful Dunedin. It was great to get out and see some of the country and we are excited to plan our next trip!