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Te Anau and Milford Sound, New Zealand

Oct 22 – 25

I got to Te Anau with no clue what I was going to do there. I kinda just felt like I needed to hop on a bus and go someplace new. Te Anau was only an hour or so away from Queenstown and there was an afternoon bus, so it seemed like a good place to go.

I stayed at the Lakefront Backpackers only because the bus dropped me off right in front of it. Luckily it was a good hostel and my dorm room, which I shared with 5 other girls, felt like luxury – we had a private living room, kitchen, bathroom, and porch with a couch and a great view of the lake.

Te Anau is another beautiful town, with a backdrop of giant snow capped mountains and a trail that runs along the lake.

Te Anau is a launching point for the major Fiordland tracks, such as the Kepler Track, Routeburn Track, Hollyford Track, and Milford Track. The Kepler track begins right at the Department of Conservation office. Next time I go to New Zealand, I really want to do the Routeburn Track.

Instead of doing one of these tracks, I spent the entire next day laying low and doing nothing. Well, when I say nothing I mean that I did all the little tasks I’d been putting off and could no longer ignore (did laundry, mailed postcards, exchanged money, checked my bank account, read a few pages of my book, bought some groceries, uploaded pictures, did my stretches, and sent many emails back and forth with Sam to try to solidify our sketchy plans to meet again.)

I met two of the girls in my room, Kat from Quebec and Nicky from South Africa, who currently live in Christchurch. They were driving to Milford Sound the next day to do a cruise (Real Journeys Nature Cruise) and they invited me to come along. They also brought along Malte, a nice German guy who they met at our hostel.

Milford Sound was great, but honestly, I think the cruise was a little expensive and overrated. The scenery was absolutely beautiful and I definitely don’t regret going, but the boats were so big and I just think kayaking the sound would probably have been a more memorable experience than the cruise ship. Although I’ve heard the kayaking tour is almost twice as expensive.

I’m glad I was on the boat with friends, because I don’t think it would have been as fun alone.

Like I said, the sound was beautiful.

We saw lots of pretty waterfalls!

And tall cliffs!

We also saw seals!

And penguins!

I was glad we took the early cruise because our boat wasn’t very crowded. When we returned to the boat dock, we saw hundreds of people milling around waiting to get on. The cruise company snapped our picture as we boarded the boat and tried to sell it to us when we got off. Trying to highlight what a touristy ordeal this was, I took a picture of us looking at the picture they took…but I got busted. One of the photo salespeople said “You need to delete that right now.” I said “OK,” but didn’t. It turns out another salesman was looking over my shoulder and he said “Umm…I saw you. You didn’t delete it. I’m going to watch you delete it right now.” Oops – I got in trouble. Funny. Kat made me feel better by telling me her story of getting kicked out of a bar. Apparently people don’t dance much at bars here, and they take dancing as I sign that a person is wasted. So when she was the only person dancing to support her friend’s band, they naturally assumed she was drunk and kicked her out!

The ride back from the sound was nice because we were in a car and could stop wherever we wanted.

We stopped at some nice lakes and a few other viewpoints.

Kat got chased around by a Kea because it wanted her apple. Keas are large, New Zealand parrots and they’re very aggressive!

In the car, Malte was talking about trying to find a ride to the Catlins, so I told him to join me and Sam (assuming I’d still be able to meet up with her). He’s a nice guy – very quite, considerate, and laid back, so I figured he’d be a good addition to our road trip.

Once we got back to the hostel, I was able to finalize my plans with Sam. The problem with not having a phone or a car is that you really can’t be all that flexible when you’re trying to meet up with people. Every email sent requires waiting around for a response and travel has to be limited to the constraints of the bus schedule. After 2 days of sending emails back and forth, Sam and I finally worked out a feasible plan. Sam was going to rent a car in Dunedin, pick me and Malte up at the bus station in Gore, and we would do a 2 day hike in the Catlins (a less developed area of New Zealand that cannot be reached by bus – unless you pay for an organized nature tour with companies such as the Catlins Coaster or Bottom Bus).

We bought our bus tickets for Gore that night and I recruited Malte to help me finish a jigsaw puzzle that was set up in the hostel lounge. There was only a small section left to do (although it was just a bunch of mottled colors and was really difficult). People kept walking into the lounge looking confused as to why we would still want to be in there working on it, but after an hour or so, it was done. Then we met up with an Israeli guy at the bar nearby to play pool. The bar was full of locals from around town and I felt a little bit like a spectacle standing around with my backpack and tourist clothes.

After the bar, we set up our tents in the backyard of the hostel. Because I didn’t bring a mat, all the cold came straight from the ground to my sleeping bag and I was freezing all night (even with all my layers on). The camping idea turned out to be a bad one and I wished I had just paid the extra $10 for a dorm room. I woke up at 6am (or maybe I wasn’t ever really asleep…it’s hard to be sure). I had just enough time to take a shower, eat some breakfast, make some coffee, pack all my stuff up, and hobble over to the bus at 7:30.

Some Notes

  • Rent here is paid weekly, even though people still get paid bimonthly. I think that’s odd.
  • The flies here are giant and slow. I guess they’re just not in a hurry. I wouldn’t be either if I lived in New Zealand.

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1 Comment

  1. Rhianon

     /  November 5, 2008

    I fucking love penguins!!! The mountains on your boat ride are so amazing!! Thanks so much for the detailed blogs, they almost make me feel like I’m on vacation. love yous!!!!!!!!

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