Thursday, March 6, 2014

New Zealand Day 22: Queenstown to Te Anau

Frustrated by the weather and thus lack of outdoorsy action, I was determined to fit in some kind of physical activity today, so I laid out my running clothes before bed last night. I was almost put off by waking to more chilly rain (I only have shorts with me, no running pants), but am really glad that I decided to go out anyway. I ran about four miles including a beautiful stretch around the lake and botanic gardens. Delightful to get out and move!

Here are a couple of photos of our very conveniently located site:

We spent a couple more hours downtown, including a return visit to Patagonia Chocolates and a trip to the DoC info centre for some hiking info for our upcoming days in Fiordland. Alex and B both picked up some zippy super-discounted gear at macpac (Brynna has basically been living in her bright-pink midlayer ever since). 

This is a view of the harbor:

Then we headed about two hours southwest to Te Anau, which is the staging area for some wonderful hikes and for Milford Sound. The clouds lifted just enough at times for us to catch some glimpses of the surrounding peaks:

It’s not a particularly exciting drive, but we did notice something strange to our New Englandy eyes: a bunch of farmed deer. Big fenced-in fields but with deer instead of cows or sheep.

We made the trip a bit more interesting by picking up a hitchhiker about halfway there, a very pleasant young man from Israel who had actually already been to Te Anau but was making his way back there for more hiking. B slept through the entire thing.

Once in Te Anau, my parents headed directly for Miles Better Pies, my dad’s favorite spot from a previous trip. We checked into our campervan site and nibbled on some food, then our group of five set out for the Fiordland Cinema to watch a 25-minute movie about the area, mainly filmed by helicopter. It was wonderful, but I have also realized that they somehow convinced us to pay money to see a show that is essentially an advertisement for this helicopter company! There was even a red Batphone in the lobby to call and book a trip. We did not.

Instead, Alex and I took a walk along the lakeshore towards the Fiordland DOC Visitor Center (closed by that time).  There was a significant wind coming off the lake, which with the setting sun and weird weather of late made for chilly conditions.

Let us be clear that we are not complaining – we very much want to have friends when we return to the northeast.

A bit farther on our walk, about ten minutes past the Visitor Center, we came to a small wildlife center.  This spot, less than one acre, is a sort of public zoo displaying some of the rare and endangered birds native to Fiordland.  The specimens here were either captive bred or rescued from injury, and are unlikely to be returned to the wild.

This is a kaka:

kakariki, or red-crowned parakeet.

A kea, or alpine parrot.  These guys have a reputation in some of the national parks as being mischievous—tearing into backpacks to get at food.

This is a taheke, which was thought to be extinct until a small population was rediscovered in an untraveled corner of Fiordland.  Although the red beak is impressive, we saw these guys just daintily pecking away at the grass one blade at a time.

There was also a morepork, a type of owl native only to New Zealand. Alex did not get a picture of him (her?), because he was tucked in a corner out of the light, and he thought using the flash would be rude.

There was also the grand attraction, a pair of Canada geese. Whaaaa????

At this point, it was time for us to head back. 

We arrived back at the campsite around dusk, just as a fresh bit of rain was starting.  B had just finished a dinner of pasta, and the rest of us tucked in before getting B off to bed.  Another late-ish night for her, but not too bad.  We didn’t last too much longer either.

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