Another boat, bus, and ferry ride later, we were back on dry land, and ready to hit up the streets of Te Anau.
I quite liked the town – a bit of an arty backpacker vibe, with cafe’s that charged $15 for ‘brekkie.’ We found a cafe that served ‘real’ coffee, otherwise known as “drip coffee” or “American style coffee” to the rest of the world. We gorged ourselves on pies from a place that sold only that. I’m not ashamed to admit we went back for seconds…At $5 NZ for a filling pie, it was a good deal. Eating out was expensive in NZ!
We also spent quite a bit of time in hot pursuit of an audio jack that allowed Sly to hook up his mp3 player to the radio. Until then, we had been playing the same four cds of “American Ballads” for I don’t know how many hours. It was maddening.
We planned on a pretty easy day…a drive to the other sound – Milford – hiking along the way, drive back…. Instead, the gentle winding roads and the green pastures of grazing sheep, lulled us to sleep. We pulled over at a random camp site, parked the car, and took a long nap in the warm sun.
Pie marked “V” was for venison, the star was steak and kidney. Not shown here: apple pie we went back to get after eating these 2 guys.
It’s not the Hyatt, but it will do — where we parked on the side of the road to take our nap. This was also our first introduction to the wonderful bugs known as sand flies. More on those later.
There were a zillion and one (beautiful) places to stop along the road toMilford sound, we stopped at many, believing we had all the time in the world, and that the weather would remain perfect. When we finally started on the Routeburn Track to Key Summit, the fog or mist or clouds started to roll in. It should have been a clue to us when we didn’t see any cars in the parking lot, but we forged on, undeterred. Routeburn is one of NZ’s Great tracks (thats “trails” for us non-Kiwis) – a beautiful multi-day journey that takes you to various cabins sprinkled throughout the route, at very logical locations and reasonable day distances (like after 7-8 miles). I think you could spend your entire life exploring NZ this way, and this is where we started to make promises to each other that we’ would have to come back to hike these tracks.
A summary of the hike: steep ascent, switchbacks galore, me feelinq queesy for some reason, waterfalls, about a 20 degree drop in temperature, clouds, and not a single soul in sight. Good thing we ate all those pies.
At the top of the mountain – an entirely different swamp-like foggy landscape that looked practically prehistoric.
Above: the fog-enshrouded summit, aka complete desolation. It felt like being on a post-apocolyptic planet. On our way back down, we made a detour to one of the huts along the Routeburn track: Howden Hut. Nice facilities, great, remote location, flush toilets, and again, nobody in sight. Next time, next time.
With our first real hike under out belts, we piled back into our campervan, pumped up the jam, and headed down to Milford Sound, except…
This part of the road started to get a bit hair-raising with all the twists, turns, and so many gushing waterfalls that there was an overwhelming sense that we were just tiny ants in a big big world. Swallowed by nature, yet again. For once, I longed to see other people just to know we weren’t alone…
By the time we made our way to the end of the road, we realized there was no way were were turning back that night. Luckily for us, we found a hostel in the middle of BFE, that had several camper spots available. Hot showers, hot food, diet cokes, and people! And to tell you of how much of a city slicker I am…I was really excited that they had a small gift shop and convenience store. Shopping! Diet Coke!
While cuddled in our RV, heater on, and books in hand, we heard a “clack clack clack” on the top of our roof. At first, we assumed it was starting to rain, but then, out of curiosity, opened the door. It was a “Kea” or an Alpine parrot. Biggest raptor-sized parrot I ever did see. The moment we slid open our door to take a peak, this guy tried to come inside the van.