The plan initially was to go and hit Stewart Island a very recommended and popular vacation destination to the immediate South of the South Island. Due to extremely bad weather we feared that it would be a wasted trip however so we came up with an alternate route.
As we proceeded South from Dunedin on the second leg of our holiday the weather increasingly got dreadful. Only halfway to our initial goal we were getting hit with the worst rain I've yet seen in New Zealand. The decision was made to veer West and check out another very famous section of the Down Under...
Now to get to Stewart Island you have to proceed to the Southern most "city" in New Zealand Invecargil. Thus far in all my journeys it has to be the most boring of NZ roads and areas in the lines of terrain and scenery. Nothing more then rolling hills and Sheep paddocks. For kms and kms though! No break. This shot was taken towards AFTER we'd veered West, and still there were millions of sheep everywhere, but off on the horizon hope of better views towered!
As we drove further West into the Southland section of New Zealand (the unofficial Provinces of New Zealand. Dunedin is located in the Otago section) the scenery began to get much more enthralling. For the rest of the trip it was good times, and excellent sights and sites seen.
This is among the only rivers we saw (you'll note the 2 tiny SUVs upstream for size ref). Now before you think New Zealand has no fresh water systems the key word there was river. In our journey we crossed, passed, saw some thousand Creeks. They sure know how to name creeks down here. Among my favs were Baghdad, Siberia, Fiery, Monkey, Lost, So Big, and Unnamed Creeks.
As we entered the South Alps Mountain range little did we realize we won't leave it till close to the end of the whole trip.
The big centre for this region was a small town called Te Anua. Located off this lovely like bearing the same name as the town we would spend some quality time here. In addition to the tour below from Te Anua we also spent the night. Waking up in the morning we were invited to breakfast by an amazing elderly couple out of the blue which made this town something of a highlight in the trip. Helping it with this distinction was taking a tour to the...
Glow Worm Caves
Now when we got to Te Anau initially we had no idea of it's possessing one of 3 Glowworm Caves, but when we did we were signed onto a tour 10 minutes later! This was the one one on the South Island, and as of such a real treat (we'd have had to wait till the next break to see the North ones). Now sadly no pictures are allowed in the cave to protect the light sensitive worms (technically maggots). This is a simulation I threw together in my 3D program, but I'm told it is very accurate.
Next we entered our main objective for the trip. Fjordland National Park. A UNESCO world heritage site, and at present among my fav places of all time. The first interesting thing to see (about 20 min after you pass the Welcome to Fjordland sign) was the Mirror Lakes. Wonder how they got that name?
This was the initial terrain of Fjordland which was more then a little awe inspiring. However it just kept getting better and better. For once we reached our goal things got better
Pulling into the area of our main visiting objective we were greeted by this lost world. If I ever make it as a film director this is where I'm filming my Dinosaur movie...
What can I say. If a Dino was still alive this could be it's home... Which leads to a funny story we learned while in this area. Though there are no legends of Dinosaurs wandering this area unexplained there are myths of Moose. Yeah you read that right Moose.
Now it turns out there is a legacy to this, but when we first heard it I laughed. Turns out like so many other mammals around here Moose were imported and introduced in the 1900's. From Canada no less. Now for many years they were hunted and caught. However the last one was successfully shot in 1952. Apart from one blurry photo in the 70's none has been seen alive since. However there are rampant rumours that they still dwell in these woods. A clump of hair found last year underwent DNA testing which was that of Moose rather then Deer... So who knows?
Sadly we didn't see one.
As you can probably tell this picture was taken at sunset. We were about half an hour out from our destination at this time. By the time we got there it was dark, and thus we could only make out the silhouettes of the area. Let me tell you when we woke up it was quite the pleasant surprise!
This picture was taken about 1 minute after I woke up. I knew I loved Milford Sound already!
Now the kicker is some people just drive up here like we did. Get out of the car take this picture (and maybe a few others), and then get back in their car and drive back the way they came (there is only ONE road into this area so it is a repeat of everything till you get back to Te Anau). This should be a criminal offense!
There are 4 companies offering boat ride tours that take you down the Sound (technically it's a Fjord, but the inappropriate name of sound stuck) all the way to where it connects with the sea for only $80. So guess what we did?
So rather then have to type something for all these amazing shots I'll let you fill in your own caption
Okay so with sights like these for 2ish hours you'd think the good times would have to come to an end. Well no not true. As an extra to the boat ride you could pay a little extra and check out the under water observatory...
Under the Sea
So the observatory is basically a reverse aquarium. Instead of putting the fish into tanks, you put the people into a air filled tank and submerge it 20 metres underwater.
The big attraction of this is the Black Coral. Now this is it, and despite it's name it is in fact supposed to be this amazing white frosty color. The name Black derives from this stuff when it is found dead, and typically throughout the rest of the world that's the only state you'll typically see it in...
The thing is that Black Coral normal only occurs at a depth of 200 meters or deeper. Except at Milford Sound. The amount of rain they get here coupled with a naturally tidal barrier at the mouth of the Sound results in a thick layer of fresh water on the surface (as salt water doesn't mix with fresh unless stirred). This causes a unique light filtering effect and essentially fools deep water species like the Black Coral into coming far too close to the surface (yet they do survive).
Result a unique underwater experience. Now sadly we missed out on the big event of the week. Apparently the day before they had some bottle nose dolphins popped by the underwater section. NOOOOOOOOOOO
Well after spending 45 min down in the Octopus' garden we returned to shore, and pushed on with our trip.
Our last stop was in the town of Wanaka. Now in Central Otago we are in the land of Rohan from Lord of the Rings (as they filmed all those parts in this very area). Spending the night we needed something to kill the evening before our big morning event. So we hit the local Movie Theatre. Which turned out to be quite the exciting venture.
The Paradisio theatre turns out to be country-wide famous. Character is the best way to describe this place. It is setup the way that you'd turn a big room in your house into a theatre. Nothing but recliners and couches to sit on. We watched Blood Diamond. Not the happiest picture ever made, but definitely the best I've seen this year (in fairness I've only seen Pursuit of Happyiness in theatres thus far).
Last stop was Puzzle World located in Wanaka. I had a interesting welcome when we got there...
Full of fun puzzles, optical illusions, and a giant maze it was an hour worth of amazement for all concerned. Well up until a point...
The End of the Trip
It's funny turns out I caught the moment where the trip, and more importantly the stop at Puzzle World went from fun to NOT fun. Here we see Shannon happy and care free in the "Slanted Room" which to us looks like it does in this pick.
Well in between this photo and the one below Shannon turned around and saw the swing just behind her there to the left. Seeing that...
She suddenly felt quite nauseous, and was for the rest of the day not happy anymore. In fairness this was the actual angle and state of the room we were in. Sadly our bodies didn't register it.
So I drove poor Shannon home where another few days were enjoyed in our break before we had to return to school.
That however is a different story.