Wanaka, Te Anau, Milford Sound, Twizel, Mt. Cook
World Trip Two
Saturday, April 18, 2009: Fox Glacier-Wanaka, New Zealand
A snowcap peeking up from behind the forest.
Today's word must be primordial. It
is the only word that could possibly describe the flourishing, green, and dense
sub-tropical rain forest along our drive from Fox Glacier to Lake Wanaka.
The sharp and craggy hills that surrounded us were draped in clouds; draped like
a dress maker would hang material on a model to test a look. The look nature
achieved was one where we could imagine dinosaurs still roamed and Homo sapiens
had not yet evolved. We drove for hours through this wilderness without
seeing another car, farm, or human. Its splendor staggered us and its remoteness
tore at our hearts.
Cliffs and gray sand beaches.
We eventually reached the ocean and stopped to view rugged cliffs and gray sand
beaches. When we returned to our car we found it infested with small, but
ravenous, flies. They soon began biting Julia, and when they bit they caused a
sharp pain like someone jabbing you with a needle; quite a disproportionate pain
compared to their size. Julia began hunting them down and squashing them like
the filthy bugs they were. But she was bitten another two or three times while
engaged with their destruction. I
consoled her, but was sure she was exaggerating their bite and sting, then one
bit me on my hand.
I knew then she was not overstating the pain. In my struggle with the beast I
inadvertently swerved the car all over the road, but managed to regain control
and kill the monster. I now knew what was sending Julia into her extinction
frenzy. My goodness, these little buggers could bite! It took several hours
before Julia had eradicated every last one from the cabin of our car. We had
planned to take a hike on one of the trails nearby, but after this experience
with the little flying terrors we decided against it and push on to Lake Wanaka.
We hoped it was far enough away that we would not have to endure these creatures again.
Sunrise over Lake Wanaka.
what seemed the blink of an eye we had left the rain forests for Lake Wanaka's
dry, brown, hinterland. The Southern Alps cause a vast rain shadow.
Less rain produces a completely different environment; still
beautiful in its own way. Lake Wanaka is very large and surrounded by tall and
weathered mountains denuded of trees and forest. The township of Wanaka was
filled with magnificent fall colors. The golden brows, dark reds, and honey
colors of the tress took our breath away, as we drove the main street. These
colors, produced by non native tress mainly, seem to fit perfectly with the
brown plains and mountains all about. We finally arrived at our hotel and
immediately took our walk along the lakeshore amongst the glorious fall hues.
Sunday, April 19, 2009: Lake Wanaka-Te Anau, New Zealand
Lake Te Anau.
We drove from Lake Wanaka to Te Anau this morning. Mount
Remarkable was just as remarkable as the last time I saw it, even though it had
no snow on it this time. Lake Wakatipu was very lovely and the weather was
Te Anau, which a local informed me, is pronounced as one word: Teanau sounding
like piano but with a T; is a splendid little town. It is rather like Wanaka but
situated on the shores of Lake Te Anau. Its main attraction is its proximity to
the Milord Sound and the New Zealand Fiordlands. But Te Anau has its own
wonderful walks around the lake and a bird sanctuary which we visited and were
privileged to see the now nearly extinct Takahe. We ended the day by going on an
astronomy tour. Richard the tour guide guided us through the Sothern night sky
and it was a bejeweled spectacle.
Monday, April 20, 2009: Milford Sound, New Zealand
On top of the Milford Sound.
The Milford Sound is a most beautiful area filled with many glacial sculptured
mountain horns. At its edges valleys, which would normally have rivers flowing
in them, have been filled by ocean water from the Tasman Sea. This
forms fiords which decorate the area. We walked around the shores of the
Milford Sound with the bright blue sky as our canopy.
Once we were filled with the sights, sounds, plants, and birds of the sound we
moved on to hike up the Key Summit a nearby hike that took us to the top of this
world. The three hour hike had us climb slowly for two hours into the alpine
world of the Milford Sound. At the top the flora changed from dense rain forest
to low shrubs and brown mosses. The view from up there was spectacular and we
could now look the surrounding peaks in the eye.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009: Te Anau, New Zealand
The enchanted forest of Te Anau.
From Julia: If you have three or four days to spare and don"t mind sleeping in a mountain
hut you can walk the entire Kepler Track loop. It's
another of New Zealand's Great Walks, passing through forest and gorgeous
scenery as seems to be the norm for all tramps in this incredible country.
spent a day on part of it and it was a magical experience. We could hear birds
singing in the trees, on occasion we saw them flitting in the branches. We
stopped to spot them without luck when suddenly a small, round, and fluffy blue
and white bird came up to a nearby branch and stopped to look at us. He came
closer and perched on a branch a few inches from our faces before flying off. We
were even more amazed when later on in the day a yellow and white bird with a
long tail did the same thing! We wandered like enchanted children through the
moss covered, green forest. David said it was like the yellow brick road and it
really was like a Disney film set. We expected to turn the corner and see
fairies lying on the moss drinking dew drops among the multicolored toadstools.
Milford Sound Video
Wednesday, April 22, 2009: Te Anau-Twizel, New Zealand
A fire burning on the dry terrain.
We left behind fiords and lush green forests for brown, semi arid, fields and
craggy hills on our four hour drive from Te Anua to Twizel. The good news was
the weather was great, clear blue skies all day. Once at Twizel, and settled
into our B&B, we took a short walk around the town. It was a very short walk as Twizel is not a big place. It was, in fact, a community created for the workers of
a hydroelectricity project many years ago.
Once the project was complete the
settlement was supposed to be torn down. But because of it location to Mt. Cook
the residents moved to stop the demolition and so the town of Twizel was born.
We passed the time in the car by listening to F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Diamond
as Big as the Ritz"; he is now my new favorite author.
Thursday, April 23, 2009: Twizel-Mt. Cook-Christchurch, New Zealand
Feeling cold and small on the vast Tasman Glacier, with Mt. Cook behind us.
After spending a very cold night in Twizel we drove to the little town of Mt.
Cook at the very base of the mighty peak. It
was a bit out of our way and not planned for but we could not miss the
opportunity to see the behemoth up close. The town does not have much, a few
varied accommodations, and a tourist center with all the normal facilities.
A lonely ski plane our only way home.
But there is an airport and they make flights to, and land on, the various
glaciers around Mt. Cook. The day was perfect for a flight so we could not
resist it. Off we went into the wild blue yonder. I had made a flight once
before around the Southern Alps but we did not land on the glaciers. This time
our aircraft came equipped with snow skies as part of its landing gear allowing
us to touch down on the icy masses. Our first stop was the Tasman Glacier. The
trip to it was spectacular as we glided past the sharp peaks, scree filled river
valleys, and Mt. Cook itself.
Our pilot put the airplane down without a bump on
the ice. We were soon out on it and stunned by the majesty of our surroundings.
It was an extra landing that the pilot threw in so we did not stop the engine or
linger too long. Soon we were zipping down the glacier quickly picking up
airspeed and then without effort were airborne once again. After another
spectacular view of Mt. Cook and its sister peaks we flew over to the western
side of the range and landed on the Franz Josef glacier. Once on the ice the
pilot stopped the engine and we spent a good 15 minutes taking photos and
immersing ourselves in the splendor of the place. Not since visiting Antarctica
had I had the same sense from a place. We landed safely back at Mt. Cook airport
and began our long drive to Christchurch were we leave New Zealand behind and
move onto the vastness and family of Australia.
New Zealand, what an amazing place, if you do not come here you are truly wasting
Goodbye New Zealand
Mt. Cook Video
Miles Flown: 7,411
Miles Hiked: 80
Miles Driven: 1,926
Miles Sailed: 89