We have been having an interesting time since we left our beloved Wanaka. First, we went to Queenstown to check it out before meeting Philip’s parents there next week. We had a great time walking beside the lake, eating Fergburgers and enjoying the lively evening scene during our 2 days there. However, we didn’t visit any of the attractions or do any adrenaline-fuelled stuff as we will do that next week with the Brierley’s.
Our next stop was Te Anau, which is the gateway to Milford Sound. It is a really small and quiet town with not much going on, but the drive from there to Milford was absolutely stunning. We stopped off at many lakes, gorges, waterfalls and scenic reserves, making our journey a long but enjoyable one. It rains most of the time on the West coast but we were lucky and saw the sound whilst it was dry, although there wasn’t much sun! We didn’t do a boat trip on the water because I did one 4 years ago and they are very expensive, but other people we met told us that we didn’t miss much due to the rain. We had a fabulous day there and it was interesting to compare the area to the Marlborough sounds, where we spent our time with the Hague family. I’m still not sure which one I would give my vote to.
After Te Anau we sauntered slowly down the coast to Riverton, which was a sweet coastal village. We found a small campsite run by a lovely elderly lady and plonked ourselves there for 2 nights. The shared lounge had a large log fire which we had mainly to ourselves, and we were situated at the end of a scenic reserve that offered fantastic views over the sea. The only downside was that the rain began to chase us again, so that by the time we left Riverton, we nearly had to build ourselves an ark.
We drove (nearly sailed) to Invercargill which was a complete dive. It made Southampton look glorious by comparison! Seriously, there was nothing to do there and it poured and poured, so the less said about that day, the better. Unfortunately the rain followed us from Invercargill through the Catlins, which we were told was an area that would impress us. It didn’t. I’m sure that it is pretty on a sunny day, but as we were nearly drowning in blanket rain, we continued driving until we found Dunedin. And there we had some luck...
According to my Mum, Dunedin is the Celtic word for Edinburgh, so we were delighted to find Princes Street and George Street in the large hilly town. The place was full of Scots, whisky bars, Scottish place names and galleries. We had a very enjoyable day visiting the public art gallery (one of the best I have been to), the central museum, the cathedral, watching a Labour protest and doing a brewery tour. Speight’s (NZ’s oldest brewing company) is based in Dunedin, so we did a guided tour around the factory with tastings at the end. It was fascinating, but I preferred the Montieths beer (which apparently can be bought in Waitrose so try it!). Dunedin was refreshing and cultured and gave us a deserved break from the rain.
On Sunday we looped around and headed north to Oamaru, which is another coastal town. We were surprised to find a historical precinct there, complete with its own Victorian settlement. We loved wandering around the old buildings which now house arts, crafts and second-hand bookshops. It is the first historical place we have seen for a long time! We also visited the cheese factory and later that evening, we were lucky enough to see yellow-eyed penguins arriving ‘home’ for the night whilst we walked along the cliffs. They are lovely animals and made us laugh with their funny antics. They take forever to come ashore, surfing the waves until they are able to stand and right themselves on the sand. They then waddle slowly across the beach and into the shrubbery protecting the cliff face. They come in one-by-one so we were watching them for nearly an hour. Fabulous!
We left Oamaru this morning and came inland to Mount Cook. We saw NZ’s biggest mountain from Fox Glacier a few weeks ago, but there is no road connecting the two, so we have finally made it to this side of the mountain range. The rain has eased off over the past few days, to be replaced with snow. Lots of it. We had to attach our snow chains for the last 50km of our journey, but Philip took it slowly and we arrived safe and sound. It is absolutely freezing! There is only an unpowered camping site in the village so we are in a YHA tonight, which is an amazing change. We love Darryl but it is becoming extremely cold and living in a van for 5 months has started to take its toll....
We will be in the Mt Cook national park until Thursday, when we will head to Lake Tekapo. This area is simply stunning with snowy fields hiding beneath enormous, white mountains that are reflected in turquoise lakes. The lakes around here have large amounts of rock sediment in them, giving them an amazing blue/green appearance. We feel extremely lucky to be snowed in here!
Although our experience of the southland was pretty murky and bleak, we have had a fun week and I still love NZ more than ever. Nothing can put me off!
Until next time...