Since we arrived in Dunedin, we have taken several big trips out of town to explore the South Island. I’ve already told you all about our trip to the Catlins when we swam with Hector’s dolphins. I actually went to the Catlins the first time with my class for an ecology field course, and since swimming with the dolphins, Andrew and I went back with a friend. So all in all I’ve been there three times.
Today, however, I will not be telling you about the Catlins. Instead, prepare yourself for Fiordland National Park. Luckily for you, my descriptions will be supplemented with pictures, because I really don’t think words alone could do it justice.
Our first stop on the trip was Te Anau for a sunset cruise on lake Te Anau. We were expecting a large boat with about 20 people on board, but we ended up getting a private tour because no one else booked. Anyways, it was all very romantic, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear about that. Gag, I know.
Even if you haven’t heard of the park, many of you will probably recognize the name “Milford Sound.” Milford Sound is a fiord (not a sound) within the park, and it is one of the most famous and easily accessible. We decided to do the tourist thing and go kayaking there. It was stunning. There is something called the dwarfing effect when you are in a fiord where you really can’t tell how far things are, or how tall mountains are. Everything looks smaller than it is. While we were there, we saw a pod of bottlenose dolphins. Unfortunately, because of the dwarfing effect, they were actually much farther than I thought, and it turns out they swim faster than I paddle. They decided to go out to sea, and we had to head home, but we saw them from a distance, jumping and spouting.
We were able to take over a week to travel around that area, because I was on my mid-semester break. We stopped at many viewing areas and we went on lots of hikes. One of the best hikes, called Gertrude Saddle, was halfway up a mountain to a small glacier. The track had many warning signs that were rather funny in retrospect. “Are you prepared? Do you have an ice pick? If not, turn back!” “Are you avalanche aware? You are entering a high risk area.” Andrew and I decided that we would just do part of the hike in (the flat part in the valley), and if things started to look sketchy we would turn back.
Well we ended up doing almost a 4-hour hike to about 1000m elevation. Since we weren’t planning on hiking for long we didn’t bring the camera up, but it really was spectacular looking back on mountains from half their height. Just so you know, the safety warning were geared at people doing the hike in the winter and spring. Although we touched snow (a glacier). There was almost no snow in the area we were hiking in.
On our way home, we stopped in Queenstown, and an adorable old gold town called Arrowtown. There were many picturesque areas around there that reminded me of Lord of the Rings, and for good reason. It turns out that there was a lot of on-site filming around there. It was neat to recognize places and find out what scenes were filmed there.
While we were in Queenstown, we went up the very high gondola and went luging! I was very hestitant at first, but in the end it was amazing! Don’t laugh at the dorky photos. That’s just mean.
Anywho, that is all for now. You will hear from me at least once more before the end of the month. Take care! Some more photos just for the fun of it: