In the Fjordland National parks region there are several hiking trails or “tracks” as they call them in New Zealand for walkers, trampers and backpackers alike. The Milford track will take you to Milford Sound, the Routeburn track linking Mount Aspiring National Park to Fjordland, and the Kepler track around Lake Te Anau to Mt. Luxmore in the Kepler mountains and by Lake Manapouri. Being winter and not necessarily a hard-core backpacker myself, I opted for a day hike on the Kepler track. When I woke up the whole landscape was covered in dense fog; I wasn’t certain if it would be wet and gloomy all day. Which fortunately it was not.
In the fog
I walked first to the visitors centre at the ‘corner’ of the lake for some information on what hikes would be feasible for the timing, and while I would have liked to be ambitious and climb up to Mt. Luxmore for some views, it was a bit too late in the morning. Instead I went along the lakeshore to Brod Bay. It ended up being a 5-6 hour walk anyways, since I didn’t have a car to drive to the starting point at the control gates. Mostly a walk through old forest, containing large and small beech trees and a few bushes, I admit I found it rather dull just being by myself. I resisted the urge to listen to my ipod as I wanted to hear the birds. It was silent. Part way along I met a couple from South Africa who now live in Australia and we kept one another company until Brod Bay, and they also had the same question as to where the birds had all gone. We got our response when we met a volunteer who was checking the different rodent traps scattered in the forest. He pulled out a mirror and a piece of styrofoam, proceeding to rub the mirror making a very high pitched sound and…voila! Birdsong in the distance and coming a bit closer, then some little birds could be seen descending from the canopy to find out the source of the noise. A useful trick to call the hiding birds. Who’ve learned to find safety far above from all the stoats, weasels, possums, etc. that were introduced into the forests. It’s why they have taken measures to poison and trap the rodents, though unfortunately, not as effectively as they might wish. Biggest annoyance of the day was not the cool temperature, but my over-loaded backpack. Don’t know why I decided to bring along all the different items that I did – I guess experience will help me to remember to pack more lightly next time :p
View from the end of the lake…sunshine starting to peak through
By my return around the lake, the fog had slowly dissipated to offer a lovely view of the mountains surrounding the lake. My German friend took the bus that evening, but I found entertainment in my knitting project and watching Pirates of the Caribbean with many of the hostel guests. In any case, I wouldn’t have been able to find peace and quiet in my room; it was located right next to the TV room.
Takahe statue in Te Anau
The next day I decided to wander a bit around the main street of Te Anau, get a few postcards and souvenirs, as I waited for the bus to Queenstown that evening. Went into a tourist company\information place, looked at the brochures to my left and noticed penguins! It caught my attention, so I went to have a closer look. As I was still searching for activities during my last two days in NZ and the idea of visiting some penguins had potential. :) The lady at the desk was very helpful; we booked a tour and a bus to Dunedin for the day after my visit to Queenstown and after making a few enquiries, also booked a bus ticket up to Kaikoura. My inter-city bus pass had 25 hours on it, and even with the trips to Dunedin and up to Christchurch, there were several hours left. I confess, it had been a bit stressful to me to not know what I would do during my last few days and not wanting to “miss out” on a particular sight, I was relieved to get my plans organized.
Remember how the other day I had been wishing for some company and the church had been closed? On this day, I noticed some people praying for a store owner and decided to speak with them. Turns out they were a group of mostly Kiwis but a couple of Americans doing a week of preparation before a mission trip to Tonga. Later in the day, I walked along the edge of the lake to the marina. As I went to sit on a bench, a van drove up with a large group of young adults, the same ones I had met earlier and the rest of their team. I appreciated chatting with them and they also prayed for me before leaving to drive back to Gore. Again God was looking out for me and encouraging me at an opportune moment :)
I caught a fish :P
Huge beech tree
Hopped on the bus about 5pm for Queenstown with a bunch of people who’d just spent the day in Milford Sound. The bus driver put in a movie to watch called “Whale Rider”, about a young Maori girl who became the next leader of her people. Found it insightful as to some of the Maori culture and their traditions.
My friend, J, had texted me and invited me to try out this popular burger joint in Queenstown called “Fergburger”. As I walked past to the hostel, there was a huge line-up outside. While I had never heard of this place before, it seemed to be quite popular. I stayed a the YHA Central in Queenstown, I was in a room with three others, a chatty girl from Taiwan, a young German man and a Quebecoise who’d spent the past year on a working holiday visa in Australia. I think she was kind of excited because I was the closest thing to home that she’d encountered for many months. Apparently there are numerous French people (from France) who come on working holidays but not as many Quebecois, and sometimes the French and the Quebecois don’t see eye to eye. Let’s say that I was more than happy to speak French with her and German with my friend, J. :)
The Fergburger was less busy by the time J and I arrived around 8:30pm. They had gluten-free buns (yay!) – have to pay an arm and a leg for them though (less yay!) – and I ate one of the tastiest burgers I’ve ever tried. It was a lamb pattie with mint sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, etc. Very filling and very good. Even now my mouth waters when I think of it haha. If you ever go to Queenstown, this restaurant is worth checking out.
Mmm lamb burger!
The restaurant looking rather quiet but it was after 9pm :)
I think this entry has gotten quite lengthy so I’ll stop here. More to come later.