When you hear someone mention New Zealand, you might recall the epic scenery from Lord of the Rings. While the entire country is full of beauty, little else can match the scale of the Fiordlands and the Southern Alps.
|See Harry frolicking in the valley here.|
From Lumsden, we set out for 2 days of camping on the Milford Road leading to Milford Sound. Supposedly everyone should see Milford Sound three ways: in fine weather, rainy, and snowy. We were lucky enough to see two out of three.
We stopped along the way more times than I can count, each time marveling at our surroundings. At one lookout point, Sam and Harry got a little silly and I shot the above video.
At the end of the road we reached a little tourist outpost overlooking Milford Sound. Someday I want to go through the sounds via kayak, boat or helicopter. For now, I am happy with our scenic drive.
Although I wasn't able to get a very good photo of it, The Chasm was very impressive. We stood on a bridge overlooking a steep drop where the river had eroded the black rock below into extreme forms.
At our first campsite, a little grey and white bird fluttered around, making its presence known whenever we came outside the tent. I later identified it as a South Island Robin, a protected endemic species. Its protected status must be how it acquired its funky neon ankle bracelets. They're very friendly and unafraid of people.
|Trees leaning on each other.|
We took a few short walks in the area, even when rain drizzled down on us. The rocks in the riverbeds were very impressive.
As the second day wore on, the rain grew from drizzle to fat, relentless drops. Waterfalls sprung up everywhere, gushing down the black rocks in streaks of white. Fog consumed the tops of the mountains and colors deepened on the ground as the earth soaked up the excess.
Sam and Harry decided to climb to the snow in the above photo, neither with a proper rain jacket, while I napped in the car. I didn't sleep well the night before, and the rain lulled me to sleep. An hour later, the guys returned, soaking wet but very proud of themselves.
Our second campsite also had a resident robin, this one even more friendly than the first. He seemed intent on staying within arm's reach, hopping around us as we cooked dinner and occasionally digging in the dirt for a meal of his own. Unfortunately, robins don't eat sandflies, so we were eaten alive wherever we failed to apply bug spray. For those of you lucky enough to have never encountered sandflies, they are the worst bloodsuckers I have ever encountered: worse than midges, worse than mosquitoes.
Maori legend explains sandflies as such:
When the god Tu-te-raki-whanoa finished creating the landscape of Fiordland, it was absolutely stunning... so stunning that it stopped people from working. They just stood around gazing at the beauty instead. The goddess Hinenuitepo became angry at these unproductive people, so she created the sandfly to bite them and get them moving.The Fiordlands are gorgeous, but largely unpopulated, and I blame the sandflies. And the rain, did I mention the rain? Six meters of it? Don't get me wrong, I love lush, green places, but I'm a desert girl at heart.
As the rain persisted, I had a sinking feeling about the tent. While the label boasted its "revolutionary Dri-tanium water repelling fabric," the tent is obviously a fair weather design. Sure enough, we woke up wet around midnight. I fled to the car with our belongings that couldn't remain in the tent, while Sam and Harry toughed it out. Sleeping in the car was no picnic either; I was cold with no blankets and rain loudly pelted the roof of the car. In the morning, we packed up as quickly as we could and hit the road, using our dashboard defroster to dry clothes as we drove.
We arrived at our hosts' house in Arrowtown damp, bedraggled and sleep-deprived. Lucky for us, Paula and Bede are nice and their home comfortable. Overlooking a golf course and surrounding mountains, the views from this place are amazing!