Manapouri & Te Anau
After our gravel road caravan dust bomb experience, we were REALLY thankful for some friends who extended their family's hospitality and let us park up at their Grandad's "Crib" in Manapouri. Apparently, that's what Southlanders call a batch (took us a while to figure out!). Um, hello LAKE VIEW spot with insane views out towards the magestical mountains of Fiordland!
Thankful for a flush toilet and a powerpoint to vacuum the heck out of our dusty interior, a short trip to Te Anau laundromat to wash 4 loads of dusty stuff and get it dried fast, we had a 'homely' day tidying up. A nice break from being eaten alive by sandflies.
Manapouri is a teeny little village with not much, but... those lake views, especially this sunset pic I took - the pink sun gently touching the top of the hills warming the land in the early morning...! Te Anau is a bustling centre, lots of tourists and people use it as their base for the big walks (Kepler etc). Our plan was to hit Milford Sound the next day, as it was a bit of a day trip with a two hour drive one-way out to the west.
Well worth the long drive out (sorry Ridge had to stay behind, no dogs allowed there at all!), Milford Sound is probably the most awe-inspiring and breathtakingly huge piece of NZ that it really is hard to capture in a photograph.
What we didn't really anticipate was the Park n Ride system, (directed to park as you come into the area), and that Milford Sound is really a dead-end spot with not much road. We parked up, and caught the shuttle bus, not really sure what we were doing hah! Luckily I had quickly googled cruises before we left Te Anau (no reception after here for yuppies)... and so the bus took us straight into the ferry terminal. It was like walking into an international airport ... in Hong Kong... we later found out it was Chinese New Year, and they travel to get good luck.
Anyhoo - i asked at one of the cruise companies about their next cruise.. she informed us of two - one that fits approx 200 people or one very little ferry that had a small group of 20 booked. We chose the little ferry, and cruised for a couple of hours with a pitstop at the underwater observatory. A bit of a splurge but hey- it's almost our wedding anniversary, so why not!
Milford Sound is wet. It's a rainforest! Still, there's no better way to see such amazing mountains than when they are drenched in low cloud, misty rain and little peaks of sunshine. The captain on board was some hilarious kiwi guy, who had us in fits of laughter at times - most of it going over the American and Dutch tourist's heads that we were with! He showed us Fairy Falls - according to him, named after the Wallabies cos they are a bunch of fairies...!
He showed us the little tiny mussels on the bottom of the mountains that never grow (like his co-captain's arm muscles...)! The mussels don't grow because the top section of the lake water is fresh water and the heavier density salt water is below and they don't get the nutrients they need.
TWO WEEKS TO GO
We're on the tail-end of our journey... with only two weeks to go, we're meeting up with some good friends who have an old caravan too! We're going to hit Nelson Lakes again and spend some time up in Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island before we all head home. We've got a wedding to attend in Tauranga and some old friends to catch up with in Opotoki so we may end up roaming a little in the North Island before we settle somewhere.
Wherever 'home' is for us, at this stage we don't know! Our caravan is home, so we'll park up at some friends perhaps til we can find an option! We've got to buy a new car and get a job sorted for hubby too...