Addicted to New Zealand - Trip Report

Old Mar 26th, 2008, 12:30 AM
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Addicted to New Zealand - Trip Report

We’ve just returned from a two week trip to the South Island of NZ. As many regulars on this forum know, my husband and I just can’t seem to get enough of the SI.

The travelers:

Bill & Mel, rapidly aging Americans who currently reside in the backwoods of Indonesia. We enjoy the great outdoors, long hikes/walks, peaceful surroundings and wine. We both have a penchant for Indian food and New Zealand ice cream.

We’re fans of cool weather and we prefer to travel during the low/shoulder seasons. However, three local holidays in the course of two weeks was just too good to pass up; so, we went in March, the first time we’ve ever visited NZ during high season.

The itinerary:

Singapore – one night (transit)
Oamaru – one night
The Catlins – three nights
Te Anau – four nights
Arrowtown – five nights
Christchurch – two nights
Singapore – one night (transit)
Pekanbaru, Indonesia – one night (transit)

International flights from our remote corner of the world go through Jakarta or Singapore.
We prefer to take the path of least resistance, so we flew Garuda Airlines from Pekanbaru, Indonesia to Changi Airport in Singapore. This flight only operates three days a week and invariably doesn’t connect well – no matter where we’re going - so we spent a night and most of the following day in Singapore prior to leaving for Christchurch.

We each redeemed 75,000 United Airline miles and paid about US $25 in taxes to fly from Singapore to Christchurch in business class on Singapore Airlines. This was our first flight from Changi’s new Terminal Three, a massive, cavernous terminal built to accommodate the new A380 aircraft. It was also our first chance to visit SIA’s new SilverKris Lounge – big, quiet and comfortable, with soft lighting, an extensive business center, loads of hot food and beverages and some lovely “rain” showers to freshen up.

We had no trouble getting tickets for the direct Singapore-Christchurch flight on SIA, but there weren’t any reward seats available on the return flight. So, we did the next best thing and flew back to Singapore on Air New Zealand via Melbourne, then flew SIA from Melbourne to Singapore.

The 9.5 hour outbound flight was uneventful, with the notable exception of some stomach dropping turbulence. For this nervous flyer, it was an excruciating 20 minutes. My travel buddy seemed oblivious to the roller coaster ride and patiently allowed me to impale his arm with my fingernails. The pilot announced that we were encountering some strong winds and assured us that we were perfectly safe. I wasn’t entirely convinced…

It was sunny and warm when we arrived in Christchurch the following morning. We took the shuttle to pick up our APEX car rental – NZ $870 for 15 days, plus a $25 surcharge to leave the car at the airport, due to our ungodly 6:55 am departure.

Overall, I was happy with APEX, but we did have one small issue. It seems they’ve jumped on the dynamic currency conversion bandwagon, and they initially charged us in US dollars instead of NZ dollars without asking our permission. This practice annoys me to no end. When I fussed, the clerk was more than happy to credit our account and recharge us in NZ dollars, but in the process she got confused, made a few errors and it took awhile to get sorted out.

Car finances resolved, we were off in our Toyota Corolla bound for Little India on Gloucester Street in the CBD for our first vindaloo and paneer fix. Good eats.

Sated, we drove south on SH 1, bound for Oamaru. We try to limit our driving to about three hours on our day of arrival, and since our destination was the Catlins, an overnight in Oamaru made sense (3:30 from Christchurch).

As we worked our way towards Oamaru, we were reminded of why we don’t particularly care for the more populated east coast of the SI. There’s a lot of traffic, it’s industrial, flat, and not particularly pretty. There was also quite a bit of smoke coming from the controlled fires burning in the fields. And here I thought I’d left the smoke behind on Sumatra…

We stopped in Temuka for our first Tip Top ice cream of the trip – its official – we’re in NZ!

We finally arrived in Oamaru, checked into our motel, and made a quick run to the Blue Penguin Colony gift shop to look for penguin charms – a special request from my sister. The penguins come ashore at dusk, in this case 8:15 pm. We doubted we could stay awake that long - in fact, we were too tired to even consider dinner - so we returned to our motel, pulled the drapes and crashed.

Our lodging –

Bella Vista Motel – www.bellavistamotels.co.nz/ - NZ $115 per night, superior studio unit.

This motel chain is firmly entrenched on both islands of NZ and we’ve stayed at several Bella Vista locations on previous visits. We’ve found the rooms to be a bit small, but clean, comfortable and perfectly adequate.


Day 1 –

In the morning we felt human again. It was refreshing to sleep with the windows open; a simple pleasure we miss living in the wilds of Indonesia.

As we left Oamaru on SH 1, the landscape became much prettier; there was more relief, the road was no longer straight and flat and there was considerably less traffic. We made a quick stop at the Moeraki Boulders before continuing on to Dunedin, where we stopped for lunch and groceries, as we’d be self-catering in the Catlins. We found Dunedin busy and congested. It’s not really our kind of place, but we could certainly appreciate the rolling hills, which reminded us both of Hobart, Tasmania.

At Balcutha, we left SH 1 and joined the Southern Scenic Route. We stopped at Nugget Point, walked to the lighthouse (20 minute return) and watched the seals on the rocks below. We also stopped at Roaring Bay, where we walked to the Yellow Penguin hide – too early though, so no penguins.

We continued on to Owaka and beyond, detouring at Purakaunui Falls, where we took a 10 minute walk through the rainforest to some rather impressive falls.

Some nine hours later we arrived at our home for the next three nights, Fortrose Retreat.

Our lodging –

Fortrose Retreat – www.fortroseretreat.co.nz - $150 per night

This is a secluded, fully self-contained two bedroom cottage perched on a hill halfway between Fortrose and Tokanui. It’s situated on an 850 acre farm owned by Ian and Jeanette. The closest neighbors are almost two kilometers away - it was just us, the wind and some 3,000 sheep. I was in love.
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Old Mar 26th, 2008, 06:39 AM
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I'm SO glad you're back - it's great to read your report! You went to the one part of the SI that I gave up begrudgingly. It will be on the next trip itinerary.

Can't wait to read more!
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Old Mar 26th, 2008, 03:12 PM
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Thanks kimbobb. I assume it's the Catlins you had to give up?
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Old Mar 26th, 2008, 04:52 PM
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Day 2 –

We woke to a clear, windy day. Minutes later it was cloudy, then it was sunny, then it was cloudy again. We must be in the Catlins.

We decided to spend the day in the area referred to as the North Catlins, which is rather confusing, as technically, its east. I’m not clear on the boundary between the North and the South Catlins, so bear with me if I blur the lines a bit.

We backtracked along the Southern Scenic Route (92) to Cathedral Caves. We’d tried to time our arrival somewhat, as the caves are only accessible two hours either side of low tide. Just as we pulled into the car park, a sudden storm whipped up and it turned windy and began to rain. We were barely out of our car when an employee came out and told us she’d had to close the caves due to safety concerns. Less than a minute later, it was hailing. I’ve never seen a storm come in so fast and furious. By the time we reached the highway a few minutes later, the storm seemed a distant memory.

We continued east, stopping at Lake Wilkie, where we walked through the rainforest to the “lake”, which is actually more of a pond. It was a nice little walk though (15 minute return).

Our next stop was the Old Coach Road*/Tahakopa Bay Loop Track, which is located on the north end of the Tahakopa River Bridge, not far from Papatowai. We had a bit of everything on this track - beach, boardwalk, rainforest and lots of swamp and mud. It was messy, but otherwise an easy walk with a few slippery bits. The loop is marked a three hour return, but we walked it in just over two hours, including an additional 35 minute walk along the river (5 miles, about 8 km). I was intrigued with how the forest met the beach and how the trees were literally being gobbled up by the sea as the land eroded (photo to follow).

*Not to be confused with the Old Coach Road walk, which begins in Waikawa, South Catlins.

Then it was back on 92 headed east towards Owaka, which incidentally means “place of the canoe”. We gassed up the car in Owaka ($1.80 per liter!) then continued to Surat Bay, where we walked down to the beach (45 minutes return, 1.5 miles, about 2.4 km). This is a beautiful area – rugged, wild and windswept. The sea was rough and the sand was airborne. We saw three snoozing Hooker sea lions, one of which was blocking the path, so we had to make a detour. You don’t want to be getting too close to those critters.

As we left Surat Bay, we saw some amusing mailboxes – old microwaves, bread boxes, etc. Gotta love those Kiwis.

We next drove to the bach community of Jack’s Bay* and walked to Jack’s Blowhole, a massive 55 meter deep hole 200 meters inland from the sea located in Tunnel Rocks Scenic Reserve. The insane weather continued – first sunshine, then cold blowing rain, then sunshine again.

This trail meanders through sheep pasture and it’s a sedate stroll until the track abruptly climbs at a 45% angle. Once at the top of the hill, it’s a short walk to the blowhole, which seemingly appears from nowhere. I was fascinated by the sudden appearance of this deep hole on the cliffs so far from the sea. It was just so unexpected. I really enjoyed this walk and found it well worth the brief thigh burning climb (one hour return, just under 2 miles, about 3 km).

*The community of Jack’s Bay maintains the track, and requests a $1 per person donation for upkeep. It appears that a new track is being worked on, which will bypass the sheep pasture, but it wasn’t open at the time of our visit.

Daylight was waning, as were we, so we headed back to the cottage to pry the sheep poop from our boots. There was much more to see and do in this beautiful area, but with drive distances and us wanting to walk every track we encountered, we could only fit in so much.
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Old Mar 26th, 2008, 07:26 PM
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Day 3 –

Once again, the day began clear, and then quickly became overcast. No wind though (yet).

We’d been invited to Ian and Jeanette’s shearing shed to watch their sheep get shorn. As we arrived, we saw Ian lift an errant sheep into the back of his truck and tie its legs together. I never would have guessed that bugger could escape, but when I walked over to the truck later to get a photo, the sheep had worked the rope loose. She panicked when she saw me, jumped out of the truck and fled. Oops, sorry Ian.

We’d seen sheep shearing demonstrations before, but this was the real thing. Four guys working their butts off shearing sheep at an astounding rate, two gals who swept up the trimmings and sorted the wool as it was shorn, and one guy who packed the wool into a baling machine. It was fascinating to watch and gave us a new appreciation for wool, especially since ranchers are currently getting only NZ $2.80 per kilo.

Ian patiently answered our questions and explained the process. Apparently it only takes three days for four men to sheer 3,000 sheep. Wow.

We’d decided to spend the day exploring the South Catlins, which is technically west. We drove to Fortrose, and embarked on the Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail. Our first stop was Waipapa Point, the site of New Zealand’s worst civilian shipping disaster, the wreck of the Tararua. Incidentally, Waipapa is Maori for “basket of seafood”.

The lighthouse here is undergoing restoration, so we were unable to visit. However, we took a nice walk along the beach (one hour return, 2.25 miles, about 3.6 km) and saw two Hooker sea lions conked out atop piles of kelp. I was surprised by the sheer quantity of kelp, and by how it looked almost man-made. I think I’d lose my mind if I were to get lost in a forest of kelp underwater - it’s creepy.

We continued on to Slope Point, which is seven kilometers further south than Bluff and the southernmost point of the South Island. The trail to Slope Point crosses a sheep pasture and leads to the top of a cliff overlooking the sea (35 minute return, 1.2 miles, about 2 km). From Slope Point we could see sheep grazing on the next cliff over and I had to wonder if many of them fell into the ocean.

Our next stop was the Waipohatu Recreation Area, where we had a picnic lunch. There was no one else around, and it was really peaceful. We’d hoped to walk the three hour waterfall route, but we turned back at the first deep stream crossing, as we didn’t want to get soaked (one hour return from picnic area to first stream crossing, 1.6 miles, about 2.5 km) Jeanette had warned us that we might get wet on this one.
Back on the Coastal Heritage Trail, our next stop was Curio Bay, site of “one of the world’s finest fossil forests”. We’ll have to take their word on that one, as we were there at high tide and could only find one petrified stump.

We continued our drive past the campground to the Porpoise Bay overlook – nice views of the bay, but we were swarmed by sandflies, so we didn’t hang around long.

Our last stop of the day was at Niagara Falls, where we were treated to more Kiwi humor.

Back at the cottage, we walked the short track just outside our door, and then spent the evening on the porch sipping wine as we gazed at the rolling countryside.

Impressions:

We really enjoyed the North Catlins and could easily have spent more time there. I would have liked to see the Cathedral Caves, McLean Falls, Matai Falls and to have walked at least of portion of the five hour (one way) Catlins River Track. I would have also liked to walk from Cannibal Bay to Surat Bay, but alas, there just wasn’t enough time. For everything we saw on that very full day in the North Catlins, it seems we missed just as much.

We weren’t as enamored with the South Catlins and the Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail. For us, the highlight of the South Catlins was our stay at the Fortrose Retreat.

I found this site invaluable in planning our stay in the Catlins:

http://www.catlins.org.nz/index.htm
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Old Mar 27th, 2008, 06:15 AM
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Melnq8~ Thank you for the lovely memories your post invoked. My husband and I also laughed out loud at "Niagra Falls." So very Kiwi-ish! I am sorry your timing did not work out for Cathedral Cave, especially with all the intense planning you do. We did none and simply got very lucky. We arrived with less than an hour before the attendant told us she had to lock up. We literally ran all the way down, from the end of the trail all across the beach and then all the way back up. We were exhausted, but the attendant stopped to talk with us, recommending a lovely picnic beach just a short way from there. In this cove, we were allowed to drive partially onto the beach and have our best meal in NZ. We had rolls and salami, but an entire gorgeous beach all to ourselves. We ran around making sand angels and splashing in the water. We also loved Curio Bay, Porpoise Bay and the Nugget Point Light House and wished we had allowed more time. But, we went instead to Stewart Island and Ulva Island for bird watching. We loved the bird watching on Ulva Island and took some wonderful photos, but next time we will opt instead for more time in The Catlins. I am surprised that it does not get more attention, but in a way it keeps it very special for those who do make it.
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Old Mar 27th, 2008, 01:38 PM
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You are correct, it's The Catlins I had to give up. You have made me want to go all the more, though. No Tip Top on Days 2 or 3 - you must have been going through withdrawal!

Keep it coming. I am pulling out the photos again.....and can't wait to see yours!
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Old Mar 27th, 2008, 04:25 PM
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I'm so excited to read your trip report and to find out how you enjoyed Te Anau and the surroundings. Did you get to the Kepler Track? I've been missing NZ -- and that part of the South Island -- a lot lately so your report kind of eases my "homesickness." I also haven't been to the Catlins, which I've saved for my next trip, whenever that will be. I think I'm gonna pull out my photos too!

Looking forward to your next installment!
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Old Mar 27th, 2008, 10:16 PM
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Our Internet server has been down for the past 24 hours - such is life in the sticks. I'll try to get more posted this afternoon.

Hikrchick - Yes, we walked some of the Kepler and I thought of you when we saw Ata Whenua. In fact, I almost picked up a copy of the DVD for you, but had no idea where to mail it! If you're still interested, you might be able to order it online -

www.fiordlandcinema.co.nz
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 04:58 AM
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melnq8

Good to see you revisiting (and revisiting and revisiting) NZ .

Since we were there in February last year, and having had much advice from you and others on this forum, my husband and I popped over by ourselves and leaving the youngins behind we just walked the Routburn had another two days and then flew back to Sydney. It was magical.

I mentioned somewhere else that the first time I walked the track was when I was a uni student and this is the third time - at my wiser and "funner" 53rd year

So glad you enjoyed it - make sure that if you stray the Sydney way next time - get in touch as it would be great to connect.
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 05:46 AM
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Mel, you're so kind to think of me! I'm so pleased you got to see the film. Did you enjoy it? Te Anau is such a cute little place. One of the things I loved most about the town was walking from the wharf out to my hostel/homestay and right past all the homes where everyone was puttering about, and the kids were riding their bikes and the lawn sprinklers were going, etc. It sort of felt like I was walking in the town I grew up in here in New Jersey.

I've actually thought about buying myself the DVD after I went poking around the Web site to find the information for you. (It's gonna go to New Jersey...) And I think I'm going to treat myself to a copy.

After being home a year I've finally decided to get all my photos and other stuff I saved from my trip and make a real crafty scrapbook. I know I'll be so homesick for Aotearoa while I'm doing it but maybe it will just mean I'll have to go back soon!
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 04:51 PM
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Sorry for the delay...our Internet has been down for days.

Day 4 –

We couldn’t help but think of Ian’s freshly shorn sheep when we woke to pouring rain.

We left our peaceful country hideaway and drove towards Invercargill on the Southern Scenic Route (92). A herd of sheep slowed our progress, but it was fun to watch the dogs round them up and chase them down the highway.

We stopped in Invercargill and quickly learned that the grocery stores don’t sell alcohol due to a city ordinance specific to Invercargill. We had some decent kebabs at A La Turka Kebabeque on Dee Street, and checked our e-mail at the public library across the street (computers are located upstairs, $2 for 30 minutes, coin operated).

We soon found ourselves on SH 6 headed north towards Queenstown. The sun was out now and there wasn’t a hint of rain – little did we know it would be virtually rain free for the remainder of our stay on the South Island.

I was craving something frozen and sweet after three ice cream free days in the Catlins, so we stopped at a dairy in Winton. And there it was…..Deep South ice cream…

Fellow Fodorite mlgb had reminded me that Tip Top isn’t the only game in NZ when it comes to ice cream. It seems that he/she has a fondness for Deep South Hokey Pokey. For me, it’s all about variety, so I tried the Neapolitan and the Creamy Cookie. Mel was happy. Bill, a die hard nothing-but-vanilla man, shocked me by ordering Licorice, which he said was excellent. Two thumbs up for Deep South!

After Winton the landscape became prettier; the farms became rolling hills, the hills became mountains. At Lumsden we turned onto 94 and made our way to our next destination – Te Anau.

This drive, which I’m guessing was roughly 215 km, took us six hours with stops. I reckon we’re slooow travelers.

Our lodging –

The Croft – www.thecroft.co.nz - $170 per night

I first heard of this B&B here on Fodor’s, although I’m afraid I don’t remember who suggested it, but thank you!

The Croft can be found just off the road to Milford Sound, a short distance from Te Anau. It consists of two completely private cottages adjacent to the home of Jane and Ross. We were in the lovingly cared for Green Cottage, which we found spotless, comfortable and perfectly equipped. It’s in a beautiful location, with views of Lake Te Anau and Jane’s garden.

Mac, the resident dog, greeted us and soon became our porch mate. It wasn’t long before we also befriended Kitty, a big grey cat with humongous paws, and his diminutive counterpart, Geri.

We were hesitant about staying at a bed and breakfast, but after spending four nights at the Croft, we were completely sold. Jane was incredibly helpful and friendly and seemed to genuinely enjoy having visitors in her home. She’s a wonderful lady who immediately put us at ease. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at The Croft and highly recommend it.

After getting settled, we walked through the yard, across the pasture and down to Lake Te Anau. We walked along the rocky beach for an hour or so, and then returned to our lovely cottage for a glass of wine on the porch with the animals.

That evening we dined at Indian Summer (good – Bill said it rivaled Little India, but I beg to differ), and then caught the 8 pm showing of Ata Whenua, which I also learned about here on Fodor’s (thank you Hikrchick!) -$10 each – loved it!

www.fiordlandcinema.co.nz
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 04:55 PM
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Day 5 –

Another beautiful day!

After a nice breakfast with Jane, we set out on the road to Milford Sound, stopping at Mirror Lakes for the obligatory snaps. The leaves were beginning to change and it was gorgeous. Our destination was The Divide, where we ditched the car and began walking the Routeburn Track towards Key Summit. The views over the Humboldt and Darran Mountains from Key Summit were positively stunning (photos to follow). We continued walking to Howden Hut, where we had a picnic, chatted with some fellow walkers, and futilely swatted away the blood thirsty sandflies, before forging on to Lake Howden Campground, at which point we turned back. (How’s that for a run on sentence?) This was a gorgeous walk, and the first of many which challenged my bad knee. Our total walk time was just under five hours (8 miles, about 13 km).

We hadn’t planned on taking a Milford Sound cruise, as we’d done so twice before, but it was just so darn pretty that we decided to keep driving to Milford (36 km from The Divide). This was the first time we’d seen Fiordland in the sunshine and without tons of snow. Inbound traffic was practically non-existent – the buses were all headed out as we were headed in.

We arrived in Milford at 4 pm and decided to pop into the visitor center to see if it was too late for a cruise. The place was near empty and dead quiet - Real Journeys and Red Boats had already set out on their last cruise, but Mitre Peak had one final cruise at 4:30, so we bought tickets ($60 each). What a fabulous idea this was – there were only 12 of us on a boat meant for 75 - all couples – the views were amazing, the cruise peaceful, the pumpkin soup good and hot. And it was completely spontaneous.

When we returned to the visitor center at 6:30 pm, the building was entirely empty, not even a sandfly remained. On our first visit to Milford years ago, we encountered the complete opposite – tons of tourists, chaotic bus traffic, thousands of sandflies. What a difference.

We returned to Te Anau, making a few final stops along the way to soak up the gorgeous views under that incredible blue sky. We popped into the cottage long enough to grab a chilled bottle of Chardonnay, then headed back to Indian Summer for a late dinner.

A truly wonderful day.
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 04:58 PM
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Day 6 –

After breakfast with Jane and the guests from the Blue Cottage, we set off to the Control Gates of Lake Te Anau, where we parked the car and began walking the Kepler Track. I’d made the mistake of telling Bill about how Hikrchick had so enticingly described the hike to Mt Luxmore and he was itching to give it a go, but there was just no way. The results of the MRI I’d had in Singapore the day we left for NZ indicated that I should probably avoid scaling any mountains for the time being.

So, we settled for the walk to Rainbow Reach, a tame section of the track that follows the Waiau River through beech forest. We figured we’d walk as far as the Rainbow Reach car park, and then return via shuttle to the Control Gates. We arrived with time to spare before the 2:30 shuttle ($8 each), so we continued walking towards Swallow Bay Hut.

Just past the swingbridge, the track began to climb and we were rewarded with some great views over the Waiau River. We then backtracked to Rainbow Reach, where we met two colorful Kiwi trampers from the North Island, whom we guessed were in their late 60’s. They’d just finished walking 63 kms (including Mt Luxmore) in three days. We were impressed, and put to shame a bit after our measly 3.5 hour stroll ( 8.5 mile, about 13.5 km).

After collecting our car, we drove to Manapouri, then back to Te Anau for some refreshing Tip Top. Measly walk or not, I was knackered, so we chilled at the cottage for a few hours. Dinner that night was at La Toscana, where we shared a really good pizza.
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 06:02 PM
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Day 7 –

I know I sound like a broken record, but it was another beautiful day! Three consecutive pretty days – could this possibly be the same Fiordland that we’d never seen without rain, snow and fog?

As soon as it got light enough to determine the sun was going to make an appearance, we called Real Journeys and booked a return transfer to the Milford Track ($95 each). Until I read a comment made by fellow Fodorite PJtravels, I had no idea it was possible to walk a portion of the Milford Track as a day walk. So, imagine my excitement when I verified this information the previous day at the DOC.

We drove to Te Anau Downs, where we boarded the 10:30 am boat to the start of the Milford Track. The 42 km, one hour long boat ride was very scenic and there were only 8-10 other passengers, all of which were on the guided walk – we were the only freedom walkers.

As we disembarked the boat at Glade Wharf, we were required to step into a disinfectant solution to prevent the spread of Didymo, an invasive freshwater alga that has infected several lakes and rivers on the South Island. Didymo (also referred to as “rock snot” by the locals) is a threat to fish; washing stations can be found at the start of many tracks.

We left the guided walkers behind and set out for our small taste of the renowned Milford Track. Twenty minutes in and we were already awed – the views from the meadow near Glade Hut were gorgeous. It took us 1:10 to reach Clinton Hut, which incidentally, is the turnaround point for the guided walk. We stopped here for a picnic - just the two of us, the sandflies and some persistent bees that seemed to like the color blue.

We continued walking, but had to turn around an hour past Clinton Hut (or risk missing our ride back), just as the track started to become hilly and even more scenic. Thus far, we’d had the track all to ourselves, but as we neared Glade Hut on our return, we passed dozens of trampers laden with backpacks going the opposite direction. We also passed a group of backpack-free Japanese tourists, curiously outfitted with scarves covering all but their eyes, mosquito netting and gloves.

We later learned that our boat had deposited 94 people on the second run; some were freedom walkers who’d be staying at the communal huts; some were on a guided walk and would be staying at the posh huts. There were only seven of us on the return to Te Anau Downs.

We both enjoyed what little we saw of the Milford Track - I can certainly understand why it’s so popular. We managed to squeeze 11.6 miles, about 18.5 km, into our 4.5 hours on the track.

We were back at Te Anau Downs by 6 pm, and at the cottage a short time later. We grabbed a bottle of wine and set off for another good meal at La Toscana.

Impressions:

I’d forgotten how much I liked Te Anau. We’ve spent time here before, but as mentioned above, we had dubious weather both times.

Te Anau strikes me as somewhat overlooked. Yes, masses of visitors pass through Te Anau on a daily basis on their way to Milford Sound from Queenstown, but that’s just it – they merely pass through.

We were overwhelmed with the walking options, and found it difficult deciding how to best spend our limited time (and energy). For those who love the outdoors, walking/hiking and related activities, Te Anau, Milford Sound and Manapouri offer countless options; we could have easily stayed much longer.

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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 06:18 PM
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Day 8 -

We left Te Anau under sunny skies bound for Queenstown. At Five Rivers, we joined SH 6, and just past Kingston, we got our first glimpse of vibrant blue Lake Wakatipu. As we neared Queenstown, we came upon a car that had pulled off the road and unloaded several young men, three of which dropped their pants and mooned us as we drove by.

We poked around Queenstown a bit, and then continued towards Arrowtown. Bill remarked that it felt weird to walk around Queenstown in short sleeves – this was the first time (out of eight visits) that we didn’t need jackets.

Our lodging – Orchard Cottage - http://www.the-orchard.co.nz/ - $185 per night

I’d discovered this cottage last year while looking for self-contained accommodation near, but not necessarily in, Queenstown.

Since our visit in August, Olga and Lyman have added a second bedroom to the cottage, making it more family friendly. They’ve also adopted two cats, Soot and Sweep, who provide free entertainment.

This cottage is still one of my favorites – spacious, clean, inviting and comfortable. It's
located in a peaceful country setting near Lake Hayes and Amisfield Winery, east of Queenstown.

We relaxed at the cottage for awhile, then returned to Queenstown, where we had a nice dinner at Little India and an after dinner pint at Morrison’s Irish Pub.

That evening we learned that Adelaide was in the grips of a searing heat wave; they’d had 13 consecutive days with temps above 35c (that's about 95F for my fellow yanks). We’d seriously considered visiting Adelaide instead of New Zealand, but had changed our minds due to weather concerns. Good thing too.
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 07:24 PM
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I'm so glad you liked the Kepler! And Ata Whenua!

All I can think while reading your fabulous trip report is that if I could go back tomorrow I would. I had no idea about the one-day Milford Track option. I can't wait to go back!
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Old Apr 2nd, 2008, 01:35 PM
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What is all this Tip Top malarky?? Rush Munros - no other option!

http://www.rushmunro.co.nz/
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Old Apr 2nd, 2008, 05:06 PM
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You mean I missed some ice cream? Man, now I have to go back!
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Old Apr 2nd, 2008, 05:09 PM
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Day 9 –

I wanted to walk the Mt Crichton Loop, which I learned about from LauraT here on Fodor’s (thank you!). So, we soon found ourselves on SH 6/6a headed towards Glenorchy. The trailhead to *Mt Crichton/Sam Summers is located in the Mt Crichton Scenic Reserve just off Glenorchy Road between Wilson Bay and Bob’s Cove.

We absolutely loved this walk, which turned out to be one of our favorites of the entire trip. We found it challenging without being butt-kicking, and a nice mix of forest, hills and meadows with an 800 foot elevation gain. The loop (4.25 miles, 6.8 km) took us a little over two hours and offered some incredible views of Lake Wakatipu.

After a picnic lunch at St Omer Park near the Queenstown roundabout, we decided to take the *One Mile Creek Trail, which begins at the powerhouse car park directly across the street.

This walk follows an old pipeline up to the One Mile Dam. It’s a pretty walk which we found steep and difficult, no doubt made worse because it was our second uphill walk of the day. Fools that we are, instead of turning around when we reached Midway Clearing, we continued walking up the access road to the top of the Skyline Gondola. What the heck were we thinking?

This was more walk than we’d counted on (2.5 hour return, 3.5 miles, about 5.5 km). The views from the Skyline Gondola made the climb worth the effort, or so I thought until we backtracked the way we had come, causing my knee to protest loudly.

*The free Wakatipu trail map we’d picked up at. the DOC rated these walks as “medium fitness”. This map was more helpful than the ones we’d purchased for the area, but we found the fitness level ratings a bit misleading.

Exhausted, we returned to Arrowtown via Gorge Road (accessed via Shotover St) a gorgeous stretch of road that bypasses the hustle and bustle of Queenstown.

That evening we had a well deserved Indian feast at Mantra in Arrowtown, where at long last, we met the owner of our two favorite NZ Indian restaurants (Little India being the other). Kadai chicken for Bill and Shahi paneer for me – excellent!
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