NZ Road Trip Part 2: The Fiordlands

The first thing we did when we got to Manapouri was go for a walk on the Kepler Track. It’s one of the many great tracks of New Zealand and the beginning of it is a smooth, mostly flat walk through lush Fiorland woods. We did the six or so kilometers of the track out to the Shallow Bay hut where we enjoy some very beautiful mountain views across the lake. The giant storm that we had been skirting around while in the Catlins was still hanging around, which made for a delightful scene of clouds dispersed across the mountains. I have no pictures of this scene because I was too busy enjoying it.

After an overnight with some Kiwi friends of friends, we headed north through Te Anau and into the Fiordlands National Park. We finally got a chance to use our tent at the new constructed Cascade Creek campsite in the park. It was deemed a “scenic” campsite and so cost 13 NZD per person per day. It was not particularly scenic in my opinion but it had a covered cooking area, so that was cool.

Our first night camping gave us a clue of how oriented towards camper vans the camping and tourism culture is in NZ. There were really no tent sites available in this campsite. It was essentially a giant parking lot with some bathrooms and, as previously noted, a covered cooking area. We were one of perhaps nine other tenters in the entire campsite. There were at least 80 camper vans. It was a little harsh, to be honest.

I guess it was pretty scenic…

After we had our tent set up we went up to the Routeburn track, hiking the 5 km up to the top of “Key Summit.” The exercise felt great and the views, flora, and birds were beautiful. It was a very popular track, and people in NZ are very friendly, so there was some pleasant socialization along the way.

The wind howled and flapped our tent around that night, but we were still up on time to drive the hour into Milford Sound. We booked a tour of the sound, as one does. We waited at the visitor’s center with all the other tourists and got on a nice boat with maybe 50 other people. It was a perfect day on the sound, which gets more rainy days per year than sunny days.

While I’m not a huge fan of just sitting around on a boat, looking at things, it was a cool experience. The scale of the sound is almost impossible to see and understand. There were moments, however, as the boat was moving away from the wall of the sound, when you could get some perspective by looking at the boats on other parts of the sound in relation to the walls. Then it started to make sense, and it was incredible. Just enormous.

After a scenic drive back from the Milford Sound, we cooked up some dinner and played some “Shithead” at the campsite. We got word from our fellow campers that it was supposed to start raining at 8 or so the next morning. We decided to have an early night and get up early to avoid the rain…

…which was a pointless endeavor because the rain started absolutely pissing down at about three o’clock in the morning. The little Kathmandu car camping tent did a bang-up job, I have to say. We were as dry as could be inside the tent, and we decided to abandon ship at about seven in the morning, packing everything up inside, throwing it in the car, and wrapping the soaking tent in a track bag until we could bring it out to dry later.

It was a cold, quiet ride back into Te Anau from there. We took refuge at the Sandfly Cafe, found an Air BnB in Cardrona, between Arrowtown and Wanaka, and spent the rest of the day getting there. The sun came out as we were going through Queenstown, and we were cozying up to a fire in our little cabin in Cardrona, drying out the tent later that night.

I was just about done with this whole rain business, and luckily for me, we weren’t to see rain again for the next week.

More next week,


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