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Fiordland National Park
Fiordland is the national park on the southwest coast of the South Island. And yes, it gets its name from the fiords that are to be found there. Most of Fiordland is only penetrable on foot or perhaps by boat. There are many multi-day tramping tracks, such as the well-known Milford Track, which Yannis and I hiked 15 years ago. There is only one long winding road that enters the park; it runs from Te Anau, on the eastern border of the park, to Milford Sound. We were a little hesitant, as we were driving our not so small home around, but in the end we decided to venture in on this road and delighted in the experience.
The Road to Te Anau
We began in Queenstown driving 3 hours south and west to Te Anau.
Te Anau sits just to the east of the immense Fiordland National Park, and serves as the gateway to the park. There are several famous tramping tracks that begin here, or across the lake from here. While Te Anau is beautiful in its own way, it is not spectacular.
The New Zealand Pigeon Takahe
The Road to Milford Sound
The road to Milford is a long, windy one, which travels up into one of the passes, through a downhill tunnel of a little more than a kilometer and then back down to sea level. Along the way we were treated to some spectacular scenery.
After driving up, up, up for a while, we came to this beautiful wide clearing, clearly carved by a glacier. The kids wandered off to explore the tree fall on the other side of the clearing, not realizing just how far away it was or that there were two streams to cross to get there. They were gone so long, Yannis and I had a chance to try out our chairs. Then we thought we might entice them home by flying our Chinese kite. Unfortunately, the kite seemed to attract a busload of tourists instead, and still no kids.
The ground is spongy and the moss is magical!
The Milford Sound
Our Camp Site in Milford
You haven't seen the night sky until you have seen it on a clear night from a place like Milford. Tasha and I found Orion's belt and the Southern Cross, but were curious about how to find due south, so we wandered into the office looking for someone more knowledgeable than us whom we could question. Unfortunately, the office was closed, but we saw a man inside the locked up cage, so we asked him. He promptly popped outside with us and confirmed that we had correctly located the Southern Cross. When it became clear that we knew as much about the Southern Cross as he did, he did the only sensible thing to be done in such a situation. He changed the subject, and asked us if we had seen the glow worms. We fell for it - thoroughly distractible! We went over and had a look - sure enough, glowworms!
The Routeburn Track and the Summit Walk
We were not organized enough to undertake a long tramp, so instead we chose this day hike. We walked up the Routeburn to the Summit path which lead to an alpine hilltop. The first part of the hike was magical, through temperate rainforest. The trees were all coated in lichens and the ground was a spongy mass of roots. mosses and ferns. It was hard work, though. Up, up, up.
Then the jungle parted and we were in shrubland.
And then finally in the alpine landscape.
From Fiordland, we headed back to Queenstown to pick up our friends. Then with friends following we drove south towards Invercargill to meet up with the Southern Scenic Route.
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