Friday, March 1, 2013

New Zealand - Fiordland National Park (Day 14)

Wanaka was the beginning of my favorite five days in New Zealand. Don't get me wrong, the whole trip was incredible. But if I had to pick one spot in New Zealand to spend more time (like the rest of my life), it would be the southwest part of the South Island: Wanaka, Fiordland National Park, and Queenstown. 

On Day 14, we drove from Arrowtown to Milford Sound. It's a long drive but totally doable and with lots of great stops along the way. The "Road to Milford Sound" is amazing. Someone we talked to suggested taking a tour bus down the road, so you don't have to worry about the drive. A couple thoughts on that....1. It wasn't THAT crazy to drive. 2. There were places we wanted to stop (e.g., the fields of lupines at Cascade Creek) that wouldn't be stops for the shuttle. 3. I'm glad we weren't on a time schedule when we were in Milford Sound. We spent two nights there and were very happy to be able to just relax. Anyway, I'm not a shuttle/tour bus kind of girl. If it's your thing, cool. But I recommend doing it on your own and enjoying every second of it. 

Our best friends on the trip: Really Good Peanut Butter and a big thermos of tea!

Arrowtown to Te Anau is the first leg of this drive. It's a beautiful drive, with a lot of it along Lake Wakatipu. (Note: Before taking off on your drive, hit up Arrowtown Bakery. We didn't know about this when we were there, but we hear the meat pies are out of this world!) We got to Te Anau around 11:30am or so and booked our glowworm caves tour (for Day 16) at a little gas station at the beginning of town. It was really convenient and a good thing we did it, because the trips booked up for that day. We also stopped at Miles Better Pies for lunch and the pies were delicious! Then we were ready to head down the infamous Road to Milford Sound. 

My pictures do nothing to capture the grandeur of this magnificent place! I felt so small in Fiordland National Park. And it seems to go on forever. 

Lupine (or Lupin in New Zealand) fields along the river

Mirror Lakes is a nice place to get out and stretch your legs. The breeze meant less of a mirror effect but it did keep the sand flies away. 

Right before the Homer Tunnel. This whole area had signs about not stopping and avalanche area. There is a woman in the little hut with a hard hat on her head (like that's going to save her if this wall comes crumbling down!) 

Wish this wasn't blurry. I really wanted this shot to turn out! 

Another place to stop is The Chasm. Picture doesn't do it justice. Thousands of years of strong, rushing waters have shaped the rocks below. It was pretty awesome and only a 400m walk. Totally worth it and you'll be ready to stretch your legs again. 

So far, the most incredible place I've ever been. Ever. Milford Sound. 

For months, I had been looking forward to our two night stay in a luxury chalet at Milford Sound Lodge. It could not have lived up to my expectations any more! It was positioned right along the river with the towering mountains right across the way (and our own little waterfall that had formed from the rainy days prior to us arriving). Once we got to the chalet, there was no chance we were heading back out that day. It happened to be Christmas Eve, so we opened one of our bottles of wine from Marlborough and sat ourselves right in front of the window for the rest of the evening (and evening lasts forever here! The sun seemed to be setting forever and it wasn't completely dark until at least 11pm). 

Our chalet

Christmas Eve spread consisted of veggies, cheese, crackers, hummus, etc. Super fancy. Not really, but it was perfect for us and look at that view!

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