Tuesday, March 12, 2013

New Zealand - Key Summit and Glowworm Caves (Day 16)

I'm going to be honest, we both felt a little let down this day. After the Christmas Day paddle we had the day before, it was going to be hard to be impressed. The weather was pretty overcast as well, which always affects my mood. However, we still had a good day hiking, driving, and then checking out some cool glowworms. (This is also the first day I started feeling kind of tired of all the driving and traveling.) 

We left Milford Sound Lodge around 9am and were on the Routeburn Track up to Key Summit (919m) by 9:30 or so. Even though the whole hike is uphill or down, it didn't feel very strenuous. I feel like just about anyone could manage this hike. Lots of interesting ferns and plants along the way, and the views from the top are breathtaking. Definitely worth the stop (only takes a couple hours) and gives you an opportunity to walk on part of the world-famous Routeburn Track. 

On the way out, we stopped at Cascade Creek to take some photos of the incredible lupins growing along the river. I've never seen so many different colors of lupins or just so many. And they were so huge! This stop is not mentioned on any materials I've seen but definitely worth the stop. I'm not sure we'll ever see a field of flowers as incredible as this (although wildflowers in Glacier National Park in Montana were pretty incredible!)

Our original itinerary had us driving all the way back to Queenstown this day and then up to Mt. Cook the following afternoon. We realized somewhere along our journey that we would just feel rushed through arguably the best part of New Zealand. We opted for not going to Mt. Cook and taking more time in Fiordland National Park and Queenstown. I'm glad we did this, but I still wish we could have done Mt. Cook. Guess we'll go there next time!

Because we stayed a bit longer, we had the opportunity to go check out the Glowworm Caves in Te Anau. You have to take a boat across Lake Te Anau to get there. This lake is the largest lake on the South Island; second largest in New Zealand (largest is Lake Taupo - see day 3). The tour felt pretty touristy, but that's what we were right? You aren't allowed to take pictures in the caves, but they were pretty cool. I wouldn't say my mind was totally blown, but it was really interesting. Most people talk about doing Waitomo Caves up on the North Island, and if we'd had more time I think that could have been more fun. Warning: it's pretty claustrophobic in those caves! I had to keep reminding myself to breathe with a group of 14 people in such a dark, small space that was many meters below the earth's surface (tried to figure out the depth and I know they told us on the tour, but I can't remember!) I definitely didn't enjoy hearing that fact while I was down there!

We stayed in a holiday park (Fiordland Great Views Holiday Park) that evening and had great views of a bush. It was a place to sleep and shower, but not sure I'd recommend it. Today was a good day, but not the best. Tomorrow will be the most nauseating day but also full of adventure! Stay tuned...

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