I’ve had a few requests for some sort of map feature on this blog, something to give people a better idea of where all these places I’m talking about actually are. Between spotty, infrequent internet connections and a general lack of time to do all the updates I’d like, it’s taken me a while to figure out how to actually make this happen. But I think I’ve come up with something that will suffice at least for the moment:
This is a (very) rough map of the route we’ve taken so far on my 10-day road trip around the south island. Ideally, I’ll go back into my previous entries at some point and add maps for each entry so that if you’re ever really curious, or really bored, you can actually see where I’ve been. This might take a week or two to actually accomplish, but hopefully the helpfulness of a visual combined with the comedy of my graphic-design skills will make it worthwhile for you all to eventually check out.
Now, let’s talk about this route I’ve so carefully sketched out.
We started in Queenstown on Feb. 16, having spent the entire day after AVD searching the city for a campervan. It was my fervent wish that we find not just a campervan, but a super-hippie campervan decorated in some obscure New Zealand theme, like this:
But there was nary a campervan to be found on such short notice in Queenstown, so we ended up, as surely you’ve all read by now, with a silver Nissan Sunny. And how did it feel downgrading? Well, it still meant getting off the bus so, in short, it felt like this:
Our first overnight stop out of Queenstown was a town called Te Anau*, chosen based on nothing more than its vague proximity to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is not actually a sound but a Fjord, and apparently one of several in the country’s Fiordland National Park. It’s home to penguins, seals, dolphins, waterfalls, and calm, reflective waters that end up making the cover of NZ guidebooks all the time. There are half a dozen companies that will take you on scenic cruises of Milford Sound, but I wanted to do something a little different: I wanted to go kayaking.
This seemed like a no-brainer to me: I’d rather get up close and personal with this natural playground than lean over the guard rails of a huge boat as some guide prattled on about dolphins over a PA system. So I plunked down an obscene amount of money, pulled on some long johns and a life vest, and set out into the basin one chilly morning.
And man, did I ever see the basin. We spent all day paddling around the basin in the choppy waters sent our way each time a scenic cruise ship darted by on its way into the real Milford Sound. It felt like going to the Louvre and spending all day in the lobby. Five hours after setting out, defeated and freezing and wondering what exactly everyone else had gotten to see that we had missed, we ended the day back on land and within eye-shot of the furthest point we’d paddled out to. I’ll just leave Milford Sound at that and tell you that, should you ever find yourself on New Zealand’s South Island, you should save yourself a lot of time, effort, money, and disappointment, and just do a scenic cruise. However, if you’d just like to see some crazy, LOTR-style views, I’d definitely recommend making the drive out to Milford Sound around sunrise.
After two nights in Te Anau, we kept heading south towards Invercargill. The original plan was to spend one night in either Invercargill or Bluff and then take the next morning’s ferry to Stewart Island. Stewart Island is a little island off the extreme southern tip of NZ’s south coast known for its hiking and rare birdlife. It’s also, apparently, a $140 round-trip ferry ride away. And in order to catch the ferry, you have to leave from Bluff, a town most accurately depicted in the following shot I took from Sunny’s rear window as we sped away in horror:
Needless to say, we decided to scrap Stewart Island and head straight for the Catlins, where we’d heard tell of awesome surf, lush forestland, and thriving penguin populations. But I’ll have to save that for the next entry.
*Please see map (see what I did just there?)