Here Comes the Rain Again
The journey to Te Anau from Invercargill should have been a beautiful introduction to the Fjordland National Park, sadly low cloud and near torrential rain kept most of the mountains hidden on our journey to Te Anau. It is as if New Zealand want to tease us with its beauty and only let us see it bit by bit when she is ready to reveal all her secrets.
After a sunny start to the day, after our new camera shopping expedition in Invercargill, the weather turned grey and by the time we reached Clifden it was raining so hard visibility was down to a few hundred metres. Well Bertha (our NZ campervan) got a wash.
We arrived at Te Anau and pulled on to a wet campsite (no DOC or freedom camping for us in this weather) which we ensured was in range of our mobile wireless (MiFi) and set ourselves up for a bit of metereological analysis.
The good news was it was going to get better – the bad news – not for a few days. We are therefore staying in Te Anau for a day longer than necessary to make sure that when we depart we have a good chance of admiring the magnificent scenery on the Milford Road. But for now we had a day to fill and some trips to book.
A Walk on the Kepler
Next day we made our trip bookings and as the weather appeared nicer than forecast we set out on a three hour hike (tramp as its known in these parts) along a section of the Kepler Track from Rainbow Reach. The whole track is 60KM long and would take you four days to complete, we neither had the time, level of fitness, or tent erection capabilities to attempt that.
The track starts over a pedestrian suspension bridge that wobbles nauseatingly as we hauled ourselves over it. You then you make a light incline up to the first section of forest with some beautiful lookouts over the Waiau River that passes along the track route. Then you get deep into the forest and you feel you are walking on cushioned floor as the moss and tree fall give you a beautiful surface on which to walk. The moss and tree ferns afford you some beautiful images when mixed with the dappled sunlight that fights its way through the dense forest as you make your way towards the wetlands.
We thought we might spot a kiwi, as there are some here and we’ve been so fortunate in spotting NZ wildlife up to now. However, we only spotted the human variety!
The wetlands are about three quarters of the way down this section of the track. Sadly, at this time of year they don’t offer much to look at, but I guess in spring as the wild marsh flowers are in bloom they would be quite stunning.
You then make your way to the end point of this particular section of the track and you emerge from your journey into Shallow Bay. As the weather had held up we got some beautiful views of the mountains in the distance with some ever so slightly grumpy skies.
This tramp is great for those, like us, who are not exactly the outdoor types, we managed it in less than the advertised time and that was with regular photo stops and a good ten minutes at Shallow Bay admiring the views, but you could easily stay longer.
After we made it back to Bertha we decided to drive from Rainbow Reach to Manapouri and see some of the views that were obscured by the clouds and rain the day before. They were stunning and our first real glimpse of the mountain ranges. It was good after Lake Tekapo to be among the mountains again.
This section of the Kepler Track also was our first experience of filming locations for the Lord of the Rings movies. For those buffs reading you will see them in the film as the Dead Marshes and River Anduin.
We decided to fill part of the extra day we had here with a trip to see the glowworm caves in Lake Te Anau. Ordinarily we would probably have passed on this but in the end it was a good morning out. The weather, as predicted, was a bit foul but as the focus of this trip was inside a cave looking at small luminescent creatures this was fine by us.
One advantage of being here in not very nice weather is that you get to see some very pretty rainbows. So to add to our collection of rainbow images we have a few more in this gallery, they are taken over Te Anau jetty and on the way to the caves as you approach Dome Islands.
You arrive at the jetty by the caves and are led up a series of very low passages before you begin to hear the deafening roar of the water cascading down the caves that is fed from Lake Orbell hundreds of metres above you. It is at this point that your guide tries to explain how they were formed but unless you were perched on his shoulder you would hear very little of his no doubt expert commentary.
On the way up you spot a few small glowworm clusters (photography is explicitly not allowed once you enter the caves) while the guide is faffing with the lights ahead you spot the odd idiot trying to snatch a shot. This is a pointless exercise as the worms emit about enough light to illuminate a pin head, so your camera has no chance of photographing it! But you’re fooled, as your eye can see them, you believe your camera can too. Trust me they cant….
Then its time to get into a little boat for the final ride up to the main glowworm cave. You are plunged into total darkness, you cannot even see your hand in front of your face. What you can see as you look upwards and around you are hundreds and hundreds of tiny blue lights, all made bright by the chemical reaction in the worms rear end. It is quite magical and is like looking up at a sky full of stars.
Our first two days in the Fjordlands National Park are over and we have been given the most warm welcome by some of the native creatures in this area. Not a Kiwi, or a kakapo, but the little bleeders known as sand flies.
We had been warned so had stocked up on insect repellent, but despite this they have merrily sucked our blood and left us with an annoying array of itchy lumps on our feet and arms. They are almost invisible and silent so, unlike mosquitos, where you have half a chance of hearing and seeing them, these bastards are the silent biters. I hate them. The Maori legend is that the sand flies came into being to urge on people into doing some work, as they spent their time admiring the views. I’m not so sure if they spent all their time itching and scratching.
Tomorrow we are off for a day trip and cruise to Doubtful Sound, in what we hope will be reasonable weather and then we hot tail it up the Milford Road to get high on high mountains.
Lets hope the weather decides to be nice to us, because this place is so beautiful I’d like to be able to see it!