Posts Tagged ‘Fiordland’

November 26th – 28th: Adventures in Arrowtown

November 29, 2008

We spent a little time in Manapouri after our boat trip, before heading up to the Queenstown area.

Becky on the edge of Lake Manapouri.

Becky on the edge of Lake Manapouri.

On the way north, we discovered a niche market in rural New Zealand.

Well, that's one way to make a living.

Well, that's one way to make a living.

We stayed in Arrowtown, a cute little former gold-mining town just north of the Queenstown sprawl. We explored the area and found the old homestead of one of the first settlers around here — not too many ruins to speak of in a country with such limited history!

The Tobin home, which has probably seen better days.

The Tobin home, which has probably seen better days.

Our hostel owner used to run tandem paragliding full-time; it was a gorgeous day, so he offered to take us out for a flight from nearby Coronet Peak, a winter ski mountain. We were both hooked, and we may try pursuing it more at home.

Paragliding over the Arrow River valley with the Remarkables mountain range in the distance.

Paragliding over the Arrow River valley with the Remarkables mountain range in the distance.

Becky and our guide/hostelier Adin, tandem paragliding.

Becky and our guide/hostelier Adin, tandem paragliding.

Adrenaline rushes are what Queenstown is known for, and we hadn’t had our fill yet — so we signed ourselves up for the biggest canyon swing in New Zealand. As if our bungee jumping in Taupo hadn’t been enough, this time we freefell for 200 feet before arcing into the swing over the Shotover River, and we could launch from a variety of ridiculous positions. We both loved it (even though Becky felt like the rush was akin to getting in a car wreck) and we each even did a second jump.

"Not your average backyard variety swing," they say.

"Not your average backyard variety swing," they say.

November 24th and 25th: Doubtful Sound

November 29, 2008

We spent two days and one night on a boat in Doubtful Sound, which is in fact a fjord (not a sound). Captain Cook, who explored much of New Zealand, gave it its name because he doubted there would be enough wind to sail his ship back out, so he left it unexplored. Fortunately we didn’t — our boat had engines.

Our first view of Doubtful Sound from Wilmot Pass. It was cloudy for our entire visit and rainy off and on, but that only made it seem more wild and ethereal.

Our first view of Doubtful Sound from Wilmot Pass. It was cloudy for our entire visit and rainy off and on, but that only made it seem more wild and ethereal.

The recent rains created literally hundreds of temporary waterfalls down the steep walls of the fjord — another reason to be happy for the weather.

The recent rains created literally hundreds of temporary waterfalls down the steep walls of the fjord — another reason to be happy for the weather.

We kayaked around one of the arms of the fjord, getting thoroughly drenched and enjoying every second.

We kayaked around one of the arms of the fjord, getting thoroughly drenched and enjoying every second.

Two Fiordland Crested Penguins strut on the rocks. We also saw an island covered with seals, many napping, some preening, and a few attacking and bellowing at each other.

Two Fiordland Crested Penguins strut on the rocks. We also saw an island covered with seals, many napping, some preening, and a few attacking and bellowing at each other.

Enjoying one of the brief dry spells outside on the deck — though the rain didn't keep us inside much.

Enjoying one of the brief dry spells outside on the deck — though the rain didn't keep us inside much.

Night falls on the fjord.

Night falls on the fjord.

November 22nd and 23rd: The Catlins and Fiordland

November 28, 2008

Still in the Catlins on the southeast tip of the South Island, we visited the Cathedral Caves, a couple of beach caves that connect about fifty meters deep into the caves. They’re only accessible around low-tide — and we still managed to be wading ankle-deep a couple times.

Becky shows off her levitation skills in the Cathedral Caves.

Becky shows off her levitation skills in the Cathedral Caves.

There was a gorgeous hike through the rainforest-y bush to get to the caves — in a place with a climate not too different than, say, Oregon or Scotland, the plant life was a world apart.

Our hike in the Catlins under a canopy of ferns.

Our hike in the Catlins under a canopy of ferns.

Jetting back over to State Highway 1, which we’ve followed south for almost its full length (from the northernmost point of Cape Reinga on the North Island to Wellington, then picking up again on the South Island), we made it to Bluff, the highway’s southernmost point at the ocean’s edge.

We contemplate the long swim home.

We contemplate the long swim home.

After deeming our suitcases insufficiently buoyant to carry us home, we then began our route up the west coast. We camped for a couple of nights in Clifden, with a view of an old suspension bridge over the Waiau River. The spot was a good base from which to visit the lakeside towns of Manapouri and Te Anau in the Southern Alps, and with a surrounding population smaller than most DC apartment buildings, it was also a stunning and incredibly dark spot for stargazing.

Another gorgeous NZ sunset from the Clifden suspension bridge.

Another gorgeous NZ sunset from the Clifden suspension bridge.

The highlight of our visit to Te Anau, which sits on the edge of the Fiordland National Park, was a seaplane ride over the surrounding mountains and lakes that took off from the surface of Lake Te Anau. It was our first (though not to be our last) glimpse of the peaks and untouched wilderness of Fiordland, and it was pretty awesome.

Lake Te Anau from the window of our seaplane.

Lake Te Anau from the window of our seaplane.

Aeronautical virtuosos Becky and Jonathan prepare for takeoff.

Aeronautical virtuosos Becky and Jonathan prepare for takeoff.