After Queenstown and the breathtaking scenery of the Otago region, we drove further south towards Fiordland. It actually looks very much like the western part of Norway, with its fiords, where the steep cliffs abruptly meets the ocean and creates narrow but deep waters. We wanted to see Milford Sound which is a particularly beautiful fiord. Turquoise meltwater, grey rock and deep green rainforest all in one place.
We had booked a 2,5 hour cruise. As we got up in the morning the rain was pouring down. It didn’t really matter to us, because we had heard that this particular cruise was supposed to be most beautiful in rain. However, I thought this was just a cheap marketing trick. In Milford Sound they get 8-10 meters of rain annually, so I guess they have to have a sort of marketing plan for just that. But it actually turned out to be true! The advantage when cruising in rain is that all the water that fall on the cliffs, has to come down somehow. And since there is no soil on the rocks to absorb the water, it creates hundreds of waterfalls. This is a very beautiful sight! Of all the many waterfalls we saw that morning, only two were “permanent” - meaning that they are there regardless of the weather.
And did it rain? I think so! It was a downpour like nothing I have ever seen before! To begin with, the waves were nothing to whine about, but as we got further and further out of the fiord, towards the open Tasman Sea, the wind got stronger and the waves bigger. Of course I got seasick! I always do in high seas. And no, I did not think of taking any pills agains seasickness in the morning when the wind was harmless. Well, well, Anton sat down beside me to strike my cheek, so that I could make a quick recovery.
What I did see of the cruise was actually very beautiful. The elements of nature showed their most beautiful and their most brutal sides at the same time. Rain forests on steep cliffs, without any soil but with their roots attached deep in the cracks of the rocks. Tiny lagoons with their own ecosystems. A wide range of birds that you will only find here in this area. According to the many photos that Alexandra took while I took care of my seasickness, there even were penguins. Quite an experience (!) for the whole family!
After this we drove further down. Actually all the way down to the southern most tip of the South Island. This is the most south we will get during this journey. From now on it is northbound again. In order to get further south you either have to go to Stewart Island, a bit south of the South Island here, or you can go to either Chile or Argentina in South America. Otherwise there is just Antarctica left. It was a strange experience to stand there staring at the horizon knowing that only water is there, until you hit the first ice floes near Antarctica.
After this we spent a few days driving towards Dunedin. The distance from Invercargill to Dunedin can be driven in just about 3 hours if you are in a hurry. We were not. So we took the scenery coastal road. The area is called The Catlins. There are many rain forests, creeks, canyons, waterfalls and caves. And there are plenty of hiking tracks. Also, there are thousands and thousands of sheep and cows! The sheep have just delivered this years lambs. Everywhere they are jumping around their mothers legs on the fields.
We have also seen sea lions. All the way out by an old lighthouse three fat and grumpy male sea lions had crashed on a small beach. Everywhere along the coast there are signs warning guests to keep their distance to the animals. You may walk around the beaches but when the sea lions are present it is at your own risk. They can be aggressive and bite you, and they are actually faster than you would think. We saw this when a couple of males got into a small fight. Loud roars, snorting and hissing. And then the smallest one ran away. A grown up man could run away fast enough, but I am not sure Anton would make it in time. We kept our distance and sat quietly in the dunes to watch the show.
And now we have arrived in Dunedin. This is the largest city in the southern part of New Zealand. We are not really sure how long we will be staying here. In many ways the city is interesting, with its many gothic buildings and large scottish population. Dunedin is also home to a large university with 25.000 students. This is a lot in a city with 120.000 inhabitants! But we are thinking of going into “nature mode” instead of “city mode” for the next days. We might go up to the city of Alexandra, and from there further up to Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. We already saw the mountain from Fox Glacier Village on the west coast. But now we are on the “right” side and can actually get up there.
We will see what we end up doing. The good thing is that we are in no hurry. We still have about 4 weeks until we will be flying out of Christchurch towards Seattle, USA.
Everywhere the spring has kicked in now. It is slowly getting warmer during the days. At night it is still rather chilly though. Daffodils are everywhere at the roadsides, where they grow wildly. Back in Europe the schools are getting ready for the autumn breaks and if you have a fireplace you might be cutting wood for the winter. Today we saw the first advent calendars with chocolate. Also some chocolate Santa’s. Weird to think that it will be hot summer here when Christmas comes in a few months. By that time we will be in California.