From Diary 1.
26. Boxing day. No one know for sure, why it was named that. The only one who dared to make a guess, think that it came from the old days, when the lord gave a box of food to the servants on the 26th.
I start early by trotting off the country road, which leads through primeval woods and swampy meadows. A small herd of keas cross the road in the treetops. I also meet the first sand flies. They are quite notorious, but here are only 4-5 pieces and only one manages to bite me. After walking about 10 kilometres, I am picked up by a family from the North Island. I tell them what I have planned to see during the day and since they do not have a plan themselves, they buy mine. It's one of the better lifts!
First we find the Fantail waterfall.
It's quite pretty and actually looks like the tail of a fan. The
next stop is an hour's hike through the rainforest to a turquoise
blue river and lagoon.
In Wanaka, the family is going to visit some family for an hour, and despite they try to lour me along, I immediately proceed alone. It turns into a walk through the rich's quarter, and out through the hills south of town. Trying to get a lift with a brand new Ferrari, but he signals; he is not going far. Then an old 4WDs that have just been overhauled stops. He has the huge sunroof open and it's great, as we drive through the steep mountains. Soon after, we overtake the Ferrari; the road turns into dirt road for the next 75 kilometres.
Beautiful hills, and my joint-smoking driver
stops unsolicited a couple of times with stunning views. Elsewhere,
we are stopped, as they are in the process of making a commercial
for a new little Cadillac, for the Japanese market. The road
looks like a caricature of a serpentine road. I dropped off at a gas
station on the outskirts of town. Unfortunately, the city is only 2
houses wide, so I walk 1½ hours before I reach the centre. Finds the
BP and an Italian restaurant with the world's best cheesecake. Uses
the BP's laundry. Walk around a bit, see the funicular and kiwi
park. I've been trying a funicular and the kiwi park is closed. My
knee suddenly starts hurting, as I walk downhill. I should probably
refrain from the big bush walks.
We do a coffee break in Te Anau, and a couple of photo and trot breaks in amazing surroundings. There are very densely temperate rainforests, an incredibly beautiful and blue lake, vertical mountains with snow on top. The road develops into regular mountain driving, with a long tunnel. In winter, there are major problems with avalanches. It regularly happens that the road is buried under 30 meters of snow, and is closed for 14 days.
At one stop, there are some famous mirror
lakes. The snow-capped peaks, with the bottom of the green
rainforest, are reflected in these small shiny lakes - if it wasn't
pouring down like now.
After 300 kilometres, we reach Milford Sound, where we immediately embark on a large and modern cruise boat, that sails us out through the fjord. Although Milford is called Sound, it is a fjord. It is created by a glacier not by a river.
Gigantic vertical rock faces continue into the
water, adorned numerous times with stunning waterfalls. The places
where a collection rocks at the water's edge are studded with fur
seals. Dolphins show up along the ship.
Somewhere, the cliff wall protrudes over the
water at a height of 600 meters. We sail under, but one of the
hundreds of waterfalls interferes with the photo opportunity. We
sail back, and start the return journey through the stunning
mountains. I'm considering staying in Te Anau, to spend the night
there, and tomorrow to head out to the wormhole outside the city.
Drop it as it is not late in the day, and I saw most of the city in
the ½ hour we did coffee break on the trip out.
At 12.30, I try to see if I can join a no-show. Nope, all of today's trips are cancelled as it has rained so much yesterday that the caves have flooded. # ¤ * @ § !!! Then I will continue, first back to Queenstown. So, the bus runs in 4½ hours. More # ¤ * @ § £ & !!!, and then I otherwise walk out of the city, in a gentle drizzle, unable to cool my mood.
After a long time, I get picked up by a boy of 25-30 years. He drives way faster than most others I have driven with, and that is fast! Meanwhile, he sits feverishly, trying to make his tape recorder work. I wonder if there is no radio signal in these deserted areas? Sure, but you don't want to hear it, it smashes your ears, it's nothing but '80s and' 90s music! I'm pretty excited about, what he's trying to hear? After countless attempts, the Rolling Stones suddenly blast out from one surviving speaker. The very old, original recordings. Personally, I'm sure '80s and' 90s music at a reasonable level, wouldn't have hurt my ears to the same degree!
God help me, if I'm not set off on the same
gas station, far outside Queenstown. Taught by experience, I
hike toward the centre. A girl trying to get off a side road gives
me a lift. Walking up to the now open kiwi park, and actually seeing
a kiwi. Kiwis are night active birds, so in a large building, they
have built a rainforest, and at night a lot of fluorescent lights
are lit. It's like a big terrarium, I stand with my little nose
squeezed out of the window. An adult kiwi weighs 2 kilos and the
female lays an egg of ½ kilos! They have almost no wings, hairy
feathers, and as the only bird: the nostrils all the way to the tip
of the long beak. There are other local birds in the park as well.
Down at the harbour, a tower has been lowered so you can see the lake's fish life. I kindly pay 35 DKK and see a new bunch of rainbow trout and a few long-tailed eels. The most exciting thing is actually the few times one of the little ducks comes diving past the windows.
Down in the city, I head straight to VI and tell them that now I want to go to Okwaka, and at the same time point to the map. Head south 200 kilometres, then 300 to the east. Great, the bus stops right now; he was supposed to be 2 minutes ago. Storms out in the minibus and he drives right away. We can arrange the ticket as we arrive. I wonder a little, we drive over the same pass, off the dirt road that I came from, from the north. But what, it is mountainous, and I lost my compass this morning. The clock that I bought has started to show strange signs in places for the time, so it is torn out.
We drive right through the Remarkables mountains again, stopping at the Cardrona Hotel, which is close to 150 years old, both inside and out, completely unchanged. Outside, the local sheriff car is parked, just like last time!
I'm not really surprised when we end up in Wanaka at 19 o'clock. It is the exact opposite of the direction I should have been heading. I have seen the small town, and admired the beautiful lake it is named after. Moving on to the nearest BP. They have no place, but after some ringing around, the girl finds a place far outside the city. Rush out, but they just rented my bed to someone else who, on request, claimed he was referred from the BP's I came from. Thinking of having a talk with the guy, but with the luck I've had today, he'll be 2 feet between his eyes and in a sly mood.
Consider if I should not just rent a plane or
helicopter and fly to Okawa. On the other hand, there will be an 89%
chance of us crashing the trip.
Arrives at Dunedin at 13, and
immediately book a trip to albatross and penguin land - DKK 300 with
student discount! The tour only starts later, as the penguins we are
going see first enter at twilight.
It is time for today's excursion, we are 8 who, together with our biologist-driver, drive out to the Otago Peninsula. We stop in several places, in small coves and the like, to watch the local birds: White-headed heron, spoon storks, black swans, cormorants, various waders, giant plovers, black beach magpie, and all the others.
We get to the colony of albatross. I am the only one who has given the last DKK 85 to get right up to the colony. The others see 3 king albatrosses at a great distance. I first watch a video movie of the life of the albatrosses (David Attenbourgh) in the colony and the world. Then we walk up to a small shed in the middle of the colony. They come hovering all the way to the shed, they have nests 15 meters away and one comes walking 6-8 meters from us.
They are truly big; wingspan 3½ meters, weight 6-8 kilos. The cubs reach 12 kilos, before learning to fly. It takes a year to raise a youngster and they only breed every second years. When they first fly, they stay in the air for 4-5 years. When they land in the colony, it takes a few days before they can master the touch-down. Then they find a mate that they courtship with 1 year, before they make nests. The oldest bird they have had in the colony, was 60 years.
The others from my company look a little impatient, as I return after 1½ hours, which to me felt like 10 minutes. We continue on to the peninsula and walk down to a beach, where the fur seals are in the stiff grass of the dunes. A little out along the beach are the sea lions, and on the other side; some rare yellow-eyed penguins show up. We run through quite a few gates. Only our and one other bus will be allowed by the farmers. One has a sign that says God forgives intruders, the farmer don't; he shoots them. Survivors will be prosecuted! Our biologist didn't think it is a joke. In the beginning of the 5 years he studied seals in the bay, he encountered farmers with VERY large rifles.
We pile up the big round, green hills for the bus, and drive a little along the coast, and then inland. Up at an idyllic farm, our guide picks up an old Land Rover, which we crawl onto the back. Then it goes through sheep herds and down the soft hills, down to the sea. Here we first see some more fur seals and a single elephant seal, just below us.
Then the yellow-eyed penguins start coming in.
It looks very natural in the water and on the beach, but in the
grass, between the sheep and in the scrub they actually look a
little misplaced. A single penguins comes all the way to the sheep
fence, and I wish I could touch it.