Monday, 15 February 2010

New Zealand Day 2 – Auckland to Te Anau via Queenstown

Earlyish start to get to the airport for our short flight down to Queenstown, the self-proclaimed “adventure capital of New Zealand” and more importantly, the gateway to the southern alps and fiords. Auckland's morning rush hour traffic meant that it took us a while to get to the airport but as I always build in contingency time onto contingency time, we were still there nice and early! (K loves this habit of mine – not!)

The flight took about 90 minutes and the latter part of it was spectacular – flying down the west coast of the South Island among the snowy peaks and jags of the mountains below, and then landing in a valley nestled among them. The first thing you see when you step off the plane is a massive range of almost vertical mountains called the Remarkables – gorgeous.

We sorted out our hire car and then headed into Queenstown for some lunch before our drive on to Te Anau, and then we were off. The weather was perfect – barely a cloud in the sky and close to 30 degrees, but without any of the sticky humidity of Sydney (and Auckland too). After about 10 minutes of jaw-dropping scenery, we stopped saying 'wow' every 30 seconds and settled into just simply enjoying the view. It's the tail end of peak season here but the roads were really quiet, and although the occasional campervan or truck slowed us down from time to time, it was pretty quick driving for the couple of hundred kilometers to Te Anau and our home for 4 nights, the Fiordland National Park Lodge, which is about 20 minutes north of Te Anau itself and looks out over Lake Te Anau. The Lodge is the kind of place you find in the Scottish Highlands that bus tours stop off at – fairly big and fairly functional, but with good views etc. This meant that dinner and breakfast were only served on the days and nights that tour groups were visiting, so over the next few days we became pretty familiar with the road in and out of Te Anau, but as it was a beautiful drive, that was ok! (K did feel a bit alcohol-deprived by the end of it though!)

After checking in, we had a look at the Visitor Centre to check the weather forecast, get walking maps etc, and then sorted out our plans for the next few days including booking boats and that sort of thing. We strolled along the lakeside for a bit before a cheap and cheerful dinner, then the drive home, stopping off at various points to take pictures of the shadows and light being thrown up by the sun setting behind the mountains. Bliss.

Pictures via link in top right corner.

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