On the 1st we drove from Dunedin to Te Anau via Bluff, basically going from the south-east to the south west via the south (..ish).
Bluff is the “town” that claims the crown of being the southerly point of New Zealand, even though there are really more southerly points… this one just happens to have Highway 1 starting there which helps. Bluff is a land-spit about 20Km south of Invergargill, which is famous for oysters and an aluminium smelter.. oh and one of those wonderful signs with distances to London, Sydney, Beijing, New York, etc etc. We grabbed a lunch in the Lands End Pub/Cafe that can only be described as the best of British Rail catering… I guess when BR got privatised, they had to do something with the staff….
Onwards then to Te Anau… a lake with a tiny town attached… famous as the jumping off point for trips to Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and various tramps and trails (many of which are 3-5 days long). We found our motel.. which the Lonely Planet book describes at 80s exterior with a modern interior.. personally I think the Lonely Planet guy must of either been paid a fortune or was stoned…. as the interior is a throwback to 1982 and really really needs a design overhaul.
Te Anau itself… mmmm.. one high street.. one harbour… a bp station… 20 motels and a few campsites. The real reason for coming here is to get to Milford Sound, and my act if I was made mayor of Te Anau, would be to build a bloody huge dual-carriageway by-pass around the town so people didn’t have to bother with the place. I’m not saying the place is without it’s charm… the lake, with mountain backdrops is truely beautiful… but all the restaurants, shops, and service staff (out motel excepted) are locked in a really fucked up complancency of apawlingly dire service… “Ah.. yeah.. I know we have like 8 empty tables… but there’s a 20 minute wait for a table.. as the chef needs a break.. so sit down.. and someone will be with you in the next hour or so to take a drinks order from you…” Gorden Ramsey with his Kitchen Nightmares would have a flipping field-day here.
On the 2nd we found out why the lake is so full, and everything is green.. it dropped 3 inches of rain on us.. in one day.
On the 3rd.. it didn’t look much better, be we thought bugger it and drove to Milford Sound.. 120Km away, and a good 2hour ish drive. The drive is just amazing, really amazing. We stopped several times, where we met Keas (a sort of parrot), wandered into a rain-forrest, met more Keas… you get the idea. The highlight was the Homer Tunnel… a 1.2Km long downhill barrel run, thankfully when we were there the traffic lights were on, as I am not sure how good my brakes were bombing down the suicide run to the bottom. After the tunnel the road became worse, narrow, windy, some really impressive hairpin-bends on gradients…. all good fun. The drive alone is worth doing, thank god we were not on a coach trip.. or it would of been filled of a 100 odd people saying “Wow.. fuck.. wow..omygod…” We arrived in Milford Sound, had our sandwiches we bought in the supermarket in Te Anau (the cafe in Milford Sound made BR catering look top-notch). Off to the harbour to join our boat with Mitre Peak cruises, one of of 4 or 5 companies that run cruises up and down the sound. We picked this group as they seemed to be the smallest, and offer smaller boats. The biggest crew are “Real Journeys” who run coachloads of folk in from Queenstown, and really looked a bit too big.. also their coach drivers appeared to be complete twats.. pulling straight out infront of huge trains of traffic and then going at 20mph… yay for bus drivers.. paint the bus white and you’d get the idea 😉
The cruise is worth doing.. truly “awe-inspiring.. mindblowing.. jaw-dropping”.. all that sort of crap… really really “awesome”. Mile-high cliffs, huge waterfalls, 500-odd metres deep.. all that jazz.
Today… the 4th.. we went off Quad-Biking…. a little mini-bus picked us up from the motel and then off to a farm in the arse end of beyond. A group 6 of us were kitted out with welly boots, waterproofs, gloves and helmets and trooped outside looking like a group of complete herberts. Onto the quad-bikes, given about 1 mins training (“Push this with your thumb to go… move gears with your left-foot… and keep up!”) and off. We thought it would be a fairly tame little run around the edge of some fields with maybe the odd puddle… oh no no no!.. this was hard-core offroad military training.. up mountains.. across gulleys.. through rivers… 2 hours plus. Highlights were bombing through stampeding cattle.. finally getting into 4th across the grass meadow at the end.. and hurtling down the mountain in what must of been a 1 in 1 (or 45deg down), not forgetting at least 50 mud-filled ditches which we threw our bikes into. All of us, except our instructor Fraser were covered in mud and God-only knows what. Stunning views on the way, cannot recommend it highly enough, one of the highlights of the whole trip, Brod only rammed into me once.. (and crashed into me another time too… though that was as I had managed to stall an un-stallable bike in ditch with water up to my knees).
Back to the motel.. quick shower.. and off for another dose of dire service in a local restaurant. This time it was the “big coach party” that was buggering everything up.. a party of… 10. If a restaurant cannot cope with the odd big table it really needs help.
Trying to avoid being negative.. generally the food in New Zealand is fantastic.. it just seems the further south we get, the more amateur the service becomes. Off tomorrow to Queenstown, which is a far bigger, and more established place (and stuffed full of money) so we are hopefully of an improvement. Also.. although I jest about the 1980’s decor of this motel.. the standard of motels in NZ is generally fantastic and for the price, blows the awful UK hotel chains like Travelodge, Premier Inn, Holiday Bin etc out of the water by a metric mile, why we put up with such shite in the UK is beyond me. A new idea for a website is brewing….
More pics to follow.. when I find decent wifi..
Onwards to Queenstown!