Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 14 - Dunedin

June 14 - Dunedin

This morning we woke up early to see the sunrise from the Glencoe Hike. The skies were a little gray around 7:30 AM so we stayed in bed until a little after 8. We got up, took down the tent and started the drive Hermitage Hotel for the start of the hike.

We stopped at the community kitchen because the day before I had seen two cans of food just sitting on the counter. I said that if they were there the next day I would take them. There were only two other groups camping last night, and they were both in campervans. Which are literally small minivans that are converted into camping vans.

The food was still there so I grabbed it. The ranger stopped me along the way and asked if we had paid to camp. I explained to him that we had. He said he didn’t see the money pouch, but that it may have still been in the stand. He believed me so I went to find my stash of food.

It was still there! It was a can of beans in tomato sauce and a can of beans with meatballs. It doesn’t sound great, but it was free. We just don’t have anyway to cook it right now without a stove or pots. We plan to buy something at the outdoor store Katmandu to allow us to cook. The grocery stores sold pots, but they were way too expensive.

After leaving the campground we drove a few minutes back to the Hermitage Hotel. It was freezing outside. It was about 8:35 when we got there. I wanted to wait until it cleared up, but Andy wanted to start then. I figured there was no point in going up there to see nothing. I said we could wait until 9. At about 8:55 we got out of the car and made our way up the trail. It wasn’t very clear yet, but it seemed like the clouds were moving.
We stopped along the way and did a lot of gopro hiking shots since the trail was wooded and looked cool. It was steep in some places, but it was a relatively easy hike. We got to the top in about 15 minutes. We only stopped a few times for pictures and videos. It said the trail would take 30 minutes one way, so I was surprised when we got to the top so fast.

At the top there is an open area where there are no trees blocking the views of Mt. Cook and the valley as well as the other mountains.

The clouds on the mountains were covering the top point, but you could see the rest very easily. I put on my big lens and took a lot of pictures as we waited to see if the top would appear. It did after a few minutes of waiting and the picture taking went crazy. The day before it had been cloudy most of the day, but now it seemed like it was going to be blue skies. Too bad we were leaving.

It was ok though because we had seen everything we came to see. Vini, Vidi, Vici! We each took pictures in front of Mt. Cook from different angles. After about 30 minutes we started back down the trail. We did a few more action hiking shots and then were done. We got back to the bottom around 10:15.

Our next destination is Dunedin. It is a few hundred kilometers so we are planning for about 4 hours. We aren’t in a big hurry to get there since today was planned just to travel and stop when necessary if we want to eat, get gas, or take pictures.

The road from Mt. Cook to Twizel follows Lake Pukaki so we stopped a few times for pictures since the sun was shinning pretty well. After we got to Twizel we pretty much drove non-stop for an hour. We drove along a huge lake with a dam at one point. I filmed out the window a lot.

We stopped for about 30 minutes at a pull over because there was a sign that said Maori Rock Art. The trail was about 100 yards. I ran the whole way while Andy was messing around taking pictures of some random rock cliff with holes in it.

I got to what I thought was the end and was pretty disappointed. There was a fence blocking the base of the cliff wall where the pictures were depicted inside a small overhang. They were a sail boat, some squiggly lines that they claimed European people, and something else. It was the dumbest thing I have ever seen. It looked like a 4 year old drew them. They weren’t even that old. They were from the 18th century. I would think they would have better tools than that by that time.

I ran back to where Andy was and couldn’t stop laughing. I told him that if he wanted to see some cool rock art to not get his hopes up. I went and sat back in the car for about 15 minutes waiting on him. I started to think that he must have died because there is no way I would be looking at that for 15 minutes. I ran back over to where the art was and saw him. He was dead. Not really.

He had walked further down the trail and saw more “art” that I had previously failed to see. This art was even less spectacular. There were little signs that explained what the art was. These signs showed the drawings, but on the cliff they weren’t there. They had been removed and taken to museums.

I ran back to the car one more time and waited for Andy. I didn’t take any pictures of the rock art, but I did take pictures of the small mountains in the distance. I could tell it was raining over near them. Andy finally showed up and we were back on the road to Dunedin.

We drove for a few hours slowing down each time we came to a town. It felt like driving through west Texas with little towns of a few hundred people, maybe less. We saw a neat church on the side of the road in one of them so we took a picture.

The only major cities we drove through were Omarama and Oamaru, which I kept calling Omarosa. At Oamaru we stopped at a KFC for lunch. They had a weird menu that made no sense with weird food choices. People in other countries seem to get chicken sandwiches from KFC instead of the normal bucket of chicken. They did offer the normal meals, but it wasn’t the same.

I couldn’t decide what I wanted, but eventually got two pieces of chicken that included a roll, a drink, and mashed potatoes and French fries. It was $10.50 NZD, which is about $7. Pretty expensive. KFC at home offers a similar meal for $2.99. We ate in the place and then drove across the street to a grocery store.

There large chain grocery stores that seem to be the cheapest are called New World. It seems like it’s a small Walmart, similar to the Neighborhood Market version. The prices aren’t great, but they were way better than the 4 Square we had been shopping at.

We bought a lot of food that should last us for awhile. We got spaghetti, sauce, bananas, lettuce, a cucumber, a huge bag of carrots, hotdogs, yogart, broccoli, milk, buns, cups of ramen noodles, cheese, bread, ham, cookies, and chap stick for me. It was about $50 NZD. At home that stuff would have cost about $20 probably.

We looked at pots, but they were about $30 NZD. We decided to wait on that. We were back on the road again and headed for Dunedin. We had no more scheduled stops, but we were getting low on gas. It seemed like we should be able to make it the whole way though.

We finally made it to Dunedin around 4 PM. It was cloudy and had been raining off and on as we were getting closer to the town. We planned to stay in a hostel tonight that I pre-booked, but didn’t know exactly where it was. We knew it was in the city center and the street, but that was all.

Dunedin is a pretty cool town with steep roads and houses on the hills. It’s like a coastal town you might see in the northeast or west coast of the United States. The downtown area reminded me of a Midwestern city for some reason.

In the city center there are two roads shaped like an octagon, one inside the other, with side roads feeding in. Some of the roads were one way while others weren’t. Every few hundred feet the roads would change names randomly. It made navigating pretty tough. We finally were able to see the Dunedin Backpackers Hostel, but there wasn’t any parking. Andy stopped on the side of the road in a 5 minute parking spot while I ran upstairs to check in.

The guy inside gave me a brief tour of the kitchen and living area and then gave me directions on where to park and things to do. I asked where a Katmandu store was and he showed me on the map. We drove down the street a few blocks and paid to park for 40 minutes on the side of the road. It was $2 NZD. This area is full of shopping on either side of the road and there is a ton of traffic.

We ran inside and immediately found the pots. They were a good size and not too expensive, but they were aluminum. I had been wanting titanium since they are lighter weight. We also were looking for long sleeve shirts made with merino wool. It’s very expensive, but supposed to be warm and dries easily. I think it doesn’t smell bad either and you can wear the shirts for days without a problem.

Katmandu is a New Zealand brand outdoor store and was having a major sale going on which we had seen on T.V. and heard on the radio. Everything was deeply discounted, but because the prices were already so high to begin with the discounts weren’t very good. The merino wool shirts I liked were normally $259 NZD, but on sale for $159 NZD. That’s a good discount, but $130 for a shirt was out of my budget for something I didn’t really need that badly.

We walked around for about 35 minutes and finally decided the pots were necessary and we’d buy them. It included two pots and a frying pan. Now we can have eggs and warm food, as long as the places we camp have a community kitchen with a stove. The Holiday Parks all over the country offer them, but they are a little more expensive to sleep in. We won’t need them tonight because the hostel has a kitchen with everything we need.

We made it back outside just before our time was up. I never saw any policemen in the town so I don’t think it would have been a problem if we were a few minutes late. Right next door was another outdoor store that was having a sale. I went in to see if they sold titanium pots and merino wool. The pots were all aluminum and the merino wool was still too expensive, although cheaper than the last place.

I did find a spoon and fork combo for sale that was only $3.95 NZD. I was going to just buy a spoon at first for $1.95 so I ran to the car to get a few dollars. When I came back I saw the spoon/fork so I ran back to get more money. I bought that and then we left to find the parking for the hostel.

There was free parking on a side street a few blocks away or we could park closer for free after 6. We wanted to park closer so we drove around looking for a spot. Parking in the center is ridiculous. It’s either not allowed, 5 minutes max, or pay lots of money to park on the street. It was about 5:30 so we drove to the free parking a few blocks away.

It seemed like a far walk and we weren’t sure if we were in the right area since some signs said residence only. We decided at 6 we’d drive closer and see what we could find. We ended up driving in circles getting lost looking for a spot to park. At one point we drove into a parking garage for the library, but it said it closed at 8:30 PM and was only for guests of the library so we left that place. We then found another parking garage, but realized it wasn’t going to be free. We wanted to back out, but a van pulled in behind us at the entrance so we had to take a ticket and go in. We considered parking and drove to the next level, but decided we should try to leave.

At the exit we told a worker that we didn’t want to park there and he said if we put in the ticket there is a grace period. We were able to get out for free. We were back to driving around on the road. We found a street around the corner from the hostel that had one open spot. It was right next to the pay meter so we didn’t know if it was considered free after 6. We decided it was and parked.

We packed the things we would need for the next two days, food, change of clothes, and toiletries and walked around the corner to the hostel. I paid and asked the guy about parking and he said it was fine. He showed us to our room and the bunk bed we would have. We stayed in a 10-bed dorm. All the other guys in there were German.
There were three guys in there at the time all in their bed, all on the computer. Only one set of bunk beds looked unused. I was hoping the room would be empty. I’m thinking most of the people in this hostel were students in the town since Dunedin is a college town. Why else would there be tons of Germans that don’t act like tourists?

We decided it was time for dinner around 6:30 and that we would boil our hotdogs and eat a carrot and cookies. The hotdogs took about 10 minutes to make. I thought it tasted pretty good and was better than eating a sandwich for once. We also had a glass of milk.

After dinner we took showers. The guy at the desk pointed to two doors and said those are the showers so I wasn’t really sure how it worked. I walked into the first door and there was a girl in there. I asked if this was the showers for everyone and she said down the hall was for the guys. Good thing she was dressed I guess. That would have been awkward.

The shower was really hot and felt good. It was the first shower I had had in a few days. I was ready to put on clean clothes and fix my hair. I’ve been wearing my stocking hat a lot so my hair was messed up. After the shower I went back to the room. There wasn’t really much else to do.

It was dark, cold, and rainy outside so I didn’t want to walk around and see the city. In the living room there were some Germans playing guitar hero or something. Usually when I walked by they were either playing a video game or watching some American T.V. show. I saw “Who’s Line Is It Anyway” on at one point. Nobody watches that show.

I went to the room and got on the internet for the first time in awhile and checked my emails. Internet is free here so that was good. I didn’t write in my journal at all and got behind by a day. So now I’m two days behind. Hopefully I can get caught up pretty soon.

It’s June 16 now, but we are staying in a campground with no electricity and my battery is about to die. We plan to go to a hostel in a few days so I should be able to charge it then and hopefully get caught up.

The idiot Germans were making lots of noise in the room. When we first got there they were quiet, but now that it is almost bedtime they want to be loud. One of the guys was wearing a headset and playing on his computer talking. I think he was playing a game with someone online. He was just saying “Hallo, Hallo, Hallo” over and over. Shut up you stupid kid. It’s 10 PM, go to bed.

They also had the window opened. I was freezing. Just typing was making my hands cold. Luckily the blanket on the bed was warm. I think I went to bed that night around 10:30. Pretty late night for us on this trip.

June 15 - Dunedin - Otago Peninsula

June 15 - Dunedin - Otago Peninsula

We woke up this morning around 8:15 AM to go to the Otago Peninsula. We had taken showers the night before so all we needed to do was eat breakfast and be on our way. Around 8:40 some old guy that worked at the hostel came into the kitchen and asked what we planned to do for the day.

We told him that we wanted to drive out to Otago Peninsula. He then proceeded to give us directions which took about 15 minutes. He included landmarks, but never said street names. After about 2 minutes I was lost and just quit listening. He is the second person I have heard from New Zealand give directions that made no sense. A few days before I heard a guy giving directions to two other people.

He also told us about places to see penguins and albatross. The albatross area is blocked off unless you pay for an expensive tour, we didn’t plan to do that. He said that most of the penguins come in the morning and would be gone by the time we got there. We also have a chance to see sea lions. Maybe we will see something.

It was about 8:55 when we stopped talking to the guy and had to get to our car before 9 because that’s when you have to pay to park. It was only a few hundred yards to the car so it wasn’t a problem. Plus it wasn’t like people were watching to make sure you paid.

It was cold and drizzly outside. The clouds were low and covering up the hillsides around us and the city, but it still looked neat. We needed to get gas so we drove down to the main road and found a cheap BP. Gas is about $2.05 a liter. Kind of expensive really.

After we got gas we just started following the signs to Otago Peninsula since the directions we were given didn’t make any sense. It seemed like lots of people were out driving around. As we got to Otago Peninsula there was less traffic. The road follows the waters edge and there is no railing at all. It’s literally a few feet from the road to a small drop off and into the ocean below. I’m sure lots of cars wreck in this area because a lot of the turns are very sharp.

We drove about half way and then decided to go see Larnach Castle, which was built by an Australian banker in the mid-1860s to impress his third wife. He later killed himself. The drive up was very foggy with lots of green pastures and sheep all over the place. We kept calling it the Shire.

The road to the top was very steep with lots of sharp turns. At the entrance we had to pay to enter. We just wanted to take pictures of the outside, but to see the gardens and outside of the castle was going to cost $12.50 NZD per person. To go inside was going to be $27 NZD per person. At the door we could pay the difference if we decided to go inside.

When we got there only three other people were walking around. It was cold and drizzling rain and sleet. We took some pictures and then walked around. The gardens were basically an open grassy area with a few trees. It was nice, but not much of a garden. I wanted to go to the bathroom to warm up and get out of the rain. In this area is a huge dinning room that is usually used as a cafeteria, but it was having repairs. We were able to get pictures though. On the opposite end of the hall way was a view into the castle itself. It seemed like a small living area with a staircase.

We walked down the trails and road to see a lookout over the hills to the ocean. It wasn’t really the ocean, but more of a bay. There was a covered gazebo to take pictures from to get out of the rain. We did a few gopro shots walking around the grounds. We walked around to the back after stopping at the bathroom one more time to warm up and dry our hands.

In the back was a small run down building hidden in the trees and the horse stables. You can stay the night in the castle or in the stables if you want to pay a lot of money. It was renovated and seemed pretty nice. They sold food in this area and it was slightly way over priced.

After warming up by the fire and watching a New Zealand Travel Channel show for a few minutes we walked back to the front of the castle for a few more pictures. It had stopped raining, but it was still really cold. It was very foggy and dark in a lot of our pictures so it made it seem like Scotland.

We never went inside because it didn’t look like much of a castle. It was shaped like a castle, but it was pretty run down. The previous owners didn’t take good care of it so the new owners were doing a lot of renovations. It was still neat to look at though.

After spending a couple of hours walking around the castle we decided it was time to continue our drive to the end of the Otago Peninsula. Along the way the weather started to clear up a lot. We stopped a couple of times to take pictures of the bay and the surrounding scenery.

We made it to the albatross center around 12:00, but it didn’t open until 12:30. I didn’t realize that at first and just thought the place was deserted because of the bad weather. A few minutes later a couple of workers showed up and a campervan.

While we waited in the parking lot we had lunch. We ate ham sandwiches, chips, and cookies. We put cucumbers on the sandwich and it made it taste pretty good. We didn’t plan to go inside the albatross center since it was so expensive, we were mostly just waiting for the weather to improve.

I wanted to get a picture of the lighthouse that I had seen just around the corner from where we parked. It was about 20 yards to walk to the side of the hill to be able to see it, but I didn’t want to get out of the car. So we drove around the corner. It wasn’t much of a lighthouse so we drove back to where we originally were parked.

While we were sitting there a few more people started showing up. Maybe they were going to make some money after all. We saw a rainbow so we jumped out of the car and started taking pictures. As we were standing there the rainbow started getting bigger and closer. It eventually became a full rainbow. The end of the rainbow was in the water down the hill just below us, and the other end was on the hillside just across from us. I had never seen a rainbow where you could see the end of both sides.

After getting enough pictures and the rainbow disappearing we got back in the car and headed back. There are two parts of the road to Otago Peninsula. A low road, which follows the coast, and the high road, which overlooks the two sides of the peninsula from above. We came in on the low road, so we were heading back on the high road.

There was a trail to Sandfly Beach that we wanted to do in order to see penguins or sea lions if there were any still there at this time of day. We drove for about 30 minutes until we got to the turn off to the hike. The trail was supposed to take about an hour to complete, but I didn’t know if I wanted to walk the whole way. I mostly just wanted to see views of the ocean.

We came to the end of the road and found the trailhead. We had to walk through a gate and through a sheep pasture for a few hundred yards along a relatively well marked trail. There was a steep drop off down to the ocean below. There was no danger of falling off because there was a fence.

We walked for about 3 minutes in this area until the official start of the trail head. There was a little platform with overlook where I had my picture taken. We then started hiking. This portion of the trail was becoming less defined. There was a sign stating that would be the case.

We were going down to the ocean, so it was basically a straight down hike through a short forested area and then onto a steep sand dune. It was easy to walk along, but my feet were sinking. After a few hundred yards we were at the ocean.

I immediately walked over to touch the water. To the right was a steep cliff with huge waves crashing one after another. In front of us was ocean with smaller waves coming one after another, but it was very choppy and not safe for swimming. To the left was the beach that led to cliffs off in the distance. Somewhere in that direction are the sea lions and penguins.

All across the beach were huge pieces of kelp and sea weed. It was pretty neat to see. We walked around for a little bit taking pictures of the beach and the small sand dunes around the area. Before we started our hike back up we stopped to take a pee on the sand dunes and sea weed we had seen.

The hike back up took about 15 minutes. It wasn’t very hard. At the top we took a few last pictures and then hiked back through the sheep pasture to the car. There was a small gate that had to be opened and closed as you walked through so sheep couldn’t escape. I stood up on top of the fence to take a few more pictures.

I thought maybe off in the distance I could see some sea lions, but it was pretty far and they weren’t moving so it may have been rocks. I looked back down the road behind me and I saw a car coming towards us. Earlier on the hike we had seen a group of three people, two girls and a guy. They had stopped when they got to the steep sandy part because they didn’t want to get dirty, but other than that we were the only ones on the hike.

As the car approached I jumped off the fence just in case he owned the land or something. It ended up being an old man that liked to come out to the area and just watch the sun go down. He said he had done the hike about 30 times over the years. He kept looking off into the distance where I thought the sea lions could be. He kept saying “yep, those are seals down there. Well, maybe.” I was starting to laugh so I had to turn away from him and cover my mouth.

There is no way in the world he could see if those were sea lions. It was at least 2 miles away, getting dark, and he was about 80 years old. He kept talking for about 10 minutes about random things. He reminded me of the crazy old guy from the movie Pet Cemetery. I finally told Andy we should go so we could get out of there. The crazy guy said he shouldn’t probably go to.

When we got back in the car I started laughing and said “crazy old coot.” There was no way he could see that far. Andy thought he was Sauron from Lord of the Rings because he could see really far like the seeing eye.

We started back down the road. We stopped a lot to take pictures. We saw an old rock fence which was neat, and good views out into the ocean over the hills. The drive back to town took about 30 minutes. It was around 4 PM and the skies were much clearer, especially on the side of the bay that we started on in the morning.

We went back to the town center and stopped at the train station to take a few pictures. The parking cost money, but we just stopped in a spot for a few minutes to take pictures and then got back in. We had to park on the side of a hill on a street that offered free parking. It was about twice as far as our other parking area. We couldn’t park there for free until after 6, so this would have to do for now.

We decided we wanted to see the churches in town and take pictures of those. We parked and then started hiking back into the center which took about 7 minutes and was mostly downhill. We saw an old church, which was next to a large government looking building, possibly a courthouse. It was starting to rain slightly at this point. We had been looking for Merino Wool t-shirts and I saw a store across the street so we walked over there. Most of the stuff was way over priced and he didn’t have the brand we wanted. We were looking for Icebreaker since we had read about it’s no stick ability and it’s wicking power. Those shirts are made in China and the owner of this store only sold products made in New Zealand.

We then hiked down the street to the train station and a few other buildings with neat architecture. It was almost 5:30 at this time and starting to get dark. We were trying to find a church, but we could only see the steeple and couldn’t find how to get to it. We walked down the main road a little in front of the train station to get a better view. We turned back up the road and then had to turn back towards the road we had previously been on when going towards the train station. We had walked in a complete circle.

As we walked up a little more we could see the church to our left. I don’t know how we couldn’t see it before. It was a Presbyterian Church. It was pretty cool looking, especially in the dark. It had two large spires in front with a huge door. We then headed down the road to the next church.

I’m not sure the building we saw was a church. It had been turned into a movie theatre, but from the outside it looked just like a church building. Right across the street was another building that looked like a church, but had been turned into apartments. I guess nobody goes to church in New Zealand so they just convert them to something useful.

It was now about 5:45 and very dark. It was getting colder and raining a little bit. We made one last pass by the courthouse, took a few more pictures in the dark, and then started back. Across the street the other direction was a rugby store so we went in there for a minute. It didn’t have anything we wanted and I had no money with me so we left.

We hiked back to the car and decided to look for a closer spot to park. We spent the next 30 minutes driving in circles all over the town center looking for a spot, mostly in the same area we had parked before. We didn’t have any luck and eventually parked in the exact same spot we had left on the side of the hill. The hike down wasn’t bad, but I didn’t want to have to do it in the morning with all of our stuff, which wasn’t very much. I just didn’t want to have to do it with all the groceries we needed to take in for our feast.

Along the way we got lost. I was in front of Andy by about 50 yards and somehow turned down the wrong street. We walked for about 2 minutes the wrong way before we decided it didn’t look right. We turned around and figured out where to go.

We got back to the hostel and decided we wanted to have some dinner. We made spaghetti, a sliced carrot each, salad with cucumbers, carrots, ranch, and lettuce, steamed broccoli, and milk. It was more food than I had eaten the previous three days combined. It was a pretty good meal. We intended to put the broccoli in the salad, but as we were washing it off we found two small green worms on it. We figured if we steamed it then anymore would fall off or die.

After dinner was over we went back to the room. In the living room people were watching Futurama and Parks and Recreation the two times I walked by. Some of these people never seem to leave. Back in the room were the same Germans, sitting around playing on the computer.

It was about 8:30 PM and I was ready to write my journal, charge my batteries, and then go to bed. One of the Germans decided it would be a good idea to shave his head. He was taking pictures of himself during the process. It took him over an hour to get it done. Occasionally one of his nerdy friends would help him and they would laugh and talk really loudly.

I eventually fell asleep around 10:30 PM. I woke up around 11:30 and turned off my computer. Tomorrow we are planning to drive to Queenstown.

June 20 - Milford Sound

June 20 - Milford Sound

I got up this morning just before 7 AM. I only know the time because the alarm went off at 7 AM and I had woken up a few minutes before. It was very dark outside still, but it wasn‘t very cold. It was probably in the mid-40s all night. At least that‘s how I felt. There was a sign that said the low would be around 2 Celsius, which is 35 degrees, but I felt much warmer than that. It was probably the best night of sleep I have had in the tent all trip.

I wanted to get up early though so we could start the drive to Milford Sound and have time to do all the things we wanted. Based on our new itinerary we figured we needed to be to Milford Sound by 5 PM in order to register for the Milford Sound hike and get a boat transport to the beginning in the morning.

We had a lot to do before we went started our drive so we needed an early start. In my mind I wanted to be on the road by 8:30 AM. It was kind of cloudy, but we were hoping for nice weather. I had taken a shower and charged my batteries the night before, so I would have less things to do. We took down the tent really fast and went to have breakfast. There was a toaster in the kitchen so we wanted to have peanut butter and jelly toast sandwiches. We also had hot chocolate.

After breakfast we headed to the grocery store to reload on food. There are no grocery stores in Milford Sound so Te Anau is the place travelers stock up. We went to a Fresh Choice because there was no New World. It was slightly more expensive for some things we had purchased before, but other things were cheaper as long as we chose the store brand. As a whole the groceries cost about the same as usual.

We spent about 20 minutes at the grocery store and then went down the road a block to a gas station. There is no gas station in Milford Sound either so you need a full tank of gas to get there and back. It is 120 kilometers one way, not counting any extra driving you may do. We are staying for 4 days so we will need to be careful on how much driving we do so we don’t get stuck getting back. We have a few day hikes we plan to do in addition to the two days on the Milford Track as well as a day doing a kayak trip.

While we were filling up gas the lady working there was talking to Andy about what we planned to do. She offered to give us a map. When I was paying she gave us a map identical to the one Andy had drawn the day before on the side of the road. It didn’t have all the lookouts, but it at least mentioned the hikes and a brief description of each. We had our map, our groceries, and our gas. We were ready to go. It was 8:40 AM, so we were just behind schedule.

It was still a little cloudy as we left the gas station, but the lady working there said it was going to clear up and be a nice day. We could see it did look clearer in the distance, so hopefully she was right. We had already seen a few places the day before, so our first stop was about 25 minutes down the road. Andy wanted to stop where the sheep were again.

We saw the first herd of sheep huddled up near the fence by the road. We stopped right next to the gate where there was a small pull off. As we got out the sheep started running. Andy tried to film them, but I think they were too fast. They stopped about 100 yards away and all just stared at us. The clouds behind them looked cool, but they didn’t show up very well in my pictures. Andy put on his telephoto lens so his may have been better.

Back on the road we stopped one more time for a herd of sheep. This herd was the one near the cabbage patch. The night before they were in the field of mud right next to it, but this morning they were in the field eating the vegetables. We stopped and got a couple of pictures and then started to head towards Mirror Lakes, our first official stop.

It was starting to clear up slightly, so it seemed like we might actually get a reflection with mountains in the back. The hike was right on the side of the road and was supposed to take about 10 minutes to walk. When we got there a small mini van bus was parked. It was a group of about 7 people, mostly in their 20s I would guess.

The hike is a boardwalk bridge the entire way. There are a few spots where trees are in the path, with the boardwalk going around it on either side. We immediately set up a few shots, but it was difficult because a lot of people stopped at this trail since it was so short. Most people just do the roadside hikes, and ignore the longer ones, just like in the U.S.

There are three spots on the trail where there is a deck area with views of the small lake and mountains behind. The first two spots it was cloudy and you couldn’t see very many clouds, but you could see a reflection. Most of the other people seemed to walk through, take a few pictures, if any, and then get back in their car in 10 minutes. We spent about 45 minutes at this stop. The longer we stayed the clearer it became.

By the time I got up to the third lookout you could see the mountains behind. Andy was taking forever so I was able to do some filming of just me walking, but we did do portions where we were both in the shots. Because of the boardwalk we could do different angles by placing the gopro on the railings. We did some from above, some below, some straight on.

We finally got all the pictures we wanted and were on the road one more time. We drove for about 10 minutes until we got to Knob’s Flat. The mountains were becoming much more clear and the valley looked really neat. We stopped a couple of different times in this area to get pictures.

We then drove for another 30 minutes until we got to Pop’s View, an overlook of the valley below with mountains all around. It was really becoming clear now, with even some blue skies. We took pictures for about 15 minutes and even used our telephoto lenses. We each had our picture taken in front of the mountains.

We were planning to go to a few waterfalls and do some short hikes, but decided the weather seemed perfect and we didn’t know when we would have another nice day so we drove back to the Key Summit hike. The other hikes would have to wait. They included the Lake Marian hike to a water fall, the chasm trail, Humboldt falls, and the Homer Tunnel trail. We wanted to do either the Lake Marian hike or Key Summit on the day we left and each took three hours. We figured with all the stopping it would take us about 5 hours. Since the weather was perfect it was a good day to do a hike that involved views of the surrounding mountains.

It was 11 AM when we stared the hike. The hike starts out in a forest of mossy trees. This area is a rainforest, and is very similar to the northwest United States. We took a few pictures along the trail and did a lot of gopro footage.

The first half of the trail is relatively flat with a few steeper sections, but nothing difficult. The further we walked the steeper and rockier the trail became. At one point there were a group of workers cutting a tree that had fallen on the path. In order to make sure they weren’t cutting when we passed through a lady that was chopping rocks with a pick axe radioed the people ahead that two hikers were coming through. She had to walk us about 150 yards to their location.

We passed a bridge with a small waterfall that we wanted to take a picture of on our return. At the section where the tree was we had to climb up a small portion that was muddy. I got a little dirty climbing there. I thought I had turned on my gopro to film this section, but I didn’t push the button hard enough to start the recording.

As we passed the fallen tree section I was starting to get hot. It was actually a warm day, maybe in the upper 40s I thought. I had on a long-sleeve shirt, a fleece, my rain jacket, and my hat and gloves so I was starting to sweat. We passed a couple of people along the way that were coming down, a few of them as we were trying to film a few shots with the gopro in the middle of the trail. They probably thought we were weird.

The trail was starting to leave the shade of the trees and was much more open. We had pretty good views of the mountains as it was becoming much less cloudy. Occasionally clouds would pass by, but they moved on quickly. The trail was also becoming a lot more rocky.

There were a few switchbacks and then a sign that said 1 hour return to the top including the alpine trail, which was a small trail that looped at the top giving higher views of the surrounding mountains. With all of the stopping we made it to the top around 1:30 PM.

There were 360 degree views of the mountains. I had been wanting to do some shots when played quickly would appear as they were moving in circle really fast. I did one that consisted of about 20 pictures in order to make that happen. Andy made his own too. There were a few portions where the settings on my camera made the sky washed out or the mountains dark, so I had to try a few different times. Eventually I just settled on pictures that made the sky washed out because I could edit them to look correctly.

At the top there is a small lake with little bushes around it. It made for really good pictures and reminded me of hikes I had done in Washington and Montana. This area is above the tree line. We did a lot of various angles on gopro shots. We also sat up our gopros to do timelapses. Andy did his of one set of mountains and I did mine of a different set. Based on the photos my gopro did for my Mt. Cook time lapse I think these should be good too since there were a lot of clouds passing by. I left my camera for about 35 minutes with a picture every 5 seconds. Andy left his for about 50 minutes at the same time. The mountain he was taking pictures stayed covered more often than mine did.

As we waited we had snacks. I had a granola bar and water. I had an apple with me, but I didn’t eat it. As we were at the top two girls passed by and a guy and a lady. They didn’t stop for very long. We stayed at the top for about an hour then started the short alpine nature trail. It led up to another look out.

Apparently there were maps we could have grabbed because there were markers along the trail with numbers on them. Andy said he saw a post that had them, but didn’t grab one for some reason. It was ok, I didn’t really care what they would mention anyway.

The trail was pretty flat at first, with a few rocky portions. There were a couple of boardwalks to cross with small ponds nearby. As we continued on for a few minutes there was another sign that mentioned a summit that was 5 minutes. The trail looked pretty steep, but not very bad. It started out mostly going straight up and then ended with a couple of short switch backs until the top.

At the top of this part there were more trees. It was basically a hill that gave slightly different views. There was supposed to be a view of Lake Marina below, but I never saw any lake. We took some more photos, and the guy and lady that had past us previously asked me to take a picture of them. I took two, both looked like they turned out ok, but the settings on the camera made the things appear much brighter than reality. They liked the pictures though and said the computer could fix it up.

We started heading back down the hill and onto the alpine trail on the other end of the loop. This part went across a boardwalk surrounded by some weird colored and shaped trees. Just past this part was the connection to the main Key Summit Trail. It was about 3 PM by now. A lot of the people that rushed through the hike missed all the great views of the mountains. When they were leaving they were still covered. Our slow moving paid off.

My goal was to be down by 4 PM so we could have lunch and drive to the Milford Sound Visitor Center. The map made it look like it would take about an hour to get there. We ran about half way down the trail. It was rocky and we had to be careful, but with all the experience we have hiking it was ok. It made the trail go by really fast. We had done a lot of filming on the way up, so we only had a few spots where we wanted to get shots on the way down.

One of them was the bridge with the waterfall. We stopped there and a few more times. We made it down just before 4 PM. We decided we didn’t have much time to be stopping to take pictures so we had to drive without stopping unless we saw something really neat.

We drove for about 30 minutes and then stopped at an overlook. There were other spots that were neat, but there was either no turn off or we felt that we didn’t have time. The spot we stopped was just passed the Homer Tunnel, a large tunnel that had been dug out during the great depression to create a road to Milford Sound. The tunnel is probably a mile long and goes down hill on one side and uphill coming back.

Where we pulled off we were surrounded by sheer cliff walls on 3 sides. If someone were hiking in this area before the road it would be pretty disheartening to see because there is no way to pass unless you want to climb straight up for hundreds of meters. It was still really clear so it was cool to see.

We stopped one more time at the Chasm trail parking lot because we could see the mountains really well. There was a Kea bird in the parking lot that was obviously wanting food from us. Signs and brochures said to not feed them. They look like parrots kind of. We took a picture of the mountains and the bird and then continued down the road.

We got back in the car and continued on, wondering where we were going to stay for the night and if we could book the Milford Track in time. We got to the end of the road to Mitre Peak, which is the opening to Milford Sound. We took a few quick pictures around 5 PM as the sun was beginning to set. It was neat, but the tide had gone out so a lot of the reflection you would ordinarily see was just sandbars and exposed rocks or tree limbs. It still looked cool though.

We didn’t know exactly where the visitor center was, but we noticed the road continued on for another half mile around the corner. We followed it to a huge building that was the boat dock for the cruises that go through the Sound and beyond. It was also the visitor center. It didn’t look like it was open. They had the floor waxing machines out on the ground.

We drove back to the peak look out and then decided that the big building must be what we were looking for. We drove by one more time and I got out to see the times it was open. It closed at 5 PM, it was 5:10 PM, we had just missed it. It seemed like going on the hike was becoming less of a possibility.

Our next mission was to find a place to sleep. There was a sign in the parking lot that showed a picture of a campervan that said $20 underneath it. I assumed that meant there was camping nearby for that price. Andy thought it meant it was how much it cost to park in the parking lot.

On our way in we had passed a campground about 45 minutes back, which we didn’t want to drive to. There was also a Milford Lodge. I looked in a brochure we had which said there was camping available there. It was only about 5 minutes down the road so we thought we would check it out. Lodge makes it sound expensive though, so hopefully it fits in our budget.

We got to the Lodge and then went inside to find out about camping. The lady thought we were crazy to sleep in a tent in this weather. It was only $18 per person for the night. Cheaper than Te Anau. It wasn’t as nice, but it wasn’t bad at all.

My main thing was if they had a kitchen and showers. If it had those I would be happy. I asked and the lady said that they had a kitchen that never closes, a lounge that closes at 11 PM, and showers and laundry. We didn’t need the laundry though. Showers were included, so it was already a better deal than some places we had been.

The kitchen and lounge area is one big building, which is nice too. I thought in a lodge they wouldn’t offer a full service kitchen with all the pots and stoves, but this one did. I was thinking it would be more of a hotel, but it seems to cater to campers just as much. It was good to have a nice kitchen, but ever since we bought our pots and pans from Katmandu we have only had to use them once. Either there was no kitchen at all, or the kitchens had everything we need.

We asked the lady at the counter about booking the Milford Sound Trail and she tried to call a few people about transport. She was able to find out that we could take a boat across at 8 AM, and come back the next day at 2 PM. She didn’t know about booking the trail though. She thought that needed to be done in Te Anau at the DOC office.

I had read we could book it online, but being 5:30 PM the day before we planned to go it seemed like things may be rushed and not work out. Also the boat transport was $80 NZD, which was much more than we wanted to pay for such a short trip that probably takes 10 minutes. I could just swim that or walk along the lake shore it seemed like.

We went outside and set up our tent just across the street from the main building. There was no real parking inside the tent camping sections. It was basically 12 tent sites with little green pads marking each one in a space that was about 40 yards by 40 yards. We initially parked in a camper van site hidden in the trees thinking that was the area tent campers parked.

We were put in site 1, but the lady said we could choose which site we wanted. We chose site 11 because it was a little more covered by the trees and seemed flatter. As we were finishing setting up the tent a camper van pulled up looking for site 16, which was where we were parked. We moved the car and just parked on a pull off near the trees. The lady at reception said it would be fine, but there was a parking lot about 100 yards away for people staying in the lodge and for tents. We didn’t move over there.

We wanted to eat a warm meal for the night. We settled on spaghetti with salad and steamed broccoli. We found another worm on the broccoli, but it was dead. That’s why we steamed it instead of adding it to our salad. We finished off the cucumber and ranch dressing. Andy had to open the new bottle we bought. It is a different brand, so hopefully it is just as good. I didn’t taste it yet. The previous kind is Paul Newman’s brand, this one is Eta. It was cheaper, but the same amount although the bottle looks smaller.

We also ate two cookies of our gross peanut butter ones. We bought a new bag of chocolate chip cookies so hopefully as we finish the gross ones off we can eat some good ones. Andy bought a king sized Cadbury chocolate bar and ate some of that. I didn’t eat my serving for the night though.

There was a Chinese family staying in the lodge and they were cooking as well. They had huge plates of something when we got there. One of the older ones, the dad I figured, was cooking some sort of steak on the stove in a pan. It looked really good and smelled good too. Chinese eat on vacation better than I eat at home. This is the second group of Chinese I have seen eat like this.

There were four guys cooking food too. One of them was making four pieces of toast, but another group was cooking shrimp or lobster with noodles. It also looked and smelled really good. Our meal was fine, but theirs seemed better. I wanted to eat what they had.

As we were eating we decided we weren’t going to be able to do the hike and would just spend the next two days seeing the Milford Sound area in more depth. We would be able to do all the hikes we couldn’t finish today, plus the Lake Marina hike. Before we thought we had to choose between Lake Marina and Key Summit. We also have a free day for our way back to Queenstown from Te Anau. We will probably spend that going to Mavora Lake or spending an extra day in Wanaka.

It wasn’t very cold out at night, but we stayed in the lounge until 10:50 PM catching up on our journals, charging batteries, and transferring pictures. Sadly there is no T.V. in the room, but there are a lot of uncomfortable couches. A lot of people were in there. About 5 guys were watching a DVD on their computer, and a few little kids were sitting around playing chess.

There were three Chinese boys and two girls in the lounge as well. The two girls were playing battleship at a table next to the couch we were sitting on. They were playing the game in English, but talking in Chinese. It made no sense.

The Chinese kids all left for awhile, Andy thought he heard them ask about a glow worm cave nearby, but I don’t know. They disappeared for about an hour and then came back. One of the boys asked if he could play the piano in the room. Nobody objected. I figured he was just going to play around on it, but he was actually really good.

One of the girls was recording him on her phone. He played some Mozart, Elton John’s “Can you feel the love tonight” from the Lion King, and a few other songs I didn’t know. He serenaded us for about an hour. When he stopped I was going to tell him to keep playing.

About 5 minutes later two other Chinese boys came into the room. One of them started playing as well. He was just as good, if not better. His friend was recording him a little too. All Chinese seem to be good at playing instruments, usually it’s the cello or something though. Their parents must force them to learn an instrument at a young age.

I remember in Hong Kong we were high on a hill overlooking the city and they had free binoculars to look through. I remember I could see into the high rise apartment buildings because none of them had shades it seemed. Anyway, when I was spying on these people there were a couple of little kids, probably between the ages of 9 to 12 years old playing an instrument in their room. Listening to these kids play the piano reminded me of that. It also made me think that I like the sound of the piano, it’s peaceful.

We left the lounge just before it closed. We went to the car and got our water bottles and filled them up. I was ready for a good night of sleeping. It was a long day and we were going to bed just after 11 PM. Tomorrow we plan to do the things along the road we missed today, which include the Chasm trail, Humboldt Falls, Milford Sound Harbor in the morning when the sun comes up, and a few viewpoints.

June 19 - Te Anau

June 19 - Te Anau

Last night was another relatively warm night. I didn’t wake up that often. We wanted to get up early and do some hiking around Queenstown, but it was pretty cloudy when we woke up around 7:30. We laid in bed until about 8:15 and then decided the clouds didn’t look like they were going to clear up anytime soon. Rather than waste to much time waiting to see if the weather would improve we decided to go to our next destination a day early and come back to Queenstown in a week when we passed through on our way north to Wanaka and the west coast.

I didn’t really care to do the hikes we were planning on doing in Queenstown anyway because we had already seen the mountains and views from that part of the lake anyway for the past two days. We took down the tent pretty fast, and I ate a quick breakfast that consisted of yogart and the last of my limbus bread, I also had a fiber one bar. I only have a few left, so I had been conserving them. We also finished off the last of our milk.

We had a two hour drive to Te Anau hoping that the weather was better there. The drive to Te Anau was pretty quick because we didn’t stop at all. I did a lot of gopro shots out the window. We passed the Mavora Lakes which we read was the place where the Dead Marshes was supposed to be in the Lord of the Rings movies. We plan to stop there on the way back north. We have to backtrack because there is no road north from Milford Sound and Te Anau to Wanaka and the west coast.

The weather started off being cloudy, but the further west we went the more clear it became. It was pretty foggy for large portions of the drive. We arrived in Te Anau around 1 PM. We stopped on the side of the road because we saw a big board that had visitor information. There was a map of the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound that showed all the pull-offs and hikes, plus a short description of each.

We were hoping we would get a brochure with the same information, but just in case I thought about taking a picture of the map. Instead Andy just drew the map in his notebook and wrote down each pull-off and how long the hike was supposed to take.

There was also information about the area on the board, including a map of the town of Te Anau. We figured we would stay for the night because the road to Milford Sound would take a minimum of two hours, and we intended to stop a lot. We couldn’t do that being so late in the day already. It was also cloudy and we didn’t think we would have good views.

We went into town looking for a campground we had seen in our guidebook. Based on the description we decided on a Top 10 Holiday Park, which is basically a KOA campground in the U.S. As we drove down the road the campground was on we saw a visitor center. We decided to stop and see if we could get a map of the hikes in the area and on the road to Milford Sound.

We looked around for a few minutes and then asked the lady at the desk about camping in town and Milford Sound. Andy purchased a brochure for $2 NZD that had the maps and information we had been wanting. We also found out about campgrounds in town. There were four Holiday Parks and one free campground. I had read about the free one, but it only consisted of a pit toilet. After sleeping in a place like that the past few nights and needing to do laundry and get a shower we decided to pay for a nicer place.

We stuck with our original selection of the Top 10 Holiday Park. It was only about a mile or two down the road. When we got to the park we went inside to talk to the lady at the reception desk. We told her we were tent camping and wanted to know if there was space available. Of course there was. Nobody else seems to be camping in a tent at this time of year. She said it was $22 NZD a person, a lot more than I was expecting to pay.

She explained the facilities they had so we thought it would be fine to pay a little more. They had a kitchen, a laundry room, nice showers with heated floors, and a T.V. lounge with internet. The internet cost money though so I didn‘t intend on using it. . It had just what we were wanting.

She asked if we would be too cold, I told her we had been sleeping in a tent the past few days and the weather had been cold, but we would be fine. She also wanted to know if we had a discount card, but we don’t. I had read about them, but they cost money to get 10% off of things. It didn’t seem worth it to pay money to save money. She was nice and gave us a $4 NZD discount though anyway.

She put us in a campsite right across from the bathroom and kitchen area. It had obviously been raining in town because the ground was wet. The site was grassy, which was different from the rocky areas we had been sleeping on in most places. This campground wasn’t very big and it seemed empty. There were a few dorm rooms that could be rented as well. They were basically a row of rooms with glass sliding doors that opened up to a small bedroom about 10 feet by 10 feet and consisted of a bed and a bunk bed. They looked like nice places to sleep, but nothing else.

We got the tent set up and then decided we would try to do the first three stops along the round to Milford Sound. The weather wasn’t very good, but it was better than nothing. The stops included a few lookouts and a hike to a lake. We figured all of them were very short and wouldn’t take too long to complete.

It was very over cast at this point and we couldn’t see very many mountains in the area, although we knew they were there because we could see the very tip of a tall mountain in the distance as we came into town. Lake Te Anau is the largest lake in the southern hemisphere and is surrounded by mountains. All we could see driving along the lake was the very bottom of them.

As we left the campsite and went into the town center we passed a street named “Wong Way.“ We thought it was kind of funny and planned to get a picture of it eventually. We drove for about 20 minutes down the road, but never saw the turn off for the first lookout and there wasn’t much to see anyway. We drove for another 15 minutes and came to Mistletoe Lake, our first stop. The hike was supposed to take 30 minutes round trip. We figured it would take us about an hour because most of the hikes have been taking twice as long as indicated because of all the stopping we do.

There was nobody on the trail except us. The hike was mostly very flat. It started out being in the woods and then gradually opened up into a field of ferns that lined the sides of the trail. After a few switchbacks we were at the lake. Even with stops it only took about 15 minutes to get there. Leading up to the overview of the small lake is a boardwalk. Andy was getting behind so I just did my own gopro shots of me walking and holding the camera.

The lake looked like the perfect place for moose to live, but New Zealand has no animals bigger than a possum it seems. The only deer we see our fenced in and obviously being raised for the sole purpose of being eaten. I don’t know if there never were large animals here or if they have all just been killed off. It doesn’t seem likely though because the South Island only has a million people, and most live in the northern part in Christchurch. I keep thinking they should introduce deer, elk, moose, bears, and wolves to the region. They would thrive in a place like this and it would be just like Canada.

The lake is surrounded by hills on the far side and ferns along the banks. We hiked off the trail a few yards to get a lower angle for taking pictures. We did a few gopro shots and then went across the boardwalk. After the boardwalk the trail goes left, back the way we came, or to the right. We didn’t know where it lead and for how long, but we chose to go right.

This portion of the trail leads back into the woods. The trees in this area were covered in moss. This region is a rain forest and gets about 7 meters of rain per year. We stopped a lot along this route doing gopro videos and taking pictures. The trail was very scenic and reminded me a lot of Olympic National Park in Washington state.

Near the end of the trail there is a small footbridge where we took pictures. This portion of the trail took about an hour to complete. At the end of the trail you come to the highway. There is a sign that says “Carpark 400 Meters” and points to the left. The last ¼ mile you have to walk along the road. That seemed kind of dumb.

Across the street we could see the lake and the clouds were starting to clear up a little bit. We walked over and took a few pictures and then went up the road. I had left before Andy so I was about 100 yards ahead of him. On the right there is the Fiordland Lodge, which looked like a nice place, but it was probably expensive.

I crossed the road and the car park was just ahead. I waited at the car for a few minutes and then Andy showed up. We got back in the car and continued down the road to our next stop. We were looking for a lookout and considered driving to Mirror Lakes possibly. We drove for about 20 minutes, but the skies stayed mostly cloudy as if it was going to rain.

As we drove we saw a few spots that reminded us of the Shire. We could see a river to the left of us, but there were never any pull offs to take pictures. We eventually saw a part of the road that was slightly wider, but flew past it. I said it looked kind of neat and thought I saw a bench so it could be the look off we were searching for. Andy pulled over and turned around.

The bench was actually a tall wooden plank resting against a guardrail. There were a lot of trees blocking the views of the river and any mountains or hills in the distance were blocked by the clouds. We climbed up on top of the wooden plank to get better views. It was about 4 ½ feet off the ground. If we would have slipped we would have fallen over a little wire fence into the bushes below. It wasn’t a straight drop off cliff so we wouldn’t have fallen too far.

The view was ok, but not great. The river did look cool though so we got a few pictures. A few cars went speeding by and probably wondered what we were doing. I jumped down to the ground and we got back into the car to continue on since we didn’t think that was the real view we were hoping to see.

We drove down the road for another 15 kilometers, about half way to the Mirror Lakes. We decided we would do those the next day when we drove to Milford Sound, but continue driving just to see if we could find anything else worth taking pictures of since we had nothing else to do and it wasn’t dark yet.

We passed a few large herds of sheep that Andy wanted to take pictures of on the way back. The farther we went the less clouds there were. We were actually able to start seeing mountains all around us. This road is supposed to be one of the prettiest drives in the world, and when it’s clear outside it seems like it would be. The mountains were all covered in snow, but it didn’t seem like it was that cold. It was actually very comfortable in Te Anau. I would guess in the mid-40s, which for us was warm after spending time in Queenstown and Mt. Cook.

We stopped a couple of times to take pictures of the fields, creeks, and mountains. There was a strange blue fog underneath the gray fog just above it. It looked really cool, but it was hard to make it look the same in pictures.

Along the way there were a number of primitive campsites that are on the side of the road. They consist of a single picnic table and a parking lot large enough for a few campervans. It didn’t seem like anything was marked for tent sites, but they could possibly be thrown up where ever. Most of the pull offs say no camping, so these are specifically designed for people needing a place to stay for cheap. In the winter they are free, I’m not sure if they cost money at other times of year though. We had planned on staying in one of these originally, but decided it was too far down the road for where we wanted to be.

We turned around and started the 45 minute drive back to Te Anau. We had driven about a third of the way to Milford Sound. We were hoping the weather would be more clear the next day so we could see all the mountains we missed this day.

We stopped to take pictures of a huge herd of sheep that we passed before. They were fenced in and just standing in a huge field of mud. We had to drive down about 70 yards past them where a pull off was. It had a gate to another pasture that was across the street. It seemed like a place where the farmer would pull in to do any kind of work. Next to the sheep was a crop of some sort growing. It looked like cabbage to me, but maybe not.

I took a couple of pictures and then ran off just in case Farmer Joe showed up. Andy kept taking forever. He finally got back to the car and we started driving again. As we got back on the road a huge tour bus was following us. The road was very hilly with lots of switch backs, but the bus kept gaining ground. For some reason bus drivers in foreign countries are crazy and drive like maniacs. Eventually the bus caught up and was right on our tail.

We turned off in Te Anau Downs at an over look of the lake. It’s the launching point for people wanting to do the 4-day Milford Track Trail. The first portion you take a boat across Lake Te Anau and then begin hiking, and end at another boat dock that you must cross. Because we are a day ahead we are considering doing the last day of the Milford Track hike and staying in a hut if we can register in time and find the proper boat transport.

We got our pictures and then continued down the road. It was getting dark now and we didn’t stop for the rest of the ride. We got back to the campground just as it was getting dark and decided to have dinner, do laundry, take showers, and then see how we could change the itinerary to fit the Milford Track hike. We had two free days later on that we could rearrange, and a few places we considered not going to after all - Kaikoura and Akaroa, because we had already gone to Akaroa and Kaikoura was all the way on the east coast and it just had penguins, sea lions, and dolphins. We felt wasting an entire day driving across the country may not be worth the trouble.

We decided we wanted to eat a big dinner since we hadn’t had anything for lunch. We had three hotdogs left over and the can of beans we had found at Mt. Cook that somebody had left behind. We had been wanting to eat them so we boiled the hotdogs and cooked the beans. Andy put his half of the extra hotdog in his beans, but I ate mine with just mustard. We also had a salad with lettuce, carrots, cucumber, and broccoli. We ate two cookies for desert. It was a really big meal and tasted really good.

While dinner was cooking Andy put the laundry in to wash. We were able to fit everything in one load. We didn’t have to use soap because it came with it. As we were cleaning up a lady came in to start her dinner. She was cooking lamb chops. Her husband came by a few times as well.

They were from Pittsburgh and had been to New Zealand 10 years ago with their kids. They had been visiting their daughter and her husband for 2 weeks. Their daughter was a doctor in Christchurch. We talked to her for a little bit about what they had done and what we planned to do.

They had done basically an identical trip to what we planned on doing so they knew about all the cool things to see and do. I asked her about Fox Glacier and a few other places of interest and she said we would love it. After dinner it was time to dry our clothes.

Andy went to dry our clothes while I packed up our food and cleaned dishes. I went over to the T.V. room and started charging my camera battery and typing in my journal. The room had two computers, and four love seats a few feet apart all facing forward towards a T.V. It was set up like a media room I guess. There were only five channels though and 3 of them were news.

Andy came and joined and we started trying to rearrange the itinerary. We ended up taking out Kaikoura, and taking a day off of Wanaka. It would allow us to do more at Milford Sound and Manapouri, just south of Te Anau. There was a portion of Lord of the Rings filmed on a hike we wanted to do there.

We also wrote down all the stops and hikes we wanted to do in and around Milford Sound to make sure everything would fit. In order for this to work though we would have to book our place on the track the next day and find out about a boat transport. We figured the DOC office, where we would need to book, would be in Milford Sound and close around 6:30 PM. In other places they stayed open later, but Milford Sound is a tiny town with few overnight tourists at this time of year.

During this time a group of English people were sitting in the back of the room at a table playing some sort of game. I think it was cards. A lot of people kept walking by the window in the front. I thought it was strange because there were only two campervans over there. Where were these people coming from and where were they going?

When the laundry finished drying I picked out some clothes and then went to take a shower. Andy folded his clothes and wrote in his journal. Before I went I plugged in my computer to charge it since the battery was getting low.

The shower felt really good. It was really big and very hot water. There was a big bench to put all of my things and hooks to hang my clothes. This wasn’t a real campsite in my mind, but it was perfect for what we needed. It was a little more expensive, but well worth it.

After my shower I went back to the T.V. room and continued typing in my journal. Andy said I hadn’t fully plugged in my battery when I left and he noticed it and fixed it. So it hadn’t been charging for that long. I moved from where I had been sitting so I could continue charging the computer. There was no outlet where I had been before, in the front row of the couches.

The English people left shortly after I got back, it was about 10:15 PM at this time. Andy went to take his shower around 10:30 and came back just after 11. The T.V. room was supposed to close at 11, but it didn’t seem like anyone was coming to kick us out. I wanted to sleep in there since it was warm and they had couches, but there was a sign saying that sleeping in the lounge wouldn’t be tolerated. I guess others have tried it before.

At about 11:15 PM we went to the tent to get ready for bed. We filled our bottles with hot water and put them at our feet. My water bottle is bigger than Andy’s so I didn’t fill mine all the way. It was almost too hot to carry back to the tent. I had to hold it back the clip at the top. It was a really warm night for sleeping based on what we had experienced. I was thinking it was going to be cold since the lady working at the campground tried to convince us it was going to get cold that night. I was perfectly comfortable and fell asleep after about 10 minutes probably.

June 18 - Queenstown

June 18 - Queenstown

Last night my computer died so I wasn’t able to complete my daily journal entry. We didn’t have anyway to charge my battery so I am now two days behind on typing. The night before we froze our butts off in the tent, but the weather was much warmer last night. I kept my pants on, wore my new long-sleeve merino wool shirt, and stuffed my jacket, hats, gloves, and fleece by my feet and used my pillow as an actual pillow. I have also been using my scarf to cover my face since it sometimes pokes out the top opening of my sleeping bag. It seemed to work very well.

I went to bed extremely early so I woke up extremely early. I think I must have woke up around 5 AM. It was pitch black, but I couldn’t sleep anymore. I just laid in bed until the alarm went off at 7:30 AM. At one point in the night I woke up and it was lightly raining, but it wasn’t too hard thankfully.

We have been setting it early because I like to wake up slowly. Andy pushes snooze until about 8:15 AM when we get up. It’s not even that early to wake up, but since it stays dark until about 7:45 it’s fine. I don’t know if it’s because the tent is dark, the clouds and mountain block the sun, or if the sun actually doesn’t come up until much later in the day because of where we are. I think it’s a combination of all of those things.

Our goal today is to do a jet boat ride at 11:30 AM and then do paragliding at 1:30 PM. We had a few hours to waste and I needed to charge my batteries for my camera and computer. We decided we would go to McDonalds and have a warm breakfast and charge the batteries that we could from 9 AM until 10 AM, and then go to the library and transfer pictures to clear our memory cards and possibly use the internet until 11:00 AM when we intended to drive to the jet boat location.

We left for the McDonald’s a little after 8:45 AM. It was very cloudy outside and cold. We knew the weather in the morning would be bad, but we were hoping it would clear up in the afternoon for paragliding. We wanted to park for free so we parked a few blocks from the McDonald’s near a church on Church Street. It was a one-way road so we had to make a loop in order to get into the parking spots. They were only good for 30 minutes free.

As we pulled up we had to wait on an old man who was trying to back into a spot in order to drop off some huge wooden thing he had in the back of his car. It looked like a piece of furniture of some kind. He was trying to park in a spot that was slanted and facing the opposite direction of how he was positioned. I don’t know what he was doing, but he was nowhere close to making the turn. He couldn’t see well apparently because he had the driver’s side door open slightly, but that was still useless.

There was a car, four empty spots, then another car. He had plenty of room to park the way he wanted to, but it wasn’t really working out for him. We watched him for about 5 minutes try to maneuver his car how he wanted to no avail. He backed his car up, slightly turned, and then smack. Right into the back of a station wagon. He pulled forward a few feet, made a small adjustment, and smack. Right into the back of the station wagon again. He tried one more time. Smack. Right into the back of the station wagon. This time he got out of the car, inspected the damage. Shook his head no as if nothing was wrong with the car, even though there was an obvious dent in the bumper, and then tried again. This time he finally made the proper turn. It was the funniest and saddest thing I had seen in a while. It was kind of pathetic.

We parked, a few spots away from the guy and across from him and walked to the McDonald’s. It was about 100 yards down the street. There was an upstairs and then a basement which was a food court for a tiny shopping mall. It seemed like it was just a few clothing stores above, not much to choose from. We walked around for a few minutes looking for an outlet and found a couple. I plugged in my computer, but there was no power. A key needed to be turned to activate the switch. We decided we were hungry anyway so we went ahead and ordered food. We each got a Kiwi Big Breakfast. It consisted of eggs, hash brown, two link sausages, and an English muffin. It was kind of expensive. I think it was about $6.50 NZD. It was decent though and warm.

We finished eating and got back to the car at 9:35, right as our 30 minutes was ending. We drove a few blocks to the library and waited in the parking lot at 9:45 AM. It didn’t open until 10 AM. Other people were waiting too, most of them came walking up and just stood by the door. Nerds. A lady parked next to us, fixed her make up and then dropped off her book. I only mention it because her hair was a mess and all she was doing was dropping a book in a box. It didn’t seem necessary to spend 10 minutes putting on lipstick to do that.

They opened the doors a few minutes early so we went right in. I immediately plugged in my computer and started transferring my gopro memory cards so I would have enough space for the day’s adventures. Andy tried to use one of the library computers, but it cost money to use internet so he assumed it would cost to do anything. He wanted to transfer his pictures too. He only has a few memory cards and most of them are 8 GB. He is borrowing one of my 16 GB cards in his gopro now.

My cards took about 30 minutes to transfer. While that was taking place I was completing my journal entry that I had get cut off from the battery dying. I finished transferring my cards and then Andy hooked up his external hard drive and transferred his. I continued typing my journal.

Our things finished around 10:50. We had wanted to leave around 10:45 to get to the jet boat because we weren’t sure how long it would take to get there. We were told it was only a few kilometers, but we wanted to make sure we were on time. There are a few different companies that do jet boat tours, but we are using the Shotover Jet Boat company. They have been doing these rides since 1970 and have taken over 3 million people.

We got to the jet boat around 11:05. We parked and went inside to check in for our 11:30 appointment. They said that they could fit us on a little early since the boat they had ready wasn’t full. We walked down to the shore and put on life jackets and long rain jackets to protect us. I was holding my gopro and they said I couldn’t take it on the boat. No cameras. Rip off. They pulled each group of people aside and took our pictures. Probably so they could identify the bodies or something.

The boats hold 14 people plus a driver. There was a group of 3 people already there waiting when we showed up. A bus dropped off another group of people and they joined us. A few of them had small digital cameras, but they weren’t told to put there’s in a locker like I had been.

The boat has raised seats slightly There are three seats in the front, one is for the driver. Then the next three rows have 4 seats each. We sat in the third row. The boat was completely full. On the front of the boat there is a camera lens on a pole that filmed us, and on the back is another camera that filmed us from behind with the view of what we saw.

The driver gave a quick overview of safety and then he started the engine. We had a quick group photo on the boat and then he flew around the corner down the Shotover River.

He drove for about 30 seconds and then spun around and took us back to the dock where a lady was stationed ready to take our picture as we passed by. We were told to wave as we rode by. He then took off again under a bridge through a narrow gorge. I was sitting on the left side and Andy was sitting on my right more in the middle seat. It looked like we were going to smack into the walls as he made sharp cuts back and forth. I felt that if I didn’t lean in slightly my face would slam into the cliff walls.

At times he would raise his hand in the air and spin it in a circular motion. This meant he was going to do a 360. He would drive to the right or left really hard, slam on the brake and then swerve hard in the other direction and fling us around. There were times he would do it near the beach, between the narrow gorge, or next to a tree in the water and each time it seemed like we were going to flip over and crash into something.

Occasionally water would fly up and hit me in the eyes. They recommend wearing goggles or protective eye wear, but we didn’t have any. In the open areas he would go really fast and my hood on my jacket would fly up and try to cover my head and eyes. I would have to hold it down at times. I did cover my head with it part of the time because it was so cold. The driver said that it was around -45 degrees wind chill. He meant Celsius, but it was still very cold.
I could barely feel my face most of the time. The people in the row in front of us had no hats on at all, they must have been really cold. One of the guys was bald and he kept trying to cover his head with his jacket hood. I was mostly trying to cover my chin and nose. It was so cold my teeth were hurting. Andy said the same thing.
We stopped in designated areas for the driver to tell us a few facts about the river and the jet boat itself. Also to allow the training boat to catch up and pass us. It wouldn’t be good to go down the gorge with other boats in the way. He said that the boats use 4 liters of gas a minute and shoot out 8,000 liters of water a second. The boats basically hover over the water. The wind was freezing. These boats go over 80 mph down this river in as little as 4 inches of water. It sucks up the water and then shoots it out the back. He said a few other facts, but I don’t remember them.
We went 7 kilometers down the river one direction, and then stopped and went back to the dock. We then went past the dock for a few more minutes. We passed a huge tunnel gushing water that fed into the river. He stopped and told us that was built by two men looking for gold. They dug for a few years hoping to get rich, but never found anything. It was unlucky because the river is the second biggest goldfield in the world. A few years ago someone panning for gold found a $40,000 nugget. The tunnel is now used for white water rafting. He said at times in the summer you can see rafters shoot out of the tunnel and wipe out and he has to maneuver around rafts, paddles, and people. That’s probably not entirely true, but it’s funny.
At one point we made a stop and he said last year the river froze up on him. It had gotten so cold that there was a small layer of ice and he couldn’t pass through. He was stuck with the passengers from 10 AM until 2 PM waiting to be rescued.
We got back to the dock and had one more picture taken. Back inside the gift shop we were given a packet with pictures of us on the trip with a information CD. They made the thing really fast. For $59 you could buy the photos and video of the trip. The video was only 3 minutes long, but it seemed worth it since we couldn’t film it ourselves. Andy was able to sneak his gopro on and filmed our faces, but I knew that so I was intentionally making dumb faces the whole time.
We had already spent a lot on the trip, but $59 NZD sounded like a good deal so we bought it. I also bought a shot glass. The whole trip was $119 NZD a person and lasted about 25 minutes. I thought it was a lot of money for a short trip, but 25 minutes was long enough. It was too cold to go any longer. The jet boat is one of the most highly recommended things to do in Queenstown, and it was definitely worth it.
We finished the trip around 11:45 and asked the people at the ticket counter if they could call the paragliding company to see if our trip was still going to be able to go. It wasn’t very windy outside, but it was still pretty cloudy. It did look like it was clearing up a little bit though in the area we would be jumping from.
Andy took the phone after they dialed, but nobody answered. He left a message which was useless because we didn’t have a phone so he told them to call the Shotover place. We realized we weren’t needing to call until 12:30 and it wasn’t even 12 yet. We decided we would drive back to town and see if we could find their building and asked them in person.
We drove back to town and looked for a parking spot. We couldn’t find anything close so we parked at the gondola parking we had used before. We hiked about half a mile to the city center and looked for the Sky Trek company we were using for paragliding. We didn’t know where it was. We went to the information center and got a brochure with an address. I thought I had seen a map before and it was just down the street from where we were, but we couldn’t find it. We didn’t ask for directions at the information center because it was 12:25 and the line was too long to wait.
We went across the street to the I-Site center, the place we booked with and asked if they could call for us to see if the trip was still scheduled. The lady called and said it was. We then needed her to call back and ask if they could pick us up. We originally planned to be picked up at the Shotover place, but had to leave there. They said they could pick us up around 1 PM.
We had about 30 minutes to waste so we decided to do some shopping. We saw a Katmandu store and went inside. It seemed very small at first, but it had a downstairs portion as well and it ended up being huge. They had some great sales, but things were still way overpriced. We didn’t need anything so we didn’t get anything. I just wanted to see if they had a titanium pot set, which they didn’t. They did have some cool jackets and shirts, but I didn’t want to pay that much. I plan to look up their products online and see if I can find it cheaper on Amazon or something.
We walked back around 12:50 and waited for our ride. About 5 minutes later the van showed up. We were the only one’s going on this trip. There are only two jumpers, so two is really the max per trip. We were the first scheduled trip of the day, but they did have one later to do as well.
We had to stop and pick up the guys that were jumping with us, and they picked up a hitch hiker as well who was going snow boarding. He said he was from northern California, but had been living in New Zealand for 3 years. The drive to the jump point was about 20 minutes. One of the guys told us a few things about paragliding and where we would be jumping from.
I chose to use this particular company because they jump from Coronet Peak, the highest jumping point in Queenstown. It is also the sight of one of the ski areas in town, so it was perfect for the snow boarder to get a ride with us.
The road to the jumping point was relatively steep and became icy and snowy the higher we got. We were going to jump at a little higher altitude, but due to the wind we had to start lower. It was about 700 meters above the valley below.
We got dropped off on a flat icy parking lot area. The guys got out their huge packs and started strapping us into our seats. They put on their seats and gave us helmets to wear. They then unpacked their parachutes and started untangling them.
We just stood there and watched. During this time they explained to us what we needed to do on take off, what to do during the flight, and on landing. My guide was named Ty. I think he was Israeli based on his accident. He was taller, maybe like 6’3”. Andy’s guide was about our height, maybe even shorter than me.
Ty asked if I had done paragliding before and I told him no. He said it was his first time too. He said he had just got out of rehab, but it was going well.
I got strapped in and we were ready to take off. We backed up about 10 yards from the edge. It wasn’t a complete drop off though. It was actually a sloped hill. I was told to start walking at a brisk pace for a few steps, then start running. He told me the ground was slippery so I should dig the outer part of my feet into the ground as I ran.
He pointed down to the road we had driven up and said go towards that when he said. We stood for about 2 minutes waiting for the wind to pick up. It never did. I was a little scared, but really just excited to go. I was hoping the wind wouldn’t be a problem.
Ty said to start going. I took about 3 steps and he said run faster. Just as I started to run my feet were off the ground. I felt a little tug backwards and we were flying. It was so smooth. It’s hard to explain the feeling. I didn’t have butterflies like a rollercoaster. It was more of just sitting on the swing ride at Six Flags. It was very comfortable and relaxed.
It felt like we were going about 10 mph maybe. We were only going to go about 3.5 kilometers total from start to finish. The guides each had gopros on a pole to take pictures and film along the way. We were told we were given a few complimentary photos or we could buy the video and photos for $50 NZD. We told them we had our own gopros though and they were fine with us using them as long as they were attached securely because if they fell on someone below it could be a problem.
I wore mine on my head strap and Andy wore his on his chest strap. We were going to use the helmet straps, but the helmets didn’t have the proper holes to do that. I filmed the entire time, plus part of Andy’s flight. I was in front of him so I couldn’t get shots of him until I landed. He was able to get shots of my take off and I got shots of his landing.
During the flight we were able to see mountains all around with the valley below. It was very peaceful. I wasn’t really cold, but for a few minutes my face was chilly. Ty was barely even holding onto the controls and was mostly using the pole and gopro to take videos and pictures. I was just enjoying the views.

I asked him if he had done hang gliding, but he said it’s much harder to maneuver and he prefers paragliding. As we started to get closer to landing I asked him what I should do. He said to put my feet down and brace my knees. My feet would hit the ground and we would slide like skis until we stopped.

Just as we were coming around for the landing he handed me the pole with the gopro and told me to raise it up as we got closer to the ground to get a better angle of us coming down. We suddenly started spinning out of control. We were jerking back and forth, side to side, twisting and turning uncontrollably. I could see the parachute above my head, and the ground behind it. It felt like we were upside down.

The whole thing was planned. I had read that the ride can get a little crazy so I was expecting it. I had just been thinking that we didn’t do any weird tricks along the way, and then he started doing some. I read one person’s blog that said it made him feel sick and he liked the whole ride except the end. I thought the end was one of the best parts.

I felt like blood was rushing to my head the whole time. I could see some people throwing up at that point. I never thought I would. Andy described it like butterflies in his stomach, but I thought it felt more like the big red rocket ride at Six Flags that hangs upside down.

As we came in for the landing I was focused on raising the pole with the gopro to the right level and not really paying attention to how close we were to the ground. I could see my feet were about 2 feet off the ground and then I extended my legs. As my feet touched the ground I didn’t ski along at all. We just stopped. I fell to the ground on my butt while Ty just stood there. He said that happens a lot because people are used to the weightlessness of flying and forget about gravity.

I saw Andy off in the distance and filmed him come flying in and land while Ty packed up his things. Andy also did lots of tricks as he came in for a landing and he and his guide both fell to the ground on landing. I went over to Andy and asked if he was going to buy the memory card for $50 NZD. I said I was going to since it was so neat and worth the money and would provide different angles. My gopro only showed the scenery, not me. The other shots included me which I thought was neat.

The guys got their things packed up and shoved back into the van. Ty had uploaded the video to his phone and let me see it. Andy’s guide had a laptop and showed him his shots. We paid our money and got our memory cards. I figured it would at least give me another memory card, but it was only a 2 GB.

I would say the paragliding was worth the money. It cost $199 NZD and lasted about 9 minutes. On good days they said they can go for 20 minutes if the wind is just right, but for winter time 10 to 15 minutes is average. It seems pretty easy except for the take off and landing, but it’s something I would want to do again. I would even consider training to do it so I could go on my own. It’s that fun.

Our guides were telling us that paragliding can actually gain altitude if the wind is just right. They limit commercial flights to 20 minutes to be able to get to the next appointment, but they can actually fly for hours and up to 400 kilometers at an elevation of 13,000 feet.

We drove back the 20 minutes and dropped off the guys at the parking lot. Andy’s guide gave each of us a coupon for free French fries with the purchase of a hamburger at one of the restaurants in town. He also gave me a coupon for a free beer with the purchase of a meal at another location. He couldn’t find one for Andy so Ty gave us a handful of coupons for another paragliding company that had discounts on the back. He said not to use the paragliding company though, which we didn’t plan to do anyway.

We got back to town and then walked back to the car. We drove to the library to upload our paragliding videos immediately. In the morning we had parked in a 60 minute parking spot, but this one was only 30 minutes. When we got there a guy was walking around putting yellow highlighter marks on the tires of cars in the parking lot. He seemed like someone that might be checking time, but I’m not sure. We had wanted to stay at the library from 2:30 to 5, when it closed. Now it seemed like we would have to move after 30 minutes.

We uploaded our videos in about 45 minutes. During our wait I wrote a little bit in my journal to catch up. Andy did the same. I saw that internet options were available, but the few I checked needed a password. There was one that might have worked, but we needed to go.

We drove back to the gondola parking one more time, knowing it was free for 240 minutes. We had parked there a few times already that day and we kept walking by a little food stand. The same girl was sitting in there all day. She was probably wondering why we kept going by over and over. She must have sat in there for 8 hours doing nothing.

We walked back to the town center to do a little shopping and take pictures. We had seen a camera store so we went in there to look for tripods. They were nice, but way too expensive. We went into a souvenir store that said everything was made in New Zealand. The girl working inside talked to us for about 15 minutes about life in Queenstown and what we had been doing. She was from Canada and was on a working vacation. She had spent 17 months in Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand with her boyfriend. She said the minimum wage in Australia is $20. That’s pretty good. In New Zealand she said it was $13. She said they were renting a room from a hotel for $420 a week. Very expensive. Eventually a group of people came into the store so we let her get back to work and moved on.

We then walked down to the boat dock and took pictures with the mountains in the back. Some little kids were chasing geese and yelling at them. One little boy started running at them and then a little girl started pouting. I think she wanted to chase them, but the boy scared them off. Then the birds stopped so the girl ran at them yelling. Two slightly older boys came running in from the side yelling “die birds, die!“ There was also a group of Chinese or Japanese people walking around.

We took a few pictures and then went into a few more souvenir shops. They sold some really neat things, but all way too expensive. There were neat carvings that I may end up getting at another location later in the trip, hopefully for cheaper. One of them was run by Chinese people and had everything you could imagine, none of it really looked like souvenirs though. They did have shot glasses, including one I had bought the day before for $8.50 NZD, they were selling for $6.70 NZD. I guess I should have waited and not bought something at the gondola gift shop. Usually those places are more expensive. I still haven’t seen the other shot glass I bought from the gondola gift shop, so that was a good buy.

We went down further on another part of the dock and took a few more pictures. A girl asked if I would take a picture of her in front of the mountains so I did. The picture seemed pretty good. We continued walking down the road trying to find a souvenir shop we had seen driving in before. We passed a few casinos on the way and I was tempted to go gamble to make all the money back I had spent today.

We got to the souvenir shop and looked around for about 30 minutes or more. They had an assortment of things. Mostly clothes that were way overpriced. They looked really cool, but were more than $150. Not my type of souvenir. They had a shirt with a map of New Zealand on it that said “Been There” that I liked, but it was $30. I decided I would just make one myself for a lot cheaper.

We keep finding a Lord of the Rings book at most places that talks about the sites in New Zealand where the movie was filmed. It would have been good to buy it before we came so we could know where things were because in New Zealand it costs about $45. Amazon probably sells it for $10.

We left there and walked down the main street looking for a restaurant called Fergburgers. We had walked by it before and saw they had huge hamburgers. We had planned to go to Devil Burgers because we had the free coupon, but the girl from Canada at the gift shop earlier said Fergburger was really good and that people come from all over the world to eat there. We decided we would go there based on her advice.

The restaurant is very small. It has two tables for eating outside, and two tables and two bars for eating inside. It is very popular though. We got there when the line wasn’t too long, but after we ordered a lot of people started showing up. I was hoping people at a table would hurry up and eat so I could sit down when my food was ready.

I ordered a regular Fergburger. It was $11 NZD. Andy got the same, but with cheese. His was $12 NZD. I don’t usually taste cheese on burgers so I didn’t think it was worth the extra money. As we waited a girl at the bar finished eating so we sat down. They had one guy taking orders, 4 guys cooking and decorating the burgers, and one guy standing around doing nothing.

It took about 15 minutes at least for our food to get done. They give you a ticket and a number and call it out when yours is ready. They kept calling out numbers, but the people weren’t coming and getting their food. Eventually they called out my number, 71, and Andy’s 72. The burgers are huge. We took pictures of them. Probably a bun that is 6 inches across and with everything on top the burger is about 5 inches high.
We didn’t eat any lunch so I was starving. The best part was that it had aioli sauce on it which was really good. It also included lettuce, mayonnaise, tomato, and pickle relish sauce. The bun was really good though and so was the meat. I wasn’t full from the burger, but it was enough. I considered buying fries, but they were $4.50 NZD and I figured I could just go to McDonald’s and get a small fry for $1 NZD.

We finished eating and then walked back to the car. It wasn’t really cold, but it was cold enough to see my breath. It seemed like it was going to be another ok night for sleeping. As we walked to the car I thought of ways I could make shirts showing the countries I have been and putting the words “Been There” on them. I was thinking I could do one for each trip, and maybe put major cities, or a line representing a route. The idea is still in the works.

We drove back to our campground kind of slow since it was dark and the roads can be icy. Back at the camp a few campers had shown up. We hadn’t paid for the night yet so we stopped to pay the $14 NZD fee for the night. At the site we sat in the car and wrote some more in our journals.

I ended up going in the tent around 9 PM or so. It was a late night and an expensive day. We went out to eat twice, bought a few souvenir videos of our adventures, and paid a lot for our activities. It was really fun though. We hope to do a few hikes around our campsite tomorrow if the weather is clear.