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February 23rd 2011 - Lake Gunn, Fjordland

February 21st 2011 – continued – We decided in the end to go and see 127 Hours, it was fantastic.  We actually remember hearing about the incident on the news back in 2003 so we did know what the outcome of the film would be.  It was very well done though and we really enjoyed it, even though it is a very gruelling story and a bit gory at the end!!

February 22nd 2011 – Our son Gareth’s 31st birthday!  It was pouring with rain when we woke up so we made the decision to stay put in Queenstown for another day so Clive made a quick dash to the office and booked us in for another night.  We decided to nip down into town after lunch when it stopped raining, as I had had yet another disaster – we found my prescription sunglasses in bed with us this morning!!!  Don’t ask! We’ve no idea how they got there!  Anyway, one of the sides was broken off so we went into town to find an opticians.  We found one but they couldn’t help me as they could only offer to send them away to be fixed, which is no good as we are travelling, so in the end we went to a pharmacy and bought some clip on sunglasses to use with my normal specs.

We had decided, as the weather was so inclement, that we might as well go to the cinema again and see The King’s Speech so Clive nipped in to buy the tickets for the next showing. Whilst I was waiting outside for him I noticed a crowd of people standing outside the  pub next to the cinema obviously looking at something, so I  went to see what it was.  It turned out to be a large TV in the entrance to the pub, the news was on with the story of another aftershock in Christchurch unfolding, obviously much worse than the previous ones.  We were very shocked when we saw the footage on the TV, there was obviously damage on a much more massive scale and they were already talking about huge loss of life! We stayed at the pub for about half an hour watching the news of this devastating earthquake before going to the cinema to watch the film.  Which was of course excellent but we were feeling rather subdued nevertheless.


We returned to the campsite after the film and Clive wentinto the TV lounge to see if there was more news from Christchurch, whilst Imade the dinner.  We were really quiteconcerned as we know several people who live in Christchurch and whom we wereintending to meet up with when get there in about ten days time.  We were just hoping that they were allOK. 

February 23rd 2011 – Clive’s 59th birthday!  We finally left Queenstown, a little disappointed that for the whole of the three days we had been there the clouds had never lifted enough for us to see the peaks of The Remarkables!  Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all!  We were also still feeling very down about the Christchurch earthquake.  We were heading for Te Anau today and Fjordland.  The Southern corner of South Island is a vast place of nothing but mountains, forests, lakes and fjords.  There are no roads and nobody lives there!  Right on the edge of this vast empty space is the town of Te Anau on the shores of a lake with the same name and that was our destination. 

The drive was uneventful, the scenery awesome but unfortunately there was still a lot of low cloud around which hid the tops of the mountains.  Eventually we arrived at Te Anau and booked ourselves into the Top 10 campsite there.  It was a fantastic site, the facilities were really superb and the kitchen was absolutely beautiful, it even had an ice making machine!  Once we had got the van settled in we went for a walk into town to do a bit of shopping, which included the purchase of a backpack, the one thing we didn’t bring with us and which we could have made good use of several times. We got a really nice one, which will be very useful indeed - I love it, its got lots of zips and pockets!!   We returned to the campsite and I went off to the kitchen to make tea, well two teas actually!  We have booked a cruise up Milford Sound for tomorrow and have decided to stay at a DOC campsite afterwards.  As there are no facilities on these sites other than a dunny I thought it would be a good idea to cook a meal that we could just heat up on the van’s gas hob. So I cooked a pasta Bolognese first then once that was done and dusted I prepared our dinner for tonight – a lovely big fry up!  We have been eating very healthily since arriving in New Zealand, in fact we eat mainly salads but every now and again we indulge ourselves with fish and chips, or a Chinese or in this case bacon, eggs, sausage, baked beans and mushrooms – yummy!  Whilst I was cooking the dinner a delightful lady came into the kitchen and we got chatting. Her name is Dorothy and she lives in Dunedin.  She and her husband Peter have been touring around New Zealand in their campervan for many years. She is very proud of the fact that both she and her husband have Scottish roots, their name is Engles. She also told me that they love to dance and especially waltz to the Flower of Scotland.  It cropped up in conversation that Clive and I were Folkies and she was very interested to hear about that.  Anyway, we finally said goodbye and she went off back to their van whilst I prepared the second meal.  After a little while she came back and asked me if we were doing a concert anywhere that evening!!  I said no, that we didn’t actually do concerts as such.  She looked terribly disappointed so I asked her if she would like us to pop round to their van later with the instruments and play them a few tunes – she was delighted!

First of all, I had a little surprise up my sleeve for Clive.  I had given him a birthday card first thing in the morning when we woke up, which he wasn’t expecting at all!  However, unbeknown to him I had managed to buy the nearest thing to a birthday cake at the supermarket in Queenstown where Vicki used to work back in 1999!  I had also managed to get a birthday set with numbers and a candle.  When he nipped off for a shower before dinner I got it all prepared and when he got back I sang Happy Birthday to him and presented the cake!

Birthday boy!

We had our meal and washed up then we set off round to Dorothy and Peter’s van with the guitar and the flute.  They really are a delightful couple and we were stunned to learn that Dorothy is 87 and Peter 89!  They are still dancing and still touring in their campervan and loving every minute of it. Clive sang Flower of Scotland for them and they were thrilled to bits, he also did Ye Jacobites By Name and we played a few tunes for them as well, they were really delighted.  I felt that I had to have a record of this event so I dashed back to our van for the camera and on the way back commandeered a fellow camper from the kitchen to come and take a photo of us all.

Clive and I with Dorothy and Peter Engles

We finally had to tear ourselves away as we had booked a session in the spa pool and we only had a few minutes to get back to the van and get our stuff together.  Dorothy gave us both a cuddle and thanked us very much for playing for them.  It is a lovely feeling to be able to bring a little pleasure to someone who really appreciates it.

We thoroughly enjoyed the spa, it was lovely to have a soak in hot bubbling water – I wish we had room for one on the boat back home!!

February 24th 2011 – We have been very relieved to hear, via Facebook mainly, that most of our contacts in Christchurch are OK, there was one person however that I didn’t know about.  Bryony, a former colleague of mine from Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.  She and her husband Jeremy and their three children now live in Christchurch.  Jeremy and Bryony are both hospital consultants and work at Christchurch Hospital. So after breakfast I phoned Bryony’s home and was very relieved indeed when her husband Jeremy answered the phone and assured me that they were all OK!  I also spoke to Bryony and she advised me most strongly not to consider visiting Christchurch at all, she said it really isn’t a nice place to be at the moment.  Besides all the rubble from collapsed buildings there are also problems with water, electricity and of course sewage!!  We are both very disappointed indeed as we had been really looking forward to visiting this lovely city again and meeting up with various people but feel that she is right and that we should give Christchurch a wide berth as the last thing they need there is tourists!  However as Bryony also said, it’s a great excuse to come back to New Zealand again in the future!!

We left Te Anau and set off on the road to Milford Sound.  The weather wasn’t looking very promising even though the forecast had looked quite good.  We had been told by the lady in reception at the campsite that the journey up to Milford was almost as amazing as the Sound itself and she wasn’t kidding!  The scenery was absolutely spectacular!  I took so many photographs - mainly to remind us of that trip. There were fantastic blue rivers bubbling over huge boulders, there were dozens of waterfalls pouring down from huge, high cliffs, there were vast glaciated valleys and there were towering mountains all around us it was truly awe inspiring.  The mist however was getting lower and lower and filling the valleys below us!


Mist filled valley

At one point we went through a deep, dark tunnel through which the road descends quite a way and when we came out at the other side we could see the road disappearing below us in a series of hairpin bends!  We went down and down and down a long, longway!

Eventually we arrived at Milford Sound itself.  There isn’t a lot there, just a café and bar, visitor centre, loos etc and then the harbour where all the cruise boats dock.  There are lots of those!  We had commented on the road from Te Anau on how many coaches there were, Clive kept pulling over to let them pass, there were dozens!  We checked in at the desk and were told to just hang about until they called us.  We watched several other cruise companies loading their passengers on board their vessels, some of which were really big.  At this point I just have to post a photo of Clive!  Those of you who know him well will laugh at the sight of him in jeans and a hoody looking for all the world as if he deserves an ASBO!

ASBO Candidate!

Finally it was our turn and we followed our skipper to the boat we were to travel on, which was just a nice size. We were fortunate that there were only eight other people on board besides ourselves so there was no difficulty finding somewhere to stand or sit with a good view.  A few minutes later and we were reversing out of the harbour for our memorable cruise down theMilford Sound.

The weather was very disappointing I’m afraid, the sun did not put in an appearance at all and the mist never lifted, in fact it got worse!  However, as Clive quite rightly said, it did add something rather special to the trip, it was very atmospheric indeed.  This place is just incredible, there are towering, conical mountains for the whole way up the Sound on both sides and there are huge waterfalls pouring down from the tops.  This place is the wettest place in New Zealand, in fact it gets more than 5000mm of rain each year and 8000mm on the mountains, which of course drain into the Sound! It has been known to have 500mm in a 24 hour period!!! So it is not surprising really that it gets misty from time to time!  All the postcards, adverts and books show the famous view of Mitre Peak reflected in a beautiful calm sea with a gorgeous blue sky and it is glorious, like this:

Mitre Peak, Milford Sound (courtesy of a postcard!)

However, we suspect that a heck of a lot of tourists who come to Milford Sound are more likely to see it as we saw it ourselves – shrouded in mist but still absolutely stunning!

Mitre Peak as we saw it, shrouded in mist!

Our cruise was supposed to be a wildlife cruise as well.   Unfortunately it’s the wrong season for the Fjordland Crested Penguins, so we knew we wouldn’t be seeing any of those.  We did see some Gannets however, right at the very end of the Sound.  The boat hugged the Southern shore all the way to the very end of the Sound and out into the Tasman Sea then we turned around and headed back towards the Sound.  By now the mist had come down even further and we could also see that it was raining!

Rain clouds!

After re-entering the Sound we cruised back up via the Northern shore this time.  On the way back the boat slowed right down next to a large, flat rock to enable us to photograph NZ Fur Seals, sleeping without a care in the world and totally oblivious to our presence!

Juvenile New Zealand Fur Seals - Teenagers!!

Our previous encounters with the fur seals has been with mothers and young pups but these are juvenile seals, the equivalent of teenagers, who have been turfed out of the colony by their mothers and told to look after themselves!  A right lot of layabouts they are too!

The boat continued up the Northern side of the Sound until we arrived at Sterling Falls, which are evidently 151m high!  We had seen the falls on our way down the Southern shore but we were much closer now.  In fact the skipper took the boat right up to the falls so that the water was actually pouring over the bows – it was awesome!  It was also quite damp so you had to be pretty nifty taking photos!!

Sterling Falls - up close and personal!!

Finally we were back on dry land.  We jumped back into the van, took off our waterproofs etc then headed back up the road to find a campsite.  We finally arrived at the Lake Gunn DOC campsite but it was pretty full! According to the book there are only ten pitches available, well there were at least 12 campervans and tents already there!  However we did manage to squeeze into a spot not too far from the dunny!  The only problem with this site, being in a forest and near to a lake, was the sandflies!  We had to be very careful to ensure the doors and windows were all shut yet they still managed to get in!  Pesky things!

It was still raining when we arrived so we didn’t bother exploring, we just got ourselves settled in and had dinner, which was very tasty indeed even though I do say so myself! We had bought a paper earlier in the day so we again spent a couple of hours doing the crosswords and word puzzles by lamplight until it was time for bed.  Tonight it is really, really dark – no need for my mask

Night night all!

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