South Island Fall Tour, April 2006
School is out, time to hit the road! Joined by our friends from San Diego, we head off for an anti-clockwise tiki-tour of New Zealand's South Island. First, off to the West Coast - one of the rainier spots on the planet. After enduring a couple days of steady rain, the weather broke a bit for our stop at the Punakaiki (or Pancake) rocks and blowholes. Tide was out so the blowholes were rather quiet, but the layered limestone rock formations look great in any weather.
Further down the road we stopped at Barrytown beach to do a little rockhounding. According to the literature, pieces of New Zealand Jade (or greenstone) can be found on the beaches in this area. Since we were not quite sure what to be looking for it is quite possible that we came home with a sack full of pretty green rocks. At any rate the ocean was displaying some classic West Coast wild and wooly behavior.
After leaving the coast at Haast we made our way through the Wanaka and Queenstown areas. In addition to being smashingly beautiful, these areas are home to some serious Kiwi outdoor adventure activites. We opted for mountain biking and Jet Boat riding, but passed on the bungy jumping. At Queenstown the steamer TSS Earnslaw has been sailing Lake Wakatipu for almost 100 years.
On to Fiordland - home of some of the world's most spactacular scenery! (Or so we have been told) We stopped at a few spots on the drive to Milford Sound to soak in some rain forest sights. This is the boardwalk trail overlooking Marian Creek displaying some classic Fiordland characteristics - green, steep, and wet.
Milford Sound at last! The scenery was indeed quite amazing and the weather actually cooperated as well. The scale of the place is astounding and difficult to comprehend. When you click on the photo at left you'll get an idea how big that waterfall really is.
We spent a brilliantly clear morning kayaking in Okarito Lagoon, nestled between the Southern Alps and the ocean. The wind was calm, the tide cooperative and the scenery most excellent. This is the breeding area for the Kotuku, or New Zealand White Heron. As the breeding season was over we were lucky to see one hanging around in the reeds.
Our last stop on the west coast was Haast, where we visited another beach to look for greenstone pebbles. As you can see there was no shortage of pebbles to sort through! We were quickly overwhelmed but did manage to collect another sack full of pretty stones.
We spent a day visiting Doubtful Sound. It rained. Hard. (This is not really surprising as this area receives an average 7 meters of rain a year.) The benefit of this was the squillions of waterfalls that seem to drain straight out of the clouds. If you are trying to figure out the scale on this one, look at the small white dot along the waterline on the left side of the photo - it's a boat.