Te Waka a Maui #4 - All the Way South

We did not truly go all the way south, as we didn't have time to travel to Stuart Island. But we went as far south as you can get on the "Mainland" - which is what South Islanders like to call the South Island when talking to North Islanders - because the South Island is in fact larger than the North Island, despite having the smaller population.

Milford Sound - back on the West Coast although not accessible from the rest of the West Coast - is one of New Zealand's premier tourist destinations. And it is very dramatic and beautiful. But in a location where rainfall is plentiful - 6.8 metres per year on average - we were unlucky because it didn't rain much. It is a place of waterfalls - many, many waterfalls - but these waterfalls have very small catchments and depend on rainfall to function. We arrived in what is locally defined as a drought (two weeks without any rain) and possibly had the worst outcome that could be encountered - low clouds, poor light, threatening rain - but few waterfalls. But still it was beautiful, and we have to return to see it in its true glory.

Keas (native parrots) were very much in evidence on the way there. Attractive, very mischievous, and very destructive - we had to watch the little monsters very carefully. The wild and rugged scenery on the highway to Homer Tunnel - a Depression Era relief project that provides the only road access to Milford Sound - looked very Tolkienesque under the lowering clouds. The boat cruise down the sound to the open sea and back, the underwater observatory they took us to on the way back, and the trip back to our campground made a very full day. Next day we hiked up part of the Routeburn Track, to Key Summit, with our eyes on the looming rainstorms all the way. Ah, exercise at last. Being a tourist is hard work, but it's still hard to get enough exercise. Then on, south to Te Anau, the Rakatu Wetlands, Clifden Bridge (that looks just like an also-abandoned bridge in the Fraser Canyon (in B.C.) - just proving we were all in the same British Empire) and finally, Invercargill.

The true south end of the South Island is not in Invercargill, or Bluff (the nearby seaport for Invercargill) but further east, at Slope Point. We camped near there, in Curio Bay, where penguins come ashore at night, and tourists swim with dolphins by day.

Click on a photo for a larger image and a slide show.

  • 01 Kea contemplating mischief
    01 Kea contemplating mischief
  • 02 Gertrude Valley on the way to Milford Sound
    02 Gertrude Valley on the way to Milford Sound
  • 03 Gertrude Valley from the lookout on the Milford Sound Highway
    03 Gertrude Valley from the lookout on the Milford Sound Highway
  • 04 Keas (native parrots) These little monsters will happily remove the wiper blades and the rubber seals on the window if you don't keep an eye on them
    04 Keas (native parrots) These little monsters will happily remove the wiper blades and the rubber seals on the window if you don't keep an eye on them
  • 05 Keas (native parrots) Look me in the eye or your car gets it
    05 Keas (native parrots) Look me in the eye or your car gets it
  • 06 Keas (native parrots) See   I'm gonna attack your car!
    06 Keas (native parrots) See I'm gonna attack your car!
  • 07 Mitre Peak from the south end of Milford Sound
    07 Mitre Peak from the south end of Milford Sound
  • 08 The wet rocky walls of Milford Sound
    08 The wet rocky walls of Milford Sound
  • 09 Basking seals on a big cold rock in Milford Sound
    09 Basking seals on a big cold rock in Milford Sound
  • 10 Milford Sound waterfall that still has water for a show
    10 Milford Sound waterfall that still has water for a show
  • 11 Milford Sound waterfall that still has water for a show
    11 Milford Sound waterfall that still has water for a show
  • 12 Getting the eye at the Underwater Observatory where the fish are free and the tourists are inside the tank
    12 Getting the eye at the Underwater Observatory where the fish are free and the tourists are inside the tank
  • 13 Observed from the underwater observatory
    13 Observed from the underwater observatory
  • 14 Mitre Peak from the south end of Milford Sound
    14 Mitre Peak from the south end of Milford Sound
  • 15 Mountain vegetation on a walking track near to Milford Sound
    15 Mountain vegetation on a walking track near to Milford Sound
  • 16 Mountain vegetation on a walking track near to Milford Sound
    16 Mountain vegetation on a walking track near to Milford Sound
  • 17 Kea contemplating mischief
    17 Kea contemplating mischief
  • 18 Alpine flowers on the trail to Key Summit
    18 Alpine flowers on the trail to Key Summit
  • 19 Tarn on the trail to Key Summit
    19 Tarn on the trail to Key Summit
  • 20 Tarn on the trail to Key Summit
    20 Tarn on the trail to Key Summit
  • 21 Alpine flowers on the trail to Key Summit
    21 Alpine flowers on the trail to Key Summit
  • 22 Rainstorms on the trail to Key Summit
    22 Rainstorms on the trail to Key Summit
  • 23 Pearl Harbour at Manapouri
    23 Pearl Harbour at Manapouri
  • 24 Rakatu Wetlands
    24 Rakatu Wetlands
  • 25 Roadside decoration in Otahu Flat
    25 Roadside decoration in Otahu Flat
  • 26 Waiau River near the Clifden Suspension Bridge
    26 Waiau River near the Clifden Suspension Bridge
  • 27 The Clifden Suspension Bridge Over the Waiau River
    27 The Clifden Suspension Bridge Over the Waiau River
  • 28 Te Waewae Bay near Waihoaka
    28 Te Waewae Bay near Waihoaka
  • 29 Riverton Harbour
    29 Riverton Harbour
  • 30 The World's Fastest Indian Burt Monroe's modified 1920 Indian Scout, used to set a 200 mph speed record at the Bonneville Salt flats in Utah
    30 The World's Fastest Indian Burt Monroe's modified 1920 Indian Scout, used to set a 200 mph speed record at the Bonneville Salt flats in Utah
  • 31 The World's Fastest Indian The streamlining for Burt's bike. (Look at the movie   it's a fun movie.)
    31 The World's Fastest Indian The streamlining for Burt's bike. (Look at the movie it's a fun movie.)
  • 32 Lampshade for the lads Although the Invercargill lads aren't buying!
    32 Lampshade for the lads Although the Invercargill lads aren't buying!