So we are a little behind on things by now! We've had a couple of really busy weeks exploring Fiordland National Park. Fiordland is known for its rain (being a rain forest and all) and a few days without rain here is considered a drought. We were expecting it but we were not prepared for what we got! Saying this we did get lucky and experience some pretty nice weather along the way.
Firstly we set off on a 4 day hike across the Kepler track, one of NZ's Great Walks. The track starts at Lake Te Anau, where you hike through Beech forest until you get to Brod Bay campsite. From here you start to ascend towards Luxmore Hut, our first stop - pure luxury. We were the first people to arrive at the hut that would be filled with 54 fellow walkers that night. The views of the lake were unreal and we had some curious Kea trying to scavenge some food.
Our view of Lake Te Anau from above The Luxmore Hut.
Pre dawn light seen from The Luxmore Hut.
The next day the weather cleared and we could see mountains for miles! It couldn't have come at a better time as we would be hiking to the top of Mt. Luxmore, then across the ridge until finally descending all the way down to Iris Burn Hut. It was much warmer down in the valley and after 2 days of hiking we decided to take a short walk to the nearby waterfall and have a dip - it was freezing!! That night we could hear kiwi outside the hut but they were far too elusive to be spotted.
Looks a bit like a green screen. It's not!
Heavy rain descended upon us the next day. Today we would have to walk 16km through the forest until we reached Lake Manapouri, then follow the lake along to Motorau Hut, our final stop. We both thought we had decent rain coats but when you are outside in the pouring rain for 4 hours straight nothing is safe! Soaking wet and bewildered we finally made it to the hut after 40mm of rain. Everyone gathered in the small common room by the fire desperately trying to dry out. The day seemed worth it because that evening the sunset was unbelievable. The sky turned pink and the mountains lit up in the distance across the lake.
Rain, Rain, Rain.
When your jacket matches the clouds.
On the last day we would again walk through the forest beside Lake Manapouri, then follow the Waiau River back to the carpark. We stopped at the Dead Marshes from Lord of the Rings along the way which Gavin was very excited about! 4 days and 60km later we finally made it back to the van with sore feet and very wet clothes but it was a great achievement for us and a great feeling!
There's no resting when you have so much to see so the very next morning we drove straight into Milford Sound. Milford is the most visited place in NZ and we could see why. The rain that was falling brought thousands of waterfalls with it. The best way to see the whole Sound is by boat so we did the Encounter Tour with Southern Discoveries. We saw a glimpse of dolphins, saw seals and even had a power shower under Stirling falls (Maori legend says if you are blessed by the water of Stirling Falls you will wake up feeling and looking 10 years younger - it didn't work).
The incredible Milford Sound.
After getting soaked in Milford we headed back to Hollyford to stay at Gunn's camp for the night. The following 48 hours saw more rain. It was never ending! The van started showing some signs of struggle - it leaks - and it was taking a toll mentally not being able to go out. Gavin took a solo walk up to Lake Marian which is a crystal blue glacier lake, on a good day. Unfortunately for him the rain never stopped, he got soaked and saw nothing of the views. After this we decided it was time to get out and back to dry land.
We arrived back in Te Anau and quickly had to prepare for an overnight kayak trip to Doubtful Sound with Go Orange. This is 3 times as big as Milford Sound but is much harder to access. After a boat trip across Lake Manapouri and a bus over the snowy Wilmot Pass, the most expensive road in NZ, we finally made it into Deep Cove (population = 2). There were 2 other guys on the overnight with us and along with our guide Finn we set off around Doubtful Sound in our double sea kayaks. Because of heavy rain forecast for the evening and overnight we would not be able to access the campsite so we would paddle around the Sound for the day then head back to the hostel in Deep Cove for the night. The mountains surrounding us were alive with waterfalls again and there had been a lot of snowfall on the peaks overnight. This meant we had plenty to look at as we explored.
Fresh snowfall in Doubtful Sound made it look even more magical.
It's hard to know where to look.
Because we couldn't paddle the next morning we went for a very rainy walk to see Helena Falls. There was so much water on it after the heavy rain the night before. After this we hopped onto a boat tour around the Sound which lasted about 3 hours and took us all the way out to the Tasman sea and back. This place is a lot less commercial than Milford which makes it quite peaceful and very secluded. Well worth the trip!
Once we had made the journey back from Doubtful Sound it was time to head North. A quick stop off at The Remarkables Ski Field in Queenstown to play in the snow and a mandatory Fergburger later we were finally back in Wanaka. Our plan was to hike up to Roy's Peak for sunset. This was a tough one. You climb 1250m across 8km but the views are so worth it when you reach the top. Luckily for us it was pretty quiet at the main viewpoint and we were the only people on the summit. A few unreal pics later we saw black clouds heading our way so decided to head back down before sunset. This is one of the most famous hikes in NZ and we could see why, but coming down was tough on the knees so be prepared!
The viewpoint on Roy's Peak. A well photographed location but it's easy to see why!
Blog by Emer. Photos by Gavin
Disclaimer: Don't be fooled by the photos. It rained A LOT.