Wednesday, November 11, 2009


We slept in a bit this morning, not wanting to get out from under the warm blankets and face the onslaught of blackflies tapping at our windows. I counted 85 of them hounding us along the glass windows trying to sneak into the van. Once we did get up and eat breakfast, we headed back up the road to the Routeburn Track parking area for a hike.

We chose to head up the Key Summit Track which forks off the Routeburn track after about an hour and goes uphill to the summit. The entire area surrounding us was all part of Fiordlands National park and the trail was well maintained and a solid walk upwards. We passed a tiered waterfall on the way before ascending above many of the big trees and began to see the mountain peaks nearby. Once we reached the top, we had a perfect 360 degree view of all the ranges around the Key Summit. Snow-capped peaks seemed to shoot up out of the river valley below, often in vertical cliffs of granite. We ate some lunch at the top for a rest while taking in the amazing alpine scenery. There was a short nature walk that looped around the summit, and then we headed back down into the woods towards the van.

Driving up the road a few minutes, we parked in Hollyford to do the short hike up river to Marion Falls. The falls were more of a section of rapids and we found a big boulder and sat in the sun for a bit right on the river rushing by us. The sun is so warm, yet the wind is a frigid temperature, and in the shade is pretty darn cold. The hike had wooden decking that stuck out and over the river to give a better view of the falls.

Returning back towards the town of Te Anau, away from Milford, we were able to get in some laundry (which we desperately needed to do) and grocery shopping. It was tough to find any water in town to fill up the camper, and eventually we ended up just pulling into one of the bigger Holiday Parks and taking some.

We headed south of Te Anau on the scenic route of highway 95, which we'll follow for the next day or so around the southern tip of the island. Stopping at Rainbow Beach (or Reach on some maps) we did a quick sunset hike before finding a place to camp. The walk started with an extremely long swing-bridge across the green deep river, and into a quiet old growth forest. At the top of the first little rise, a New Zealand Falcon, or Pekeakea, swooped in low and just missed us by inches. A second later we approached a sign that warned of nesting Falcons dive-bombing people and taking the hats off their heads. Luckily, we avoided the bird for the rest of the trail. The river was gorgeous lit by the setting sun, and we hiked through the dense woods until we thought it would be too dark to get back to the camper. Of course we always forget that the sun doesn't even think about setting here until at least 8:30, so we probably had more time than we thought.

Back in the camper, we drove a few miles down the "highway" to a gravel road that led down to the riverside. We were happy to see not one No Camping sign so we got as level as we could on the banks of the river and settled in for the night.

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