Story of some Brits living in New Zealand for the Southern Hemisphere Winter in 2004
(Recent Entries Here)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Cycling NZ Coast to Coast from Greymouth to Christchurch (well Redcliffs) - 160 miles or so

I'm writing this 2 years after my little cycling adventure to say goodbye to New Zealand. Sometimes I like to cycle around a place to really get the feel of it so I decided to get the train to Greymouth from Christchurch and cycle back across the country and through Arthur's Pass in the Southern Alps to Redcliffs (a suburb of Christchurch), where I had lived for several months.

nz coast-to-coast cycle route

The most memorable thing about the train ride apart from the beautiful scenery was just how long it took. This really began to reinforce the magnitude of my task in cycling back. The other memorable thing was sitting in a carriage with 4 nice Aussies. It seemed they had been placed in the back of the train away from the Kiwis (there is some funny animosity between kiwis and Aussies). Anyhow, these 4 were super and shared their food with me. Great fun.

I don't recall much to recommend Greymouth apart from Jade stores but I made my way to the sea to dip my foot in the water and was then on my way.

The road across the country, highway 73, was ok for cycling. Not too much traffic and safe enough. The only dodgey part was when things got steep and the road became a steep viaduct. It was pretty wide but I was very consious of how slow I was, which concerned me a bit.

My overnight stop was at Otira which I think was historically a railway town. It was pretty tired and old when I found it and the accommodation fairly basic.

The next day was uphill to Arthur's Pass and a much anticipated cafe stop. One thing about this trip and NZ as a whole is that the distance between places can be further than the cycle touring Brit has come to expect from back home.

Whilst enjoying lunch I was somewhat unsettled about my bike outside. Apparently the Kias (the famous, beautiful and extremely intelligent mountain parrots) that frequent the cafe vicinity have been known to eat bicycle seats. They famously eat the rubber from around car windscreens so munching on a bike saddle seemed pretty believable. I didn't fancy riding another 50 miles without a saddle. Fortunately, that day the Kias were busy trying to figure out how to open the garbage bins, which involved lifting the lid and somehow grabbing stuff from inside (funny to watch).

Leaving Arthur's Pass (where they were soon to start filming the Narnia Movie) I headed in the direction of Christchurch. Not for the first time I had mistakenly had the notion of 'downhill all the way now'. So, after a LOT of up and down I kept hoping that the very next Mountain Pass would be the last. There were quite a few passes before the last one came into view, I even cycled past Cheeseman ski area which in the past had seemed like quite a long drive from Christchurch. So, after cycling for a good long while and coming across nothing I needed a rest so just pulled over to the side of the road and slept in a grassy carpark, perhaps some deserted hiking trailhead. This was not the civilised tea stop I would normally find at least every 20 miles in the UK (even in the North of Scotland).

After a while I came upon the plains and farmland of Christchurch. Long, straight roads for miles, perhaps 50 miles. This was not the most exciting part of the journey but I was tickled to come upon Springfield (home of The Simpsons). Not seeing Homer, nor anything much else, I continued on. At least the flat roads let me get a little speed up after all the mountain passes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Dolphins prevent NZ shark attack

BBC NEWS - Dolphins prevent NZ shark attack - well, there you go, those Great Whites are out there around this coastline! Apparently quite close to shore near the South West of the South Island too, due to some warm current there.

However, there have only been about 7 shark attacks in NZ over the last 100 years of something, so not something to be hugely concerned about.

Mind you, I do wonder why these attacks arent more common, given how helpless we are in water by comparison!

Amazing save by the dolphins though, quite incredible how they will protect humans in the water. Perhaps we should stop killing them in our fishing nets.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Earthquake and headache weather

News: An earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale struck off the coast of the South Island today

Yes it was true, we did get an earthquake today. I felt the house rock a bit for a few seconds, a little less severe than when the bus drives past my house in cambridge. It was a 7.2 on the Richter Scale, I wonder what the number 5 bus in Cambridge is then? Perhaps a 10!

No big deal. Far worse were the North Westerly Winds which brought heavy cloud and gave me a bad headache and nausea all day. Thank goodness it has rained now.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Pat Farr Cup - Christchurch Interclub Swim Meet

Today was the fourth and final Meet of the newly formed annual "Pat Farr Cup" championships, which is held between all the Christchurch Masters Swim Clubs: QE2, JASI, Kaiapoi and Wharenui. The final standing after four meets was:

1st Wharenui; 2nd JASI; 3rd QE2; 4th Kaiapoi

Pat Farr (71), a keen competitor herself, conceived the interclub competition after noticing that there were probably enough Christchurch Masters Swimmers now to hold such an event. Considerable enthusiasm from a few key people in each club got the thing off the ground, much to the enjoyment of the 80 or so competitors who entered each of the events and attended the social events which followed each.

Pat Farr presents cup to Wharenui Swimming Club (click to see a bigger picture)

Even as an newcomer, it did not escape my notice that a lot of those competiting had some considerable history of friendly rivalry going back a LOT of years. Stories of surf life-saving victories of the past combined with in the pool action, to settle old scores! A very entertaining and inclusive event with participants diverse in age, size, shape and ability and much fun.

One of the teams even managed to produce an ex-olympic swimmer. In the 100m Individual Medally, she showed her stuff by taking the unusual step of competing against the men. Unsurprisingly, but impressively, she blitzed them with a very cruisy swim. Very impressive to watch such class.

As a Brit. who has swum with the QE2 squad for 6 months or so, I was very impressed to see the spirit of friendly and inclusive masters swimming alive and well in New Zealand.

The coveted and brand new Pat Farr Cup (click to see a bigger picture)

Thanks Pat Farr and the others who made this event happen. I feel sure the momentum and fun generated by the event will see many more Pat Farr Interclub Championships in Christchurch over the years to come. QE2 certainly have a few more surprises up their sleeve for next year - watch out Wharenui!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Leaving too at the Dream Garden - a culinary experience

It seems odd to think we're having a leaving do already. Can't quite face the prospect of leaving here to return to a grey UK winter.

Anyhow, we went out with Bianca, Myles, John, Laura and Helen tonight. The Dream Garden is an excellent Taiwanese restaurant at 62 Kendal Avenue (near the airport). The food is all vegetarian or vegan but is named things like: Hedgehog, codfish, black pepper steak, etc. This does rather mean that you dont much know what you are going to get - which adds to the fun, or the heartache, depending on your perspective.

The meal started with some bubble tea. Our first round was without any bubbes - we didnt realise you needed to order them separately! John eventually sorted it all out, as you can see.

Bubble teas

Following the tea we went for the main course, which was interesting and generally ok. Though there was speculation that there was fish oil in the cod as it tasted too authentic, and Laura remained unconvinced throughout the whole meal that she wasnt REALLY eating a hedgehog, "how do we know this is really vegetarian?". The only answer we could give was that we were introduced to the place by the christchurch vegetarian society.

Following an interval, where we perused some presumably Taiwanese magazines, we decided we couldn't miss out on the dessert - labelled 'breads'. There were 6 on the menu so we had one of each, and the owner brought us an extra one for free too: Milk, Peanut, Coconut, Chocolate (disappeared fast), Jasmin Tea (unusual but nice), Salt, and one other I dont remember! Interesting stuff, big inch thick slices of bread with nice toppings.

Bread for dessert (nice)

Overall I think everyone enjoyed the unique culinary experience - the service was very friendly too, despite a few language barriers.

Still can't believe it was a leaving do - we cant be leaving already surely!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

A nice cycle ride up the port hills / white squall

Went for a nice ride up the port hills, this time taking the shorter but far steeper route up Moncks Spur. We were aiming for 'The Sign of the Kiwi' Cafe some 12km away along the summit road but by the time we reached the summit rd the weather came in. Cold rain soon turned to hailstones. So, we cycled back. It was downhill all the way to sumner so we took that longer route rather than just go back the way we came up. We soon regretted the decision as the rapid descent in the very cold air made our eyeballs freeze solid, we were afraid to blink in case they shattered... the end we got a shower and played Lord of the Rings RISK. Which, playing 'Evil' this time, won easily! Humph - AM's previous victories must've been from playing the Evil side. We decided that the game is quite unbalanced so played using standard RISK rules, and I won that too, well, as good as, we ran out of time a bit.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Great Movie - Touching the Void

Went to see Touching the Void on Saturday - what a great film/documentary about a legendary climbing accident. This is one very special film that portrays the story quite differently than the book, like an almost totally fresh perspective.

I think anyone who has ever climbed anything with axes and crampons, particularly 'moving together', will be particularly in awe of the climbing achievement but the story is much much more impressive than just being about climbing. Following the famous accident where Joe is presumed dead, his survival story is amazing. The goal setting techniques he used to progress down the mountain are a marvel, as was his statement which went something like, "you have just got to keep making decisions, or you are dead". Stuck a long way up in a crevace he opted to lower himself further into it (with a very badly broken leg) to try and find a way out. The full horror of this decision is made clear as they show the actor recreating this descent into darkness.

I've been lucky enough to attend a talk given by Simon Yates - if you get the chance, he is well worth meeting too. I remember thinking Simon remarkable because he comes across as just a normal bloke and didn't seek to elevate himself from his awesome achievements on mountains.

Joe and Simon and even Richard are amazingly frank in the film about life, death, grim decisions and survival. This kind of honesty is rare.

What an amazing film. Highly recommended. Read the book too, it's awesome.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


On the phone to B tonight when a big spide crawled up the wall in my office. She said, "Has it got a white tail?". "Yis" I replied. "Kill it!", she said. "Even my Mum kills them, they're a pest imported from Australia".

Not liking Spiders much, even the ones without a nasty bite like this one has, I asked Ann-Marie's help with the required disposal of said beast. Having spent too much time in dodgey tropical parts she was not too bothered and refused to help me kill the monster (2 cm long, with a white tipex blob on it's tail). Eventually, after much encouragement Ann-Marie aided in the removal process. The beast was caught, after only one failed attempt due to a blood curdling scream from one of us (un-named).

Nastly blighters have a bite worse than a bee sting and can lead to some ulceration, vomiting, headaches (and ridiculous screaming from just walking about).

The beast was set free at the house across the road (number 19). We dont like them much over there, they seem to spend the whole time far too interested in everybody else's affairs - recommend they buy a TV, or concentrate on spider spotting.

Living in an old, creaky wooden house, built on a nice airy platform provides an unthinkably large spider kingdom under the house, and these white tails like to eat other spiders so there is plenty of prey nearby. Discovering that these Ozzie white tailed spiders like to live in clothes dropped on the floor, and in the bedsheets, did not lead to a good nights sleep last night but has lead to considerably more tidiness around the house.

Just when I thought NZ didnt have any nasty creatures (apart from the maligned Great White Shark) it's disappointing to discover such a nasty spider.

Monday, October 11, 2004

New Arrival for Gerald and Tresna - Timothy

Many congratulations to Gerald and Tresna on the birth of their son Timothy.

Timothy has started life in the limelight on the front page of the national press. He is the first baby born in Auckland City Hospital's new birthing complex.

Here's Timothy in the papers

And here is a picture of the first baby born in the National Women's Hospital in 1964 - does this mean Timothy's photo will be wheeled out in the papers for ever more?!

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Ann-Marie in her first triathlon

Ann-Marie did her first ever triathon today with the Contours group. Quite a big deal now with 100 more entries than they could accomodate. This is a women's triathlon designed for people who have not done such things before.

The swim was a bit crazy with swimmers started in waves of 4-6 people side-by-side in the same lane. At the end of the first length they had to go under the lane ropes and back down the next length. Not a great way to swim a 100m. I timed the first group out and they seemed to take 1:40 or so, which is quite slow for 100m.

Exiting the swim (100m)

Finishing the bike (11k)

Second lap of the run (3.5k)

AM was 174th overall and 76th in her agegroup, which she wasnt very happy with but I thought it was pretty good!

Overall the event was great fun, despite a little rain on the day, and lots of people had a good time.

As usual on such occasions the prize giving was a drawn out affair with a similarly drawn out pot luck prize giving at the end. AM's friend Sarah's initial "woohoo" at winning, was soon quelled by her winning a duvet set - quite an odd triathlon prize. Another friend won some tea mugs! I would have thought a few Iron Man videos would've been a bit more appropriate!!!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Akaroa - Swimming with Dolphins - Airport

Awoke early and got down to the Dolphin Experience shop an embarassing 15 minutes early (how will I live with the shame of arriving so early?).

Pretty soon the wetsuits (7mm) were forthcoming, along with booties, gloves, neoprene hood, mask, snorkel and flippers. We were feeling distinctly dubious about jumping in the ocean at this point, as it seemed a cold prospect.

Finally jumped on board the small boat and within 20 minutes were at the head of the harbour area where the dolphins hang out. Found a couple quite quickly but they weren't deemed sufficiently curious for our purposes. We also saw some Penguins (blue?) swimming about too.

Got all the gear (still a bit cold in there though)

Eventually we found another pod of 3 playmates who decided to stick around, so we were encouraged into the water. Uncharacteristically I went in first. I expected the first rush of cold water but anticipated I would soon feel warm. In the event it took quite some minutes before feeling warm. Gasping because of the cold is not a great way to relearn how a snorkel works but I got it eventually, as did Doug and Ann-Marie.

We were told the dolphins like noise so Ann-Marie was given a bike bell and we were all told to sing. It's quite difficult to come up with one's complete repetoir for the curious dolphin whilst gasping from cold and with a snorkel in your mouth but we each gave it a good go.

I thought Ann-Marie was making particularly impressive noises only later to discover it was instead Doug that was making all the noise. So much noise that a few more dolphins were required to inspect him (very impressed our ship captain, Chris, was too).

The visibility in the water was pretty poor, so as I got into my singing I was more than a bit alarmed when a dolphin came close to have an investigation. These Hector Dolphins are only little but are still the colour of killer whales and in their own domain! (killer whales recently spotted in the harbour, as is, we were unreliably informed, a great white!). Actually the wonders of the world wide web reveal that the shark thing was not as unreliable information as we thought, there is one that comes into the harbour at times.

Oh good, it was true about the shark thing then (we were reliability informed that in 100 years only 7 people have been attacked by sharks in NZ)

Glad we didnt see a great white whilst dressed in a seal costume

Actually the marine research centre we went to in Otago did explain quite clearly that Sharks are often close to the shore on the East Coast of new zealand as there is a warm water current near the coast coming across from Oz.

After making noises for curious dolphins for a while, for some reason I started singing the Jaws theme tune. This had the effect of scaring me witless, reinforced by bobbing up to the surface near the boat in a scene reminisant of the movie (in my crazed mind anyway). Dolphins seemed much less impressed with the tune but primarly because my brother was displaying all the features of a one-man band to keep them all entertained.

Starting to feel the cold, having swallowed lots of water (and plankton no doubt), and having scared myself silly with the jaws tune, I wasnt sure I wanted any more sudden close encouters with Orca coloured dolphins so i headed for home, content with having had a couple of decent looks.

Was pretty happy we missed out on the Orcas too (they like seals, I've seen the documentary where this was clearly conveyed)

What we did see were the world's smallest and rarest dolphins - Hector's dolphins!!

Likely to be a shot of Doug making all kinds of noises from his 'one-man band' gig attracting all kinds of interest from passing marine life

Image shamelessly nicked from the web but it gives an idea what we swam with!

Phew! Got back to port for about 11 to a hot shower (having consumed hot chocolate en route and narrowly avoided being sick - struggle a bit with sea legs).

Then we dashed back to Christchurch for Doug to pack, then dashed to the airport to put him on the plane home - just 5 minutes free for a long promised game or air hockey (Doug beat Ann-Marie) before saying our goodbyes.

Great trip! Think we packed quite a lot into the time we had in the end!

Friday, October 08, 2004

Oamaru - Cheese Factory - Timaru (AWFUL) - Ash Vegas - Akaroa Harbour

We were happy to rediscover the sign for the Whitestone Cheese Factory and cafe first thing. We were even more impressed to hear the muffins were just coming out of the oven and to taste some cheese whilst we waited. Excellent service, very good cheese. What a great start to the day. As usual, Ann-Marie wasn't too keen to partake of the breakfast until the sound of the plate hitting the table sparked her appetite and the realisation struck that I would have to now share :-( !!!!

We headed up to Timaru for lunch and a game of 3 person pool, which is excellent. So glad Cheryl from our Calgary office taught me that! Sadly the pub we elected to play pool at was the least welcoming pub I've ever been in. In fact, the whole of the town of Timaru seemed cursed with some miserableness. We lingered too long and were glad to leave.

Further cursed by proximity with Timaru our attempts to book a dolphin swim in Akaroa on the Bank's Pennisula seemed elusive and we got a lot of unhelpfulness from one of the companys down there (the big one on the jetty!). In the end, Ann-Marie got lucky and booked us on a trip with a smaller operator called Dolphin Experience which worked out well for us. An 8.30 start the same day Doug was heading home - what a way to spend your last day in NZ!

On our way to the Banks Pennisula we couldn't help but visit the MacDonalds in Ashburton (known locally as Ash Vegas). This store is becoming famous for a potential marketing blunder through the proud display of a costume once worn by a visiting Ronald MacDonald. The size of the costume needed to house the veritable Ronald seems to give further weight to the recent outcry about the unhealthiness of MacDonalds food.

Keep eating that food and YOU TOO could become the next Ronald MacDonald!

As we began across the Banks Penninsula our thoughts were with the rumoured excellent Cafe at Little River (AM had been there before with B) which also houses the
Little River Gallery. Great place to stop.

Found a great motel by the harbour quite near the excellent Ma Maison restaurant. This restaurant was the only one willing to serve us after 9pm and were very friendly and the food great!

Before we ate (and the reason we were so late to dinner) was that we decided to go for a little run (a bit risky given Doug's marathon pedigree). Fun trot around the harbour with some interval and hill training thrown in for good measure (which I think we were supposed to be grateful for!).

Overall we really enjoyed the feel of the somewhat french Akaroa!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Dunedin - Marine Research Station - Moeraki Boulders - Oamaru - Penguins!

Up quite early and headed for the 10.30 tour at the Marine Research Lab and Aquarium on the Otago Pennisula.

Interesting tour, saw a few sea-horses (some courting), phyto plankton under the microscope and realised we probably swallow these when we swim in the sea (YUK), sea cucumbers, native fish, small sharks and that sort of thing. Interesting tour which ended with a play in the "touch tank" where we got to poke star fish and sea cucumbers and velvety molluscs.

We then headed over to the Albatross Colony, only to find lots of construction work going on and the Albatross viewing closed for the courting period. Cafe was fortunately opened and is still very good! A quick stroll down to the seal beach and time for another arty photo...

Self portrait!

Not to mention another odd brothers shot

Once again, note differences in height, hair and style

Then we jumped in the car and wended our way off the peninsula and up the coast to the Moeraki Boulders, which transpired to be another excuse for a photo opportunity.

AM on funny rocks

Doug jumps from driftwood!

Three wise monkeys

Hatching photo (I bet nobody thought of that before!)

After so much silliness we headed further up the coast to see some penguins in Oamaru. Early in the evening, the Yellow-eyed penguin colony comes ashore in one sheltered bay (they then climb up the hillside and hide amongst the trees. We didnt have to wait long to see the first of the penguins waddle ashore. Always impressed by these!

Yellow-eyed penguins

Then we drove 5 minutes to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony for an impressive display. The colony's habitat is managed to protect the penguins and at the same time allow tourist to see them. The Penguins come ashore after dusk, sometimes followed by a Hooker sealion, and unfortunately a couple of domestic cats the night we were there. The penguins waddle in from the sea in groups, whilst waiting penguins wander out to meet them. Much noise follows as they reacquaint themselves and throughout the night we are told.

This eco-tourism is closely monitored and this colony in particular is a useful control group, which is demonstrating greater breeding success than other groups without this kind of human contact so it seems the tourism is not damaging at a basic level. Sure was a good show though!

Blue penguins coming home for the night

Driving out of the colony we had to be careful to watch for penguins on the road, as you can see.

After that spectacular we were a bit chilly and hungry so headed back into town for a curry. We were lucky to find them open at this late hour (after 9) - the staff there were amazed to hear tell of Indian Restaurants open for business at 11pm at night in the UK!!! Again, another night in a decent motel followed.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Milford Sound - Kayaking Around - Drove to Dunedin

Awoke fairly early in time for our pick-up at the lodge at 8.30 by a super jolly guide (Will) from Fiordland Wilderness Experience. We awoke early mindful of our previous trip with FWE where we managed a super faff about 6am outside Bill and Daphne's house in preparation for our multi-day Doubtful Sound trip.

Geared up and ready to go. Yet another example that one brother has style (even in rented clothing) and one seems sadly lacking

Gear for the Milford Trip was a little less comprehensive than what we got for the previous trip to Doubtful Sound. We were only issued 2 hats instead of three(!), and got a wetsuit vest rather than long john suit, and the boats were plastic instead of fibre glass. Overall though, we have been extremely impressed with the gear and general organisation of the FWE tours on both this trip and the Doubtful Sounds trip.

Ann-Marie at the rudder end

What a spot for a lunch break!

Will supplied hot drinks but was rather taken aback that only one of us Brits wanted Tea!! We took the lunch opportunity to look at the map and were quite surprised that we'd seen penguins swimming near "penguin tree" on the map, and a seal on a rock at about "seal rock". This made us begin to suspect that this was some kind of elaborate robot show and checked the map again in case we'd missed "Dolphin Corner".

After lunch the kayaking got a bit more strenuous as we got into a more exposed part of the sound before we rafted up the kayaks. Actually, this was quite a performance as the kayaks needed to raft up altogether to make sure they were all still facing the same way before the current turned the raft around. One crazy girl on the rudder of my brothers boat managed to crash into everyone and continually zig zag making rafting up in rather large waves quite tricky and tiring. We eventually got it sorted and stuck a sail up to head back to base.

The sail proved less effective than we'd seen in Doubtful Sound. Perhaps due to the wind, or the plastic boats, or bigger raft - still fun though. Dodging the shipping lane was also quite entertaining. Will was trying to tell a Maori legend but kept getting distracted by our sailing troubles and shipping lane. It was quite a long story!

AM, Doug and me in Sandfly Point (sure enough, Sandflies in evidence)

Overall we had an EXCELLENT trip for a very good price, with a great guide. Wouldn't hesisitate to recommend these FWE folks to anyone, they really know what they're doing and their guides are excellent (well, Adrian and Will are anyway).

At the end of a long day we opted for a long drive to Dunedin to continue our trip. Doug did loads of the driving tonight, the first time he has easily stayed awake into the night.

A little way out of the tunnel from Milford Sound we came upon quite a number of Kea and stopped to say hello, and to give them the chance to tear our car apart.

Kea Patrol

Kea up close and personal (Whose idea was it to open the door?)

We hastily left, just about unscathed and just about free from extra passengers. For wild animals, Kea are very tame.

Had a reasonable feed at the "Howl at the Moon" in Gore. Managed to catch Doug out a bit with the specials board, which we had earlier deduced was exactly the same as the menu. It went like this, "don't forget to check out the specials board". "OK, hey, that Blue Cod is on the menu as well". The whole specials board was on the menu too, very odd decoration. Happy to leave that place and get to Dunedin for 11.30pm to a pretty decent motel.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Wanaka - Queenstown - Te Anau - Milford Sound

Awoke to discover the ski roads were closed because of the wind. It was a fairly marginal call but rather than wait around to see if they eventually opened, we headed further south.

Having never been to Queenstown we swung by for a look and some breakfast. After somewhat surly service at Vu Du cafe (pretty ok food though) we did a bit of wandering around the shops only to return to our car, parked in a free car park, proudly displaying a parking ticket (where are those pesky Alpine parrots when you need them to attach loose bits of your car). So, stroppily paid up the $60. Pretty pathetic parking offence if you ask me, not exactly in anybody's way and parked way out of the town centre!

Began the long journey south to Te Anau and arranged a kayaking trip on Milford Sound for the next day with Fiordland Wilderness Experience - an excellent kayaking company we had used for our previous trip to Doubtful Sound.

There is only one place to stay in Milford Sound, the Lodge - very nice backpackers style accomodation - so we booked this too.

As we arrived in Te Anau we headed for a bird sanctuary run by the Department of Conservation (DOC) on the Road to lake Manapouri. Surprised we missed this last time round since this place has a live Takahe (a native flightless bird) to take a look at (though she's quite old).

Takahe with sub-alpine vegetation. Photo by Rod Morris/DOC
Prehistoric looking and very rare Takahe

Takahe. Photo by Peter Morrison/DOC
Quite a bit bigger than a Pukeko!

Pukeko for comparison - you see these all over the place. They seem to be thriving, perhaps because they can fly.

Following our bird observations (we also saw a Kaka and a number of other interesting bits and bobs), we headed to Te Anu for a coffee and a bit of shopping in preparation for our big kayaking adventure (and to buy some dinner to cook later).

Doug and AM soon figured out how to make my new taste for the Chai Latte seem a bit weak - look at the size of their coffees!

The drive up to Milford Sound was pretty impressive and yet 2 more hours from Te Anau. Amazing scenery ending in a small hole cut-out in the rock, which road signs reliably informed us was a "tunnel". This tunnel was hewn from the rock using hand tools and looked like it too. We drove in, flicked our lights on and expected ours eyes to adjust to the dark. They didn't. The tunnel was not lit. Eventually the road surface revealed it's potholes too. Gratefully emerging the other side we were greeted by more signs saying "NO STOPPING AVALANCHE ZONE" and you could believe it. We popped out of the tunnel into a HUGE rock bowl with extremely steep sides covered with the remnants of Spring snow (big remnants!). After about 5km we were allowed to stop, according to the road signs.

Finally got to the Lodge, checked in and showed Doug where the kitchen was (he's good at stuff like that). I took charge of mixing the ingredients for the world's most expensive trail mix, for lunch the next day.

A game of Yahtzee in the communal lounge was all we had time for before the generator was switched off for the night and the lights went out (11pm).