The drive from Kingston across to Te Anau wasn’t especially exciting. As we set off there was a thick band of low cloud lying in most of the valley bottoms and we only really popped out into bright sunshine on a few occasions during the 150 mile journey. You know that you’re getting into the back of beyond when communities of just one or two buildings start to feature on national maps, but the few small towns we passed through looked pleasant enough. As we swept through the metropolis of Athol (maybe 20 homes?) we were tempted to hang around for the advertised ‘Fun Day’, but as the highlight of the event promised to be a display of vintage tractors we decided to give it a miss.
Te Anau sits on the edge of the Fiordland National Park and it’s not difficult to work out why they called it Fiordland as there’s nothing much other than lakes, mountains and forests for mile after mile after mile. This afternoon we walked about 16km of the 70km long Kepler Track which runs through the Kepler Mountains on the western side of Lake Te Anau, lovely paths through lush forests of tall trees and tree ferns…. but as usual with our wildlife spotting luck, no Kiwi birds.
Tomorrow we’ve booked a place on a trip up Doubtful Sound which along with the more widely known Milford Sound is a popular destination for those tourists who (like us) want to feel that they’re getting a little bit off the beaten track. The package includes a trip through one of New Zealand’s largest hydro-electric plants which was apparently built specifically to produce power to smelt Australian bauxite. Fancy that – shipping ore all the way from Queensland to the shores of New Zealand (and then presumably back again as aluminium) to take advantage of cheap electricity ……. not quite my idea of ecologically sound practice, but what do I know?