Thursday, March 17, 2011

Choose your beautiful landscape in Fiordland!

After Wanaka we went to the far south west part of New Zealand, known as Fiordland, which houses many beautiful sheer mountains, fjords and lakes. Our base for most of the time was Te Anau and the beauty started on the drive there, right after passing Queenstown, which we would visit again before leaving New Zealand.

On our way to Te Anau

Te Anau is a small town right by a lake surpisingly named "Lake Te Anau". It's not a huge tourist destination in itself but the stepping stone to reach the famous Milford Sound.

The area is also home to 2 of the most famous hikes of New Zealand, the Milford Track and the Routeburn. Both are 3-4 days hikes which we didn't have the gear or the time to do, so we chose an amazing day hike for our first day there called Gertrude Saddle. Even after 2 weeks spent hiking here and there in New Zealand, the hike was definitely not easy. It goes uphill pretty quickly and climbs for a while through loose terrain and fallen rocks until it reaches a lake, and finally the saddle.

Losing balance. Or not

The highlight of the hike, which is already beautiful in itself, is the top that suddenly opens up to a view of the valley on the other side, and the Milford sound in the distance. It is really an amazing view up there and we highly recommend the hike if you're in the area. It called for some rest and some photo fun!

The next day we used a tour company that drove us to the beginning of Milford SOund for the unavoidable cruise on the Sound. We made a couple stops on the way.  One of which was at these beautiful Mirror Lakes.

Something's not quite right here...

Once on the boat, we had some photo fun again while pulling away from the docks and into the Sound.

"She's touching the butt!" - Finding Nemo

I'm on a boat!

I have to say, as we were traveling through the sound towards the Tasman sea I thought the place looked good but didn't quite live up to all the hype we'd heard while traveling the rest of the country. I had been to fjords in Norway and the place seemed very similar with its sharp mountains coming out of the water. As the cruise continued though, I have to admit that it became hard to not be taken by the place, its size and its beauty.

On the way back from the Sound, the tour took us to a hike called Key summit, that we had planned on doing before getting there. It's a little 3-hour hike that is the last summit you reach when doing the famous Routeburn hike. This was definitely easier than Gertrude Saddle the previous day, and also made us reach this conclusion: "The harder the hike, the better the view!"
It was beautiful up there, but it quite didn't compare to the elation from the previous day. Have we become scenery snobs? :)

From Te Anau, we then took off for Queenstown, our last stop in New Zealand. Last time we were there we thought that even though the city has amazing views, it doesn't compare with the cuteness of Wanaka. We got the same feeling this time around, but it didn't prevent us from having some fun.  We took the gondola to the top of the hill, and did some luge.

Ready for some luge?

This headstand was not easy to time properly

The luge is surprisingly fun!

As we were about the board the plane we had this funny feeling again. In a trip like this, when you finish your 3 week vacation, you don't leave with the sadness of leaving the place and thoughts about going back to work, you just get excited about this new place at the other end of the plane ride, that you still have to discover. Next up: Sydney, Australia!

Bonus: some awesome yoghurt, for men!

The rest of the photos can be found here:

View New Zealand - Fiordland in a larger map

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