New Zealand Part II: South Island continued

September 22, 2009 - Queenstown, New Zealand

So next I jumped on a Bus tour called the Bottom bus that goes to Dunedin, the Caitlins, Invercargill, and to Te Anau before having a day tour to Milford Sound and then back to Queenstown. (with the opportunity to hop on and hop off at any of the towns along the way! (It was a small group just myself, two danish sisters Dani and Louise and an English Fella called Tom). First stop was Dunedin - which is a scottish influenced town in the south east of NZ (Dunedin is the old gaelic name of edinburgh - which is what it was named after). Nice little town with the main industry/business being the University of Otago in the townand the student population make up about 30%-40% of the towns population. It formally was the port closest to the Goldmines during the short Goldrush period and was the financial hub of the country at that point in time.

As far as touristy things to do goes it is the home of the world's steepest street 'Baldwin Street' (According to the Guinness book of records) a fact they are quiet proud of and each year during the local summer festival there is a competition called the "Gutbuster" where entrants run up to top and back in a race (record is something like 1 minute 56 seconds). Also during the festival they the local Cadburys factory release giant Jaffas (not jaffa cakes - round balls of chocolate with orange coating) down the street with raffle numbers on them down and first ball down that number wins the raffle!

Which leads me onto one of the other tourist attractions - the Cadburys factory tour (with loads of chocolate freebies and giant melted chocolate (water) fall for the sake of itself! I also went on a brewery tour of the local Speights brewery (they do a nice Ale called 'Distinction Ale'). Another interesting point of note there is a decent kebab shop called Paasha here (one of only three decent kebabs i've had on my travels 1 in Arequipa Peru in restaurant called 'El Turko', 1 in 'Roozervelts' in Collins place food court in Melbourne Australia and 1 now in 'Passha' Dunedin New Zealand but still none come close to the chicken shish kebab (or mixed kebab) in Zaytoons Dublin Ireland!) Best burger in New Zealand so far is in FergBurger in Queenstown and the best Kebab is in Paasha Dunedin.

Next day was tour through the Caitlins coast and stopping to see 'sea lions', rainforests, waterfalls and curio bay - the home of the rarest penguins in the world the yellow eyed penguin (endangered species). And also beside the penguin nestsis a rare petrified forest (a forest fossilised - turned into rock by silica in flood water containing ash from a volcano eruption millions of years ago - you can see the tree stumps and count the rings in the fossil tree/rock - i thought it was fairly amazing - according to our guide supposedly alot of people he's taken there aren't!

We waited around for an hour and a half to see the penguins return from day at sea (that they normally do around sunset! Our guide told us he had a 90% success rate of seeing them whenever he stops here with a tour - so we where quite hopeful. But unfortunately Penguins being wild animals and tour buses being tour buses and the deadline to arrive in invercargill before the reception of the hostel shut at 7pm meant we didn't get to see them! (definitely one of the draw backs of going on a tour bus not on your own time schedule) I'd say we probably just missed them by a matter of minutes!

I stayed the night in Invercargill then got on a ferry the next morning to Stewart Island - stayed in a lovely little hostel called bunkers backpackers very homely and warm and relaxing - highly recommend it to anyone going to Stewart Island. Whilst on the island I did some Hiking on part of the Raikura track (in the Raikura national park which is 85% of Stewart Island). Also seen a leopard seal (meant to be fairly vicious seals with a fearsome bite) in horseshoe bay and had a friday night in the local/ only pub on the island with some ones from the hostel and some locals!

Stewart Island is a fairly relaxed place with bird noise being the most noise your likely to hear (and its reputed to be one of the best places to see kiwi birds in the wild with a 25,000 strong population of them around the island (but unfortuneately they are nocturnal). I liked stewart island and probably would have stayed longer but i had my ferry and and tour bus to fiordland booked so jumped on that and next stop was Te Anau (the gateway town to fiordland national park).

In Te Anau i hiked a little of the kelper track (one of new zealands great walks) and the next day I went on a tour to Doubtful Soundand also as part of the tour to Manapouri powerstation which is a hydro electric power station built under a mountain that takes water from Manapouri lake (which is at a level of 173m above sea level) and uses the flow to turn turbines to generate electricity - enough for around 1 million people although around 90% of the power generated here is used by an aluminium smelting plant near bluff!

Doubtful Sound was impressive glaciated valley /Fiord - not many tourists go to there because of its location and difficulty to get there!

Interesting if useless fact of the day : The word sound is actually erroneous or a misnomer as it implies it was a valley formed by a river - but as i've mentioned it was formed by a glacier, but they didn't have a word in the english language for that when naming it - now adays we use the norweigan word fjord to describe them - but they have also named the fiordland wrong as it should have a 'j' instead of an 'i'!!

In doubtful sound there was fur seals and bottlenose dolphins (flipper dolphins) out near the entrance to the tasman sea - the dolphins swam along at the front of the boat - and I did get a little trigger happy with the camera as i'd never seen dolphins up so close before it was a beautiful clear day which is pretty rare in these parts of fiordland as they get between 7 and 9 metres of rain a year (Milford sound is reputedly the 2nd wettest place on earth rainwise second only to the mountains of taihiti supposedly) So I was lucky to get a good day to help my photos come out a little better

The next day I went to Milford Sound (new zealands number 1  tourist attraction i think)And the roas from Te Anau to it which is about 120km is amazing in itself for most of the journey it is a no stopping zone as there is something like 183 avalanche pathways that cross the road - it is one of the most avalanche prone roads in the world - it is crazy to see the huge paths of snow coming down to the road and see where they've just dug out the roadway - a week or two before i did this tour the road was closed for 12 days staright as the homer tunnel was blocked by a number of avalanches that happened only a few days apart kept it blocked - the Homer tunnel isn't a fancy tunnel built during a depression its is bare unevenly cut rock in very solid bedrock that took years and a number of lives to build.

The weather this day was completely the opposite to the day before as it bucketed rain all day - but it was impressive to see all the waterfalls forming everywhere down the steep mountains and cliffs of the valley - which was fairly cool to see! Also I was glad to see milford sound in the mist and rain and low cloud seemed very haunting and mystical (although my photos prob didn't come out as well). It was definitely a very impressive place to visit and more stark and closer in than Doubtul Sound - alot of huge tour boats run every day there - its big business! We also got to see an underwater observatory in the fjord which had black coral at depths of 8 metres below the surface - normally only grows much deeper - but grows here due to low light conditions as the freshwater runoff from the mountains has moss, soil and tannins from trees, this keeps the surface a dark brown colour keeping out alot of light. From Milford Sound my bus tour concluded back in queenstown where I spent another 2 nights then headed north to christchurch!

1 Comment

James & Maureen:
October 20, 2009
Your New Zealand Part two blog is just as informative as all the rest! Keep it up. Pictures continue to be very good, well done.
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