We woke up and had a bit of a slow start to the day as there were some important things to do while we were in Wanaka. First order of business was to find a decent place for coffee. At the hostel, it was instant coffee, so we were wanting a nice cuppa for the day ahead as it was going to be a long drive to Te Anau.
The kids wanted to play on the big playground down at the waterfront, which included a big dinosaur that you could slide down the tail, like Fred Flinstone did at the end of his working day.
Both kids really enjoyed this but when it came to them asking Deb and I to go down the slide, there was no way that we could do it without coming to a halt as our butts were too big for the slide. My birthing hips. Haha.
The road that took us to Te Anau snaked along the lake providing beautiful vistas where the mountains met the water.
One thing about the roads here in New Zealand is that they are all rated as 100kph speed limit. However, they are really narrow, winding, and not slopped that, in any way, would allow a 100kph limit to be reached.
Except if you are a local. They seem to be quite adept at driving these roads.
In fact, it affects your driving so much that it actually adds at least an hour to your driving time when you pull up the driving instructions on HereWeGo. Brutal.
Additionally, it is so common knowledge, that they have posters in public places, and even drop toilets, around the country. So, why not just skip the hassle and just rate the road at something more reasonable. Like 70kph.
Anyways, we finally made it to Te Anau, and found our AirBnB which was a fantastic little place. It was a little two bedroom cottage on a farm of a local family, who had three boys 10, 12, and 15. They had horses, sheep, dogs, and an alpaca. Oh, and they had a pony that Lulu could take for a ride during our stay. She was so excited!
The family that owned the farm were fabulous and were very accommodating, and the boys took to the kids right away. Wilson and one of the boys hit it off especially well, and they spent a number of hours working on this boys fort in the middle of one of the horse paddocks.
Wilson has shown an interest in engineering, and this boy made all kinds of things out of wood, scrap machine parts, and wheels, which played nicely into Wilson’s interests.
We knew that the one day that we were going to be there was going to be very rainy, so we opted to get out to see a couple of sites before the day was through.
We made our way down to a local swing bridge that was at the start of the Kepler Track, one of New Zealand Great Walks.
This one was really bouncy, which the kids enjoyed but gave Deb the heebeejeebee’s. I don’t know if that is how you spell it, but whatever.
There were some people in boats in the river below that were fishing, kind of in a speeding manner as the current was very fast. So, it wasn’t a leisurely drift down the river…rather it was like speed dating for fishermen. And women.
We then went down to the local dam that controlled the flow of water down the river to look at the engineering behind such an enormous structure.
It was funny to see a sign at the dam that the dam was an official candidate for a Darwin Award. For those of you who don’t know what a Darwin Award, it is an award that is handed out to people or places where stupid people do stupid things which usually result in death, thereby enacting Darwin’s “Natural Selection” theory for the survival of the fittest. Haha.
We made our way back to the farm to play with the kids, and the animals.
They had a cute little rabbit, which Lulu adored and loved to snuggle when she had the chance.
The clouds started to roll in that night, but I got the chance to get outside and take some photos of the stars and used the clouds as the point of interest (star photos are nice, but better if there is something in the foreground that adds depth to the photos).
As predicted, the next day was overcast, and was pretty wet. We decided that we would head to Milford Sound anyways to see what wonders awaited us there.
For those of you who haven’t been to Milford, it is one of the wetter places in the world, and as such it is lush, with towering mountains with a pass that goes through the mountains and opens up into the area, where there are hundreds of waterfalls along the sides of the Sound.
Last time we were here, we took a cruise into the Sound, but we opted not to do it this time with the kids as it was nice, but not over the top. We thought we would do, you guessed it, some hikes instead. Up the Marian Falls Hike we went…
With all of the rain, the rivers and waterfalls were really flowing which were fantastic to see.
We took a hike up a nice track that had raging rapids with lots of little waterfalls along the way. I am not sure if it was “The Chasm” which was one hike that was recommended to see, but it was too wet for us to get the whole way (plus the kids didn’t want to go), or if it was another waterfall hike. There are so many waterfalls here it is not funny.
Deb will attest to this fact that I love taking pictures of water, as much as I love taking pictures of stars (new found interest). Water (as Fun Killer Dad explained to the kids on a photography lesson) can be portrayed in two ways.
It can be shown as powerful, by stopping the water with a quick shutter speed, or you can show that water is majestic and graceful by having a slower shutter speed, where you get that angel hair pattern. I like the latter, unless there is something moving like a waterskier, a kayaker, or a raft that is in the water trying to tame it.
We really wanted to do a hike called the Key Summit hike which climbed up 500m or so vertically and offered amazing vistas of the mountains and the Sound. But with all of the clouds, this was not going to happen today.
When we got back to town where we could play in the park. We had been there the day before, and they had some cool toys there and a zip line. In fact, it was a double zip line, and given the fact that it had just rained, there were not many kids at the playground.
So the kids were racing each other, and then they asked dad to get on one to race them. An opportunity to incorporate a physics lesson was not missed. Mass times velocity equals momentum. I have a lot of mass right now.
So, you have to understand, that you have two options for riding a zip line. One is to stand on the plastic platform, and the other is to sit. I chose, incorrectly, to sit. So, I sat down and one of the lines was lower than the other, and I was on the lower one. Sitting down. And there was a huge puddle half way down the zip line. Thank god it was mulch and not dirt.
I plowed right through the puddle, much to the delight, and laughter, of my family. And some onlookers as well. Oh well….it’s not like it is the first time that I have been laughed at or the “butt” of the joke.
We went home with dirty shoes, and soaked pants, and we nestled in for another night at the farm playing with the animals and building structures out in the horse paddock with the kids. The dogs had really taken a liking to us and they were often waiting for us at the door of our cottage when we woke up in the morning or go home at night.
The next day, the weather seem to be quite a bit better, so Deb and I got out for the one run that we were allowed to go together on our six month journey.
We love our kids, but Wilson is an anxious kid, and for the majority of the trip, he would not let us venture out together anywhere. He had a fear that we wouldn’t come back and he, and Lulu, would be left stranded in some foreign country. Despite the fact that we are his parents and love him to death, and would never do this, he still had the fear. He overcame many fears and anxieties during this trip, except this one.
So, we cherished the ability to run through this lush forest every step of the way and the time together. It was just shy of 10km together, and I would love to go back and do the rest of the Kepler Track!
After Deb and I had sufficiently exhausted our legs, we came back to sunny blue skies which allowed to make the decision to head back toward the key summit hike as we really wanted to do that hike. Well, at least Deb and I really wanted to do it. It was listed as one of the best one day hikes in New Zealand. And there was certainly a reason for that.
We started off in the parking lot where was the final stop for the people finishing the Routeburn Track, which is a three day Overland track that would’ve been beautiful to do.
The hike to the summit was a series of switchbacks along an ever increasingly rugged trail. It got so bad to the point that Lulu was putting herself on strike again and I used the hiking poles that she had gotten for Christmas to good use, so I could pull her up the hill. Instead of her putting them in the ground, she held them out forward for me to hang onto and pull her. Kind of like what you do with a kid at the ski hill to get them over to the ski lift.
We eventually reach the top of the hike and we we’re amazed by the views of the surrounding area, the waterfalls, the mountains that tower at all around us. It was simply amazing. Definitely worth the hike up!
We met a couple from California who had just gotten married, and we shared our tradition of “the kiss” with them and hopefully they continue on with the tradition as we help them get to their first kiss pose.
We are able to walk a bit further along the trail which took us up a little bit further on the hill and provided us and even better view of the surrounding area with a mirror Lake reflecting the beautiful landscape in front of us.
Deb had read that there was a extra hike that was a bit of a bush tramping where it would allow us to look down the other side of the valley.
What Deb read said that it starts off after a bit of a look around, however as the track continued, was supposed to get thicker and thicker with respect to the brush and then eventually open up.
I opted to try hiking down this part of the track while Deb and the kids held back. Nothing like sending their father off into the forest along an unmarked path in a foreign country. Ha ha, hopefully to make our way back.
It was quite a hike…more like a bushwhack as it did look like that there was actually a path there at one point but had long since been abandoned. I never did reach the place where the forest opened up for more vistas as it was just too thick and all of the rain the day before made it very sloppy.
I turned back and felt like I was walking through the movie set of the Lord of the Rings it was so eerie and overgrown.
I got back to the family, who were patiently waiting for me, and then we finished of the loop at the top of the hike, enjoying every view that it had to offer.
We hiked back down and made our way back to town where we opted to get pizza from a local Italian restaurant which was quite good as you didn’t feel like cooking and we are heading off the next day.
With our bellies full, we headed to bed in search of our set of next adventures in Mount Cook.
In the meantime, here are some random pictures from the rest of our stay there…