Friday, March 28, 2008

Te Anau

Breathtaking Scenery

The Southern Alps in all their glory

Lake Te Anau

We were spending only two days in Queenstown so we decided to do a driving trip on our second day to maximize what we could see of the Southern Alps. This forfeited the chance to visit the Milford Sound (I know, what a bad travel agent I was) but, that is something we will just save for some future trip to New Zealand. A whole itinerary doing the west coast of the South Island would not be a bad idea. You could fly into Queenstown, and then visit Doubtful Sound, Milford Sound, Fox Glacier, Franz Josef, and possibly Mt. Cook. It would be a heck of a trip if you had good weather.

Te Anau is 170 kilometers south and west of Queenstown. The road goes next to Lake Wakapitu, which is the very large lake upon which Queenstown sits, providing wonderful vistas of the mountains. Upon leaving the lake it goes through several wonderful valleys that have immaculate farms raising cattle, tens of thousands of sheep and deer. The road fishhooks to the west and comes back north to Te Anau.

The community is at the foot of the lake of the same name which then goes north for probably 60 kilometers. North of Te Anau the road is the only highway into Milford Sound. We went as far as Te Anau Downs which is about half way up the lake. All the views along the lake are to the towering east side of the Southern Alps. At any location to or from Te Anau you have great vistas of high rocky mountains.

South of Te Anau we did a little loop on one of the designated scenic highways through Manapouri. It provides scenes across Lake Manapouri to the very high peaks surrounding Doubtful Sound and the Fiordlands National Park. If we had continued on the scenic highway, rather than cutting back to Queenstown, it would eventually have taken us to Invercargill at the very southern tip of the South Island.

To finish off the day on returning to Queenstown, we drove up to the small gold mining town of Arrowtown. When the gold ran out it has been converted into a crafts village somewhat similar to Winthrop, Washington.

Quirky Living Note: Anywhere you travel in New Zealand you see thousands of sheep, sometimes literally thousands in a single pasture. Mary Ann and I were talking during the drive today about how you would think with all this wool, that wool products would be inexpensive. In Ireland they are, so shouldn’t New Zealand also have bargains? They do have beautiful products, many of very high quality merino wool. But the prices are also very high. We have not seen a full wool sweater under $200 NZ.

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