It's been a really nice couple of days since we left Queenstown. First we went to Te Anau, a really small lake town. It’s about two and a half hours south west of Queenstown. We got there with a bit of time to check into our hostel, walk into town and have a wander along the main (only) street then head to the harbour to catch our 5:45 boat. We went with Real Journeys to see the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves . The boatride alone was worth the trip! Its about a half an hour boat ride to the caves and because we did the evening boat the sun was starting to set as we were crossing the lake. The sunsets we have seen in New Zealand since we left Christchurch have been the most amazing sunsets we have ever seen. The moon was out as well and it was gigantic! and full. That was really incredible. We couldn’t stop staring at it. When we first saw it we thought there was no way it could be the moon because it was way too big. I couldn't manage to get a really good picture of it, so memories are all I've got! Once we got to the cave we got off the boat and met up with our guide. He told us a little bit about the glow worms and what we should expect in the cave and off we went! The entire cave is over 6km (3.6 miles) long, but we were only going to go as far as 250 meters. We walked through the first part of the cave on these wooden bridges they have built over the water. The noise in the cave was incredible. The water was rushing through with such force that it sounded like we were standing next to a waterfall. When we looked down there were so many different levels that the water was travelling and so many crevasses that it was pushing through. Once we got to end of the footbridge we hopped into another small boat and road into complete darkness. It took a few seconds for our eyes to adjust, but then we saw all these little glowing specs all around us! They're sort of the color of fireflies but they don’t move around really. The hungrier they are the brighter they glow, so they must have been really hungry!! Then we road back and got free coffee/tea and watched a short video on the life of glow worms. They are sort of like spiders in the way that they catch their prey. They let down a sticky fishing line straight down from where they are and then they suck out the insides of the critter, no need for the rest! Then they pupate like butterflies except they turn into flies instead of beautiful butterflies. Then they die 3 days later. Once we watched that we stared at the moon a little bit more and headed back on the big boat to Te Anau.
Our hostel, Lakefront Backpackers, was right on the lake with a nice view from our window even with a little balcony. It was our first venture into dorm beds since we started this trip (we’re big timers and stay in our own rooms usually). It was a six person dorm room and it was full. The nice thing about this place was that our dorm also had a kitchen and living room area so that made for a nice evening. We hung out in the living room with two other German girls who were staying in the dorm as well. We just chatted about different places we all have been. They have done a bit more of the North Island so it was nice to hear about that. Then we were off to bed to wake up early for another adventurous day!
After we got done with the boat trip we got to our hostel, Milford Sound Lodge, to dry off. It is a really big hostel, probably because it’s the only one in Milford, and expensive because of the same reason. So we decided to stay in another dorm, this one is only 4 beds and has another couple staying. We changed into warmer clothes and relaxed in the large lounge with heaters and comfy couches. Then we were up early again to head off on a hike called the Lake Marian Hike. It turned out to be a much different day than yesterday, bright and sunny! The walk was steep but at the end we were rewarded with lake and mountain views, so it was worth it!
Tuesday we woke up early and headed to Milford Sound which is North West along the only road that goes to Milford Sound. We were told it could be quite treacherous in the winter (so much so it’s the law in the winter you must carry chains for the car) so we were very glad to be travelling to Milford before winter. It is an incredible drive from Te Anau to Milford. The road sits between giant, snow covered mountains, and water on both sides at some points. Halfway through the drive it started to rain, but we had heard that it is even better in Milford in the rains so we weren’t worried. The only thing in Milford besides a few hotels is the boat terminal. We had read in the Lonely Planet that it can look like a busy airport terminal, but we couldn’t understand that until we actually got there. A lot of the boats all leave around the same time so there are masses of people in the terminal and nearly as many buses outside the terminal waiting to pick up the next boatload that comes out. We went for one of the smaller boats, mostly because it was the cheapest, but it turned out to be a really nice journey. Because it was small we were able to see so much, we even went under one of the waterfalls on the way back into the dock. Once we were away from the busy terminal and out on the Sound (which is actually a fiord because it was formed by glaciers), it was like riding into another world. It rains here a lot, about 21 FEET a year!! But people were right about it making for an even better experience. It created this mist on the water that made it look sort of mystical. We also saw loads of bottle nose dolphins and some seals and LOADS of waterfalls that are apparently only there when it rains and 20 minutes after the rain stops they dry up, so once again thank you rain!
Now just using some free internet back in Te Anau before heading to Manapouri for the night. It's almost time for Stewart Island!!