Writing this from a quiet, no-frills campsite run by the Department of Conservation on the east coast of the South Island. No warden, just put your money in the box.
Since the last posting, we have walked the Milford Track, cruised on Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, and seen lots of wildlife along the southern coast: sea lions, seals, penguins, and albatrosses.
The Milford Track took us just over 3 days. It proved to be a fairly easy walk, because the weather was good throughout, which is highly unusual. The walk is famous for its bad weather, and can be a tough challenge in the rain, with swollen rivers to be crossed. On many occasions, helicopters have had to ferry walkers across the worst parts. They measure annual rainfall in metres in Fiordland- hard to imagine how bad it can get when it is so dry now. There isn't space here to write everything we experienced: the flora and fauna, the overnight huts (better than we expected), swimming in the rivers, climbing to the hut at the top of the pass to find a helicopter there with maintenance men upgrading the facilities!, and much more. I could write masses just about our fellow trampers who we shared the overnight huts with- a generally very friendly bunch! Took lots of photos of mountains, rivers, and waterfalls, but I've only shown a sample on the album attached as it gets boring if you weren't there.
From there, we went straight on a cruise on Milford Sound, again brilliant sunshine, and superb views. It lives up to expectations. After being away from the world for a few days, it's a shock to be surrounded by the trappings of the 21st century, and tour groups, but the scenery is so magnificent, you soon forget that.
The following day we went on a cruise to Doubtful Sound, which is not as touristy as its neighbour, as it is harder to get to, but equally stunning, and so peaceful. Both times, we get to see dolphins which is great. Hard to get any decent photos, but worth seeing.
Drive down to the most southerly tip, then up the east coast through the Catlins, a part most visitors miss out, but very pretty coastal scenery, and fantastic campsites. Two nights ago, we camped at Curio Bay,which is in an ideal position, perched between 2 bays. You could walk across the campsite to one bay and see rare yellow-eyed penguins, then across to the other to see dolphins playing in the surf, and sealions on the beach. In fact, we saw one sealion very closeup, as it waddled off the beach, and into the undergrowth in the campsite. It made all the campers wary about wandering around in the dark! Then last evening, we camped in a great site, where we went for a run along a long and perfect sandy beach. It didn't matter than it lashed down with rain on the way back, especially as we went past 5 sea lions, dozing on the beach. They don't do much there, but apparently move fast if upset.
Next, with a few days in hand before we leave NZ, we are heading up the coast and back inland to the eastern side of the mountains.