Stage two of my travels started in Te Anua by befriending a Manchester traveller Theresa. She not only put me onto a superb Milford Sound cruise deal ($99 including coach pick-up from Te Anua and cruise) but we hit it off as well. Sharing a bottle of wine and block of chocolate that night cemented a friendship that saw us travelling together for the next five days.
The cruise deal was excellent, considering it would have cost me around $70 to drive the 117 km to Milofrd Sound and back again. The coach stopped off at all the picturesque points along the way so we didn't miss any of the spectacular drive in. The boat was a 60-seater with only 27 passengers so we didn't have to elbow people out of the way for photos, and the weather was mild and clear to allow us to stand on deck most of the time. As anticipated, the Milford Sound lived up to our expectations in its awe-inspiring beauty. Free soup and coffee on board helped pass a relaxing two and a half hours on the water. Returning to Te Anua was quiet with most of the passengers falling asleep - all bar five of us had come from Queenstown, making it a 14 hour day - w*** that! We couldn't believe one couple slept through most of the drive in, plus on the boat. She went to take photos outside - he contented himself to look at them on her digital camera - why bother?
That night we enjoyed a spa, followed by chill out time in front of the TV.
Th next day we hiked into XXX lake, a three hour walk through natuive beech trees to a gorgeous spot with a large 40-bed hut, which was empty. Would make a great NY's spot with 40 mates, minus the sand flies which were out in force. This being saturday it was game night, so we ambled down to the Moose to watch the All Blacks slaughter the Wallabies - shame. But the beer was good, pub had atmosphere and we got chatting to the various groups to occupy half of our table.
The next day, we started our travelling convoy through the Southern Scenic Route, stopping regularly at points of interest.
Into Invercargill, and a lovely backpackers, which turned out to be the highlight of Invercargill. An Asian lady, who was staying five days, told us Invercargill was boring and a NZ-resident Palastinian decided the best thing about it was breakfast at McDonalds. We did try to wander the shops as Theresa needed some things but we gave up - what a hole. We decided to cut our visit short and head through the Catlins towards Dunedin.
We were in luck in Dunedin with our own little 'house' at the backpackers, sharing with Ches and James, two young lads. An impromtu drunken evening ensured which was great fun in its unplanning. At 3.30am, I called it a night. Theresa was unsure of her bedtime but her hangover the day led me to believe it was well after mine. It meant I got to explore Dunedin on my own as she lay dying in bed until well after 3pm when I finally went back to kick her outside.
First stop was the steepest street in the world - a claim that apparently is now being disputed but it still looks impressively steep. Then onto the Otago Museum with its impressive Maori exhibition, and its Natural History display was fascinating. Due to Dunedin's two-hour parking limit everywhere, I didn't get to complete my look around which was a shame but still well worth the effort to see.
I then went to do some shopping - after Blenheim it was exciting to be amongst decent shops although I didn't give the purse the hammering I was expecting.
I enjoyed Dunedin - it felt like Edinburgh, and seemed to be a very livable city. I savoured the smell of the Speights brewery which took me back to Dublin and the Guinness brewery - a nostalgic trip down memory lane from my overseas days, which I enjoyed. That night, the search was on for fish and chips - finally found some, which was ate in bed watching television - yah, Outrageous Fortune night - perfect!
To be contined ...