Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fiordland - The road to Te Anau

Frodo and the gang have done much for the tourist industry in New Zealand. Since the release of The Lord of the Rings motion picture, tourism in New Zealand has increased anywhere from thirty to forty percent (depending on who you talk to).
A visit to New Zealand must include a trip to the southern island and Fiordland. Auckland is an ordinary enough city with a great harbour and plenty of yachting activities, but you can get that in any one of a number of cities around the globe.

Queenstown in summer. No skiers, but it does have the same feel as Mammoth or Aspen during the summer.

The best way to see New Zealand is by driving. Yes, the steering wheel is on the left but outside the larger cities and towns, you can drive forever without encountering more than a half dozen vehicle's you could possibly hit. Sheep on the other hand, are a different problem, although in most areas, there is so much land for herds of sheep to graze on, they seldom need to cross a road.

Our journey to Te Anau started from Queenstown, where most day trips to Fiordland originate from.
Arrowtown, a small town just outside of Queenstown, with some 1,700 residents was originally built up during a gold rush in the 1860s. At the height of the rush, the town swelled to nearly 7,000 people. The Chinese were first brought in as cheap labor but within two years their numbers had swelled to 1,700.
Today, Arrowtown remains as New Zealand's only living Historic gold Mining Town.

We poked our way through the remains of the old Arrowtown Chinese Settlement. Didn't see a single other Chinese person around.

One of around six boats set up to take tourists out to the Sound.

We arrived and settled into a small motel in Te Anau the day before our planned trip out to Mildford Sound. However, everything was on hold due to some environmental "hazard" at the Sound. Apparently, someone had siphoned some fuel out of a tank of one of the boats, into the water, as a planned protest against the ongoing plans to perhaps expand the tours on the Sound. There's got to be a better way to get your point of "protecting the environment" through than by harming the environment.
We were awakened and informed at 5 am the next morning that the whole mess had been cleaned up so we did make our two and a half hour scenic drive out to Milford Sound.
The trip out the Sound was enjoyable and we could see the point of trying to stop any further expansions in the fleet. It is a beautiful place with dramatic landscapes but not unlike many other areas on the southern island.

The town of Te Anau is not much more than a couple of streets with restaurants, shops, and motels. Plenty of places to get your Fiordland souvenirs, if you are so inclined, or kayaking, camping, or hiking(tramping) gear. Strangely enough there's also a sizable Korean supermarket. Or maybe not so strange. There are growing pockets of Asians relocating to New Zealand, especially from Korea. Other than all this, the town itself doesn't have much else to offer. What remains the highlight of Te Anau are it's natural surroundings.

Out on Milford Sound

Hiking, or "tramping" as they call it in New Zealand.

The southern island of New Zealand is truly a naturally scenic place. You can see why so many people spend so much time on outdoor activities.

I once believed that New Zealand was "a long way to travel" to get to "not much there", and although it's true that our first few visits were a "stop along the way", we enjoyed every minute of our time there. So if you're into bold scenic landscapes and are on your way to Australia, or some destination in the South Pacific, you may want to swing by Fiordland.

Te Anau, New Zealand time

**Memories: Dramatic landscapes, deer farms, and "the worst spaghetti I've had in my entire life"

**Visits: April 2000, November 2001, January 2005

Arrowtown Chinese Settlement
World Heritage

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