Continuing from part I (read here if you have not already) of my journey through middle earth, where I left you off on the south coast at the end of my first 10 solo days, part II continues through the next couple weeks where I met up with Linda to continue exploring the south island from Queenstown and Glenorchy to Milford Sound (again) and up to Fox Glacier and Wanaka (again). Part III, which will be posted soon due to the amount of photos I am sharing, will take you on a street art walk in Dunedin where we met up with Ashley, and onto the north island for a visit to Auckland, Hobbiton, and Rotorua for a tour of Whakarewarewa, the Living Māori Village.
Queenstown to Glenorchy
After being away from Linda for 10 days at this opint, we finally got to meet up again in Queenstown. I had left Invercargill at sunrise to make my way up to the airport to get a headlight replaced at the car rental place, then to pick up Linda from her long flight. We were staying at a really nice resort in town for several days so I could take it easy, and she could ease out of her jet-lag.
Queenstown was a busy little village with a lot of little shops, cafe's, and restaurants and is nestled right on the edge of Lake Wakatipu (above). It was a great little village, but a little too busy for our wants. We decided to head west for the day. Following the lake's northern edge takes you from Queenstown to Glenorchy at the very tip of Lake Wakatipu, which was our first destination.
You see, Linda and I needed to geek out. We picked up a Lord of the Rings filming location book and had ourselves our own adventure. The filming locations (aside from Hobbiton) are in no way labeled in the country, but there are little tour books that can help you to find them.
The first series we wanted to locate were in Glenorchy and the directions took us across un-maintained New Zealand back-country, farmer's fields, and several fords (see 7th photo below). We pushed the little rental to the limit, until it just couldn't cross anymore fords (the final ford was too deep and filled with car bumpers and other parts - I have a cell phone shot of that below, 4th from end).
The final image in the series below was the destination - the scene of the filming location for Isengard (just picture a black tower dead center) which was quite the adventure to get to. The image just before that is Skipper's Canyon where they filmed Arwen’s river flood and just before that (3rd from end), the forest used for filming Lothlorien in the town of Paradise. Bonus photo (#6) is Linda acting out a scene from LoTR. Haha!
Milford Sound Part 2
We decided to use one of our days in Queenstown to take advantage of the Milford Sound bus tour and cruise - really so I could have my first day off from driving in 2 weeks. The concierge at the resort hooked us up with a tour bus picking us up at 7am right on the front steps and making the four hour drive to Milford Sound's cruise ship for lunch. If you didn't see part 1 on Milford Sound which was all about hiking the sound, go back to the other post.
The bus took us down route 6 out of Queenstown then into Te Anau for breakfast. Our path took us through the Mirror Lakes once again and gave me another encounter with the wonderful Kea. It was a cold morning and the report was the pass through the divide into Milford Sound was closed due to snow. But Jamie, our fearless driver, pressed on. Just before we hit the pass, the plows and gritters did their jobs and the road opened (phew, just in time too!)
The cruise was really nice and the guide gave us the entire historical background of the sound (which isn't a sound) that was so interesting to hear. The boat took us out to the Tasman Sea, which is a full six feet lower than the sound due to the large amount of fresh water floating on top of the seawater here, then back. Couple interesting things we learned. First, the waterfall below (3rd from the end) was the one Hugh Jackman jumped from in Wolverine. They are also the falls that the cruise ship backs into, so everyone can get sprayed (and look 10 years younger according to legend). The second to last picture is quite unique. Apparently, this is one of only two spots in the world where you can get a picture of a fjord, a glacier, and a rainforest in one frame.
We also got a view of the must incredible rainbow jutting out of one of the mountains (as it appears). It was so bright it was almost glowing, and we had a good 10 minutes plus of viewing it. One of the best ones I have seen. And I swear, I tried to limit the images in this section once again, like in the 1st post. It's so hard to take them out - and this is a selction from over 300 taken here that day.
Fox Glacier / Te Moeke o Tuawe
After several days based in Queenstown, we headed up the coast towards Fox Glacier. At the start of our drive, we had a quick detour to locate the filming location of the Pillar of the Kings from Lord of the Rings.
Though the pillars were actually done digitally in studio, you can get a good feel of the location and bend in the river. The guidebook gave us good directions to a vineyard from where it was filmed - but we didn't realize how scary of a drive it would be getting there. (Notice the warning sign on the road I snapped with my cell).
The road was barely the width of a car and was not paved (pavement ends just on the bend in this photo) following the edge of a cliff, with about a 100 m drop into the Kawarau Gorge to one side. Driving up the road (which on this day had 90 km/h winds) the car was shaking over the washboard land. Peering out my window to the right, I could look straight down to the bottom of the gorge - the only thing between us and the bottom being air. In the photos below, I included a zoomed image of the drop. You can see where the road cuts into the cliff face - and that's where they digitally added the pillars. The last image from the winery tries to show just how windy it was.
So, continuing from here, we wound our way back through Wanaka and 6 north into Haas and finally the village of Fox Glacier for a couple days. We absolutely adored this tiny hamlet. The town was quite small with just a handful of shops. I think there was a petrol station, 2 cafe's, and a general store as well as a handful of motels and hostels. This was truly backpacker country.
The day we did the Fox Glacier track, it was utter downpours. So my photos below are a mix from my Sony (when only misting) and my cell phone when the skies opened up. The hike was only a 2.5 km return or so and begins in the deep riverbed the glacier carved. There are a few ups and downs and crosses a handful of river creeks, but ends in a slightly steep walk of 400 m where there's no resting, due to constant dangerous rock slides. They have good warning signs and safety ropes - but best to keep moving. At the top, you're about 500 m from the glacier, which is close enough due to the moving nature of the beast. People have died crossing the ropes, thinking they know nature better than the rangers.
After having a nice view and catching our breath, we made our way back to the glacier valley to play with some of the ice that broke off (last photo) and finally get out of the rain to make our way back south to Wanaka.
Back to Wanaka and the Lavender Fields
When we hit Wanaka again, it was in full autumn foliage, and was breath taking. While going for a walk, we saw that the Gypsy Fair (that I ran across in Invercargill) was in town and had a good time visiting the people there - and Linda got to meet many dogs, her favorite sport.
We also took a walk down to the lake to admire the great foliage and so I could show her that Wanaka tree where we once again met many many dogs.
We just spent a night here, ordering some take away pizza while continuing to dry out from Fox Glacier. It was cool that the restaurants in town don't deliver, but there's a service that will go pick up your order and bring it to you. Not something we have here at home, but it was really cool. The poor driver had a beast of a time finding our room out in the wind and rain, so we gave him a good tip - which threw him off as tipping isn't a thing in New Zealand.
In the morning, we visited Puzzling World (crazy tilted rooms that really mess with your head) and then headed off to the stunning Lavender Farm. This might have been Linda's favorite part of the trip as she was in absolute heaven here. The shop on the farm had everything lavender you could imagine (I think she bought it all) and a very cute tearoom.
The farm itself was just stunning with the foliage. Though most of the lavender was out of season, there was still several hearty varieties out there we got to see, as well as some horny livestock (you'll see below). The farm had a handful of sheep, cattle, chickens, and miniature horses.
Stay Tuned for Part III
Sorry this once again got so photo-heavy. Part III will be the conclusion with a week in Dunedin, then travel to the north island for Hobbiton, Rotorua, and Auckland.