Day 3: We drove down to Bluff, New Zealand’s southernmost tip via Invercargill, and then up to Lake Te Anau and saw endemic birds. More than 400 kilometres of road was traveled on this day.
Lake Te Anau is our final destination on day three, and it is more than 5 hours drive away from Dunedin. En route, Dad wanted to visit Bluff, the southernmost tip of New Zealand – just to say we’ve been there!
Bluff was not on our original agenda and we had another long day of driving ahead of us, so we decided to forego visiting the Otago Peninsula to save on time. The peninsula only about 20 minutes away from Dunedin and the albatross breeding centre is a popular tourist attraction here.
We arrived in Invercargill around lunch time and we stopped to have kebab. After a bit of walking around the city, we got back into the car and drove another 1/2 hour to Bluff.
Bluff is the southernmost city in New Zealand and is a port and gateway to Stuart Island which lays further south.
We went to a lookout point in Bluff and drove up a large hill. We saw a man walking up the hill and he waved at us. Because we took a wrong turn to reach the lookout point, I had to reverse the car and get back on to the main road to get there. The man we saw earlier had already arrived, wow he was a fast walker!
At the top of the lookout point, we could see the harbour and Stuart Island. I was told that only 400 people live in Stuart Island and some 15,000 kiwi birds flourish there!
We left Bluff and drove north to Te Anau, about 187 kilometres away. The weather was overcast and as we got into Te Anau, it had started to rain. Te Anau is a popular lake resort and I have many friends who have visited from Malaysia. The day was cold and gloomy and it was late, so I decided to visit the nearby bird sanctuary as it was still open.
We had Indian food that night, the weather was raining and cold so hot butter chicken with nan bread actually sounded good.
I stopped by this bird statue to take a photo, and once I was done, a Chinese man nearby asked me to help take his photo. Somehow he thought I was from India, and when I said I was from Malaysia, he said he was too!
Te Anau is fjord territory and located near Fjiorland National Park. Lots of people who visit Te Anau come to take lake cruises to see the beautiful fjords in the area. I saw many people queuing outside the cruise venues to board ships at night. Since we only had one night to stay in the area we had to forego this activity. However, upon driving out of Te Anau to head into Queenstown the following day we came across a few stops that overlooked beautiful fjords, so at least I had some exposure to these magnificent things.
Colleagues and friends recommended me to visit Milford Sound and take the lake cruise up there to see the fjords, which is another 2 hours drive away north of Te Anau Lake. Gordon at work tells me that on the drive to Milford Sound there will be a section of the highway when you would see a mountain “sinking” on the horizon as you drive closer to it.
Since Milford Sound wasn’t in our original itinerary and as much as we wanted to go see it, we didn’t because 1) the weather was less than ideal (raining) and 2) that meant we’d be spending almost two hours on the road just to get to Milford Sound, and then have to drive another four hours from Milford Sound to Queenstown! (There is no direct road from MS to Queenstown, we learned that the department of conservation did not want highway to be built through the national park).
A few days later when we were back in Christchurch, Graham our local driver told us how dangerous the road up to Milford Sound is from Te Anau if you are not used to driving there. He tells us of a tragic accident that involved two young German tourists who lost control of their car at a notorious road bend and collided with a bus that ended up on top of their car! Sadly they perished as they were trapped when their vehicle caught up in flames.
In hindsight, my parents and I made a wise decision not to push ourselves to go to Milford Sound. It would have been too tiring of a trip and we wouldn’t be able to see or do much in Queenstown had we done that.