Driving from Dunedin to Te Anau and on the days that followed, I finally understood why people say that the best way to see New Zealand is to do a driving holiday. One JUST doesn’t get bored, not only is it beautiful but the landscape changes continuously. Later in the trip, as we drove from Queenstown to Franz Joseph in a span to 2 hrs we moved from mountainous landscape to a beach to a desert!!!
We enjoyed magnificent coastal scenery on our drive from Dunedin to the Otago peninsula. The breathtaking views and sheer cliff faces over the Pacific Ocean made me recall something I had read, which seemed just so right - The CNN website lists the Otago peninsula as one the 10 best places for a fairytale marriage proposal on Valentine's Day!!!
Brief stopover at the Albatross center, where we managed to see one flying around. But that started Stephen with his ‘Albatross around the neck jokes’! We were not be left behind, where we? So we cracked some of our own about the albatross being the husband!
We were visiting a farm owned by the Reid family on the Otago Peninsula headland. Called Nature Wonders, it is a self funded conservation effort to ensure that the land is preserved for all future generations to enjoy, by protecting the penguins, fur seals and other wildlife. The wildlife are living in natural environments the way nature intended it to be.
A thrilling thrilling cross-country adventure in the ultimate all terrain vehicle, an 8-wheel-drive ARGO followed. Adrenalin rush plus stunning scenery!!!
Our first stop was at the mythical "Maori Footprint" location which offers as they say 720° panoramic views - because you will look around twice!!! But I would multiply that several times over as one just can’t get enough of the view!
Next was a very close encounter with a breeding colony of Fur seals and their pups basking on the rocks and swimming in the pools in front of us. The sea weed in the pools looked more like giant flat noodles or rubber strips! And from there we were taken along a beach-front to an area from where one can look down on to Penguin Beach – no humans allowed here - to view little penguins in their nests and spot the rare and shy yellow eyed penguin on the beach. We managed to see one baby penguin in its nest and 2 penguins – but only using binoculars. No close encounters here!!!
There are many, many sheep in New Zealand – as is often said 40 million sheep population against a 4 million human population, but they always seemed so far away in the fields. It was here that Nalini and I had our only REAL close encounter with a sheep.
From there began our longish ride to Te Anau, which basically meant lots of new stories from Stephen! There is a famous section of State Highway 1 between the southern towns of Clinton and Gore known as the scenic "Presidential Highway". Though the towns do not get their names from the American President and Vice President, the Presidential Highway was so called after Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s visit to that area…though Stephen’s nose didn’t grow, not sure if this story is true! As with his other tale of the Richest man in the world who hires planes when he has excess baggage. He never did tell us the name of this fellow though!
In Gore town, went for a small walk and saw this amazing tree…more like several trees combined into one.
Evening we reached Te Anau - a very cute, little town. Our hotel was right by the lake. Stephen advised us to visit an internet browsing center – he said it was unique, but wouldn’t give any further details. Enjoyed a nice evening walk – slightly chilly but very fresh - to the town center, where we found the browsing center but unfortunately it was closed. Peeked in to find that it was just one of those luxurious places – nice, quite spacious yet cozy bays with comfy sofas that one can just sink into and sleep!
An amazing Italian dinner and we were all ready to call it a day!