Nugget Point and Dunedin

At this point, we were all starting to feel our departure from New Zealand closing in on us. We didn’t have anymore fixed plans besides getting to Christchurch where we had to return the motorhome on January 15th. This gave us a little less than a week left.

Originally we had wanted to follow the South coast of the island, but instead we decided to go across to Dunedin with a stop at Nugget Point on the way. That way we would have a bit more time and flexibility for the things we wanted to do and see in our last week.

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At Nugget Point, there’s just a short walk to the lighthouse, where you get a good view of the surroundings and the scattered cliffs in the sea. It’s quite beautiful, and the wind was so strong that the sight of the water crashing against the rock walls was really impressive.

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In the afternoon we arrived at our camp site in Dunedin – it was still extremely windy, so we hung out in the motorhome, had dinner, and then went for a walk at the gorgeous beach just by the camp site. We almost blew away, but we had a magnificent sunset.

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The following day we had an awesome brunch at The Kitchen Table Café. We found it by chance, and it was such a cool place with great breakfast!

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Then we did a little shopping. Dunedin was the first real town we had been to for a while, that wasn’t limited to outdoor sports gear and fishing rods, so we did a bit of looking around.

Same afternoon we were lucky enough to get in on one of Elm Wildlife’s tours, and we spent the afternoon and evening in the knowledgeable company of their two wildlife experts Claudia and Tony. It was really great – we were taken to the wildlife reserve at Otago Peninsula in a small group by bus, and then we walked to the different locations from there.

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We saw yellow-eyed penguin, little blue penguin, sea lions, fur seals, albatross, and quitea few other animals. And all the time we were given access to a very broad knowledge and passion for the New Zealand wildlife. It was hard to get good photographs without a serious zoom, but I made an attempt. I’m especially happy with my close-up of the little blue penguin.

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Yellow-eyed penguin

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New Zealand fur seal

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Little blue penguin

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We were returned to our motorhome around 9 p.m. and headed out of town to find a free camp for the night.

Milford Sound

We nearly missed our boat ride in Milford Sound. We knew how long it would take to get there, but we had left out two important things – the waiting time at the end of the Homer Tunnel, and worse, the parking situation at the harbour in Milford Sound.

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There was a Park & Ride parking lot that combined parking with bus transport to the harbour, and we ended up using that. Unfortunately, a bus had just left when we parked, so we had to run more or less all the way to the harbour. Luckily, we made it.

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Our boat experience was very much defined by the company we had chosen for the boat ride. Cruise Milford run the smallest cruise boats on the fiord, and it was an altogether great experience. The boat wasn’t too big, the staff were really friendly, there weren’t too many people, and the tour of the fiord was beautiful.

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We had heard that Milford Sound was way more touristy than Doubtful Sound, and that may be true, but when I compare the two boat experiences we had, I felt much less like part of a cattle transport in this one.

The weather was great, but it had recently been raining a lot, so the waterfalls everywhere were stunning, and the conditions for seeing the fiord perfect.

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Due to the size of the boat, the captain sailed really close to the waterfalls (actually he sailed under one of them – that was wet), and he also sailed under a cliff formation while he told us about the different layers and shapes.

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Brilliant experience – warm recommendations for Cruise Milford.

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We had lunch in Milford Sound, and then we walked back to the car, and headed South for Manapouri. Once again we stopped many times. The scenery going from Milford Sound to the Homer Tunnel is spectacular, and at the other side it keeps going.

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Milford Sound has made a huge impression on all of us.

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That Awesome Key Summit Track

We had time for another walk on our way to Milford Sound.

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We set out on the gorgeous road from Te Anau in the morning, once again stopping all the time to take in the magnificent scenery – and of course, to let sheep pass. The road winds its way through a pass in the Southern Alps, along lakes and between towering, rugged mountain walls.

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Not everyone was equally interested all the time.

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We stopped at The Divide parking lot, briefly after Lake Gunn to where the Key Summit Track starts. It is the beginning of the famous Routeburn Track, which is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

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It was very windy, but a fine sunny day. We walked through moss clad native forest for a while, then over open ground past alpine lakes and shrub land, and finally to the top, where we had spectacular views of the Hollyford, Eglinton, and Greenstone valleys – not to mention the mountains around them.

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It was soooooo stunning. Now that I have had a taste of it, if I ever have the chance to go on some of New Zealand’s Great Walks, I will. The amazing views of the mountains and valleys between them are just really worth the effort you put into getting there. The girls have not been complaining about walking at all, I think they have enjoyed it as much as Mads and I have.

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This day in particular, I lack the words to tell you how gorgeous it was up there. We actually met a guy that we came across several times at the Tongariro Alpine Crossing as well – that was kind of funny. Walking all over New Zealand. This country is so beautiful, and the walking tracks are to die for, so I will just share the pictures.

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When you gotta go, you gotta go. The toilets in the alpine landscape are just slightly more cool.

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When we came back down to Børge BumleBus, we headed for our camp for the night. We had read fun stuff about Jackson’s Retreat and booked a site there, and it sure was a quirky place with a lot of atmosphere – unfortunately it was totally ruined by those wicked sandflies. We had to keep the door of the motorhome closed to not be eaten up. Oh well – we had a nice game of 500 (card game) inside in the evening rain.

What a day. :)

Doubtful Sound

We had to get up quite early in the morning to be at the Real Journeys office in the near by town of Manapouri at 8 a.m. It was a cloudy morning, and it rained now and then. We were going on a boat trip on Doubtful Sound, something we had been looking very much forward to. It was a 15 minute drive there, but everyone was still a bit tired from the late arrival the previous day.

The tour started with a boat trip across Lake Manapouri, followed by a bus ride across the Fiordland National Park to Doubtful Sound, and finally a 3 hour boat trip on the Doubtful Sound.

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Doubtful Sound is definitely a beautiful, isolated place. At one time, the tour guide stopped the engines and asked everyone over the loudspeakers to keep still for a while. We were surrounded by luxuriant mountain walls dropping steeply into the fiord, everything was wrapped in mist and low hanging clouds, and the silence was suddenly very clear. We heard birds singing somewhere on the mountains, and raindrops falling on the water. Quite a unique experience.

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We met another Danish family with girls the same age as ours on the trip, and Ronja and Frida enjoyed hanging out with Danish children for a while. After sailing on Doubtful Sound we were taken back to Manapouri by bus and another boat.

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I have to say, in spite of the grandeur of the fiord, I was a little disappointed with this trip – even though we were well looked after by the staff and the boat was fine – going to a place where the quiet solitude is the main attraction works best in smaller groups. On this trip, they had to fill up three buses to get us across the Fiordland National Park, and the boat ride itself was a bit too much of a ferry experience for me. The beauty around us was evident, there were just too many people for us to really feel close to it all.

We will have to go again some day in our own sailboat.

Driving back to our camp site, the mountains once again showed off what they can do in cloudy weather.

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Horse Riding in Glenorchy

In the morning, the sandflies had taken possession of our beautiful little spot next to the lake, so we moved on after breakfast.

Glenorchy was just a few winding kilometres away, and we enjoyed every bit of them. Mads is going on and on about how fabulous this country would be on a motorcycle, and I tell him it’s pretty fabulous in Børge BumleBus as well. – Nahhh, he knows. 😉

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We spent the first part of the day driving around in the area surrounding Glenorchy. Usually, we would stop and go for a walk, but today everyone felt a bit lazy, and seeing the rivers and landscapes from the car suited us just fine to begin with. Several key locations from the Lord of the Rings were found in this region, and it is easy to see why the filming crew found it appropriate – the scenery is quite stunning.

Also, later in the day we had an appointment at Dart Stables, which at least for me would be sufficient activity for that day. Actually, we were all looking very much forward to it. We had lunch from Mrs. Woolly’s General Store which is an amazing place. All kinds of special and high quality groceries as well as fresh sandwiches, salads, and different kinds of snacks. Definitely worth a visit – and they had free wi-fi. We hung out there for a while, before we headed over to Dart Stables.

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Dart Stables run horse riding tours for all levels of experience – including mine (almost none/so long ago it doesn’t count). We all found helmets and boots that fit, and then we waited while other riders were matched with horses and sent off.

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Frida got Ginger, Ronja got Baxter, Mads got Harry, and Eden was stuck with me. The horses were all wonderful and well groomed, and it was a pleasure to set out for our riding adventure.

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We had to stay in line in the order we had been told, otherwise we could mess up things with the natural hierarchy the horses have among them. There were two guides with us, another family of 4, and a woman. We were at the end of the group, with Ronja in front, me behind her, then Mads, and Frida was at the end of the fellowship – so to speak.

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The girls have both had riding lessons for quite a while, and Mads has too, though it goes back a few years, so they were all fine. I used to ride a bit with friends long ago, but not much, and I never took lessons, so trotting was a bit of a challenge to me, though I think I managed alright. Still I had the best time – the horses were great, and the landscape beautiful.

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The girls faces were frozen in big smiles – especially Frida, she was happy as a clam. We got to cross a big river, which was sooo cool! Awesome way to spend an afternoon – though my legs were a bit sore for a day or two.

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It was quite late in the afternoon when we left there, and we had to get all the way to Te Anau in order to keep our schedule – otherwise we would lose an already paid camp site. Noone minded though – gorgeous sunset drive along the Remarkables mountain range and the Kawarau River. We reached Te Anau, just after 9 p.m., looking forward to a good night’s sleep.