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Te Anau; Kepler Track; A Walk Wire; Fiordland; Milford Sound; More Waterfalls

Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park, was our next stop. We stayed in a self-catering studio apartment, and got to eat at home, a nice break from restaurant food. Our first day there saw us hiking from Rainbow Reach on the famous Kepler Track, a fabulous tramp in lush woods along the Waiau River. The Kepler is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and follows a 60 km (37 mile) route through lush forests and over alpine mountain passes. 

The Waiau is alleged to have good trout fishing, but alas, I had left all my gear at home, so the fishies were safe.

There were a couple of foot bridges along the route, and fortunately it wasn’t too windy; they were bouncy enough as it was with just the two of us.
We reached our destination, Lake Manapouri, with views of distant Mt. Luxmore and the Beehive. This is New Zealand’s second deepest lake, having been scoured by glaciers to a depth of 587 feet.
The wetlands surrounding the lake have a wide variety of flora and fauna, and the colors were especially striking on this clear, sunny day.
On the return trip, Suzanne decided to step into the ferns for a photo op; I almost lost sight of her completely!
On one of our hikes, My Lovely Bride asked me to test out this “walk wire” across a stream. There are no planks, only three tensioned wires. My first reaction was, “Are you nuts?” Then I think I heard her say, “Ty, don’t be a wuss… what’s the worst that could happen? You fall off into an ice cold stream and either break a leg or drown… Man up!” Well, what the heck… and yes, we both made it across twice safe and dry.
I got a break from driving on our second day in Te Anau when we got tickets on a small tour bus based here. Our driver/guide, Jackie, was a self-proclaimed “Outdoor Girl” who had run a camp in a remote part of the park before moving back to town. On one stop for a short hike, Jackie showed us how to taste the leaves of a local plant that was very spicy, much like pepper.   
This was one of the cabins in the rustic bush camp where Jackie had worked and where we had morning tea and scones. She recounted that the sandflies were awful here at times; fortunately they weren’t bad during our visit.
One stop along the way looked out over a wide glacial valley, but these cairns caught our eyes; the one on the left looked like a penguin, the other like an old man wearing a hat…
Our all-day tour stopped at many view points and a few short hikes. Suzanne loved this series of rapids and small waterfalls.
The trip through the mountains was spectacular, but we had to deal with occasional misty rain and low clouds all day.
This overturned tree stump made a handy frame for a portrait of My Lovely Bride…
Milford Sound, a World Heritage Site, is the most famous attraction in Fiordland, and N.Z.’s most visited place and was voted the world’s top travel destination. Rudyard Kipling called it the Eighth Wonder of the World. Mitre Peak (5,560 ft.) is the landmark mountain on the left. Nine miles long, the fiord was carved by glaciers to a depth of 1,600 feet, and cruise ships can maneuver almost close enough to touch the fiord walls.

Our small tour boat came within about 50 feet of these fur seals (A. pusillus doriferous), but we didn’t appear to be disturbing their beauty rest.

This shot of Stirling Falls (511 ft.) shows another tour boat getting up close and personal to the falls. Our turn would come shortly…

Our approach to Stirling Falls provided an opportunity for Suzanne to have a very cold, fresh water shower, but she declined and kept her fleece on… We arrived back at our room late that day and thoroughly satisfied with our Milford Sound experience. Next day we were heading for Invercargill on the south coast… and perhaps a peek at endangered penguins!

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