Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Fjordland is the isolated and iconic region in the southwest corner of the south island. Dramatic mountain ranges emerge from meadows and cool glacial melt cuts river and waterfalls across the landscape. The drive into Fjordland begins in Te Anau where the road winds through meadow, forest, and mountain to Milford Sound and the Tasman Sea.

Fjordland is home to some of the most well known and beautiful tracks in New Zealand. During peak season tracks such as the Milford Track and the Routeburn Track sell out of bunk space in the Department of Conservation sites, which are the only places to sleep during the multiday hikes.  So Claire and I took the opportunity to do day hikes on some of these tracks.
Hiking up to Key Summit during a break in the weather
Key Summit on the Routeburn
The weather during a day hike on the Routeburn track highlighted the schizophrenic weather patterns in New Zealand. Once reaching the Key Summit we found ourselves basking in T-shirts in the sun, dodging hail, and seeking shelter from fierce wind and rain. But calm breaks in the weather made the views spectacular and well worth the suffering.
A refreshing swim in Lake Marian
The campsites in Fjordland are numerous and popular. Campsites are placed in gorgeous locations with rivers or lakes nearby to help campers get access to water. And while access to fresh water is essential for camping, it also means that the sites in are swarmed by sandflies, particularly at dusk. The flies made a point of making themselves comfortable in our van, biting during the daylight and sleeping happily next to the windows during the night.
The view from our campsite in the Eglington Valley
Eglington Valley at dusk
Beech Forest near the campsite
One of the most famous and photographed places in New Zealand is Milford Sound. Rising a mile from the waters edge Mitre Peak is an iconic image and the highest coastal cliff in the world. Visitors view the sound by taking a 2 hours cruise to the mouth of the sound and back. The photos don't do justice to the size and scale of the mountains and peaks surrounding the fjord.

Mitre Peak on the left dwarfs the cruise ship

The Kepler track was another beautiful day hike. The meandered through trout laden streams, beech forest, bogs, and lakes.

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