Friday 4th March - Queenstown to Te Anau

Mike and Liz Downing
Wed 30 Mar 2011 08:31
Continuing south the road follows eastern shore of Lake Wakatipu and runs between the lake and the Remarkables Mountain range, another very dramatic and scenic route. The scenery softens into pasture land - with sheep, cattle and deer - as the road heads south and then turns west to Te Anau. There's quite a lot of deer farming in the South Island, but as far as we could see, cattle still out numbered both deer and sheep. Te Anau is on the southeastern shores of Lake Te Anau, in the Fiordland National Park, the largest of the many National Parks in NZ, and the Park is within the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area. There are 14 fiords (they spell it with an i not a j) in a huge remote area (8,000 sq miles or more) and as approaching Te Anau the high mountains of Fiordland could be seen. We had planned for a 4 night stay here, making it the longest stop of the trip. The attractions of this area are its remoteness, its mountains for climbing and trekking, the fiords and its wildlife. Two of the fiords - Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are world famous for their breathtaking beauty and grandeur and we had booked in Queenstown to visit both, taking a gamble on the weather. Would we be lucky? Being on the west coast and high up, this area takes all the rain that comes from the west, so it rains on average 2 days out of every 3 and the annual rainfall in the Sounds is a whopping 8 metres (26ft), compared with 2ft in London. The forecast suggested that Sunday and Monday would be better days so it was to be Milford Sound on Sunday and Doubtful Sound on Monday. The Sounds are not sounds (drowned river beds), but true fiords cut by glaciers. When first discovered and named as sounds by Europeans they didn't realise. The names have been retained, but to correct it the whole area is now called Fiordland. True to forecast, Saturday was a dull day with some rain and was spent looking around Te Anau. We hoped things would improve for Sunday. 
Pastures along the road approaching Te Anau, with mountains behind. Yes, these are sheep. We have
still seen very few. If there really are 40 million sheep in NZ there must be a field somewhere
with about 39,800,000 sheep in it! We're beginning to think 40 million is a myth!
Lake Te Anau. It's 38 miles long and the largest lake in the South Island.
Read the notice. We would have to go a long way off the beaten track to stand a very small chance
of seeing these nearly extinct birds in the wild, but ......
..... fortunately they have a captive breeding program to try and increase numbers.
The 2 they have in the bird sanctuary at Te Anau both decided to come out in the
open while we were there.
Other birds that can be seen in the Fiordland National Park, if you know where to go. Many are very
rare, due to introduced predators - stoats, weasels and rats. In many areas they are trying to trap and
kill these to give the native birds a chance to survive.
The local pipe band was marching around town, collecting money for the Christchurch Earthquake