Day 8 (daily kms 337, cumulated kms 1946)
I arrive on day 8 in the South West of the South Island in the Fiordland. This region is famous for its mountains and the clear blue water lakes.
It is also a lot colder than the East Coast.
My goal is to reach Milford sound to make a boat cruise there, but as it is still far away, I stop near Te Anau to hike a part of the Kepler track.
On the road to the track start, I stop first at my second LOTR filming location:
Waiau River: The opening aerial shot of The Fellowship of th Ring showing the forested banks of the Anduin River.
The Kepler Track is one of the NZ Great Walk and to do it completely it takes normally 3-4 days. I walk only the beginning till the first lake and come back, which takes me a bit more than 05h30.
The track is very nice, alterning forest, flat green/yellow fields, mini lakes and waterfalls.
After the hike, I drive to the North to get closer to Milford Sound. The road is beautiful, the drive along the lake Te Anau is very scenic and offers a lot of nice viewpoint like the Eglington Valley or the mirror lakes.
To recover from this long day, I spend the night at the cascade creek camping, the last one before Milford Sound.
Day 9 (daily kms 194, cumulated kms 2140)
The highlight of day 9 is the boat Cruise at Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a must see for any traveller in the South Island.
I join the first cruise at 09:15 to avoid the big tourist groups that arrive later. The cruise takes about 1,5h to go from the Milford pier to the end of the sound offering a wonderful view on Mitre Peak, the impressive Bowen Falls (150m high), the Fur Seal Rock and then facing the Tasman Sea.
The place is quite touristic and the boats all very full, but it is still one of my favorite place visited in NZ till now.
After this nice cruise, I drive back to the South, passing through the famous Homer Tunnel and just after its South Exit I stop at the bottom of the Homer Headwall Waterfalls to have lunch. During this break, I read in my guidebook “NZ frenzy” that it is possible to walk/climb to the very foot of the waterfalls and decide to give it a try.
I will take me in total almost 2h to go there and return and I am happy to have made it back alive in one piece 🙂 The walk was quite steep and the whole way on big rocks without any clear path. It was quite an adventure to get there 🙂
My goal was to reach Queenstown in the evening, but as it took me too long to go to the Waterfalls, I stop in Lumsden instead to spend the night, which is exactly at the the middle of the way between Te Anau and Queenstown.
The camping place there is very funny, it is the parking of the old train station which was changed into camping place/play area for children.
Day 10 (daily kms 178, cumulated kms 2318)
On the next day, I take the road to Queenstown. However, as I arrive there, I am a bit scared by the number of tourists everywhere and I decide to continue directly to the North West to Glenorchy to get closer to the start of the Routeburn NZ Great Walk Track.
As I feel motivated to do a bit of sport, I stop on the way to hike on the Mt Crichton Track. The track is quite nice, going through the 12-Mile Creek where we can still find the houses and buildings used by the gold miners.
It takes me around 1h15 to reach the top of the mountain. The view there on Lake Wakatipu and Lake Dispute, as well as on the other peaks around is simply beautiful as the weather is very good, sunny and almost no cloud.
On the way down, I see some signs for another small easy hike going to the 12-Mile Delta and Bob’s Cove. I feel a bit tired by the hike up to Mt Crichton, but as the 12-Mile Delta camping was a LOTR filming location, my geek side forces me to go there 🙂
Twelve Mile Delta: Frodo, Sam and Gollum watch the battle between Faramir’s Rangers of Gondor and the men (and Oliphants) of Harad. Sam and Gollum discuss coney cookery.
After this small trip in Tolkien’s world, I hit the road again to North West on the Glenorchy Road.
This road is vey famous as it goes along the beautiful Lake Wakatipu and also offers a lot of nice viewpoints.
I arrive in Kinloch to watch the sunset Lake Wakatipu from the amazing campground where I will spend the night.
Day 11 (daily kms 89, cumulated kms 2407)
On Day 11, I decide to make a long hike again. This time it will be on the Routeburn NZ Great Walk Track. This Track takes in total 3-4 days to finish but as a day walk, I will only go to the second Hut and come back.
The track is very scenic, going through forests and crossing rivers. The first 1,5 hours to the first hut are still fine, however the next 45 minutes to the second hut are very demanding as the track becomes very steep.
The view from the Falls Hut down the valley is amazing. The Waterfalls that gave its name to the Hut are also nice to see.
With the lunch break in the middle, it take me in total around 5h30 to go up and back down to my car.
To recover from this adventure, I spend the night in a camping just outside Queenstown where I can also take a nice hot shower and make my laundry.
Day 12 (daily kms 115, cumulated kms 2522)
My plan for day 12 was to walk up the Queenstown hill then drive through the Gibbston region famous for its wineyards and finally walk up the Iron Mountain to enjoy the panorama on the city once arrived in Wanaka.
However, after having started the Queenstown Hill hike, I still feel that my legs are tired from my long hikes of the two previous days and I decide to change my plan.
I still enjoy the ride through the Gibbston wineyards (where I bought some local wines), but near Wanaka, I prefer to stop at the Puzzling World and keep the Iron Mountain for the day after.
The puzzling world is a kind of entertainment museum with exhibitions of optical illusions and tricks and a giant labyrinth. The place is very fun although I struggled a bit to get out of the labyrinth.
At the front, there is a leaned tower where people can take creative pictures. Check the one on the upper right corner of the examples panel 🙂
As I want to visit Wanaka the next day, I spend the night in a camping not far at the border of a river in Albert Town, where I am welcome by a big bunch of begging ducks.
Day 13 (daily kms 41, cumulated kms 2563)
As I still feel a bit tired by the road and the hikes, day 13 will be a recovery day.
It’s also good that way, as I planned to go to Rob Roy Glacier first, but the girl at the iSite in Wanaka told me that the track there is likely to be closed due to heavy rain forecast.
Just before lunch, I walk to the top of Wanaka’s Iron Mountain, and just after that, I allow myself a nice kebab in the city center and spend the afternoon on a beach at Lake Wanaka.
During this day, I have the same feeling that my friend Manu describes in his blog when he travelled in Australia also in a camper van: when you’re alone in your camper van in the middle of nowhere, you feel more relaxed and connected to the nature and nothing else matters.
However, as soon as you enter a city, you suddenly feel back to the consumer society and it’s very easy to be tempted by an ice cream here or a coffee there and it can kill your budget if you’re not careful.
After a relaxing afternoon I start getting closer to the Haast Pass rive and spend the night in Kidds Bush reserve camping near Lake Hawea. The road along Lake Wanaka is splendid.
Day 14 (daily kms 248, cumulated kms 2811)
When I wake up on day 14, I have the change to observe a farmer with his maybe 10 dogs making a huge group of hundreds of sheep walk back to a farm nearby. It’s very impressive to see the dogs working together and running everywhere to make the sheep move together in the right direction.
Afer that I start driving on the famous Haast Pass Road which will take me to the West coast. The road offers a lot of nice stops to see waterfalls (Fantail Falls, Thunder Creek Falls, Roaring Billy Falls) or higher viewpoints to see the Haast Pass itself.
The weather on the Haast Pass Drive is very nice, however, once arrived on the West Coast, it starts raining heavily and so I have to skip every stop I planned till the camping at Gillespies Beach.
Arrived at the camping there, I meet 2 NZ guys who were my neighbours in the previous camping and I spend the evening drinking local wine with them.