The Honda was once again pointed South and we headed away from Wanaka stopping only for coffee in Queenstown before continuing on to Te Anau. As usual, we checked we'd got everything we needed making a mental note that petrol would be required for the second part of the journey. However, as we left Queenstown, we were engrossed in some conversation or other and merrily sailed past the BP and Shell service stations and only realised that there was 'trouble at mill' when the little orange light appeared on the dashboard. We passed several villages without a whiff of a petrol station and when we resorted to the iPhone to find us the nearest purveyor of unleaded, the news was bleak - 80kms. Frugal as the Honda was (even when being subjected to the heavy right foot of our Jason), that wasn't going to happen. We stopped at a shop that was pretty much the sole content of one village and a friendly farmer saved the day. He had a few litres back at his gaff for his quad bike which we were welcome to. We thanked our lucky stars and followed him to the barn where the golden nectar was duly dispensed - along with a big sigh of relief. We made a mental note to not repeat that school boy error.
Whilst Te Anau itself is... how shall we say... not very exciting, it is situated on the shores of Lake Te Anau which is stunning... apparently. It was so misty on our arrival that we could have been almost anywhere. The YHA was Mrs Swan free but oddness prevailed in the form of the owner. I'm not sure whether he was just 'vacant' or as the Germans would say 'behindert', but either way 'the lift wasn't going to the top floor'. Undeterred, we grabbed our bags and headed in.
I was in desperate need of a roast dinner and bearing in mind where we were, lamb seemed to be the only appropriate choice. Te Anau YHA was not really up to the mark kitchenwise with only one oven. I managed to get first dibbs before a hoard of Koreans invaded the kitchen and slammed in the lamb (after a token studding with garlic and rosemary). I don't think I've ever been in a kitchen this manic before - it was like Masterchef Seoul behind me. The odd thing was, come serving time, everyone was far more interested in what was going on in the UK corner. Mercifully, no daughters were offered as potential brides and we managed to escape into a corner and scoff in peace.
Keen to get onto our Doubtful Sound cruise, we merrily left Te Anau and headed for our 12.30 appointment with the boat. As we should have expected by now, the boat had already left as it was now on winter operating times - a small detail our travel agent had neglected to check... So, another night in the lovely Te Anau to look forward to along with the annoyance that the only day of the week where sunshine was forecast would pass us by. B'stards.
The following day we arrived at the correct time for the cruise and met up with our Bianca (German) and our Jacobina (Dutch). The weather was frankly grim, but the boat staff were amazing - I don't think I've ever seen such a co-ordinated team. They all worked together whatever the task - from dinner to water based activities - to get the job done. Quite inspiring - as indeed was the landscape. Hundreds of waterfalls cascading down the mountainsides.
Despite or perhaps in spite of the rain, we queued up for either kayaking or a boat trip into some of the coves. Ma Nature has clearly been busy in this part of the world although no decisions appear to have been made about the weather, so you just some of everything thrown at you. Glimpses of sun tempted us, but the rain and mist prevailed. Back on the boat, some mad fools jumped into the not-so-warm water whilst the more sane had a nice cup of tea and one of the best muffins I've ever tasted.
The first of the photographs above is not black and white - the bleakness captured just before the clouds finally disappeared and we were treated to a lovely sunset. Back inside, a fabulous 3 course buffet awaited.
After a bottle of red and devoid of TV/t-interweb (thankfully), the four of us resorted to more simple activities - Cards and Scrabble.
By the morning the clouds were back in full force but at least when we emerged on terra firma, we did manage to get a view of the Sound from above which had been completely obscured by rain the previous day.
In for a penny, in for a pound, we headed away from the Doubtful Sound and onto the Milford Sound. Most people are rewarded with their first views as they come to the end of the four day tramp (hike) along the Milford Track - reputed to be one of the worlds' most amazing walks. Although I was seriously tempted to leave the car behind and do the trek, the weather was so grim that parts of it were flooded. So, we decided that four wheels would be the more sensible option.
Thankfully we didn't arrive too early as Milford makes Te Anau look like a big city. One bar, one restaurant and that's it. We retired to the backpackers for a nanna nap before the excitement of dinner. In fairness, the grub wasn't too bad but the place was pretty run down. A missed business opportunity perhaps?
Our afternoon Milford 'nature cruise' was a little disappointing - the only animal spotted was a solitary seal - and the trip was over in a couple of hours. It made us thankful that we'd explored the Doubtful Sound as well.
Next stop: Queenstown