Kayaking an icon
Trip Start Sep 23, 2004
77Trip End Ongoing
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Lake Te Anau shone silver in the twilight. Mist hung over the hills on the far side of the lake. We drove around the lake and over the downs, past huge sheep stations and into Fiordland National Park. We stopped at Mirror Lake, its perfectly calm surface reflecting the glowing tips of the mountains emerging through the mist. At the Hollyford Valley lookout we had a view of miles of dense forest stretching out beneath us
We looked for fish in the shallows, and enjoyed the lapping of the waves, the singing tuis and the gentle splash of our paddles- until the tourist industry revved itself up to full throttle. The boats started first, but they were soon past us, and there were only a few boats plying the waters. The noise really began when the planes and helicopters started- apparently at full capacity, Milford Airport is capable of launching a plane every 30 seconds. After days of rain and with a backlog of tourists desperate for an aerial view of the sounds, they couldn't have been far off this figure. At times it was hard to get a photo of the Lion without the little dot of a light aircraft somewhere in the frame. I was glad that Milford and Doubtful are the only sounds usually visited by commercial craft, leaving the others as refuges.
We crossed the channel to the other side of the sound before we reached the lion, then rafted up for lunch before heading back towards the boat terminal. We met a fur seal basking on a rock, and another playing in the shallows near our kayaks. We paddled up to the bottom of the Bowen Falls, amongst the highest in New Zealand, but appearing dwarfed by the enormous mountains behind it
The afternoon winds blew up as we neared the boat terminal and began our second open water crossing to Deep Water Bay. The crossing was hard work, but once we were travelling in the right direction, the wind was almost sufficient to blow us back to the bay without interference from us! We were given an hour to rest before we headed back to Te Anau, and I strolled along a loop track which gave views of the falls and forest. Who should I bump into but Mum and Dad, who had decided to drive to Milford for the day, and were photographing koru.
On the return to Te Anau, we stopped at the Chasm, where the Cleddau River gushes through a variety of beautifully eroded rock formations. We took a short unmarked bush walk down to a calm blue pool- a contrast to the raging torrent above. The couple on the tour with me hadn't seen a kea so we kept our eyes open going round their favourite haunts- tourist site car parks. Typically, because we were looking for them, there were none to be seen. Maybe the minibus tyres just weren't tasty enough for them.