Trip Start Jan 10, 2005
Trip End May 10, 2005

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Saturday, April 9, 2005

The southwest coast of the south island of New Zealand is knows as Fiordland. It is mountainous, steep and covered in mist during much of the year. We were told it rains two out of every three days. You can't calculate driving distance here by looking at kilometres - it all depends on the terrain - and many of the roads here are narrow and winding with lots of hairpin turns and single lane bridges.

One of the main causes of road accidents here is drivers falling asleep. We have seen several restaurant signs advertising "Driver Reviver" that offer free coffee for drivers. (This was common in Australia, too.) People travelling at speeds unsuitable for road conditions is also a problem (and this wouldn't take much considering all the mountain roads). Billboards like "Slow Down - You're a long time dead" appear at regular intervals. I've noticed lots of crosses by the sides of road, commerating those killed in road accidents. (This was also common practice in Australia.)

Milford Sound is famous the world over for its stunning fiords where mountains jut sharply out of the water. The sound reaches depths of 287 feet and receives over 30 feet of rain annually. It just so happened that it was a sunny, pleasant day when we went for a cruise on the sound; when Heather and I visited, it was raining torrents. Both visits were equally enjoyable. It's a beautiful place in the sun, but incredible with the waterfalls cascading down the mountain faces, too.

On our boat trip we met a couple from New York, Guy and Joyce, recently retired and taking their trip of a lifetime. With Steve's easy banter, they quickly warmed to us and we spent most of the cruise talking with them. Guy had spent four years in the service in Libya and talked about how enriching it was to take the time to get to know the local people; he'd also been a police officer in New York City. I also met a fellow from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia who was a journalist. He was combining work with a holiday - business in Auckland and a visit to Milford.

Our roommate at the Te Anau (pronounced "Te-Anow") hostel was a young guy from Kitchner-Waterloo who had brought his bike with him from Canada, only to have it stolen not long after he arrived. It amazes me how many cyclists you see here, perhaps because it's so challenging???

We also met a Texan who had been teaching in Japan and was travelling the world. He had spent about three years on the road, unusual for an American. They tend to travel for shorter periods of time than Canadians, Germans, Australians, New Zealanders, etc for some reason.

All of the hostels have cooking facilities and we've been cooking most of our suppers and preparing our own breakfasts. We purchased a cooler bag and "chilly pad" (freezer pack) so that we can keep milk, etc. cool as we drive from place to place, stopping for a picnic lunch somewhere along the way. (Kris warned me that New Zealand has a high incidence of food poisoning for some reason which I could understand when eggs aren't refrigerated in the shops! So far, so good.) We also often indulge in a bottle (or two) of wine during the evening - the white wine produced in NZ is particularly good.

Martin and Steve's eyes glaze over every time they think about what a thrill a good sports car would be on the roads here. Our little four cylinder just doesn't make the grade! With long-limbed Martin and all our gear, it's a good thing there's just the three of us!
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