. We gasp and do a u-turn. Parking in-view so that the girls see us. We wander around this Aladdins cave of furniture, it is incredible. Everything from wooden trunks to huge wooden door frames that look like they should be in some ancient castle or manor house. I find what appears to be an old apothecary unit for $1800, so cheap too! I could fill a house with this barn. We go next door to the main shop area to be greeted by a grey haired man playing with a laptop in-amongst yet more stunning pieces of furniture. He tells us about his business, spending ‘off-season’ time alternating between France and South East Asia picking up pieces to ship back. We find a bookcase full of hand-made, leather-bound books… even the paper is hand-made with flower heads appearing every now and again. They’re only $22, so we all select one each, I’m going to use mine as a photo album for my favourite NZ shots. I could honestly have a bookcase full of them they’re all so individually beautiful. When paying, Helen picks up a small piece of wood, 2cm in thickness and about 12 in length. It’s inscribed with Chinese characters, some inked and lacquered over. The owner of the shop tells me that during the gold mining days, these were used as ‘pay cheques’ for the Chinese workers. There are three in total, one larger, but two have British numbering printed on them, which semi-ruins their charm. I’m taking this as a very bizarre omen, considering the guy doesn’t buy from China, it’s a bit odd that they’re out here… $20 is nothing for a piece of history
. We’re going for lunch down the road in ‘Five Rivers café’, it’s stunning. A huge barn, crated from the local rock, with a corrugated iron sheet roof that gives so much character. We warm up and discover a new soup, Potato, Leek, Chardonnay and Blue cheese… it’s beautiful. So, back on the road and we’re in Te Anau before we know it. Travelling NZ is so easy, it’s really difficult to get lost! We find the site, plug in and have a cup of tea before setting off for Milford Sounds. Our first stop was just before we hit the main ranges of ‘Fjordlands’. A sparkling lake still has it’s charm with me! I feel like we’re in the set of ‘Gorillas in the mist’… the weather is so perfectly moody today. Low clouds are surrounding the hilltops so that they only appear slightly. It’s eerily beautiful. We stop at ‘Mirror Lakes’… so well-titled, but then many NZ lakes should be named thus! The sign is so clever, set upside down so that the reflection reads the right way around. The setting is amazing, clear blue water with a graveyard of dusty brown trees laying at the bottom, the grassland around and the snow capped mountains trapped in cloud above. Down the road we stop again after seeing a split Waterfall that cascades down the dark, bushy hill. There’s a DOC campsite here so we pull in. The waterfall isn’t viewable from the lakeside, but wow the lake is amazing. It’s incredible, from the shot into the lake it’s dark and ominous, the shot back to shore looks like a tropical lagoon! It’s hard to believe they’re the same location. Back in the car and we wind through the avenue of trees that block the surrounding hills from view. When they clear, the mountains are so close. I can’t believe my eyes. They’re entirely made from rock, as if they were dropped from the sky. It’s terrifyingly stunning and makes me feel so insignificant in amongst these giants
. Up the road we stop at a very scary lookout, 3meter long planks of wood hold Helen and I up from a misty, goodness-knows-how-deep-valley! This area is called ‘The Avenue of The Disappearing Mountain’… my goodness it’s incredible. By now, ‘Wow’ is a word that falls from my mouth more easily than air. We hit the snow line and it gets a bit sketchy in places. When we get into the valley the snow has blanketed the area. The bush and rocks are only peppered, highlighting their vastness. We are the only people here, and have this incredible view all to ourselves. We pass through ‘Mount Moir’ tunnel. There’s something so unnatural about passing through rock, it always unnerves me. The other side is reward enough for any discomfort. A deep valley, snowy, misty… everything you would ever want in a view. Words fail me. We stop at ‘Chasm walk’ on the way down. It’s a 45minute return walk, and we’re losing light to get through the snow line again, so take a few more awe-inspiring shots of clouded mountains and set off to the base of the valley. We come upon Miffford Sounds, a funny place, and the road runs out! The café has closed, but a bar with a couple of local drunks and 5 rugby-supporting men fill the bar. We stopped for some awful snacks here, but the view was worth any awful cheesecake. As the weather cleared, the sun started to poke through and gave us some fantastic photos of the hills and bay. I literally couldn’t take enough photos, it was difficult to capture the stunning surroundings in such a small frame
. My favourite was of Mum and Jenny shooting in different directions, set against a beautiful background! On the drive home, the moon is nearly full and so bright. I play about with some settings to create natural light graffiti, BEFORE mum. She keeps copying me. Tonight I’m making a pasta dish with lots of fresh vegetables. In the kitchen I make friends with a very English sounding Swiss man, and a French 24 year old lad. The French guy, Benjamin, has just finished a 6-month placement in Adelaide, and is taking a 2-week tour of NZ on his own. So we’ve got quite a bit in common. He’s a great conversationalist, and before we know it everyone’s gone to bed and I have to sneak into the campervan to make sure I don’t wake anyone.
Today we set off from Queenstown. I’m a little sad to go, but we are going to apparently more beautiful surroundings. Jenny and I are in-car again, whilst mum and Helen tail in the campervan. Jenny and I keep seeing the most beautiful shots, so annoy Mum and Helen for a good couple of hours by pulling over to shoot the countryside. Incredible. Queenstown is so built up, then so close-by and the scenery changes entirely. The first photo op was of the most incredible lake, crystal clear water enveloped by rocky hills, wisps of cloud hang around their peaks and the bluest sky tops it all. On the road again, Jenny and I are having a really good yarn about op-shopping and all the vintage household things that fill Pensaer Lloft. I can’t wait to see it sometime, it sounds like it’s a treasure trove for the eyes. Funilly enough, as Jenny and I are sharing our love for ‘previously loved’ things, we hurtle past a really interesting looking barn with a copper bath peaking out