Sunday, March 16, 2008

February 29, 2008 - Fiordland

On the drive from Queenstown to Fiordland we passed the Kingston Flyer, a beautifully restored glossy black steam engine pulling a handful of passenger carriages, steaming along on its daily tourist run between two nearby towns. We got to the depot just before the train rumbled in, scattering the sheep in the pasture on either side of the tracks.

In 1773, Captain James Cook said the following about Fiordland:
"The most mischievous animal here is the small black sandfly which are exceedingly numerous and so troublesome they exceed everything of the kind that I have ever met with,whenever they light they cause swelling and such an intolerable itching that it is not possible to refrain from scratching and at last ends iin ulcers like the small Pox. The almost continual rain may be reckoned another inconvenience attending this [region]."
Fiordland is the second wettest place on earth, after the mountains of Tahiti. Sounds like a lovely spot, doesn't it? So why would anyone come here? To see how spectacular it can be on the odd day that it isn't raining, take a look at Pheonix's pictures from their trip down here on their boat last month. Even in the rain, with spontaneous waterfalls blooming out of every hillside, it is something to see. One of the world's greatest tramps, the Milford Track, is also located here, if you are into that sort of thing (physical exertion, sandflies, mud, rain, hail, ice, etc. - not exactly my cup of tea, but to each their own).

Figuring that we weren't likely to see much of the surrounding countryside through the heavy rain and lowlying clouds that were obscuring the mountain peaks, and needing a place to hang out other than the dismal box that we would be staying in for the next two nights, we went to the local theater to see "Ata Whenua - Shadowlands" a short film shot in the wildest depths of Fiordland National Park. Half way through the film, I wanted to take up flying helicopters as my next hobby. 30 minutes later, we still had 6 hours to kill before bedtime, so we headed to the local flower show to check out the prize winning flowers and veggies. 18 minutes later, we still had 5 hours and 42 minutes to kill before we could reasonably call it a night, so we headed to the local pub and had a few beers while we watched the rain come down.

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