Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
394Trip End Ongoing
Show trip route
We left camp and parked up down by the lake this morning to say our goodbyes. Thinking about it, we've all gone through a lot together and have shared some fantastic times - some 'brilliant' times. As much as each of us has grown in our own way, I think Chicken has probably changed more than any of us. She's come out of her shell so much, she's almost fully hatched. She's developed a lot more confidence over the last couple of months and is turning in to a real legend. She's got her head screwed on just right. All at just twenty-one. Sinead and I were talking one night about how good it would be to see her again in eight or nine year's time when she's our age. That would be a real pleasure to see. It has been a great adventure that has lasted a good two months, and really, sensibly, it's time to move on. As much as I know I'll keep in touch with them, I'll still miss them - especially the incredible sense of humour, Mannion's utter evilness and the endless talks I had with Shiny about randomly anything. After a few hugs and a couple of good smacks we said our final goodbyes, and I left.
I decided that as the tracks were out, I'd take a quick road trip to Milford anyway just to be blown away by its presence once again. It was a beautiful morning this morning and there wasn't a single cloud in the sky so I knew that the drive to Milford would be stunning. After all, it's rated as one of the most scenically amazing road journeys in the world. Just one road too. The last time I travelled along it was on the Stray bus in the pouring rain looking through the steamed-up windows. Today, it was just me, the road and a big, blue, cloudless sky. As I'd got my little four-wheeled mobile home with me, I also had the freedom to stop when and wherever I liked to take photo's, read, cook, sit or sleep at my leisure so I knew I would be in for a treat - and I was. The whole journey was stunning and once again, I have no words - just like the last time.
For the benefit of the memories, I've uploaded a few pics I took along the way that once again do very little justice to this part of the world - spectacular views and scenery that simply shut you up.
After all the stopping and standing and staring in amazement along the way it was getting quite late, so I decided to stay in Milford for the night. I found a cheap place to camp at the Milford Camping Ground which has great facilities too. I backed my van right up to the wild, deep blue river that led to the Milford Sound. The powerful, natural sound of it was constant and ever present (which is really great when you can't be arsed to go to the toilet). It was a perfect spot. Except for the b**tard sandflies. I never even give it a thought before leaving Te Anau. They are in abundance here at Milford. It's actually known for it. I hadn't come prepared either. They were all over me and I had nothing to rid them, no 'get the 'F' off me' spray, nothing. The only thing that kind of helped in the early evening was a half burned out citronella candle we'd used in Okains bay. It was still partly filled with fossilised moths that had decided greedily, to jump in to the pool of hot wax before meeting their fate. It did the trick in the van as long as the door was shut, but within an inch of opening it, they were back and they were angry, not to mention thirsty. The crazy thing is you don't actually know you're being bitten until you feel a sudden, intense itching sensation that causes you to look down in horror to see that the little shit is fixed firmly to your arm, leg or sometimes even the side of your neck. Once fixed, it sits quite comfortably, enthusiastically sucking up mouthful after mouthful of your warm blood through the small syringe that it has just driven deep in to your flesh. Once the smell of your blood is out in the open, they all get to hear about it and before you know it, you're already becoming closely acquainted with his friends, family and anyone else who fancies an easy meal. It's when you look further around your body and see that you've actually got another one, two, five, ten or eleven fixed all over you, suckling like a newborn at your flesh that the panic sets in. It suddenly becomes quite disturbing. They are nothing short of horrific. For the aggro they cause, you would expect them to be the size of a small bee or something, but they're not - they look quite pathetic really. They've even been blessed with a mild, non-offensive name - 'sand fly'. Completely misleading. They should be called something that indicates there true persona, like a 'piranha hornet' or 'hell fly' or something. 'Jugular Jabber' would be a good one. Once bitten and as intense as the itching and swelling becomes, only a fool would attempt to scratch the wound. The light scratching to relieve the initial itch soon turns into a feverish frenzy and can have disastrous results. I've still got an oval scar on my left foot from being struck by one in the Bay of Islands last October. Back then I was very naive and happily scratched away in ecstasy until my foot bled everywhere and has since left me scarred. I've also since learned. Wendy was the same; she's got a foot like I've never seen before simply through 'giving in'.
I've no idea why, but miraculously, after dark when the cold came in, the sandflies seemed to disappear. Sinead told me once that when you hear them 'hum' it means that they're 'full'. Well my hearing isn't good enough to hear the humming but they must have been full to have left me in peace and in one piece. They'd certainly had their fair share of me.
Earlier this morning, I visited the Mediterranean deli warehouse in Te Anau before leaving. It's exactly the same as the one in Queenstown. It's amazing, the freshest fruit and veg I've ever seen and loads of stuff you can't normally get your hands on - heaps of imported stuff too. I could have spent all day in there. Along with a few other things I bought some big, beautiful yellow zucchini. I've never been able to get any before so I was well chuffed. Earlier, when I could take no more of being a pathetic, submissive pin-cushion, I took shelter from the sandflies and went in to the kitchen/dining area for a while. As I had the time to kill I cooked up a big risotto with all the fresh courgettes I'd found in the deli. I sat and ate with an English couple from Norfolk that I'd just met on the next hob. They'd arrived recently, fresh from a camper-vanning trip in Oz and had had an amazing time. They're going to do the same here in NZ but with a car and a tent. We shared a few stories and laughs and they let me spray some of their 'f-off s-fly' spray in my van before we turned in for the night. They were surprised at how very grateful I was.
Before I turned in, I sat for a while outside on a rock, listening to the roar of the great river while I looked at the stars. Though very rare for these parts, it was a crystal clear night and the grandeur and presence of my surroundings was just, 'wow'. It really is the most immense, magical place.