Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
394Trip End Ongoing
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Just before dinner, Brett showed me a video. It shows what happens in the Fiordland when it snows and the effect on the surrounding area when an avalanche occurs. It was quite an eye-opener. The sheer devastation of this natural face-lift is cheekily filmed once again by helicopters that somehow manage to position themselves a mere stones-throw away from serious, serious danger. Out of nowhere with no warning, over one quarter of a million tonnes of snow thunders down from great heights, hurtling through the valleys, crashing and tearing straight through the roads and rivers in seconds. It was actually quite frightening to watch. What particularly amazed me was how huge trees were effortlessly ripped from their roots and dragged down the mountain side before the thundering snow had even got there (the winds which travel in front of the avalanche blast through at speeds of 320-400kmh and do much of the damage.) I've never seen anything like it. Sort of makes sense now why they close the road from Te Anau to Milford a lot in the winter.
So all in all it was a great day and a pleasant stay. Brett and Sylvia were kind enough to accommodate me free of charge too, which was just fantastic. And I never did get to see Brad. He was away on another trip apparently. Useless.
After saying my farewells, thanks and best wishes, I left Te Anau and headed south, past Manapouri and along the Southern Scenic Route. I took a brief detour along a dusty, rocky road to check out Lake Monowai before heading along a dustier, rockier road which cut in to the mid Fiordland from the inland side in order to get a good look at Lake Hauroko - New Zealand's deepest lake. Like Lake Monowai, as silent and tranquil as it was there were sandflies everywhere and I was in no mood to endure them today so it wasn't long before I was back in the van and suitably shielded, watching from there.
By 3pm I had reached my final destination for the day - Tuatapere, the 'sausage capital' of New Zealand. Brett had told me all about it, in particular the white parrot that sits in a cage outside the grocery store shouting out random, offensive expletives and the odd piss-taking comment to innocent passers by. When I eagerly pushed my head up to the bars of the cage to say hello he didn't really take the piss all that much to be honest. Instead he looked me up and down like I was a piece of shit and belted out 'Hi there' in a highly pitched American accent a few times until I walked away.
To me, Tuatapere was like a ghost town and had a feel to it that I just couldn't quite warm to. I found the new backpackers/camping ground that Brett had recommended and it did actually look pretty impressive. There was just something about the whole place that just wasn't me, especially as the butchers shop was closed and sausages were off the menu tonight. After a bit of thought I decided to carry on round the coast and over to Riverton - the next stop.
After stopping a few times en-route to marvel at the ferocity of the southern ocean and the abundance of macrocarpas (hardy trees that are so windblown from the fierce southerlies that they actually grow 'away' from the shore) I finally arrived in Riverton, which is believed to be one of the oldest European settlements in New Zealand. I parked up and stayed for a while on the beach soaking up the powerful presence of the storm which I'd noticed simmering in the distance. It looked so threatening and fierce, so eerie - it was amazing.
Darkness had fell long before I pulled on to the old campsite overlooking the beach and by the time I'd found it the storm had found me. It was sooooo cold and the rain was heaving. In fact, it was absolutely pounding down. The campsite was completely waterlogged and the woman who answered the door to reveal the cosy glow of her log-fired cottage right at the top of the hill looked quite shocked that I'd been stupid enough to come up and pay for a pitch. She didn't seem too bothered about the eight dollars I put in her hand, more concerned with how the hell I was going to manoeuvre that little van around the waterlogged marsh and on to a suitable pitch, not to mention how cold I looked. She stressed at least three times to be very careful where I park, as I would probably get stranded out there. She suggested I roll down the hill opposite the kitchen in an attempt to roll on to the pitch there so as I could 'roll right off' again in the morning. Reversing or the turning of the steering wheel seemed quite positively out of the question. So I did as I was bid and pulled straight on to the 'pond' and turned the engine off. I sat there for a while listening to the pounding on my thin roof reluctantly trying to guesstimate how many seconds it would take to get soaked to the skin when I got out to open the boot and plug in to the power box next to the van. Around eleven seconds later I was back in the side door, soaked to the bone with the light and heater on while I got changed in to dry clothes. Then like a snail in a shell, I miraculously managed to build and make up my bed 'from the inside' in about six inches of space without getting out of the van once. I burned my leg on the heater a couple of times but can't stress enough what an achievement that actually was. I really can't.
After crossing the grassy pond with my kitchen box and soaking my feet right through, I spent the rest of the night in the bitter cold and damp kitchen cooking and stuffing myself generously with some generously stuffed chicken fajitas. I was the only around and there was clearly no heating of any kind so it made for quite a challenging evening. I couldn't really consider crossing the marsh again for another foot soaking just to get my book after dinner so I inquisitively turned on the old TV in the corner, a first in a long time for me. It must be a good nine or ten months since I've engaged myself mindlessly in the television. The channels didn't work too well and my choice of entertainment turned out to be quite limited: - Hayley Westenra - live in concert or 'The Bill'. To be fair, Hayley lasted a good six minutes before I punched my thumb in to the other thick, chunky button for a dose of The Bill, which I only endured for a few more minutes before it started to get depressing. I powered down, locked up and decided to take my chances with the comfort of my cosy bed, fifteen-minute heater and book - a very attractive alternative at the time, I can tell you!