After dropping off our horrible “guests”, we were somewhere around Wanaka, and in a serious need of a rest. There was nothing particularly alluring in the vicinity, and we had a pretty long drive – once again – ahead of us tomorrow, so what we did first was check into a fancy-looking complex with several hot tubs in the inner yard and just relaaaaax…
So a day passed by pretty quickly, and it was time to hit the road again.
Fortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, the roads of New Zealand were rarely dull. We were headed for one of the remotest parts of both islands, and we expected there’s be little to see until we got there. Proof that sometimes it’s good to be wrong! 🙂
Out first stop on the way was Mirror Lake. Truth to be told, we only stopped because we didn’t know if the weather won’t be worse on out way back, and one thing you need to know about mirror lakes – there’s no point in going out of your way for them if the weather is not good, i.e. windy or it rains.
If you haven’t figured out why that is yet, let me illustrate. This is what a Mirror Lake picture should look like:
And this is what my picture from that day looks like:
Of course, I didn’t have the professional camera or the patience to try and work out a better frame, but since the water was constantly rippled and also covered with leaves and gunk from the trees, I just snapped enough photos as to be able to remember about it in 10-20-50 years. (Optimistic, right!)
A little later we took a longer detour, up to Key Summit, where the views were spectacular on all sides. And there was 360-degree view. And a map!
It was a pretty weird place, too, but it also proved once again how serious the Kiwis are about preserving their very fragile biosystem. Not only signs about not stepping on the vulnerable flora, but paths and bridges were constructed along the whole Alpine Nature Walk.
I would like to say more things about this hike, but it’s pretty much one of those things where “you had to be there” 🙂 A great walk with some excellent, excellent scenery. No wonder it’s been classified as The best Fiordland day walk. I’m not overwhelming you with pictures of it, firstly because after that really nice photo I posted above, I’m very self-conscious about the quality of my pictures, and secondly, because there was something much more interesting that we encountered later that same day. So I’ll skip ahead to… wait-for-it…
I’m not overwhelming you with pictures of it, firstly because after that really nice photo I posted above, I’m very self-conscious about the quality of my pictures, and secondly, because there was something much more interesting that we encountered later that same day. So I’ll skip ahead to… wait-for-it…
…This Guy! Or girl, I’m not great with birds. But what I can tell you is, this is a Kea, a.k.a. the only Alpine parrot in the world! A bunch of these fascinating (and frankly, quite scary) birds were our welcoming committee at the entrance to Fiordland – that tunnel in the background is one of the few, if not the only, way in and out into the region on land.
As for the Keas, if this stunning beak profile and the size of the bird are not enough to consider them scary, we also heard/read this curious folk story earlier: Keas often used to be suspects in sheep killings, after farmers discovering parrots inside dead sheep. Later it turned out they probably didn’t kill the sheep, only went in there for warmth, Star Wars style. Even without confirmation of the gory incidents, what we knew for sure is that they do destroy windshield wipers, insulation, and any other possible parts on your car. Which is why the Kiwis have also been forced to invent (or at least use) the car hair-net. Which I know regret not taking a photo of when we saw it, because apparently neither did anyone else on the world wide web. Well, it’s basically a fine enough net you wrap all around your car in the hopes that it would be fine and yet strong enough to discourage the parrots from pulling out your sunroof insulation (it rains a lot in New Zealand).
We spent a good 15 minutes observing the Keas. We were basically ambushed by them, to be honest. Only one of them was in the middle of the road, flipping over a pebble with his beak, being all cute. As we were watching it, as you would have it in a movie, we catch a glimpse in the side view mirror and see how three other parrots are coming onto the road, skipping like awkward little thugs towards the car. I got out of the car to film them, but then got back in, partly because of Nikola’s warnings that they might “eat me”, partly because I really didn’t know how amicable a parrot with huge beak and talons, who rips out car parts can be.
So I went back inside the car and next thing I know, I look to the left and there’s a 50-centimeter tall parrot filling half of the door window frame, perched on the side view mirror. While this one jumped up on the roof, another one climbed the front of the car and gave us that intense stare you’re seeing in the picture above.
It was an intense 15 minutes during which I did wonder if we’d have to flee from endangered birds dismantling our rental car. And then we had to move on, it was not the end of the road yet. And this was, in fact, where we were headed.
On the other side of the tunnel, there was yet another astonishing view. All along the cold grey walls of the pass, there were rivulets going like streamers all the way down to the feet of the mountains. Well, what seemed like rivulets to the ant-sized us in our little tin can of a vehicle, were actual waterfalls of various sizes.
The scale of it all in this part of the country is something beyond photographs and superlatives. It’s a matter of existential realisation – this is how tiny you really are! You’re as miniscule and as transient as a fruit fly. So grab a hold of this tiny speck of time you have at your disposal that you call life and go do something with it!
So we did. We drove on, drove all the way to the end of the road. Literally!
And what was at the end of Highway 94?