While we are staying in Te Anau, we have easy access to many trails that line the road to Milford Sound. Another rainy day leads us to a trail to Lake Marian, a beautiful lake at the top of a mountain. Or so we have heard.
Milford Road winds around deep forests, open plains and hairpin curves up steep cliffs. We are still at the deep forest area when we see the sign for the trail. A long drive down a dirt road (surprise!) we arrive at the trailhead. It is pouring rain, but we put on our rain gear and walk towards a bridge we see at the end of the road. The river is gushing blue-green water and we enjoy a quick walk across to get a better view of the river. The bridges are fun to walk across, even though they are a bit disorientating. This is not our trailhead so we head back up to start our hike.
The trail is supposed to be moderate, with some steep areas. We can do that! And off we go. The path starts out flat and there is a boardwalk/bridge that allows you to walk along the river. We see a few people walking here and realize later that it was as far as they were going to go. We soon realized why.
The rain has tapered off to a gentle mist and the path is definitely going up. You can tell it rains a lot in this area as the forest is dense and very, very green. The dense fog surrounding us restricts what we can see, but we plunder on. And we heat up. Our foul weather gear we use on a sailboat breathes, but is not ideally suited for hiking. Off with the jackets. We walk among the mists, keeping careful watch to make sure we stay on the trail. One couple passes us by, but they are not going too fast and we see them intermittently.
After about 45 minutes, we realize that “occasional steep areas” means you walk straight up. A lot. We find a spot and take a break when we see a Kiwi bounding down from the fog. We say hi and ask if he was able to see Lake Marian. Nope. Completely fogged in. Great. He did have a cool t-shirt though-MATH-mental abuse to humans. I chuckled at that but looked at Shawn and declared that we are going DOWN now since there is no visual reward for us at the top. We had been slogging for a while and I think I was done. Wet, hot, and feeling a bit claustrophobic, we headed back down, which was no easy feat. Everything wet makes for a slippery hike, but we survived.
On our drive on Milford Road to the hike we saw a sign that we just had to stop and take a picture of, so we found it again and stopped. 45 degrees south! There is a sign in Michigan that says 45 degrees north and of course, we had to stop and take a picture in Michigan. So, here is our 45 degree south sign to make a matched set.
Driving in New Zealand
We are of course driving on the left side of the road, and I will say that it is easier here than in Scotland. The roads are fairly wide (12”inches on either side of our Toyota SUV) and there is a white line showing the edge of the road, very helpful as there is no shoulder on the road. I mean that there is about 3 inches from the white line to a ditch, cliff or something equally as fun and dramatic. We have also found that if you are an idiot driver at home, you will be an idiot driver in NZ as well. There are signs everywhere telling you to pull over if you are slow and have a line of cars behind you. One driver in a camper van would go slow until a passing zone. Then he would speed up. There was a huge bus behind him that did everything right to try to pass him. Took him 3 times since the camper van would not slow down on the straightaway. What an idiot. They camper van had 8 cars behind him. Then there was the driver who was nice and put his signal on and slowed down when it was ok for the cars behind him to pass. Normal 1, crazy 1. We will see who wins overall!
The best way for me to drive here is to talk to myself at every intersection. “keep left, keep left.” Turning right is a bear. “cross traffic, keep left.” “Look right then left then right again. Right hits you first.” I really love the circles/roundabouts. They keep traffic moving so you rarely ever stop going from one location to the next. They are not hard to go through at all. Well, maybe in the city they are a bit more chaotic, but once you learn how to read the turn signals, it is a breeze.
I do most of the driving except when it is fun. Then Shawn pops into the driver seat. By fun, I mean we are fording rivers and driving on beaches and such. No left or right lane and no traffic. Like I said, he drives the fun parts.
We have hit many places where the road ends and turns into a dirt road that can go for many kilometers. And, we see more cows and sheep. The most amazing thing about these dirt roads, you would think there would be no one living on them but there are a lot of farms and they are in the middle of nowhere. This is remote living.