Day 1: Te Anau
We made it! Our flight from Chicago was delayed by an hour and a half, and we were pretty worried that we would miss our connection in LA. Turns out both American Airlines flights were the same plane. However, that meant the flight from LA to Auckland was delayed as well, making it a tight connection for our Air New Zealand flight to Queenstown.
After a quick jog (literally) from the international terminal to the domestic terminal, we made it to the gate in time. The flight from Auckland to Queenstown was pretty short, and we got some great views.
Fun Fact: While we were remiss to not see the Tolkien-themed Air New Zealand safety video (at least the jetway was Hobbit-themed), we were impressed by their new Men in Black-themed rap video performed by members of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team (Get it? All Blacks, aka. Men in Black).
Finally in Queenstown, we picked up our bags, got the rental car and were on our way. The first 10-15 minutes of driving on the other side of the road was a bit unnerving, but Matt got the hang of it and the rest was smooth sailing to Te Anau. Pro Tip: Whenever you see an approaching vehicle, yell “LEFT” to overcome the urge to bail to the right.
No longer bound by flight connection times, we stopped for a snack at a place called Five Rivers Cafe, where there was a farm right out the back door. I wanted to pet the miniature horse, but the sign said he bites, so I thought better of it.
On the road again, we stopped a few times for pictures and to amaze at the sheer number of sheep along the highway. Seriously, we’ve seen a lot of sheep. And it’s only day one.
We also stumbled upon a Wilderness Scientific Reserve which, according to the sign, is an area of unusual shrubland (not an area with rodents of unusual size) that mimics what an ecosystem may have looked like 10,000 years ago after the first ice age. A harsh environment with freezing temperatures, stony soil, moss, lichens, and other colorful plant species. You know, like Wisconsin.
Eventually, we arrived at the Te Anau city center (which is about three streets) and the shore of Lake Te Anau. You guessed it: another great view.
Pulling into the Bella Rosa Bed and Breakfast, we were greeted by our host, Gill, and her co-host, CoCo (the dog). Gill showed us around, let us settle in, and gave us local wine, beer, and cheese. A much appreciated welcome after roughly 30 hours of travel.
We chatted with Gill for a while and she gave us some suggestions on restaurants and other places to visit on our trip. We then put on a few extra layers, and took a walk into town. stopping by the grocery store to stock up on trail mix, dried fruit and other snacks. The night sky is pretty incredible without all the light pollution of a city. We could even see the Milky Way.
If all goes according to plan, and these wifi upload speeds get their act together, tomorrow we will have another installment. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.