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2024 - January - Day 7 - Te Anau

Our aim was to have wheels rolling at 9am this morning. After having breakfast and packing everything up at 8.50am, I opened the door to the outside and was surprised to be greeted by a shower of rain which had not been on the weather forecast.


After checking out and then a chat with the owner and after filling up with petrol we set out for the airport. We went to collect the next car for the next couple of weeks from Apex cars. Apparently, we were early for the pick-up and they now wanted to charge extra. I pointed out we were only 40 minutes early and that the car was just sitting there and so they eventually ‘waived’ any extra charge.


We moved our bags across to this car before I drove the short distance to drop the other car off. What an unnecessary phaff. If I remember I will give the rental some feedback about the inconvenience caused and their loss of income but for now we just wanted to get on the road


Off we set and as I said to Karen this marked the start of our very long and complicated journey home. Just 11700 miles to go.


As we had time before needing to be at Te Anau for 2pm we elected to drive the Southern Scenic Route which was slightly further but promised to be more picturesque. And so, it was especially as the sun came out and the sky cleared to a deep blue. It reminded me of driving through a fake railway diorama that someone had made for their model railway. It was almost too perfect. Mountains in the distance, beautiful lush fields, lovely trees and genuinely no traffic on the roads. It was a pleasure driving.


There were many places we could have stopped to either look at the views or some roadside attraction but we knew we had to ration our time to ensure we weren’t later than 2pm. I had seen a website with the 12 best stops on the route we were taking. So, our first stop was Monkey Island beach which we chose mainly because of its name. Alas though there were no monkeys. It was just OK and we quickly moved on.


The next stop was Gemstone Beach, so named because every tide washes up gemstones. We were sceptical but could see lots of groups walking along the tide line. Within seconds of joining them we were whooping as we picked some extremely pretty green gemstones that would polish up beautifully. We were again conscious of the time and so left after a short while with a handful of the gemstones. Whether they all make it home with us though is another story.


We then both needed a drink and had been recommended a coffee stop. Sadly, though we didn’t see it and so found a café instead in Tuatapere. It was a little rough around the edges but the owner baked everything himself and the hot cheese scone we shared with our cuppas was fabulous.


Then we motored closer to Te Anau before stopping again at Manapouri to sit by the Lake for a while. It was as beautiful as the owner at the last motel had told us it would be.


It was only 20-minutes further to Te Anau and we just had time to check into the Lakeside Motel and dump our bags in our room before driving and parking a few hundred metres further up the road for our visit to the Te Anau Glow-worm caves.


The caves visit involved a 25-minute catamaran ride along Lake Te Anau. In the beautiful sunshine it was a lovely trip. We spent some time on the top deck but it proved quicky blowy because of the speed we were travelling at.


I had low expectations about the caves and the Glow-worms. I was wrong and loved every bit of the experience. The one disappointment is that we were not allowed to take any photos in the caves for both our own safety and more importantly not to disturb the Glow-worms who do not like noise or other light sources.


The entrance involved a stretch where we had to bend down to get through a section where the headroom was only 1m. The caves used to known at the swirling caves for a good reason as the water gushing through them was amazing.


The walkways through were quite long and involved many steps and slopes. There was much water dripping on us as we went through. At about the ¾ point, we were then told we then had to proceed in total silence and in the absolute pitch dark. It was challenging walk at that point as were guided by a handrail. We reached our boat upon which we were loaded upon. The boat was then silently punted along the waterway in complete silence and dark by the guide.


We came to the glow-worms immediately. They were amazing. They were in clusters like constellations on the ceilings of the caves as we passed through them. It was strange though as in the pitch black we had no feeling of moving or reference to where we were.


Now the cynic in me was thinking that they just looked like mini-LED lights and that we were on a Disney ride, which is why we not allowed to take photos otherwise we would see the wires. Of course, I knew that wasn’t true. Actually, if it was a Disney ride then it started out like Mine Train, then turned into Indiana Jones before culminating in the Navi Boat ride.


After exiting the caves, we were taken on a short walk through the forest and learnt about the Takeha bird that was considered extinct until it was rediscovered here in 1947. Through a breeding programme there are now over 500 pairs. It is a flightless large purple chicken type bird which apparently passes 8m length of poo daily. No wonder it was almost extinct if it has that much constant tummy trouble.


In the Cavern House we were given a hot cuppa to have whilst watching a short film and listening to a talk about the Glow-worms, which turn out not to be worms but maggots. However, it was decided that people would not come to visit Glow-maggots.


They are the size of a match and catch their food by laying out ‘fishing lines’ to trap their prey. Mind you they are also prone to cannibalism at times by eating each other if they get annoyed. The illuminance comes from their tails. Their Latin name has a certain ring of Harry Potter about it as they are called ‘Arachnocampa luminosa’. The guy giving the talk was very entertaining and called the Glow-worms in the film Larry & Bob (Larry ate Bob in the end).


After the boat ride back, we had a little walk around Te Anau looking in a couple of shops before returning to sort ourselves out back in the motel.


It was then time to sort out some food. The restaurants here are not great as it is mainly geared for backpackers who generally do not have the funds to eat out. We thought we would try to get Fish & Chips but the only takeaway was not very inviting. Instead, we went to the large Supermarket and bought a whole cooked hot chicken which we shared back in our room.


The weather was still lovely so we poured ourselves some wine and took it to drink on some benches at the front of the motel overlooking the Lake. It was blissful.

Eventually back in the room I wrote this blog whilst Karen did some washing for herself at the guest laundromat conveniently situated next to our room.

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