After a short walk to the main road south and a five minute wait, got picked up by Tom and Sasha who I had met at the Christmas dinner table in Oamaru (what are the chances?), they didn't even have room for me really as they are camping and their car was piled high with stuff. Anyway, they made room and I squeezed in for a drive through the Catlins national park area in the south-east, stopping at nugget point where a few little islands sticking out of the water are supposed to look like gold nuggets in the right light (clearly not in this overcast weather though!) We stopped at the petrified forest on the south coast where clear fossils of fallen trees could be seen in the rocks - we were also treated to a close up view of a lone yellow eyed penguin. Finally we got to a campsite near to Invercargill where we pitched our tents (luckily they had one spare and I had bought a sleeping bag recently), Sasha made a veggie casserole and then they taught me Yahtzee. We weren't too far from a busy road and none of us slept too well.
In the morning we packed up our tents in the rain and bundled our stuff into the car. We drove to a supermarket in Invercargill, Tom and Sasha bought some food, I bought $40 of fuel and some cadburys banoffee pie chocolate that dad would love. Drove on to Te Anau where we stopped for lunch, I had a nice small venison pie with chips. On towards Milford sound stopping at several scenic lookouts where we got some close ups of a kea (an endangered parrot that has become over familiar with humans who have fed it things that aren't good for it) and some footage of it tring to pull the rubber seal away from someones car door. Arrived at Milford sound lodge, about the only place to stay around here and took the last two campsites at $15 per person (all the rooms were booked up as well), after pitching the tents Sasha made some pasta and vegetables and we sat up chatting.
The weather looked good so we decided to go for a walk. We paid for another night at the campsite and also booked a cruise on Milford sound for tomorrow ($92 each). We slowly walked the key summit track taking lots of photos as we went - lots of strange looking woodland with a multitude of mosses, lichens, fungi and algae growing up and hanging off the branches of the trees, looked pretty weird. On arrival at the summit we sat and ate the sandwiches that Sasha had made, it was sunny but with a refreshing cool drizzle. In the evening Tom made a nice veg curry and we played Yanif and Yahtzee. I had to get up in the night for the toilet, it was freezing cold outside without a cloud in the sky, probably more stars than I have ever seen. Ten minutes later I could hear a single bird making a regular high pitched sound as it flew from one end of the basin, overhead to the other end, everything else, apart from distant waterfalls, was perfectly silent.
From the 31st of December, the day of our Milford sound cruise up until the 5th of January we had nothing but glorious weather, about bloody time! This, of course, made the Milford sound cruise very nice indeed although it did mean that many of the numerous waterfalls into the sound were dry - every silver lining has a cloud! The water was beautifully clear, the views of the mountains were complimented by the occaisional whisp of cloud, the seals were bathing on the rocks and the view from the underwater observatory that we stopped at was clear (but crowded with too many people).
After the boat had dropped us off I spotted one of the most unusual things any of us had ever seen - a rainbow that encircled the sun, it stayed there for at least an hour. Back at the campsite I made like a seal and basked in the sun for a while, Sasha did some jacket potatoes with a selection of toppings and we headed back to the sound in order to try to catch a nice sunset, we failed but got some nice shots anyway until the sandflys became too much for me and I had no choice but to take refuge in the nearby 'Blue Duck Bar' until at least 01.00 when the sandflys go to bed. I drank quite a lot of beer but it was the sudden addition of sparkly stuff at midnight that sent me squiffy, at which point dancing to MC Hammer and singing 'Who the f&ck is Alice?' seemed like a great idea!