October 21 - 25, '04

(click on the first picture to get started; captions are at the bottom of each picture page)

That night I stayed at the "Purple Cow" hostel in Wanaka!  What a crazy coincidence for Williams folk, eh? I travelled alone by bus to Lake Te Anau on the outskirts of Fiordland, found my hostel, and set off hiking along the lake.
At a nearby wildlife sanctuary they had all sorts of amazing native endangered birds, like this green parakeet. This Takahe is one of only about 200 surviving anywhere on earth!  They are so tame, and walk around write next to the fence.
I hiked along the lake to the opposite side, where I got this panoramic view of the town of Te Anau and the mountains behind it.
The next morning, I was signed up for an all day excursion to Doubtful Sound.  To get there, we first took a small motorboat across Lake Manapouri, seen here.  The small pointy structure beneath the mountains used to be the molten interior of a volcano, and made an appearance in Lord of the Rings. At the far end of Lake Manapouri is a groundbreaking (quite literally) hydro power station which mainly powers an aluminum smelter hundreds of kilometers away.  The power lines seen here stretch over a mile across the lake to start their journey towards the smelter.
Here is the top of the power station itself as seen from the dock at the end of the lake.  This is the first hydro power plant in the world to refrain from raising the level of the lake.  Instead, the lake's volume is carefully regulated to mimic natural flood and drought cycles while providing a fairly constant stream of electricity from the power plant. The project is literally "groundbreaking" because it relies on holes drilled deep into the schist bedrock of Fiordland.  Instead of water falling over a dam, the water falls straight down 8 drilled tubes at the edge of Lake Manapouri to reach the turbines, which spin the generators seen here in the massive underground equipment room.  A truck access tunnel spirals down through the mountain to get here, almost as low as sea level.  Nearly-horizontal tunnels take the water from the turbines out to Doubtful sound, about 20 km away.  The project took nearly 15 years to complete.
We then took a bus over the pass to Doubtful Sound, seen here enshouded in mist...  can you *believe* how gorgeous this place is?? Quite a few waterfalls poured down the steep hillsides.  Just to the right of this picture is the end of the "tailrace" tubes from the power station.
The guide took us (about a dozen people) out into Doubtful Sound on this boat. Most of the whiteish streaks seen on the mountainside are not actually waterfalls but "tree slides"!  Apparently since the mountains are so steep and the rock is so hard, the tree roots do everything they can to get a stronghold, including linking into other trees' root systems.  So when one tree falls, usually during a windstorm or earthquake, it takes with it all the trees in the surrounding area.  Many of the treeslides seen here occurred during a large earthquake a few months ago (August).
Robin chills out at the back of the boat as we cruise along Doubtful Sound. I just couldn't get enough of the scenery in Fiordland.
When we arrived at the end of the fiord, we found a whole colony of sea lions!  Click the picture for a movie of them! Looking out to sea from the edge of the fiord.  Huge waves come in and crash against the rocks here.
Can you find the yellow-crested penguin???  It is just to the right of center.  But this is also just a cool picture of the rocks. This is a classic view of the U-shaped, glacier carved valleys that make up Fiordland.
We pulled into a side bay and relaxed with some tea and cookies! ... then took the bus over the pass and the boat across the lake...
... and the shuttle back to Te Anau via the ubiquitous NZ sheep farms. :) I spent several more days in Te Anau, admiring the spring flowers, checking out coffee shops, seeing movies...
but mostly studying for my upcoming Poli Sci exam by the shores of this gorgeous, gorgeous lake.  This has got to be the best study spot *ever*! So I was sitting there studying and watching the helicopter take off, and come back, and take off... and finally I thought "I have to do that!"  So I went on a helicopter ride!!!  I'm pretty sure this is Lake Manapouri again, but as seen from the air this time. :)
We landed briefly at this lovely little lake in the Kepler Mtns. Posing by the helicopter :)
We flew along one of NZ's "great walks", over snowy mountain ridges and finally back over Lake Te Anau.  It was crazy cool.