Monday, 29 October 2012

Road Trip: Day Eight

We'd planned to take a trip around the lake aboard a historical steam boat I'd seen on our last visit but hadn't had the time to go on. Unfortunately, our guidebook had not stated the correct times of departure and the first trip out wasn't due until after noon.

Slightly disgruntled, we decided instead to enjoy a coffee and cake on the pebbley lake front, attracting many greedy-eyed ducks in the process! I counted around forty shortly before a man let his Collie off the lead to herd the Mallards in their direction so his daughter could chuck bread at them. Interesting methods, I'll give him that!

The lure of shops and intriguing Kiwi art galleries got the better of us - much to the displeasure of Mr Bear - and we picked up a couple of goodies, including an iron-on Tui patch that I told Bren I could incorporate into a padded phone case for him and a book of Tin Man illustrations, by Christchurchian artist Tony Cribb.

We couldn't leave town before indulging in a famous Ferg Burger. Everyone we know who has ever visited Queenstown has always returned with tales of 'the best burger I've ever eaten' and 'gourmet burger heaven'. When we were on the scout for lunch there at Easter, we'd seen a place on the highstreet with a huuuuge queue out of the shop and down the street. However, we were very hungry hippos and had no clue about its amazing reputation so just walked on by. Not this time! 

The queue wasn't so bad on our next visit and we managed to bustle inside to gawp at the menu board. I was very tempted to go for a venison burger but couldn't bring myself to consume something called 'Sweet Bambi'. I opted instead for 'Sweet Julie' (I don't know any Julies, thank goodness), a tender grilled chicken breast with a ginger soy marinade. Burger heaven. In fact, food heaven FULL STOP! We scoffed our delights down by the water front of Lake Wakitipu, whilst watching the diving ducks bob on the waves and chinese tourists whizz past on segways.

Once we'd recovered from our burgers, which took surprisingly less time than would take for average burger consumption, I filmed the boys skimming the perfectly flat Queenstown pebbles in the lake and they posed for 'most wind-swept hair' photos.

Next stop was Te Anau, our half way point on the journey towards Milford Sound. Upon arriving, we booked ourselves in on a lake cruise to a glow-worm cave.

We'd seen several signs for spots to go see these shy creatures and felt it was something we must do before we headed home.

Known as the 'gateway to the fiords', Lake Te Anau is the largest in the South Island and the second largest Lake in the country. We set off from the town jetty at 4.30pm and journeyed across the still, glassy water, sitting for a short while on the upper deck before the cold wind drove us back to the warmth of the main cabin. Whilst outside, we had a perfect view of the snowy Fiordland mountains in the distance and the beautifully dense woodland on the opposite banks, its mysterious dark depths calling us to explore.

When we landed, we were split into three groups, each with our own guide to lead us into the cave to the glow-worm cavern. Our destination was only a little way into the cave, as to travel further underground would require diving gear. 

We were instructed to duck down for the first 10m or so as the entry into the cave was a little over a metre tall. Once we were able to stand straight, our guide led us up through the narrow passageway, alongside a fast flowing river, home to the occasional eel poking its head from behind a rock. 

After winding our way inside the cavern, we boarded a small boat and were asked to remain silent whilst inside the glow-worm habitat as they are incredibly shy creatures and will cease to omit light if they experience loud noises or light. The artifical lamps were all switched off at this point and our guide used ropes tethered to the cave walls to pull our little vessel along.

The darkness we then experienced was much deeper and finite than anything I've ever seen. The only perceptible noise was that of the water beneath us and the occasional soft thump as the boat touched the cavern walls. I suddenly felt an immense fear that I might bump my head in the darkness and felt my heart begin to pound. The lack of sound and light created the distinct impression of entering into another realm, and this feeling was certainly heightened when the glow-worms themselves came into sight.

The scene in front of us was the kind of stuff dreams are made of. The intense darkness coupled with the eery twinkling green lights the worms omitted was simply surreal. For the second time on our trip, I was faced with a sight so profoundly beautiful I felt tears come to my eyes.  

Our guide steered the boat so we were directly underneath a large patch of light, with the worms inches from our upturned faces. I then remembered how the glow-worms dangle a thread of saliva downwards to catch their food and promptly closed my gawping mouth.

As we headed back to the walkway, another group passed us in the darkness. Suddenly, several glow-worm patches extinguished their lights and we were plunged into an even deeper darkness. The other boat contained a party of Americans who, it seemed, had found it rather difficult to comprehend the request for silence. I thanked the twinkling starry lights above me I had not been in that boat or we wouldn't have seen anything at all.

We returned back to the boat and headed across the water back into town. After a quick trip to the supermarket, we set up for the night at our campsite and dined outside on soup and sarnies, reflecting over all the wonderful sights of the day.

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