We only spent one night in Twizel and launched back on the road for one last bid for a rain free hike. This time we aim for Christchurch and its scenic peninsula.
Leaving Queenstown is a flurry of packing and cleaning. Our next destination, Twizel, is a 3 hour drive with an additional 1.5 hour drive to reach the base of Mount Cook and our intended 3 hour in-out hike through Hooker's Valley to the base of a glacier.
Today, we are back on the road. From Te Anau, we launch on the 4 hour drive to Queenstown. It is hard to get there in a reasonable amount of time, however, because the brilliant vistas along the way have me constantly begging to pull to the side so that I can take yet another series of photographs.
We scheduled two full days in Te Anau so that we could pick the best of the days to visit Milford Sound. After an incredibly active day, today, the constant rain and lack of indoor attractions has us spending most of the day, relaxing and recharging inside. We are nearly half way through our road trip and I am grateful for the break.
The day starts with a drizzle. Weather reports promise more of the same. Yet, tour guides assure us that these are ideal conditions to visit the Milford Sound. Many waterfalls along the Sound only flow during rain. In fact, there are only two permanent waterfalls. We see dozens.
We spent the night at a small converted barn on a sheep farm outside of Mosgiel, New Zealand. While the town itself is relatively unremarkable, this is our first chance to get up close and personal with one of the major inhabitants of New Zealand: sheep.
Today is a day on the move. We have a four hour drive to the Auckland Airport, a 1.5 hour plane flight to the South Island, and a 1 hour drive to our lodging for the night. Along the way, we wander the Dunedin Railway Station farmers market, explore Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, and spot blue penguins at the Royal Albatross Centre.
We schedule two days in Taupo with the intent to use the best day of weather to take the 8-hour hike along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Day 1 was out, the remnants of the storm that passed through two days ago still swirled about the snow capped peaks. Peaks that have stood in for Tolkein's Mount Doom in the Peter Jackson Lord of the Ring films.
It is now Day 2. While the sky is blue and we can see the peaks clearly across Lake Taupo, storms are anticipated in the afternoon. Access to the pass is closed.