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.
Not Quite Hiking Mount Doom: Hiking the Taranaki Falls Track In Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
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.
Some days feel as though we are traveling through some massive, manicured natural theme park. The rocks outcrops look like the ruins of some ancient culture. The plants maintain a fiercely bright green, despite the oncoming fall.
Despite not sleeping the night before, last night's sleep was terminated early due to the traveler's dreaded jet lag. I woke up at 3am. I got out of bed at 5:30am. I noticed a family of hedgehogs retreat to a bush at 5:45am. I watched the sunrise at 6:00am. By 7:30am, everyone else was awake. The day could begin.
I tried so hard. We leaned on each others shoulders, we cuddled into little balls, we stretched across each other. We tried every position imaginable. What we didn't do, was sleep on the 14 hour plane trip from San Francisco to Aukland, New Zealand. We arrived at 5:30 AM, groggy but determined to milk all that we could from every moment we spend in New Zealand.
Oh yeah, didn't I mention? We are in New Zealand!