Mel had noticed the way that Jimmy had been looking at her – appraising her was how she thought of it. That evaluation made more sense now that she knew that the two weren’t together except as fellow travellers who’d be on separate paths from then on. Nevertheless, she didn’t feel threatened – she was quite flattered, but not enough to encourage his attentions. The only man she wanted to see now was Jamie.
When they all arrived back at Manapouri, they parted company – Lorna would be driving back to Queenstown, Jimmy was staying on the boat – which was also returning to Queenstown.
Mel returned to her hired van and headed off to Te Anau, where she’d booked a powered space on a holiday park with a communal kitchen and lounge.
Te Anau to Milford Sound
On her first day of this final leg of her time in New Zealand, Mel spent the morning in sunshine in Te Anau to do some shopping. The first thing on her list was some extra midge-repellent for herself, and some bug spray for in and around the van. She was already noticing the sandflies and she’d been warned that they’d be particularly bad around Cascade Creek and Milford Sound, where she’d be spending some time.
She wanted to choose some souvenirs relating to the area to take home as presents for her family and for Jamie and his mum and dad. Other than that, she wanted to make sure that the van would be properly stocked for fuel and food for the four days ahead before she headed back to Queensland and her journey home. She was worried that there might not be another chance before she returned to Te Anau – it could be six or seven days until then.
Te Anau is a pretty town and is the main visitor base for the Fjordland National Park. She made a point of visiting the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre to check her plans for her journey – and for her overnight stays on her way to and around Milford. Having spoken to the staff there, she returned to the shops to buy some waterproof footwear. She wouldn’t be taking her purchase back with her to England, but, from what she’d heard, she’d need them at Milford Sound.
Approaching lunchtime, because she knew that, from then onwards, she’d be living mainly on packed lunches, she decided to treat herself with a meal at one of the restaurants serving local seafood.
For the afternoon she wanted to look at local photo opportunities, so she bought tickets for a boat trip across Lake Te Anau to the western shores and to visit the Glowworm caves there. This involved a guided cave tour that passed the rushing water of an underground stream before continuing for a short while in silent darkness. The caves were still being carved out by the force of the river that flowed through them via a twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall. Deeper inside the caves, beyond the roar of the water, she was taken to a silent grotto inhabited by hundreds of glow-worms, unique to New Zealand. In the subterranean darkness, they produced a glittering display. She hadn’t planned the visit, but she managed to shoot some fascinating sights to include as a diversion among her landscape images.
She returned to the holiday park to top-up her water supply, charge her batteries, do some laundry and to talk to some of the other travellers in the communal dining area before heading back to her van to phone home and to sleep.
The following morning, a somewhat overcast one, she enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before departing. She wasn’t planning to travel far before her next overnight stop at Cascade Creek campsite, but she wanted to take more photographs on the way there, based on what she’d seen on her daytrip to Milford Sound when she first arrived in Queenstown.
The winding road had many narrow sections as it passed some breath-taking scenes. The first major highlight was the Eglinton Valley, where the views changed and she could now see steep, beech covered, rocky mountains. The flat valley floor was carpeted in golden tussock – it was a surreal place.
The view ahead was unbelievable, and she could see why she’d seen so many photos that had been taken from the middle of the road. She waited, preparing her settings beforehand until the traffic allowed, and then ran out to snatch some shots for her own collection.
Further along the road she parked to take a short 400-metres or so path to the lovely Mirror Lakes. The parking bay had been well signposted. Beneath a cloudless sky, she was able to photograph outstanding reflections of the Earl Mountains on the still lake.
She still had another 35 miles to go before she reached Cascade Creek, but she was in good time.
One sight that she’d not noticed on her first visit was the Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain, where an optical illusion caused the approaching mountain to appear to become smaller rather than larger. The final photographic treat of the day was Lake Gunn. She explored it along an easy, loop nature track that took just a couple of hours including her photo-stops.
From there she headed to the Department of Conservation campsite, where she’d be staying for two nights. The facilities there were basic compared to the holiday parks where she’d stayed for much of her time in South Island. It was non- powered, had non-flush, long-drop toilets and no communal dining or laundry facilities. Water was from the stream. The other problem was sandflies. It was as well that Sam had warned her about them. Even the stuff she’d bought earlier in the day seemed to be struggling to control their attacks. Still, it was a good place to rest and look at the images she’d shot that day.
Before resting, however, she realised that she’d have time for a forty-five-minute walk along the Lake Gunn Nature Walk that started beside the campsite. The mountains that surrounded the Lake seemed almost to disappear into its surface.
As she lay in the silence of her campervan bed that night, she knew that her homesickness was getting worse. What had begun as an adventure of a lifetime had turned into an odyssey. She missed her mum, dad and Jack, she missed Jamie – she hadn’t realised how much she’d miss seeing him, hearing his voice, being held by him. She even missed the shop and wondered how Marcus was faring. She looked forward to these next couple of days though – she hoped that they wouldn’t disappoint. They were intended as the climax of her trip, but at the same time she was impatient to be home.
There were no better sites between the Cascade creek site and Milford itself so, the following day, she would be travelling towards the Homer Tunnel but, even so, she’d be returning to Cascade Creek that day after she’d taken more roadside photographs of the intervening area.
Before long, she parked briefly at The Divide. This marked the lowest, east-west pass in the Southern Alps and was the start of several well-documented walking tracks, such as the 32 km Routeburn Track.
Two kilometres further on, along a particularly winding stretch of road, around a blind corner where she had to slow, she stopped at the small parking area for Pop’s View Lookout, which had some great mountain views over the Hollyford River Valley. She knew from her planning notes that this was an excellent spot to see kea, the cheeky alpine parrots common to the higher parts of the South Island. True to form, when she turned back to her van, one of them was attacking a windscreen wiper.
Her final stop for the day, before returning to the campsite, was the Lake Marian car park, off the Milford Road, along Holyford Road. This was a longer stop for her, where she planned to walk to Lake Marian. She changed into her hiking boots and set-off. She allowed two hours each way including a stop at some waterfalls that she expected to reach after she’d crossed a swing-bridge some twenty minutes into the journey.
The reflections of the mountains reminded her very much of Mirror Lakes and provided some excellent views for photography.
On return to her van, she changed back in the shoes she wore for driving and headed back to Cascade Creek for an overnight stay.
There was even less to do there than the previous night, except to wash, change some clothes, eat and text home. Because she was now so eager to get back to England, she almost regretted making this stay. She could have continued straight to Milford Sound if she’d made fewer photo-stops. She reminded herself though, that those stops were a large part of her reason for having travelled to the other side of the world. It was memorable images of places such as the ones she’d seen that day that would enable her to augment her portfolio of saleable shots to use for stock images, photobooks, and material for magazines, prints and exhibitions.
When she set-off early the following morning, she consoled herself that she would be at Milford before evening.
Her first stop on her way was the large open car park for Monkey Creek, still within the Hollyford Valley and a little further down the Milford Road from Lake Marian Track. She topped up her water supply from the pure glacier-fed water there, before crossing the small stream into the field beyond for her photos.
She was well into her journey now, and it was just before she reached the Homer Tunnel that she parked briefly at the Gertrude Valley lookout point to capture an image of the Marian Peak and its snow-covered companion mountains.
The Homer Tunnel, shortly afterwards, marked her descent to Milford Sound. Approaching it, she saw the green light turn to red. She stopped behind a small queue. She’d heard that she might need to wait twenty minutes for the light to change, so like several other people from the cars ahead of her, she got out of her van to take some shots of the tunnel entrance and of the waterfalls descending the valleys alongside the road. Once the lights changed, she entered the sealed, one-way tunnel that took her three-quarters of a mile steeply downwards towards her destination. ‘Are we nearly there, mum?’ she thought.
She drove out of the tunnel into bright sunlight. The next few kilometres of road were even more twisting than any stretch of road so far, with a series of near hairpin bends.
She had one final place to see, however, before she reached Milford and she expected it to be busy. This was The Chasm. The large car park was well occupied – including by several coaches, so she wondered whether her shots from the best viewpoints were likely to be photo-bombed by day-trippers. If that were the case, she’d need to return early the following morning when it would be quieter. The boarded walk lasted only a couple of hundred metres before she saw the roaring water dropping into a huge abyss with amazing dips and bowls, in front of vibrantly green mossy rocks. Scouting for photo-opportunities she found that the two footbridges over the Cleddau River gave her the best viewing points for the waterfall.
Today, I continue my series of photos taken in and around the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge, where I spent a Saturday earlier in June.
The next set of shots will show scenes from around the town that I saw that Saturday. This shot was one that I took at the open air market
For all these shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/160 secs @ f/8, focal length 16 mm, and ISO 320.