Thursday, February 18, 2016

NZ Roadtrip Te Anau: scenery, spaghetti and sainted stirrers

It wouldn't be a roadtrip without a bit of petrol angst, and accordingly we got a bit low on our way to Te Anau but the scenery was good enough (read: great) to distract us from the tension. This four-hour drive from Queenstown to Te Anau is, on the map, three sides of a square, necessary because there is no direct route. Every so often someone proposes a tunnel, or a monorail or some other such abomination desecrating the scenery just so foreign tourists don't have to waste their time driving through the sort of country as above, and can go straight from one hotspot to the next (ie Milford Sound). I mean, what sort of penance is that? I'm glad to say that no-one so far has got very far with their proposals, but constant vigilance is required.
There was another cheese roll en route, at Athol - a specialty of the south, it's white bread rolled up around some kind of cheesy concoction, and grilled. They're all a bit different, leading to local loyalties. This one had added onion and sweetcorn but was a touch on the dry side - not that any cheese roll is a waste of time, though. After we'd got to our motel at Te Anau, we made a visit to Lake Manapouri, once the subject of nationwide protests and the decades-long 'Save Manapouri' campaign. It might have been the first national environmental campaign in New Zealand - certainly it's the first I can remember. The baddies were Comalco, who wanted the lake level raised 30 metres to generate power for their aluminium smelter, and the weak National government was going to ignore the 10% of the population that signed the petition against it. Luckily, there was a general election in 1973, Norman Kirk's Labour government listened to the people, and the lake was saved, look:
Te Anau's lake is also lovely, just a bit less wild and spectacular. The town is dependent on the tourist traffic to Milford Sound, and in the Fiordland Cinema there are regular showings of the Ata Whenua/Shadowland movie showcasing the area's spectacular beauty. Our enjoyment of the film was subsequently enhanced by our realising that we should in fact have paid $10 each to get in, but we'd thought it was a tourism freebie and simply walked in and taken seats. Nobody said we'd gone the...
(This nearby sign has been a local joke for ages but now it's not so funny, after so many incidents of Chinese tourists causing accidents by driving on the wrong side of the road - however, even I am getting tired of my anti-Chinese comments, so that's the last you'll hear of them on this roadtrip.) 

We're into greenstone country now - nephrite jade to you foreigners - and there's a 3.2 tonne boulder in one of the souvenir shops, that's a really impressive sight. The lady in the shop said yes, it was insured for some fabulous sum - but that anyone who could steal something that size really deserved to keep it. Dinner was an unusual, but delicious, combination of crayfish and spaghetti at the equally unexpected genuinely Italian Dolce Vita restaurant; after which we hung a left at the giant takahe and went to our beds in the long southern dusk.

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