Since I’ve been a child, I imagined being in New Zealand. When I watched Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, spellbound, the child within was awakened. And so, here I am. No book, no documentary, indeed not even The Lord of the Rings, could have prepared me for the reality of New Zealand. It is stunning, the penultimate eye candy, an unending visual spectacle that boggles the mind.
From Christchurch to Fiordland
We left Christchurch (see http://blog.lesterpickerphoto.com/2010/11/20/alive-and-well-in-christchurch/) heading toward Fiordland National Park, on a mission to scout out the South Island for our long-term return visit in 2012-13. Heading southwest, we travelled through a rich, green tapestry of agricultural fields. The landscape changes gradually from totally flat to hilly, with tens of thousands of sheep grazing contentedly, forming a picturesque pastoral scene. (Factoid: NZ has 40 million sheep, or ten sheep for every resident.)
New Zealanders, surprisingly to me, also raise enormous numbers of deer for the world venison market.
We were headed seven hours away, for Lake Tekapo (pronounced tee’-kah-poe) where I intended to become the umpteen millionth photographer to capture the Church of the Good Shepard, which is perched on a small rise along the shore of the Lake, encircled by a chain of snow-capped mountains in the distance.
As Robert Burns said; “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men, gang aft agley.” I set up my tripod and camera well before sunset and promptly faced gale-force winds and light drizzle. Photographers can take, and may even welcome, a gentle rain, but wind is our enemy in most cases (unless you’re Darwin Wiggett, a photographer I greatly admire… see my links for his website).
I had a mental image of the shots I had wanted to take, but after a couple of hours on site, I came away disappointed, but knowing for sure how I want to shoot the scene in a couple of years, weather permitting. I’ll plan to spend a few days in the area to increase my chances of better weather.
After a rainy night in Lake Tekapo, we left for Te Anau, the staging town for entry into the wild, undeveloped Fiordland National park. Here lie the iconic NZ landscapes: Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and the dozens of other coastal sounds that have kept maritime explorers and present-day hikers busy investigating their mysterious beauty for hundreds of years.
A Lovely Inn in a Wonderful Town
Te Anau is a lovely small town, situated as it is along the southeast shore of picturesque Lake Te Anau. On a whim I had booked us into Dock Bay Lodge, a relatively new property purpose-built as an inn by its owners, Dawn and Mark Dowling. This was only the second instance on our month-long adventure in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and New Caledonia where the reality of our lodging far surpassed our expectations, a rarity as any travel writer will tell you.
Dock Bay Lodge (www.dockbaylodge.co.nz) overlooks Lake Te Anau on an immaculately landscaped property. The bedrooms are huge, and the ceramic tiled bathrooms modern and roomy. The communal living room sported a digital wide-screen television, a large fireplace and large, comfortable leather couches.
The dining room has a large table, able to accommodate the maximum of 10 guests, with floor to ceiling sliding window-doors that give a 210 degree view of the Te Anau environs.
But, it is what is served in this dining area that is a good indication of just how special Dock Bay is. Breakfasts include a selection of juices, yogurt, cereals- including Dawn’s special recipe muesli- and fresh fruits. There is also a selection of croissants and breads, served with your choice of specialty jams. Dawn and her assistant, Diane, will prepare a hot breakfast of eggs with all †he trimmings and porridge (what Americans call cooked oatmeal).
Dawn and Mark are highly involved in the workings of the town and in the tourism industry. Several times during our 3-night stay I relied on her unfailing advice on what to see and do.
Once you check in to Dock Bay, everything is included. Your in-room refrigerator is stocked with NZ wines and beers, as well as other refreshments. Cookies are provided daily by Diane. Dawn will send you on your way with a cup of coffee or tea. Throughout the lodge Dawn’s taste is evident. The lodge is decorated so tastefully, my wife and I found ourselves just walking about admiring the artwork and furnishings.
Dawn and Mark are warm, welcoming and gracious hosts, so if you find yourself planning a Kiwi visit, you might want to try Dock Bay Lodge. If you do, be sure to let us know via this blog how your experience went.
In my next blog I’ll cover what there is to do and see in Te Anau, and Milford Doubtful Sounds.