Wired and fully rechared at 9am, the Backscheider Family Four was Milford Sound bound. The 100km drive is reportedly New Zealand's best, and many Japanese buses were stopped along the way for photos. Paul and I later concurred we would included it in the top three most beautiful national parks we have visited, next to Yosemite & Denali. You can easily see why someone would spend a year sailing the 14 Fjords, or even hiking the various famous tracks. Outside of the sound, the ocean is rough and all things considered we were lucky to have good weather if even for one hour.
The drive through the very steep pitch black Homer Tunnel felt more dangerous than any tunnel I have visited before. I expected to emerge in China, or perhaps a huge cave like in journey to the center of the earth. Milford sound receives 6m of rain annually creating spectacular waterfalls and drenched tourists. We were lucky to see seals, dusky dolphins, and even the top of Mitre Peak. I was disappointed my children didn't particularly care for the cruise and by 1pm Nolan was very cranky and ready to nap. We departed in a full downpour and made our way to Manipouri just north of Te Anua.
Upon arival I was begining to second guess our choice of town for the evening. There were not many vacancies and only one restaurant to chose from. Paul finally spotted a budget motel that I later learned was where the cast of LOTR stayed to film the Great Marshes. We stayed in a full two bedroom apartment with livingroom and kitchen decorated straight out of the 50's. Even the musty smell and faded couches reminded me of my grandparents home in South Bend. After pizza and mashed potatoes, we took an evening drive around the lake to an abandoned sub-division project. There was a hilly vantage point on the east side of the lake and we made our way to the wheat-covered top. The sun breaking the clouds and filling the faces of my children made for one happy mama.
The last day of our New Zealand journey was spent almost entirely in the car. We took the scenic rout around the very bottom of the south island past Invercargil, and endless amounts of sheep pastures with ocean views. Invercargil reminded me a bit of Fairbanks, flat and likely very cold in winter. We stopped to stretch in the gardens and have a bite to eat along the ocean. Watching the cars drive along the beach further confirmed how desolate this place must be in the winter. After hours of driving we were ready for some Indian food and a stroll through the Botanical Gardens. I relish not having to cook or clean on vacation almost as much as the vacation itself, and I savored every bite of that hot Naan and curry. Part of me is always sad to have to return to a civilized routine.