Milford to Invercargill: 280 kilometers (173.9 miles)

Invercargill to Dunedin: 217 km (134.75)

Dunedin to Christchurch: 360 km (223.56)         

Christchurch to Kaikoura: 187 km (116.13)

Kaikoura to Blenheim: 132 km (82) 

We stayed two days in Milford, preparing for what should have been Part Two of our Fiordland Adventure. Unfortunately we were disappointed. The Routeburn Track’s highest point, the Harris Saddle, was closed because of avalanche danger and a complete through-hike was not possible.

 

We decided to use the time for other activities and caught a shuttle back to Te Anau. The driver, Simon, gave us a detailed history of the serpentine road from Milford – “Great for skateboarding at night,” he said, “when there’s no traffic” – and the tunnel built in the 1950s that spared hikers having to return on the Milford Track the way they’d come.

 

The 2-kilometer tunnel – still jagged-walled, only recently paved – is subject to occasional closure due to seismic discontent. And avalanches, etc. Vagaries of the regional geology.

 

All Kiwis seem to know in detail the natural and cultural history of their little island paradise. Simon, his curly grey-flecked hair untamed by an orange bandanna, was no different. Once at a roadside café I asked the lady behind the counter the name of a flower I’d seen in many places along the road. I didn’t really expect her to know but got a very exact reply, almost down to the genus. That encounter has been repeated several times.

 

Rescuing Melba from the car park in Te Anau, we headed for the southern coast. The Catlins awaited.