Te Anau, New Zealand.

Ahh…cool, crisp mountain air, a beautiful lake, and a small tourist town too small to be annoying; this is Te Anau.

We drove yesterday from Waihola (about 45 minutes outside of Dunedin). We had stayed over night at a B&B called Ivy Cottage; the host were a warm, elderly couple named Brian and Robin and they swept us away with their enthusiastic hospitality. From the moment we entered their house we were treated like old family friends. They ushered us into their backyard (with its brilliant view of the lake) and offered us drinks and cheese ‘n’ crackers, and we spent a good two hours “catching up” with them (although we had never met them before!). We chatted with their son and daughter-in-law, who had just come back from visiting Brian and Robin’s daughter in San Rafael, CA. We petted their golden retriever, Buddy (short for “Rosebud)), and gave her lots of attention and love. They offered us dinner (“We’re just about the throw some sausages on the barbie, would you like to join us?”) and we brought out a bottle of wine from our stash of Hawkes Bay goodies. I choked down a lamb sausage (trying to be polite–lamb is not one of my favorites) and successfully avoided the cilantro-laced salad. At nine 0’clock we headed for our own little cottage ($75 NZ a night–about $38 US) and marvelled at the fact that it was still light outside. (It’s really amazing how long it stays light here in the summer–it doesn’t get totally dark until about ten pm.) The next morning we had a delicious breakfast (“brekkie” as the Kiwis call it) of homemade muesli and jam, and NZ bacon (a wider cut of ham than ours–it includes the outer-edged, which is what we serve as bacon, but has more meat with the cut), toast, and an egg (thankfully no lamb sausage).

Yesterday we drove the Southern Scenic route of the island; there were so many stops we could have made along our way towards Invercargill (which is where the route officially stops). We chose two: The Petrified Forest at Curio Bay and a waterfall (it has a Maori name that I’ve forgotten). The forest was really cool, and we were lucky to see it when the tide was out. We went down to the beach and looked for the little imprints of log amongst the rock and seaweed. The next beach over was a penguin reserve; the sign warned visitors to be respectful of them and not to stress them out by getting too close to them (or even just staring when they are in the process of molting). Apparently, they are very emotionally delicate beings…but, they are so cute!

We stopped at Invercargill for lunch. Our take of the city–too much room and not enough people. The shops were all closed and there weren’t many people out on the street (and this was Saturday afternoon). The other Scottish-founded city, Dunedin, was completely different; lots of stone buildings, a beautiful bay, a fantastic rail station and museum (we will have pictures of the station). We would have loved to stay another day in Dunedin, but unfortunately for us it was graduation weekend and lots of the good accomodations were booked up. So, after driving out to the nearby peninsula to see Larnach castle (fun and eerie!), we headed out of town and to Waihola (and Ivy Cottage).