Friends, I am sad.
Why am I sad? Because we’re fast approaching the end of my time in the South Island. It’s been so great getting to relive the memories as I write about all these amazing things that I experienced while down South.
My mourning is premature, though! There’s still some cool stories left to be told and cool places left to visit. And one of those cool places is the tiny town of Te Anau.
Te Anau (population: 1900) is the creatively-named town on the shores of Lake Te Anau. It’s primarily known for being sort of the gateway town to the Milford Sound, which is a very popular destination and about which more shall be said anon. The Kepler Track, yet another of New Zealand’s Great Walks, also starts in Te Anau. Finally, the town is home to a disproportionately large number of surprisingly good pizza places. I don’t know what the significance of that is, but I’m sure it’s important.
There’s also a quite nice breakfast place called The Sandfly. You can walk to pretty much anything in Te Anau in about ten minutes, so if you’re staying there I suggest you make that happen at least once. I’m not sure why they would name the venue after one of the most annoying creatures in the country though. We would never do anything like that in the US!
Not sure how that photo slipped in here. Anyway, moving on!
For lovers of the rural life, Te Anau must be paradise. The views are phenomenal (it can honestly stand toe-to-toe with Queenstown on that front, which cannot be said of most places), there’s a supermarket for all your foodular needs, and so long as you never feel the desire to go anywhere or do anything other than hiking then you’re set for life.
Te Anau is also very wet. Actually, as I find out later, there are much wetter places than Te Anau. But being on the West coast in the Fiordlands, even in the summer it rains very frequently.
The views, though. The amazing, amazing views.
Just look at those mountains. Writing this post, some of the pictures I’m rejecting would be the headliner picture for other posts!
Te Anau is also home to a bird sanctuary. This is a kākā, a type of parrot. Kākā are cheeky and annoying but vulnerable enough from a conservation standpoint that we’re starting to take action to make sure they’re going to be preserved (see also: the kea). This one is obviously incarcerated.
These are not just fat pukeko, although you might be excused for thinking they are. This is actually a takahe, and for fifty years we thought they were extinct. Then a doctor and amateur birdologist found one near Te Anau — demonstrating that animal conservation is not an exact science but instead depends much on the efforts of passionate and involved amateurs. The bloke who rediscovered the takahe is not only remembered almost exclusively for that but also got a lake named after him, so fair play as far as I’m concerned.
(Birdologist, much like foodular some paragraphs back, is not, strictly speaking, an actual word. But I like it better than ornithologist, which is a word but should not be.)
I must say, I’m quite glad that the takahe are still around. I don’t think they contribute much to the ecosystem as a whole, but they’re pretty neat in a goofy-looking sort of way. It’s so strange to think of an entire species going extinct. I’m certainly not opposed to human progress and I’m not sure that “living in harmony with nature” is entirely possible when substantial portions of nature either want to eat us or at least strongly want us to go away, but given the choice between making the effort to preserve takahe or just figure that their demise is evolution taking its course, I’m strongly in favor of keeping them around. So much so that I would like to share with you this picture of some takahe butts.
Although their girth and coloration help differentiate them from the pukeko (which, pleasingly, is both singular and plural), takahe are also entirely flightless. As far as I know, takahe are only found in New Zealand, while pukeko are also found all around the South Pacific (where they are more broadly known as the Australasian swamphen).
The bird sanctuary is right next to the lake and…wait, what’s that in the lower right-hand corner? Let’s Zoom and Enhance a bit:
That would be a white-faced heron. I was hoping to get some shots with its neck out, but it was too busy chilling in the stream and I’m not such an oaf that I would annoy it into flying away just to get a shot.
(If you are for some reason heartbroken about the lack of heron action pictures, I have a few properly good white-faced heron shots coming up in posts so far in the future I haven’t even written them yet. Just hang tight for about a month and you’ll get all the heron you want!)
While walking past the bird sanctuary I found this weird waterfall window thing.
The Kepler Track (or, perhaps more accurately, the path to the Kepler Track) is right beyond the bird sanctuary. I walked it casually for about an hour or so just to see what it was like, but nothing serious. The full track can take four or five days to complete, so one hour of idle strolling did not get me particularly far along :)
So that’s Te Anau. Although Queenstown was a bit more my jam, I did quite enjoy my time in Te Anau as well. If you’re a fan, then don’t worry: I stayed in Te Anau for three nights, so the next couple of adventures will be starting off from there!
Next time, we will walk right up to a lake, but we won’t see it. If that sounds like a riddle that would stump both Gollum and Bilbo, then stay tuned for the solution!