Te Anau, Manapouri & Moose

This weekend just been we mounted an expedition to the western towns/lakes of Te Anau & Manapouri.

Te Anau is the half way point on the 4 hr drive between Queenstown and Milford Sound, so is over brimming with accommodation options and souvenir stores.

We stayed at the Birchwood Cottages, Ray & Leoni the proprietors are just awesome. They were cool with us having Harold the dog in tow (even tho we didn’t warn them and kinda just sprung it on them…….). Leoni came down to the cottage especially on the Saturday morning to introduce her labrador Tessa to Harold and said she was happy to look after him for the day, bless her! We took Harold with us on our paddling adventure but it was a wonderful offer.

Both originally from the Tapanui area, Ray was your classic Southland Sheep farmer until 4 years ago when they made the move to Fiordland & into the tourism game. As well as the Cottages, they run daily tours to Milford Sound and if trip advisor is anything to go by they are pretty awesome. Both Ray & Leoni love a good yarn, so I can’t think of any better people to being showing our international visitors one of our choicest natural attractions and some epic Southern hospitality.

Check these 2 characters out at the links below:

http://www.fiordlandtours.co.nz/index.html   http://www.birchwoodcottages.co.nz/

So onto the Kayaking….which was why we were there. Friends Matt & Tanis came to join us, so with 4 people, 2 double sea kayaks and a dog we headed for the township & lake of Manapouri…… just a hop, skip and jump down the road.

Lake Manapouri was the focal point of an environmental omnishambles from 1959 – 1972. In a nutshell the New Zealand Government had signed a deal that they would supply  X amount of electricity to Comalco (now Rio Tinto) for the Tiwai Aluminium smelter……to do so they would be raising Manapouri’s lake level by 30 meters and merging it with lake Te Anua for the hydro scheme…..whats a sneaky 30 meters of homes, township and native bush right…?

WRONG….the New Zealand public jumped on it and after a stack of campaigning, petitions and some pretty big hippy protests (it was the 70s remember) the issue became the main sticking point of the 1972 Election and Norman Kirks Labour party was on board with the “Save Manapouri” ideals. After we was elected  Kirk created an independent body, the Guardians of Lake Manapouri, Monowai, and Te Anau to oversee management of the lake levels, which they do to this day.

So thanks to Norm, we loaded up the kayaks, strapped Harold into the centre hold of one of them and set off paddling. We set off west, snuggled around the coast line for an hour also before finding a white sandy beach in Surprise Bay for a cup of tea and then out and around a peninsula into Circle Cove where you can get carry the kayaks 100m across land and back into Surprise Bay. The “Surprise” was the black funky stagnant water (leech infested according to Matt) you had to portage the boat through. I didn’t keep my game tight during this stage and squealed like a possum.

The return leg of the journey was swift and before long we were back in the harbour, swapping tales with 2 hunter who had just returned from a few days out in the wilderness. There was a forced swim in the lake and an extreme battle over an apple danish but spirits were high.

Speaking of spirits after a shnack at the Fat Duck the team rounded out their day with a few rums and/or cranberry juices at the Moose Bar. YAAAAARGH!

Thanks Western Southland for an epic weekend, thanks to Ray & Leoni for taking us in and über thanks to Norm and the crew who kept it beautiful for us to enjoy x