After Dunedin, we drove to the southern edge of the South Island, a remote and beautiful area called the Catlins. We spent two days there hiking the Catlins Top Track, a mixed bag of a hike that led through some wonderful beach and clifftop scenery, but also through some ugly logged areas and past three, count'em three, fetid sheep carcasses ditched in the middle of the trail. Clearly La Chupacabra at work.

The highlight of the track was our night's lodging, which was an old Dunedin trolley bus that had been lugged up to a wonderful hillside and converted into a camper, complete with beds, gas stove, shower(which didn't work), and "loo with a view" (an outhouse fashioned out of an old camper trailer. We inexplicably neglected to get any close-up shots of the bus, so this will do - the bus, is on the lower left. You can at least admire the view.

This is another photo that doesn't do the situation justice, but at one point the path crossed a cow pasture. This would have been no big deal, except the cows were all staring at us expectantly. When we walked toward them, they all - 100 head, maybe, gathered a short distance from us and stared, blocking our way to the stile that led out of the field. Now, I know this sounds like no big deal - I mean, they're cows - but any one of them could have stepped on us, and they were all quite deliberately standing in our way. We eventually sucked it up and walked into their midst, at which point they obligingly made room, and in fact stared after us expectantly as we walked away. Them cows is none too bright. Tasty, though.

We spent a night in the nothing town of Riverton, mostly because it was between two places we wanted to go and it had a cheap hostel. We clearly lucked out, however, because they were holding a mammoth lumberjack festival, featuring lumbering (so to speak) fellows from throughout the land displaying their expertise at hacking stuff to bits really, really fast. Pretty awesome way to spend a morning, needless to say.

This is a kea, the world's only alpine parrot. Flightless, they're the packrats of birds, and this was the first of several we saw along the heavily-tourist-travelled Milford Road, begging for scraps at rest stops.

A view along the Milford Road. Milford Sound, on the west coast of the South Island, had some of the mind-blowingest (also totally a word) scenery in NZ. Milford Road is the only road that cuts through the heart of Fiordland National Park, which is essentially a nonstop series of fiords encompassing much of the southwest of the south island. I lack superlatives to describe the scenery, which chiefly consisted of mammoth snowcapped peaks the sides of which plummeted stright down thousands of feet into impossibly deep water. It may even have topped Alaska, which isn't easy to do.

We drove the Milford Road to Milford Sound then took a boat trip, which is pretty much what every single person who visits NZ does. Then we splurged a bit and got off the beaten track by taking a two-day kayaking trip through Doubtful Sound. To get there, you have to drive to a ferry, which takes you across a lake to another road, where you hop in a van, drive over a 1,500 foot pass (which Mary and I are standing atop in the photo) and descend to the kayak launch area. We were ostensibly going to kayak out, spend a night at a campsite in the sound, and come back the next day, but due to inclement weather we turned that into a couple of day trip combined with a night in a hostel on the sound. Inclement to say the least: 5 inches of rain fell overnight!
We, fortunately, lucked out and missed the rain, kayaking on the sound for two days in scattered drizzles and blinding sunshine. Mary and I both got the hang of our double kayak pretty quickly and enjoyed the company of the other people in our group. And as I will affirm, there is no circumstance on earth where scenery does not look better, when nature does not look more beautiful and inviting, when the world does not seem brighter when you see it under your own power. Along with the also sublime Banks Peninsula track, Mary and I declare the kayak excursion the highlight of the whole New Zealand trip.