110 Days on the Road
Even if we are waking up slightly dehydrated from the night before, at least there is moisture in the air hanging around Lake Brunner’s mountains. The dramatic clouds reflect in the dark lake, which begs to be explored today!
Yesterday, we watched boaties and jet-skiers blasting around the lake as we stood helplessly at its shores. But we stoked to be able to hit the water on a boat tour today!
We throw our many camera gears into the back of his truck and he takes us down a single land 4×4 track right up to the boat – no walking necessary on this trip!
Perfect viewing positions
As Brent is getting the boat ready for a morning out on the lake, we squeeze our fat asses through the front hatch into the boat. We can sit inside the boat, outside under a canopy and on seats with interchangeable back rests so you can face whichever way you want. Aaaaannd, we mostly stand for the whole tour. We’re just too keen.
Pieces of history
The boat pulls away from the small township of Moana and out on the lake. We whiz past the trees and beaches where we had lunch yesterday, while a jetski whizzes past us.
Up ahead we see poles sticking up in two rows. These are the remains of an old jetty from the old logging days in the area. Bain Bay is also a campsite, scattered in relics from old trains used to bring logs to the water. An old engine sits on the shores of Lake Brunner.
Did we just boat into Milford Sound here?
A bit further around the perimeter of the lake, the flat forests steadily turn more mountainous. The only part of the mountains not covered in trees is a waterfall etched right in the middle.
Those layer upon layer of mountains that we could see from the shores of Lake Brunner yesterday seemed like just a backdrop that we could never reach, yet here we are getting right underneath the mountain that appears to have burst from the lake itself. Who needs to go to Milford Sound when you have places like this?!
Reflections, rainforest and land slips
The mountain from top to bottom can be seen super clearly reflecting in the lake, only disturbed by the wake of the boat. Even the colour changes from green to grey where the rocks on the mountainsides have slipped into the lake can be seen.
From mountainous rainforest, we move onto yet another dramatic change in scenery. A forest is literally growing out of the lake. Tall and thin kahikatea trees (see, New Zealand has turned us into tree nerds) form the top of the forest canopy, while small bushes scatter the forest floor among the water.
Maori legends on Lake Brunner
Brent tells us how a Maori pa (village) used to situated at the edge of the forest. From a lonely rock that sits outside of the forest, a guard had views of 80% of the lake. The forest used to be teaming with white herons (now a very rare bird species), but once the white herons were disturbed, they knew another iwi (tribe) was in the forest. This forest was the perfect vantage point and a place to protect their precious pounamu (greenstone/jade) from other iwi.
Any intruders would be banished to one of the two islands that sit not too far away from the kahikatea forest. Once the iwi got hungry… Well, they know they had a meal waiting for them on the islands… Brent tells us that these islands were the last known places in the country where cannibalism was practiced.
A rich history and a dramatic landscape, Lake Brunner is well worth going off the beaten track for.
Proper Kiwi Burgers
Back at the shores of Moana, Brent drops us back at the Lake Brunner Hotel and pub in time for some lunch! For NZ$12 each, we get a beasty venison burger and chicken burger to go along with the peaceful views of the lake.
Kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking up to the waterfall we saw today, hiking up the mountains we floated past this morning: we could spend a whole week exploring this hidden gem on the West Coast. But, alas, we have 365 days to do 365 activities all over the country! Our next stop is Greymouth!
Anticipation for the Tranzalpine
Back down the highway to Greymouth, we pass the TranzAlpine Express heading into Arthurs Pass – one of the most scenic train journeys in New Zealand, no, in the world! We can’t wait to do it as a day trip from Christchurch later in the year. (You can also take the trip from Greymouth but you would have to return the next day or later rather than on the same day. This unfortunately doesn’t fit in with Robin’s anal schedule).
Boarding Noah’s Ark
Our abode for the next three nights is one of our 13 Most Unique Backpacker Hostels in New Zealand, Noah’s Ark Backpackers. We are sleeping in the Cat Room which has murals on the walls of cats, as well as ornaments that we imagine would excite a crazy cat lady.
Tomorrow, we are not messing around. We are getting ourselves to the Monteith’s Brewery for some beer tastings, a brewery tour and some food! See you then!
Gliding along the glassy Lake Brunner
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See you tomorrow!