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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

From Invercargill to Te Anau‏

March 16th, 2010 · 7 Comments

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While the wind died down, the rain got heavier on Tuesday morning. Driving from Invercargill to Te Anau, I nevertheless took the Southern Scenic Route that for the first couple of hours took me west along the south coast. About 1 p.m. the rain turned to occasional sprinkles and eventually the sun peeped out.

In a heavy rain I went to the Cabbage Tree Restaurant adjacent to the campground for one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in New Zealand. In fact, the breakfast seemed quite American — sausage, bacon, and fried eggs with hollandaise sauce.

The name of the restaurant, however, is certainly New Zealand. The cabbage tree is a monocot endemic to New Zealand that has an overall visual effect reminiscent of a palm tree. Captain Cook gave the tree that name because cabbage was a staple vegetable in Europe at that time. In 1769 when his ship, the Endeavour, was at anchor in Queen Charlotte Sound, he had his crew boil up the young inner leaves of this iconic New Zealand tree. They discovered a nutritious vegetable-like plant that they used to combat vitamin C deficiency, which caused scurvy.

A Lone Cabbage Tree Overlooks the Otago Peninsula a Few Days Ago

A Lone Cabbage Tree Overlooks the Otago Peninsula a Few Days Ago

Click on the picture above to enlarge

When I reached Te Anau, my first stop was at the Top 10 Holiday Park, the nicest campground I’ve stayed at yet. My Lonely Planet guidebook calls it a “classic holiday park, closest to the town and lake.”

My second stop was just down the street at the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre. I confirmed my reservation for my four-day hike on the Milford Track starting tomorrow. The Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s nine “Great Walks,” and in fact ranks as the first of them.

Almost two months I had made my reservation to start my hike tomorrow by calling this visitor centre from Boulder. I had been planning to wait until I got to New Zealand, but if I had done that, I would have been too late, because they limit the number of people who can walk the track.

I owe the suggestion to my friend Gretchen Becker who had just then sent me to a web page about the Milford Track. This paragraph was what grabbed my attention:

As one Israeli hiker rationalized, travelling to New Zealand and missing the Milford Track is like travelling to Paris and missing the Eiffel Tower. For serious hikers the world over, Milford is one of the most important destinations on their life list.

You can see that I just had to accept that challenge!

After getting my tickets for the trail (those words just don’t go together in my previous experience!), I was off to my third stop, the Te Anau Wildlife Centre. Here I captured the images of two birds that I wanted very much to see in New Zealand.

The Kea, Confined to New Zealand's South Island, is the Only True Alpine Parrot

The Kea, Confined to New Zealand's South Island, is the Only True Alpine Parrot

Click on the picture above to enlarge
This Pukeko or Purple Swamphen Searches for Seeds Together with a Much Smaller Bird

Here with a much smaller bird is the flightless Takahē, an endangered species.

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Now that I’ve reached Te Anau, I am ready for a great walk. If all goes on schedule, I will be back here in four days.


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Posted in: New Zealand

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gretchen // Mar 23, 2010 at 6:59 am

    I’m not a big bird fan, but your bird photos are really spectacular! Each one has a different composition and background, which adds interest.

  • 2 David Mendosa // Mar 23, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Dear Gretchen,

    Thank you. I wasn’t a big bird fan before coming to New Zealand myself. But this country converted me!

    Best regards,


  • 3 Bob LaSala // Apr 1, 2010 at 4:46 pm


    I so enjoyed reading your diary and am drawn to your relaxed writing style and way in which you record events. Your words flow like a river and the striking quality of your pictures only compliments the reading experience many times over. I felt like I was in NZ with you. Composing those bird pics with the perfect lighting, striking detail and tight depth of field makes the colorful creatures come alive. How did you get them to stand still?

  • 4 David Mendosa // Apr 1, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Dear Bob,

    Thank you so much. Yes, the trouble with animal photography is that they WON’T stand still. That’s why I had to take more than 1,000 photos on my trip to New Zealand. Except for the birds in flight, you saw only those that I was able to capture while they were still.

    Best regards,


  • 5 Laurie D // Apr 16, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    wow – you started the Milford just when I was coming out! I started on Sunday March 14 and out on Wednesday 17th!

  • 6 Nicole // Oct 21, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Fabulous pictures. Just letting you know that your pukeko is actually a takahe. The takahe is larger and is endangered.

  • 7 David Mendosa // Oct 22, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Dear Nicole,

    Many thanks. I will change the caption.