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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 5 (August 2, 1937)

A New Fairyland — the “Sounds National Park”

page 42

A New Fairyland
the “Sounds National Park”

(Photo, Thelma R. Kent.) Mt. Talbut from the Hollyford River, Eglinton Valley, South Island, New Zealand.

(Photo, Thelma R. Kent.)
Mt. Talbut from the Hollyford River, Eglinton Valley, South Island, New Zealand.

Where is it? Only Southerners seem to know. This enchanting fairyland, known topographically as the Eglinton Valley, or, more broadly, as the “Sounds National Park,” comprising, as it will some day, the vast expanse of mountain—and forest-land of Eglinton and Holly-ford Valleys, and the indescribable Sounds and Fiords, with which our West Coast abounds, is situated in the South-West corner of the South Island. Among the many gems of fairyland are places, some better-known than others, as Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri, the beautiful Waiau River, the enchanting Eglinton and Hollyford Valleys, Mt. Howden, and Lake How-den, Mt. Tutoko, Mt. Christina, Lakes Gunn, Fergus and Lochie. These are but a few of the wonderful places to visit.

Marvellous Four-day Cruise.

The Railways Department have now the catering for transport to this region. There is the choice of transport by rail and ‘bus, or by ‘bus alone. We chose the former, as providing more variety. The railway—cum—’bus journey is a week-end journey, leaving Dunedin on Friday morning, and returning on Monday night. To my mind this week-end cruise is the most inexpensive holiday offered in New Zealand, by our enterprising Railways Department. These cruises are run I from Dunedin, but this is not essentially the point of departure. Gore, Lumsden, Kingston or Queenstown, Invercargill, Waikaia—any of these points provides easy access to our new-found Wonderland—not, perhaps, so much “new-found,” as newly-adver-tised, for a ‘bus, and, previously, a coach-service from Lumsden inaugurated the trip to Manapouri and Te Anau many years ago, while access to Milford Sound, Martin's Bay, and the hinterland was available by boat.

But that it is newly-discovered and advertised is obvious when many people have never heard of Eglinton Valley, and but vaguely know that Lake Te Anau is somewhere in the South Island.

The Railways Department provide for the excursionists. One makes the arrangements in the office, and is handed one's ticket, which comprises the railway and ‘bus tickets, and accommodation at the Te Anau Hotel.

At the rear of, the Dunedin—Invercargill express, on the Friday morning, a special first-class carriage was attached, for the exclusive use of the excursionists. Thus for the first ninety miles, to Gore, each person surreptitiously eyed the remaining passengers, for were we not all in the next four days to be thrown together, with the common object of getting some fun out of life, and of seeing a beauty spot of New Zealand?

So here we were, each of us engaged only with his or her own friends, occasionally advancing a timid remark that may include or be directed towards a stranger. I noticed that at Milton no one seemed to be aware that there were Refreshment Rooms there, so I gathered that probably many of them were strangers, at least to that part of New Zealand, if not to New Zealand generally.

So at Clinton, I asked one or two of the elderly ladies if they would like a cup of tea. The magical words, “cup of tea,” spread through the carriage, and soon we men-folk were travelling down the platform, linked in the common obj ect of obtaining tea for ladies.

When the train left Clinton, gone was the wondering-atmosphere, and replacing it was general conversation, regarding the prospects of the trip. “By their tongues” we knew them, and I was both delighted and surprised to find that very few of us were New Zealanders—delighted because I had an opportunity of finding out just how New Zealand scenery appealed to folk from overseas and of finding out how our scenery compared with the famous scenic resorts—Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, France, and so on.

Arrived at Gore, we had lunch, while our carriage was detached from the express, and added to the local train, for Kingston. Our rail-destination was Lumsden, some miles from Gore. At Lumsden, after a pleasant journey, advancing into the hills, we were met by the ‘bus for Te Anau. By now we were a jolly party, much less reserved, and a spirit of camaraderie prevailed. The formality was lessened by the ‘bus-driver's remark that we were on a holiday-trip to holiday timetable (which, of course, meant no time-table at all), and we were at liberty to ask as many questions as we wished, being assured that they would be answered to the best of his ability (and that ability was considerable). The 'bus-driver deserves a sentence to himself (I mean a “sentence of words”). “Courtesy” was his middle name (I shall not disclose his other name, for he was modest as well). He was at great pains to point out features to us, and described everything fully, even supplying, on request, the meanings of the Maori names. His “visitors-passenger” book revealed, in its comments, that he had been popular with all whom he had driven.

So we left Lumsden, on the second stage of our journey. Leaving Lumsden, we saw at first only a hinterland page 43 of mountains, but as we came to the Oreti River (which flows past Invercargill) we could see the valley and plain up which we were to travel, and Mr. Driver pointed out the gap in the mountains that was really Eglinton Valley. Immediately on our left was the Takitimu Range. (History recalls that one of the canoes of the Maori Fleet of 1350 bore that name). Standing out were several peaks, one lovely cone, Mt. Linton, having an interest for southern folk, because from, the south-eastern side the well-known Linton coal was mined.

To make the drive, which can become a little monotonous, for there are fifty-two miles, with practically the same scenery ahead all the while—to make the drive more intimate and interesting, Mr. Driver showed us his book of photographs of one of his service trips on this route during a heavy snowfall. The journey, which was for us a matter of hours, was for him at that time one of days. So we were interested in the parts where little episodes of his unforgettable journey had occurred. It speaks well for the service that they attempted to get through at all.

(Photo, Thelma R. Kent.) The Hollyford Gorge, South Island, New Zealand.

(Photo, Thelma R. Kent.)
The Hollyford Gorge, South Island, New Zealand.

As we j ourneyed on, we could see more clearly the mountains ahead. To the south-west was a beautiful mountain with a singularly appropriate name Titiroa, lying, as it did, a line of chalky mountain, stretching, rather reluctantly it seemed, down to its base. The mountains of Lake Manapouri and Lake Te Anau figured more prominently, and as we proceeded, loomed before us, until it appeared we were almost at their very base.

A side road leads to Manapouri, but we went straight on, as Manapouri was reserved for an afternoon trip for us. A little further on, as the road dipped, we saw before us the scene with which in a few days we were to become familiar—Lake Te Anau, with its background of beautiful mountains, bush-covered to the very shore.

A turn in the road brought us to the lakeside, and for half-a-mile we revelled in the glory of this mountain-lake, until a more interesting prospect—at that moment—was revealed; the hotel, our home for the next few days. We were greeted and shown to our rooms with just that courtesy and feeling of homeliness that helped to make our holiday so pleasant. Te Anau Hotel has excellent accommodation and fare, to which was added the novelty of sleeping in cubicles. The evening's exploratory walks along the lakeside enlarged that feeling of. peace which this remote spot encouraged.

We awoke in the morning to the sound of heavy rain. Our hopes were somewhat dashed—how little did we realise the beauty and freshness that would be revealed to us in the cleansing rain. At 9 a.m. we embarked on our voyage into Fairyland. The lunch was on board, and we were all in merry and expectant mood.

For some considerable distance our journey lay along the lakeside, and the pleasing prospect of bush-girt mountain and wind-tossed lake never failed to delight, monotony being relieved by new and more distant hills. Our way lay along a perfect road, newly constructed. At Te Anau Downs Station (which place, before the advent of the highway, had to send its wool by launch to the road-head) the road turns to the right, away from the lake. Passing the Redford Valley we come to the lower reaches of the pretty Eglinton River, hurrying and rushing with its increased volume of water (for it had been raining for some considerable time) to its mouth in Lake Te Anau. Nearer and nearer drew the hills, until we were amongst them, (“Reminds you of Switzerland, doesn't it?” remarked one much-travelled passenger to another equally travelled).

On our left was the valley with the river; above that—mountains. On our right—mountains. Covered as they were with bush and forest, these mountains were an interesting and restful prospect. As we advanced into the valley, these mountains contained for us another surprise. Since it had been raining, for a lengthy period (unusual even for the West Coast) constant streams were running from the mountain heights. Numerous cataracts had formed, and some of these waterfalls were very impressive, falling, ribbon-like and like a silvery wraith, for many feet, sometimes a hundred or more. Swollen as they were, the natural falls, which one sees at any time, were even more impressive. And so we realised that the rain was our friend. Each new waterfall evoked exclamations of surprise and wonder.

We stopped beside the East branch of the Eglinton, to gaze into the valley. Beside this river, are two tents, surrounded by a low rustic fence, enclosing a garden. The occupant of this lonely habitation is a lady who, for reasons of her own, prefers—or at least seeks—the solitude and beauty of the mountain region to the benefits and pleasures of city life. I rather envied her her mountain home, in its setting of exquisite beauty, and its atmosphere of eternal peace.

A little further on we plunged into the real glory of Eglinton—the uncleared land. On our right and on our left rose, tall and straight, the superb mountain-beech. We were in one of New Zealand's pleasantest and delightful vistas, a beech forest. On either side, and up to mountain tops the forest lay. Sometimes a cascade, or a mountain-stream would cleave the panorama. In its unending stretching it was glorious, and in its nearby splendour it was delightful. For some thirty miles we travelled through this fairyland.

On and on we travelled. At first we had glimpses of Lake Te Anau through the trees (for this lake—the largest of the lakes of New Zealand)—stretches for forty-four miles). Soon we came upon the emerald set in the hills—beautiful Lake Gunn. Seen through the trees, and through openings, it was a gem of exquisite beauty, in an appropriate page 44 page 45 propriate setting. On our right we came to Lake Fergus, equally beautiful and exquisite. On the distant shore espied rata in its crimson loveliness. Still another lake, Lochie, was there for our delectation. It is impossible to describe adequately these mountain lakes, in their cradles of wooded mountains; one soon descends to the hackneyed and stereotyped phrases and epithets.

We were now almost at the head of the Eglinton Valley. A track to the right leads to Lake Howden, and Mount Howden. Time and rain did not allow us to make the ascent. On the saddle between the Eglinton and Hollyford Valleys was our luncheon place. Here are Public Works huts, and here we obtained hot water for our billy. It was unfortunate that it was raining, for it would have been delightful to have sat under the beech trees, beside a mountain stream.

We did get out, however, and pluck some blossoms of the radiant ribbon-wood; the cherry-blossoms were much admired by the overseas visitors; the hillside was of beech interspersed with the ribbon-wood.

After luncheon, we proceeded into the Hollyford Valley, but here we suffered a slight disappointment, for, owing to a slip on the road, we had to make use of the only turning-point available, about a mile from the end of the road. It was far too wet for us to walk on, as we had still a fifty-four mile drive, and we did not wish to sit in wet clothing. However, we could look down into the Hollyford Valley, though we did not see the river, whose waters are a rich blue.

And so we had seen! Our drive back was equally interesting, for we were now viewing the valley from the opposite aspect; besides which, our sense of expectancy was now quite diminished, and we could sate ourselves with the glory we knew lay before us.

We arrived back at Te Anau at 5.30, well pleased with our trip. We learnt that the day was the roughest known there for many years, yet we did not in the least regret having gone.

Te Anau and Manapouri.

On the next day were provided two excursions—a launch trip on the South Fiord of Te Anau, and a ‘bus trip to Lake Manapouri. At 9.30 a.m. we assembled and embarked on the sturdy little motor vessel, for our sail into another province of the realm of Fairyland. On and on into the mountains we went, turning and twisting as the valley of the fiord delved into the hills. Bush-covered slopes descending to the water's edge, cataracts and waterfalls, mountain peaks—these were the sights to delight the eye. The sun shone and enhanced the glamour of the setting. On the hills rata blossomed in fiery crimson, while the white purity of the ribbonwood shone from the green of, the bush. Photographers were busy, and they were presented with views innumerable. Right to the very end we went, turning in a smooth stretch of water that was the very end of the fiord. Our return was over the same course, and our arrival was timed for I o'clock. For three and a-half hours we revelled in the magic of the scenery of a mountain lake, that would vie with any fiord of Norway.

In the afternoon we paid a visit to the Lake of a Hundred Isles, Manapouri. Our course lay along the lovely Waiau, the outlet of Te Anau. This river, running from Te Anau, flows into Lake Manapouri, and out again from the southern shore. Its course lies between hill and forest, and, sparkling in the sunshine of a clear summer day, it is a memorable sight. Our first view of Manapouri was from the eastern shore, and we could see its mountain-enclosed shores stretching away to the west, to lose themselves in the mountains to which they belonged. In the lake were numerous islands, studding the setting as innumerable rare emeralds.

James Cowan, the distinguished writer of New Zealand, has given pride of place to Lake Manapouri (Lake of a Hundred Isles we are told is the interpretation of the name). As one walks along the Waiau River, or through the forest of the lakeside, or gazes in awe at the mountains surrounding the lake, one appreciates his sentiments, and understands why he loses his heart so eloquently to this particular lake. For Manapouri is beautiful.

There is a spell about these lakes that draws and draws. I felt it, and I am sure many others must have. I am longing and planning for my return to these lakeland gems. One realises that New Zealand has much to offer, but one feels these lakes will rival many of New Zealand's scenic attractions.

As with our other journeys, our return lay along the same course. In no case was this a fault, for it did not by any means detract from the glory and splendour of the trip.

Thus did we cursorily explore Fairyland. On the morrow, we returned to our starting place—Dunedin.

As the ‘bus bore us homewards we cast longing eyes on the beauty that was behind us. The mountains were more real to us now, for we had not only learnt their names, but we had also lived in friendly contact with them. Each member of the party openly stated his or her appreciation of the trip, and, what was a greater test, expressed the intention to return at some other period.

For myself, I should like to return in the winter, to see those same mountains in the mantle of ermine. I am told that the winter is by no means severe, as the lake prevents hard frosts; while the road is in such excellent order that car or 'bus can go into the valley with very little risk.

I might add that, for those who prefer to camp, there are excellent camping grounds provided, with concrete fireplaces built in.

(Photo, Thelma R. ) Mt. Earnslaw from the Dart River, South Island, New Zealand.

(Photo, Thelma R. [gap — reason: illegible] )
Mt. Earnslaw from the Dart River, South Island, New Zealand.

The Railways and Tourist Departments are to be congratulated on their excellent service to this wonderland, and for their loud voice in opening up this new realm.

page 46