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Southern Beech forest in Fiordland
Southern Beech forest in Fiordland

After a fantastic day driving up the Milford Highway, we arrived at Milford Sound late in the afternoon and found the famous fjord filled with low cloud, and the only campsite full. With the light fading, we turned the van around and headed back up the winding road, through the Homer Tunnel for the second time that day, and back down into the Eglinton Valley. Lake Gunn, the first Department of Conservation campsite we came to, was already full, but a few kilometers on down the road we came to another DOC site, Cascade Creek. Not so much a campsite as a series of pullouts along a dirt road which runs alongside the fast-flowing creek, there was plenty of room for us to park for the night, for a grand total of $12.

That night we heard our first Morepork, which woke us by calling from a tree above the van. Early the next morning I walked a short way into the Nothofagus (Southern Beech) forest which surrounded the campsite. Tui and Bellbird, the two most distinctive singers of the NZ dawn chorus, seemed to be absent from this area, but the ever-present Grey Warblers were singing constantly, along with the high-pitched calls of the tiny Rifleman. Occasionally Kakariki parakeets called high up in the canopy, and several introduced Chaffinches were lending a European note to the soundscape.

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