I don’t know much about cars, but I sure know a sexy car when I see one. And it doesn’t get much sexier than an Aston Martin. You know, the sleek car from the James Bond movies. Yes, I did just write that.
When my friend came to visit me in New Zealand in the spring, I knew I wanted to surprise her with a fun road trip. And while my old 1995 Nissan Terrano gets the job done, no one has ever mistaken it for a fun sexy vehicle, and zoom it does not. Thank you Ignition Self Drive for offering something a bit more adventurous and memorable. An epic place like Fiordland deserves an epic whip.
And I knew I had to take her to Milford, and I knew her first time driving on the left side of the road should be memorable. There are quite a few locals around the South Island that are up for grabs with the “prettiest places” award, but come on, Milford is popular for a reason. It’s so epic. And we had a forecast for sunshine, and in an area that gets seven meters of rain annually, that means go right now.
Girls roadie to Milford Sound in an Aston Martin? Well, if that’s not one for the books, I don’t know what is.
It was hot sunny spring day as we peeled out of Queenstown on our way to Milford Sound after picking up our ride – a little old Vantage. And by “peeled out” I mean slowly edged our way out of town and braking too hard and almost hitting my face on the steering wheel. I mean, I’m not used to driving cars that actually accelerate normally, let alone fast. I basically have to put my foot to the floor to get my car to move.
I was surprised (and also not so surprised) to learn that it’s almost always men that rent these types of cars. Boys trips, or maybe wives surprising their partners with a trip and they share it, but it’s never just girls, let alone young girls renting sports cars. And here I am to say WHY NOT? Fast cars aren’t just for men! It’s 2017 for pity’s sake. Why is the stereotype just for guys? I mean, even I was susceptible to it. The first time I heard about it was from my friend Jane at Queenstown Life, and I actually thought, wow, I want to do that, I wonder what guy friend could come with me because I couldn’t drive it, you know, before I mentally slapped myself.
Now I’m not saying I drove 20 kilometers under the speed limit for the first hour of the trip, but I might have, and I’m not sure I’ll ever live down the shame of having people overtake me while behind the wheel of an Aston Martin but you live and learn. I hate making blanket statements, but I feel like women tend to err on the side of caution more than men do, and I wasn’t about to gun it in such a fast car, not until I got the hang of it at least.
The road to Milford Sound is probably the most scenic road-trip in New Zealand, and I don’t say that lightly. It’s incredible. And to experience it from a convertible and in a car that goes from zero to one hundred in a couple of seconds? Well, hot damn. Can’t beat that.
Are you allowed to drive an Aston Martin wearing socks and sandals? Asking for a friend…
Kea, the world’s only alpine parrot – it’s relatively easy to spot them in Fiordland
Now, I am not sure how to phrase this…I don’t really care that much about fancy cars. I can’t tell them apart and I definitely can’t tell you any tech specs on them. My knowledge is strictly limited to “ohhh that one looks prettier.”
But I know a classy car when I see one, and the Aston is nothing if not classy. For me, what matters is having memorable experiences on the road, and having fun while traveling, like I imagine most of you guys do to.
And let me tell you, I felt like a fucking queen when I pushed the ignition button on that baby. Honest to god, it makes the sexiest sound when you start it. Bow down before me.
And then sometimes when you’re driving it, it sort of purrs, like it’s telling you to step on it. Honestly, Officer, it wasn’t my fault I was going that fast, the car made me do it. It told me to, I had no choice, really. Have pity.
JK, there are never any cops in Fiordland. Wait, did I just write that publicly?
Alpacas spotted in Te Anau
By the time we rolled through Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland and Milford, I was definitely getting the hang of it. No brake-slamming on corners and slowly but surely inching getting closer to the speed limit. Not the problem the average renter of this car usually faces I reckon!
I was also quite enjoyed the looks of passerby as two blonde ladies would hop in and out of the car in their hiking clothes.
There are so many epic places to stop on the Milford Road, so make sure you build in plenty of time in on a trip there. I can think of nothing worse than having to be in a hurry in Fiordland. And like I said, the Milford Road is one of the most epic roads in New Zealand. The mountains literally tower over you and waterfalls tumble down from glacier and vertical peaks. I’ve driven there quite a few times, but to experience it from a convertible is INCREDIBLE.
And there are also some very lovely straight bits of road too that are just the place to see what the Aston is made of, within reason of course.
And if thought we got funny looks in Te Anau, you should have seen the raised eyebrows as we rolled into the Cascade Creek DOC campsite and pulled a tent out of the back of the car.
What can I say? I love irony!
There really isn’t anywhere to stay in Fiordland once you go on the Milford Road past Te Anau. There is a lodge in Milford Sound, but it’s always booked out with bus tours months in advance (and it’s really pricey) and they don’t allow pitched tents there anymore. But there are plenty of great cheap DOC campsites on the Milford Road between Te Anau and the Homer Tunnel, and trust me, the wardens will get a kick out of it if you pitch a tent next to an Aston Martin there.
Why stay in a luxury lodge when you pitch your tent next to a James Bond car in the wilderness?
At the risk of sounding super cheesy, for me, there is no greater luxury in New Zealand than waking up in the wilds of Fiordland to the sound of rare birds calling, the damp scent of the earth in the early morning about you, and sandflies pinging on your tent fly. We are still so fucking lucky that places like this exist and that we can still experience them.
And yes yes, so sorry to all those I woke up when I started the Aston. I know how to be quiet in the mornings, but he doesn’t.
We spent the next couple of days exploring Fiordland and enjoying the mint weather, as they say in New Zealand. You know, after we had to drive back to Te Anau and rent me hiking boots because I left mine at home. Damnit! Oh, and trying to keep the naughty kea from eating bits off the Aston. Kea are the world’s only alpine parrot, and they are endangered. They are also very cheeky and smart and one of their favorite pastimes is eating windshield wiper rubber, throwing hiking boots off cliffs and causing general havoc and pandemonium. No car is safe.
We headed up to Lake Marian, one of my favorite day hikes in New Zealand, and one I shamelessly kept to myself all these years. I do that sometimes, forgive me. It used to be a great secret, and I never publicly shared where it was. Times have changed, and ain’t a secret no more.
A steady 1.5 hour slog straight uphill over the river and through the woods on a not-so-obviously-marked track will bring you the incredible alpine Lake Marian. Hanging glaciers and huge waterfalls tumble down into a beautiful blue lake. Your eyes will bulge and your mouth will drop open.
And if you’re lucky, you might run into a young guy carrying a wizard costume. Are you ready for the best story ever?
DON’T. EVEN. THINK. ABOUT. IT.
We were just starting out on the trail when a young guy named Akhil ran up to me, recognizing me from my blog (oh shucks, hair flick). Then he asked me something super weird that I had never been asked before in my entire life – would I dress up as Gandalf and pose for him?
Um, what? Blink blink SURE CAN DO!
You don’t have to ask me twice about to do anything Middle Earth related. I’m quite possibly the biggest Lord of the Rings nerd you’ve ever met. If only I was good enough to walk in Gandalf’s shoes one day. Sigh. In the meantime, I can pretend!
You shall not pass!
Akhil was a student in Auckland and then went on a six month trip around New Zealand. As a way of meeting people and showcasing New Zealand in a different way, he would ask them to dress up as Gandalf for photos. So clever. Since then he went viral, and his photos as Gandalf garnered international media hype! Yay! Be sure to give him a follow on Instagram in the meantime.
Me as Gandalf. Proud moment.
And if getting to dress up as Gandalf is lucky, you might even get luckier (if possible) and spot a whio (Blue Duck) while in Fiordland. They are so special they even are on the $10 note in New Zealand.
Whio (pronounced fee-oh) are a very rare and endangered duck in New Zealand, and they live in swift moving rivers and rapids – there are only about 3000 of them left. I spotted one completely by accident through the bushes as we were making our way down past Marian Falls, and I about shit my pants. I totally lost my cool and fumbled around looking for my camera and telephoto lens babbling incoherently as people stared. It’s a whio people, pay attention! They are really rare!
I had been here for years and never seen a whio before, let alone in the wild. I was so excited!
Also, perfect timing, as March is Whio Awareness Month in New Zealand which I’m helping to promote. More on that soon, but in the meantime be sure to check it out because if you’re in NZ, you could win the chance to be a whio ranger for a day!
Whio (Blue Duck) just chilling at Marian Falls
We finished up our trip kayaking Milford Sound in the pouring rain with Rosco’s, and then trying not to put our wet bums on the nice leather seats or get mud all over the car. And if you were curious, the socks and sandals shot was because of sandflies – I got my boots super muddy hiking, and sandlfies, which are pretty much the worst biting little insects of all time, love bare feet. Never give it to them. Cover the skin.
Anywho, I was so stoked to be able to share this trip with a friend. I almost always travel alone and it makes the experience so much more special if you have someone to share it with. Fiordland is a magical place. The Milford Road (on a sunny day haha) was MADE for convertibles. If you want to treat yourself, do it in an Aston Martin.
I can’t believe I’m saying this in this day an age, but sports cars and luxury hires should be for girls too. It’s so much fun! I never thought as a woman I would enjoy driving fast cars as much as I did or that I even could for that matter. But once I gave it a try, I was hooked. And nothing beats taking a special car to a special place, right? Where to next?
Have you ever driven a sports car? Would you drive an Aston Martin around New Zealand given half the chance?