Thursday, 16 February 2012
New Zealand Day Twenty One - Milford Sound and Queenstown
Our cruise across Milford Sound was booked for 11am and was well worth the early morning start. Prepared with lots of layers and lunch bought the day before, we left Te Anau and headed for the Milford Road, the only route to and from the Sound. On the way we stopped at the Mirror lake, which fitted its description perfectly. The backdrop to the journey was impressive. Tall granite mountains covered with scree, scrub, bush and at the very top snow. It was hard to know whether to look to the left or right. There were a couple of hold ups, the first was the tunnel, cut through the mountain as it is only single lane and controlled by traffic lights. Then further along were road works, which held us up for ages.
Finally we reached the boat and went aboard. Despite my recent experiences of freezing when on open water, I headed upstairs to the front of the boat and I’m glad I did. This trip wasn’t as cold as the others I’d done, though as usual my fingers went numb – not good for taking photographs but bearable.
The view can only be described as spectacular - a long deep fjord flanked on each side by towering granite mountains that looked majestic and contrasted dramatically with the deep clear water. Just before we reached the point of return, where the fjord became the Tasman Sea, we spotted some dolphins and though they moved to quickly to photograph, were a thrill to see and watch them leap out of the water and dive back in again. We also saw brown fur seals basking on the rocks and the most impressive waterfall that tumbled from a great height. There was just time at the end to grab a free cup of lovely hot tea and eat my sandwich.
Then began the long journey back the way we came to Queenstown, with a short stop to look at the Chasm (an unusl waterfall that was in a chasm) and another brief stop in Te Anau.
There was just enough time when we got to the hotel to take off my walking shoes and a few layers then go down for dinner, which was a buffet that included the best vegetable lasagne I’ve eaten in a long time.
After eating, I decided to take a wander into the centre of Queenstown. The guide said it would take 30 mins but going down hill, actually only took fifteen to twenty minutes. There was a beautiful sunset over the mountains and later myriad stars in the sky. I've never seen so many at once.
As I was walking by the lake I heard some singing coming from the Irish pusb – a couple of guys with guitars. They sounded great so I went in and spent the evening listening to the music. It was also happy hour so the beer was reasonably priced - Speights of course.