Thursday, May 05, 2011

Honeymoon in NZ - Milford Sound

My goodness! It's been ages!

So sorry for the delay in posting, but between issues with blogspot and the royal wedding (ha) I've been a bit swamped.

This post is actually taking a slight diversion: I'm skipping over our day-long trip from Christchurch to Queenstown (and who we ran into on the way ... DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNN!) and am instead heading straight for our day-trip to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is the best known of New Zealand's many fjords, and probably it's most major tourist attraction. Many scenes from the Lord of the Rings were shot there, and hopefully you'll be able to see why.

12/31/10 - New Year's Eve Day

We had to rise early for a 7:30am bus departure from Queenstown. It was New Year's Eve day, and everyone else seemed to be sleeping in to gear up for the festivities that night.
It turns out we were really lucky with our driver: this excursion was a full-day trip (dropping us back off in Queenstown about 12 hours later) which means the bulk of those hours were to be spent listening to the bus driver/tour guide talk about pretty much everything. This guy (wish I remembered his name) was actually really, really nice, funny, charming and interesting. By the time he dropped us back in downtown Queenstown at the end of the day, I think Mike and I secretly wished he would invite us to hang out with him and his family to celebrate the new year. :)

There's not a lot more to say for most of the trip, so I'll let the photos do most of the talking:

On our way to Milford Sound, via Te Anau

Te Anau Downs - our first big rest stop, and where we had lunch

Mt Cook from Te Anau Downs

Mirror Lake

Another stop along the way

The Cleddau River

Waterfall by the side of the road

The Cleddau River

You can't quite see it, but behind me is a stream that has the purest water you can possibly imagine.

We were encouraged to empty out our water bottles and fill them up with this gorgeous liquid  - which we did ... and it was beyond clean, cold, fresh, and delicious.

Note the water bottle

We had to stop at the opening of the Homer Tunnel, which pierces through the foot of a mountain and connects you to Milford Sound. It's a one-way tunnel, and traffic is directed by a set of traffic lights that operate at each end of the Tunnel. They work around 15 minute intervals and only in the summer months. One end of the tunnel gets the green light for 15 minutes, while the other end waits. Then sides switch and the opposite end gets the green for the next 15 minutes.
While we waited for our 15-minute tunnel window, we parked and explored a glacier...and made a new friend.

The remains of a glacier at Homer Tunnel

A kea - a species of parrot.

Our first Kea:
Keas are usually very naughty and get up to a lot of mischief if you let them out of your sight. They LOVE plastic and rubber, so many folks find themselves in a tug-of-war over camera equipment or bags...or even cars.

Looking for something to nibble on

The glacier. Those little specks in the lower right corner are people

The queue waiting to get into the tunnel

Once through the tunnel, we drove some more and were dropped off to stretch our legs. Our driver told us that there was a brief walking trail that led to something that he couldn't quite describe. It's called The Chasm, and he said it was kind of a waterfall but kind of something else, and we were welcome to let him know if we came up with a good way to describe it. So we walked, and walked, and found The Chasm:

The Chasm

The Chasm is a big natural bottomless bowl where all the water of the Cleddau River (which had been escorting us along the drive) spills. You can only view it from above, and the entire structure (or chasm) has been carved out through the sheer force of the water.

Those bony, toothpick-like things are trees

Finally, we made it to Milford Sound. We hopped on a boat that was waiting for us, and took a 90-minute trip around the Sound.
The first view is of Mitre Peak:

The boat took us by - and under - many waterfalls

One of the "highlights" of the boat tour was taking us daaaaaangerously close (cue horror movie music) to a massive waterfall.

All wet

(Sorry I ruined it)

And then it was done. It was a 3-4 hour drive back, and thankfully our driver popped in a DVD ("The World's Fastest Indian" of course!) all the way back.

Next post: Queenstown and the horrible rattails