South of the 45th Parallel
Sally and I arrived in Milford Sound earlier today, but since you are not up to date from my last blog, I shall fill you in from leaving Fox Glacier to Milford Sound. Unfortunatly, there isn't a card reader at this place, so I will not be posting pictures today or tomorrow.
We left Fox Glacier early in the morning because one of the locals had told us that Lake Matheson was absolutely brilliant (a word Kiwi's use often and Sally said she really liked) in the early morning and the sky was clear and water reflective. So, 6am wakeup time and we checked out of the hostel and hit the road again. Though we didn't have very far to go, it was only a few kilometers from town. The hike around the lake is usually a good 2 hours, but Sally said I was walking my "I am cold" walk which is more like a jog. Lake Matheson is known for its gorgeous reflections of Mt Cook and another peak. At sunrise it was amazing. Sally and I walked all around the lake, took many perfectly reflected pictures of the sunrise and mountain peaks, saw some geese and ducks and had a good wake-up walk. We finished just in time for the tour buses to arrive.
We then continued south on our trip towards Queenstown. Ever since seeing a few pictures a previous volunteer had posted last year of his trip to Queenstown, I have wanted to go. Mountains run right up to a perfect blue lake. THe town is known for it's outdoor activities and is often called the activity capital of NZ. We are a little short on cash, so no bungy jumping or sky diving for us. The road took us past a few ski resorts and lifts and over a nice and snowy pass. We stopped to take a few picts and the drive down into the valley where Queenstown and the mountains are is just amazing. I wish I could post a few of my pictures for you. First thing Sally and I did in town after taking entirely too many pictures of mountains and water, was head up the gondola lift. It provided an amazing view of yet more mountains and water and clouds and goodness, but also had something special... the luge! For just a small amount of cash you too can experience the thrill of the luge. Instead of ice, it was concrete and had wheels, but it was as close to the real thing as was possible. It was so much fun! We had 3 runs and it was entirely not enough. In the words of Derek, "I can't quit you luge!"
That evening a local pointed us to a cheap restaurant with amazingly LARGE hamburgers. It was crowded and took us forever to get our orders, but it was so worth it. Sitting outside under the heaters (Sally has found out my likeness to cats- I need heaters and sunlight), we gorged ourselves on those burgers and it was amazing, as is most food we find ourselves eating. At one point we were walking around the shops and saw a sign in a sweets window that said, "Free fudge samples" and I think both of us must have scarred a few small children in our bee-line towards that shop. And yes, we treated ourselves and bought some of that fudge... oh the things that are available for purchase. I think we even found ourselves wandering around a drug store for a good hour or so just staring at everything available. We met some really fun characters in Queenstown, namely the guys running the All Blacks store who I think were just desperate to talk to people since he was still talking to us as we were walking out the door, but they were funny and gave us free stuff...
Today we got up fairly early and started the drive towards Milford Sound. For longer than I can remember, I have wanted to visit Milford Sound. Maybe I saw a picture of it somewhere, I dont know. If you have never heard of it, shame on you... just kidding, Sally had never heard of it either. It's on the south west coast in the fjiordlands of New Zealand. Often called the 8th wonder of the world, it's just breathtaking. The entire drive down to it was amazing, yet more mountains and water and sky... my perfection. If we stopped the car and got out to take pictures every time we wanted to, I think we'd still be making our way to the sound. It was a gorgeously sunny day, and we heard these were rare in this area of the island so we wanted to get to the sound and take advantage. However, Sally tells me that she has good luck, so maybe we'll be good the weekend we're here.
The lodge we are staying in is the only here, or withing a good 100 kilometers. It's full and cozy. When we got to the sound we booked ourselves a cruise on one of the boats that goes out into the sound and turns around when it hits the Tasman Sea. At first, I couldn't decide how far into the Sea I wanted to go, but in the end it doesn't make too much of a difference. We settled on one and proceeded to take about the same amount of pictures of our whole trip combined. It was beautiful. I can see why this would be a wonder of the world. If you have never seen pictures of this place, get out an encyclopedia and look it up... We went back this evening just around sunset and got a few more pictures of this just amazing place.
Tomorrow we are hiking around on more of the "Greatest Tracks" (see blog entry about Abel-Tasman). Milford Track is closed during the off season, but a few more are still open. We are sleeping in for a change and NOT driving anywhere except to the start of the Routeburn Track (which is supposed to be nicer than the Milford Track) and a few other smaller trail heads. It will be fun. We read about free food services at the only restaurant in town tomorrow afternoon, and we have already planned our hiking times around this event...
After Milford Sound, it's back to Queenstown for one more night (we couldn't get enough of this fun place) and then we start the trip back to Christchurch. I will try and post more pictures from Queenstown. Hope your travels are as crazy.