Today’s escapade is a trip to Milford Sound, one of the most beautiful spots on the planet (or so the theory goes). And it gives the group the chance to escape the Queenstown International Marathon (yes, I didn’t know it held a world famous marathon either but with the gradient on many roads being almost vertical it gives itself to such activity). It will snarl up the whole town for the day, and probably tomorrow.
And since our tour manager, whilst aiming to improve his fitness is some way off marathon class levels, hadn’t entered the marathon off we go on a 270km each way journey to Milford. Total time is expected to be close to 13 hours but includes a boat trip and lunch so marathon sitting and watching the countryside pass is the order of the day.
Two hours plus and we reach Te Anau on the very edge of Fiordland National Park for a short pit stop before we set out again.
The Park is renowned for its scenic beauty as well as being some of the locations for the Lord of the Rings series.
The last toilet break before Milford is at Knobs Flat and precedes some splendiferous scenery as we cross the snow line and come across remnants of last winters snow and ice lingering in the spring rains.
The coach driver is keen that we keep to time since the 13h30 lunch cruise will leave without us if we are late! But as he keeps a running commentary he offers further stops for scenery, waterfalls, history and the like.
At The Chasm we stop to view the falls.
Incidentally it rains here almost every day and the waterfalls as they cascade as rivulets down the mountains are quite dramatic but we can’t stop where you like for some really clever photos as it’s avalanche country and stopping is not allowed.
If it doesn’t rain, most falls dry up within hours. But at the Chasm what starts as medium rainfall turns instantly into a thunder burst and even the best waterproof gear is useless. I arrive back at the coach as if I’d had a shower with my clothes on and windows steam up as we venture on.
I trust that the photos which follow justify my drenching!
Undeterred we plough on and reach Milford on time. The instructions given for the boat trip are clear and I gain the feeling that I’m being processed as part of a major tourist operation. Some 750,000 people visit Milford each year and given there’s very little else there, it’s mass people processing.
Our boat returns to the dock at – not before- the scheduled time, our coach is ready and the next batch wait for processing. There may be a time when numbers have to be restricted.
Nonetheless Milford lives up to its billing – it is quite special and even more spectacular on a sunny day but there’s something that doesn’t quite gel with me. Not sure what that is.
Milford Sound – mean and moody today
We end the day – some 13 hours after we set off – in bright warm sunshine as the journey back to Queenstown ends. The scenery just gets ever more spectacular not least as the sun and cloud move round to reveal even more landscapes and features. It’s almost as if Mother Nature is trying to tell us something.
If you don’t have NZ on your bucket list…add it! You won’t be disappointed.