Friday, 22 October 2010

Milford Sound

Friday 22nd October 2010

MP3 track of the day: Many Meetings - Lord of the Rings.

Weather: Beautifully sunny and hot, a great day for sightseeing; however a little too sunny (with no clouds) for photos as the sun white-washed scenes … still, a little photoshop and all should be good.

I didn't get a great nights sleep, partly due to the fact that I got up late yesterday morning and so I don't think I was that tired last night. However it was probably mainly down to this French guy in the bunk opposite me typing on his laptop until 3am. Granted he was trying to be as quite as possible however, once I was awake, I herd every keystroke he made and it was sending me nuts. I was up way before I needed to and so I decided to start to read my Japanese Guidebook
(Not long now).

I chatted to Richard before he headed off to do some 'tramping' (hiking for more than a day to you and me) and I headed off to the bus stop to meet my coach to Milford Sound. My coach driver was the same guy who took me from Queenstown to Te Anau two days ago (he also took me from Franz Joseph to Wanaka about a week ago). I chatted to him for a bit before we headed off at 9:45am.

The sun was high in the sky and all looked good for a superb day weather wise. On the way to Milford Sound we made a few photo stops within the 'Fiordland National Park' (Please note I haven't spelt Fiordland incorrectly) which included a beautiful stop overlooking a field with a snow-capped mountain range in the background. The next photo opportunity was just as pretty, 'Mirror Lake' was the name of the lake we stopped at and this was because it mirrored the mountain range, within its waters, that was located just behind it. Our final stop had a fifteen minute walk which allowed us to see some chasms. These chasms were very deep indeed, it was amazing to think that water had cut it's way through the rock to create this spectacular natural feature.

We arrived at Milford Sound around 12:30; we had fifteen minutes to take photos before the boat departed. I have to be honest, I was a little gutted to see the iconic Milford Sound photo scene right here, in front of me, even before we got on the cruise. I wasn't sure how the cruise could beat what I was currently looking at.

The boat departed and there must have only been around twenty people on the vessel, which was brilliant as we all had room to move around and take photos. The sun was beating down with little cloud, this made most of the photos I took look a little white-washed, however I hope that when I return to the UK computer software can sort that out (plus I wasn't going to complain, it was throwing it down here two days ago). As part of my 'backpacker' deal I got lunch included; being 1pm, and the fact that I was starving, I got my lunch nearly as soon as we departed … the cruise followed a circular track and so the scenes I missed now I would see them again at the end of the trip.

The fjord was spectacular; high snow-capped mountains with sharp edges plummeting into the water before us; this made us, and the boat, seem puny and insignificance compared to these old and massive mountain ranges.

On a few occasions the captain pushed the boat into the waterfalls that were flowing into the fjord all around us. At one point a crew member put a tray of glasses out on the bow of the vessel and the captain steered the ship into the waterfall. Once the captain had reversed out we all had a drink of pure glacier waterfall water; the commentary guide said that this is the purest and best water he's ever tasted, however to me it tasted just like bottled water … nice experience though.

As we ventured near to the mouth of the fjord the boat started to rock side-to-side a little more. We had ventured into the Tasman Sea; once there dolphins came to the boat and decided to play with us by swimming on each side of the bow. It was brilliant watching these intelligent animals jump out of the water and generally lark around.

We were now returning down the other side of the fjord where we stopped at a bay where penguins were spotted. These weren't just any old penguins, these were the second rarest penguin in the world (and I can't remember the name of them). Our commentary bloke said that we had been exceptionally luckily; the weather had been brilliant, the crew only see dolphins about 10% of the time here and the penguins were just the icing on the cake.

We headed back to the harbor; on the way back I took a few more photos (now up to 250 for the day) before the boat docked. Our driver was at the harbor to meet us and we all got on the coach pretty quickly. The journey back had no stops and was just a 'get back as quickly as possible' journey; this didn't stop me from enjoying the scenery one last time. I continually looked out of the window as often as I could, the only problem was that my eyelids were getting very heavy. I don't know if this was due to the great day, or the French bloke and his laptop, all I know is that I probably did get a power nap of about twenty minutes before I finally woke up. This nap meant that I had missed most of the best scenery, however I had seen it on my way into the national park, so all was good.

Once back in Te Anau I went to the supermarket to purchase tea (a pasta microwavable meal and a slice of lemon cake … yum) before returning to my hostel just to chill and reflect on the day. I had a thoroughly brilliant day. Inside me though I didn't feel that excited … I mean I had just seen Milford Sound, one of the seven natural wonders of the world … I should have be bouncing off the walls, but I wasn't. I think it's like anything popular; Milford Sound has been talked up and talked up so much that you expect something that probably isn't physically possible. If you were on a tight budget I would recommend driving down to Milford Sound without doing the cruise; you get to take the iconic photo of the fjord from the harbor and you can stop along the amazing scenic road that leads to the fjord … in fact you could do a day trip from Queenstown and not stay in Te Anau at all. However if you do have the time I would recommend going on the cruise, it is very good and you get to see a lot of wildlife as well as the fjord itself. Is it the best cruise I've been on? No, that crown remains to the Kenai Fjord cruise I went on within Alaska.

Tonight is going to be a lazy night; I need to book my bus to Queenstown, for tomorrow, and my accommodation. After this I'll have tea and probably watch a film. I think I'll have most of the day in Te Anau tomorrow (I don't think my coach will leave until 5pm … so possibly no blog tomorrow, due to getting into Queenstown around 8pm); I've done all the walks I can do around here within a day, I've seen the town so I may just stay within my hostel and watch a few films … oh I need to read more of my Japanese Guidebook to get ready, not long now. Sounds like a waste of a day, and it is a bit. I could have stayed on the coach, that took me to Milford Sound today, all the way back to Queenstown for just another $15; however what if the weather was bad today? I needed to come back to Te Anau as an insurance policy so that I could go back to Milford Sound tomorrow if today's weather wasn't any good … luckily though, I think we've had the best weather of October so far.

So another week down and only two and a half more weeks to go in New Zealand. I love this country, people are friendy (once you get talking to them) and it's easy to move around … oh plus the weather is just about right. Another great thing is that my budget is still way below what I thought it was going to be, even with $131.00 for the cruise I took today. My average is currently just over £35.00 per day, a slight increase on last weeks but still £5 per day down on what I thought it was going to be; I'm still not out of the woods yet, as I need to look into an internal flight from Christchurch to Auckland and that might cost a bit, plus I'm still traveling within the most expensive part of the country, well I think so anyway. The downside is that the word 'Awesome' seems to be creeping in (I am trying my best to counter it with words like 'brilliant' and phases like 'very good' but I feel I'm loosing the battle) and 'sweet as' is never going to become popular in my book. Another downside is that, guests within the hostels, seem to keep themselves to themselves a lot more over here; I've met some really nice people but compared to North America, I certainly haven't met as many due to the fact a lot of people seem to choose reading and listening to music over chatting to others. Finally the only other downside is that my left hand is starting to become swollen; the only thing I can think of is that, when at Milford Sound today, I did get bit quite often by sand flies (they were everywhere) and maybe I've had some sort of reaction to one o the bites … or, my hand is quite hot, so maybe it's just sunburn … I dunno but hopefully it will die down soon.

Toodle Pip!

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