Helicopter riding

Trip Start Aug 24, 2008
Trip End Jul 07, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, June 2, 2009

When we woke up in our room in Te Anau, it was so cold that we could see our breath and we were inside! It was a gorgeous day, and we had lovely views over Lake Te Anau and the mountains beyond. We packed up the car and headed off on the road to Milford Sound. I would be here all day if I attempted to describe all of the beautiful scenery, but we passes mountains, forests, lakes, plains... There wasn't a building or a road in sight, apart from the one we were on. We stopped off at the Mirror Lakes, some beautiful lakes with suck calm surfaces that the snowy mountains and bright blue sky were reflected perfectly in them. We made frequent stop-offs for photos by lakes, valleys and mountains. Lake Gunn with its surrounding mountains was particularly beautiful. We soon reached the Homer Tunnel, a tunnel through the mountain. We went for a walk in the snow, and had lunch before driving through the tunnel. On the other side we were greeted with mountains covered in snow and a huge valley surrounded by waterfalls. We stopped to take photos of a kea (a bird) and then drove through the valley to The Chasm. This was a thin waterfall that had over many years carved a thin chasm in the rock. It was beautiful, with crazy rock formations. From here we drove further through the valley to Milford Sound Lodge, our base for the night. It was surrounded by mountains. We went into 'town' (basically 3 buildings) and booked a cruise for the next day. Even from the shore, Milford Sound was stunning. It is a massive expanse of water surrounded by mountains, with all sorts of birds swimming about. It was sunny with a blue sky that reflected the water. We walked to various viewpoints to take photos of the mountains and waterfalls from different angles. As it got dark we returned to our lodge for dinner. It was freezing all night.

The next day we got up early to get our cruise. Luckily it was a beautiful, clear day, but icy cold - we had to defrost the car before we could go anywhere. We boarded the boat and then we set sail. David and I sat on the top deck, which was absolutely freezing but gave us great views of the fiord. We sailed for over two hours around the edge of the sound, stopping to look at seals, waterfalls and rock formations. There were jagged rocky cliffs and mountains with snow on the top surrounding a glittering expanse of dark water. We reached the Tasman Sea and then turned back. The wind picked up on the way back and it was so cold that our faces went numb. We saw 3 seals sleeping on a rock and one splashing about in the water. We went up really close to a waterfall so that we could feel the spray. We could see starfish in the water, which were bright orange with 11 arms each. We stopped off at the underwater observatory, where we walked down lots of stairs into a room with glass windows about 10m underwater. There we could see starfish, bright corals, triggerfish and a very ugly fish. We even saw one fish pluck a starfish off the window and eat it. After this we returned to the boat and continued our cruise. By now the sun was high, lighting the mountains and cliffs and making them reflect off the water. After leaving the boat we headed to a cafe for a lovely cooked lunch of chicken and potatoes with gravy, which came free with our cruise ticket. I inquired again about scenic flights and was told we could get on one that afternoon. David got very excited and we recklessly signed up for a very expensive 32 minute flight in a helicopter with a landing on a glacier.

At 3.30 we turned up at the heliport. We were driven back up near to Homer's Pass and a helicopeter landed right next to us. We got showered with dust. We boarded the plane and up we went. It was awesome. We soared through the mountains and got amazing views of Milford Sound from above with the water twinkling in the sunlight. The sky was beautifully clear and blue so we could see the mountains stretching on for miles ahead of us, covered in snow. We flew through the valleys, over a river and landed on top of a glacier. We got out and put our feet on snow that nobody had ever stood on. We had great views over the mountains and we could feel the crunch of the glacier beneath our feet. It was just us, no-one else, and there was no sin of civilisation anywhere. We got back in the helicopter and took off, snow blowing about. We descended into the valley, past more mountains, and landed so that some people could get off (there were 5 of us in the helicopter). David and I then had the helicopter to ourselves on the way back to Milford Sound. We went up over a ridge of mountains and felt like we were going to float out of our seats with the negative G-force. We swooped through the valley and landed on the helicopter pad next to the fiord. As we got out David announced that it was the bast thing he had ever done and he wanted to learn to fly one. We then drove back to Te Anau, stopping at a few scenic spots.

You would have thought our adventures for the day were over, but no. In the evening in Te Anau we went to visit the gloworm caves. This involved taking a cruise across Lake Te Anau to the caves. we were given a rather boring talk on the life of a gloworm and then we went into the cave. There was a raging torrent of water running through the cave, including whirlpools and waterfalls that thundered past us. The water had carved all sorts of strange shapes into the rock. We reached the dark end of the cave and got in a boat. In the pitch black we floated further in. Thousands of tiny green lights appeared on the ceiling, looking like green constellations above us. We got so close that we could see the glowing in the worm's tail. They were very pretty, sparkling on the ceiling. We also saw the underside of a sinkhole with water dripping through. Then we left the cave and returned to Te Anau. We had a very late dinner and nearly froze in our room because the heater switched off every 30 minutes.

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