Milford Sound and Queenstown

Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
Trip End Jun 27, 2008

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Sunday, May 4, 2008

The end of the bike ride and a well earned rest was in order. So we check in to Central Backpackers in the centre (funnily enough) of Dunedin (pronounced Dun-ee-din).  However this was not achieved as we were moved to a different room every night! Ahhh!!!

We decide to book the bus to Milford Sound, but as we are fast discovering there is no easy way to any we had a stop over at Queenstown before we were boarding the bus again at 7am the next morning.

We arrived at our destination and started to hike our way up to our accommodation with our now four bags instead of two. As we trundled along the walk way we heard a voice from behind say "Are you hitching?" to which we both replied "no".  The Guy then asked us where we were going and offered us a lift. We happily accepted but spent 30 minutes in the van with him, his partner and their 11 year old daughter discussing our trip so far and exchanging stories....eventually weary and in need of a shower we land at the hostel. The place was situated in a valley surrounded by mountains.

The next day we boarded the shuttle and headed down to the boat. The weather was clear and crisp, perfect sailing conditions. We had purposely picked the earlier and smaller cruise as we had been told that larger, later cruises are packed and only the sharpest elbows get the best views.   With a crew of two and only ten passengers aboard we head out into the fiords...perfect. The scenery around us is breathtaking, sheer cliff edges that jut out with trees clinging on to the rock face, at any moment they could come crashing down in a tree avalanche like a stack of dominoes. Waterfalls cascade effortlessly and behind us the snow covered mountains peek over into the valley.

Milford Sound is actually wrongly named; a Sound is a valley that has been carved out by the sea and a Fiord is a valley that has been carved out by a glacier and then filled by the sea / water. Milford Sound came into being due to a glacier, but this was only discovered after they had named it a Sound. Only a few moments in to the tour and our captain receives word on the CB that there are dolphins ahead, and sure enough, there they were guiding our boat as we traveled. These majestic creatures evoke a calm and tranquil presence inside you. The engines were stopped and all that could be heard were the faint clicks and screeches as they talked to each other and the spray of air and water as they refilled their lungs before submerging effortlessly beneath us again.

We head out to open sea but there is nothing of interest and we long to head back in the hope that we might see the dolphins again. Sure enough the boat turns and makes its return journey back into the Fiord. We only travel a short distance and our captain has spotted a lone seal snoozing on the rocks to our left and so moves in for a closer look. The seal seemed unfazed by our presence and was happy for us all to take pictures before heading off once again. By now the sun had reached a higher position and was now shining directly on to the unusually crystal clear waters which had been in shadow from the mountains that edged the water. It was this moment that we became surrounded with twenty or more dolphins, jumping and performing before our very eyes....babies were in view but stayed at a safe distance away with their parents.....UTTERLY GOBSMACKING!  The water was so clear that our view was not tainted in any way. Reaching a hand out you could almost touch them as the boat was small. They inquisitively swam sideways to take a closer look at us and in doing so gave us unbelievable views of them. Engines were cut and again we were transported in to a silent realm of make-believe, feeling as if they too were wanting to share a moment with us. WOW!

Back to Queenstown and this time to see it by day light. We head up the gondola to take in some more amazing scenic views of the area. Nic was a little reluctant as these things don't really look very safe to her... but swallowing her fear she hopped on. At the top there were many activities for the brainless or brave (however you want to look at it) to partake in. For example, you could hurl yourself off a platform with a piece of elastic around your ankles, para-glide, hang-glide or parachute jump! Although Patrick was eager to para-glide we didn't have the $200 it was going to cost, so, we opted for a coffee instead, $7.50...much safer and affordable. Unfortunately as we were waiting for some much needed funds to clear in the bank, our trip to Queenstown fell a little flat and not much was achieved in our three day stay apart from an argument and a rather nice Tom Yam soup, cooked by Patrick.
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