What do you say UK?!
Trip Start Nov 14, 2008
18Trip End Mar 10, 2009
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Friday 12th December
What is it with checking out & sleeping in?! Woke up at 9.45am & had to pack rather quickly. Walked into town as Jackie wanted to "stretch her leg (singular)"!! Breakfast at Aspire on The Mall, very nice blueberry pancakes with lemon maple butter. Entertainment that morning was from the 2 ducks who have moved into the street. Mr & Mrs Canard made there way from table to table with the Missus doing the eating & the husband quacking away at the back of her. Little did we know that this was going to be a day of gallus beasts!
Drove most of the way to Te Anau with Jackie sleeping; on arriving at a junction I obviously start to indicate to turn right & Jackie asks if I'm stopping for a toilet break? "No", A coffee "no", Just heading in the direction we need to be going then "yes"!! Second animal incident of the day was a hedgehog deciding to go for a walk during the day - across the busy road. The lorry in front of me swerved to miss it, I then had to swerve as its wee legs were running full pelt, thankfully it did make it to the other side of the road!
Quick coffee in the fat duck in Te Anau & thanks to sudden onset parkinsons in Jackie we decide it would be sensible if I continue to drive! The driving didn't start however until we had arranged our recently purchased tinsel on the dash, mirror & steering wheel of the Bluebird - the class continues!
Hit some wonderful scenery as we headed towards Milford - the peaks suddenly take on Alpine grandeur & the fields below are filled with millions of mostly purple Lupins, the rivers are also that wonderful glacial blue colour. Discovered I had gotten bitten in the wrist whilst stopping to take a million pictures in a particularly nice field of Lupins, so stopped the car again to put on some sudocrem as it was starting to get really itchy. Really nice spot, woods, water, lupins, mountains & family of ducks. Obviously the little black sandflies had to spoil it though didn't they. Zillions got in the car which set off a horrendous parkinsons attack in Jackie, as I went to the boot for the DEET all I could hear was the sound of expletives filling the alpine air & the car was shaking as the "awe the animals" Cuthbert turned into a crazed killing machine - slaughtering anything black with wings! Deeted up we continued with a slowly declining number of maniacal attacks from Jack on any blackflies remaining on the windscreen.
The scenery was getting grander & grander & really is the best I've seen in ages, with each turn there would be another set of peaks with cornices hanging on for dear life. We arrived at the Homer tunnel - something that was apparently started in 1935 & not finished until 1953 due to bad planning. Previous to this there had been no road to Milford & only the walking track gave access. This tunnel is merely a blasted hole through a big mountain - just shy of a mile long I've been in many longer tunnels however this one looked like the road to hell with blast marks still visible & rough paved road. As we were in peak season there is a traffic light system so you can wait up to 15 minutes before they will let you in. We arrived at a red light & that is where the attack of the parrots started! Couldn't quite believe my eyes when I noticed these huge parrots on the camper van in front of us - these are called Kea and are the only true alpine parrot; known as mischievous & curious I left that area thinking more Psycho & danjerous! Both Jack & I got out of the car to take some pictures of both the Kea & the beautiful place we were stopped. I'd left my window open & Jack had left her car door open. No sooner as we had left the car that it was descended upon by at least 4 of these huge birds with really pointy sharp beaks. They started to bite away at the rubber seals & then 2 of them made a move to get in the actual car. Thankfully Jackie managed to get in the car & close everything up. It didn't stop them still running along the roof of the car pecking away at anything they couldn't get their beaks into though! Problemo! I'm still left outside the car! Any time I went to get anywhere near the car one particular bird kept flying at me. Other drivers were telling me merely to swipe at it to move it away - I tried this & far from flying away It would go to attack me. I thought maybe it liked the camera so hid that behind my back, no that made no difference! Jackie then tried to attract its attention by putting a bit of the road map outside her window - bingo - bird was attracted & was trying very hard to rip the map through the small gap. Hooray I got in! Psycho bird wasn't happy at this deception and continued to clatter across the roof in a disturbing fashion (I'm reminded of the gogerburn story & the head being bashed off the car roof!) All I could see was the occasional glare from 2 close set beady eyes over a sharp long beak looking down from the roof. Jackie had been videoing some earlier bird footage but had accidentally turned the video back on during operation "get Tanya back in the car". Although you cant see anything the audio is amusing! We were rescued by 1. the light turning green & 2. some stupid woman in a campervan feeding the whole brood of around 10. They are protected & also die as a direct result of humans feeding them so don't feed the Keas!!! Did read an amusing warning in the rough Guide to NZ which says that many a careless hiker who has left their boots outside has woken up to shredded leather strips & torn laces!!!
The journey continued hassle free to Milford passing yet more spectacular scenery - great alpine switchback roads coming out of the Homer tunnel. Stopped at the Chasm a 15 minute total walk to a huge waterfall - well worth a stretch of the legs & thankfully Kea free!
Checked into Milford Lodge http://www.milfordlodge.com/ where back in the summer when I booked this part of the trip I'd noticed they had just opened up some chalets. Off season price was $185 and the high season $225. Had decide to go for a bit of luxury & how glad was I that we did! The chalets were fabulous - boutique style hotel room with what was supposed to be a twin set-up but they had left as super kingsized. We had a 3 seater sofa, table & comfy chairs, very modern trendy mini kitchen with combi micorwave, fridge with freezer compartment. Bathroom was also posh hotel style with fancy sink, shower & BATH!!!! Posh accessories like a plasma TV, DVD, ioniser/dehumidifier/aircon, underfloor heating etc etc. However what made this place was the floor to ceiling windows on 2 walls looking out directly onto our decking right beside the blue river surrounded by mountains! - Unbelievable! All in all our half day kayaking & 2 nights in poshville came to $345 each which amounts to around £125.
Managed to persuade the nice people at the Blue Duck to cook us some soup for dinner (missed last orders) then it was back up the road for a night in luxury. Actually forgot about trying to take some pictures whilst keeping an eye on a pesky Kea which had its eye on my bag. Every time I looked away it did a quick hop closer to my bag - cheek!
Had to go to bed with all the curtains closed & practically stapled to the walls just in case some nutter wanted to look into our room from the wilderness with his night vision glasses! Then he/they would get his/their glass cutting (silent of course) machine out, get into our room & bludgen us to death!
Saturday 13th December
Slept in!!! Woke up at 8.15 when our kayak trip was leaving at 8.30
Thankfully they don't seem to be too strict with their time keeping so we did manage to get a coffee & bagel before the bus turned up. Much pfaffing by the guides & we were on the water at around 10am. Beautiful day & what a beautiful place. Your perspective is all out of balance as you are looking at things that look big but are actually a lot bigger (think of the 3 meter high writing in St Peters in Rome) At one point we were in front of a waterfall 3 times the height of Niagara. Mitre Peak the famous mountain from all the adverts is around 2000meters high & is a sheer cliff from top to the sea. Our guide Ricky pointed out another waterfall which was 9Km away yet looked only as if it was perhaps 1km away - mad!
Our group wasn't the most exciting - no-one really wanted to talk to anyone & even my verbal diarrhoea ran out at lunchtime! Thankfully some Welsh folks decided to start chatting & ended up really nice people - everyone else had been bashed with the dull stick too many times! We even had 3 young Aussie blokes - what excited them most - the rocks on the beach where we had lunch - need I say more! Ricky the guide got a bit excited when I was telling Jackie about the group shelter we used when with the Glenmore Lodge - reminder to me to pass on that info to him. Enjoyed the kayaking however you don't actually see any more of the sound than you do from being on the shore. On the way back the wind was very strong at our backs so we rafted the Kayaks together & then put up a sail. the folk at the front held the bottom of the sail & the 2 peopal on the outside back tied the ends of the sail to their paddles & hoisted them up into the wind. My job & the chap beside me was to steer; not very easy when you cant see anything except sail in front of you! We did pick up a great pace doing this & at some points did surf over a couple of the waves! If I was to be here again though I would actually want to fly in cruise & then either fly or bus out. The flight would be amazing over those mountains & you land by flying in down the sound & into a tiny airfield right on the water. Prices for a fly in bus our incl cruise come in at around $300 so not too bad considering what you get.
Had a very nice dinner in the Blue Duck - this time getting there too early for the kitchens! Appetite was suppressed for a while with 2 pints of Monteiths Original & a packet of crisps!
Then back to poshness for a BATH! The luxury - the bath was great as well - tap in the middle so no protrusions into your back, no overflow either so I could have the bath right to the top & it was really deep - marvellous! My skin has been really dry over here so much oil was added to the bath - made it a bit danjerous getting out though! I think I spent over an hour in there - great! Was disturbed by what seemed like Kea wars going on outside - they are noisy birds as well as psycho!
Sunday 14th December
Did not want to get out of my posh bed & left it until as late as possible; the threat of a $10 late fine had Jackie dressed , packed & ready for breakfast before I'd even managed to brush my teeth!
Had brekkie at the Lodge & was amused by the young foreign chaps turn of phrase "women, if you sit down I will bring your food over"!
Drive back was painless (Jackies parkinsons seems to have abaited for the time being!) Whilst in the Fat Duck at Te Anau Atomic Kitten came on to which Jackie made a comment about "Atomic Mutton" - something Stephen calls the older women trying to dress like the girls from Atomic kitten - great phrase & one I think I shall steal & use myself!
So here we are back in Queenstown - final week in NZ which I cant quite believe. We do have a lot to do in this week & will be doing a lot of the booking tomorrow. In a 7 bed room which is now full, Jackie has just done a super wash; she put detergent in the bleach compartment as she couldn't see anywhere else to put it, that was until she read the sign saying put detergent on top of clothes. Happy she put the cash in & then realised it was an automatic detergent dispenser! I think the clothes may be clean! To be fair her clothes did need cleaned after she managed to knock a full pint of Macs Gold over herself In Pog Mahones at tea-time - spanner!