Another early morning today. Our tour bus was taking its time so I gave them a call and it turns out our pickup time was changed without notice. No problem. We sat around and rested for twenty minutes before what would be a long, long day.
We decided to take this tour to Milford Sound because it’s rather far from Queenstown and the road is particularly windy at times. The tour also included a ferry trip.
Leaving Queenstown, we were able to see the extent of the majestic mountains and lake in which the town is situated. Before long, we were in the countryside, home to countless sheep and also cows and deer. The tour guide explained some of the plant species and what countries they were brought from. Being a plant nerd, it was actually quite interesting. He showed us manuka trees, which we knew were the source of a honey, but not tea tree oil. He also spoke of some of New Zealand’s endangered birds.
We stopped off at Te Anau after two hours, a small town which is a starting point for most tours to Milford Sound. The guide recommended a pie shop for us to have morning tea at, which sold a specialty venison pie. We passed on the deer, and Alex got a veggie sandwich whilst I purchased a sausage roll. I took a bite and realised I was not eating a typical beef sausage roll. Pretty sure there was a deer in my sausage roll, I stopped eating and purchased a new lunch, playing it safe this time with a sandwich. Not pleasant.
Leaving Te Anau for Milford Sound, we passed a street called Wong Way. Definitely a highlight of the day.
This leg of the drive was a rather long but exciting stretch. We made many stops, the first of which was a beautiful empty field, bordered by a huge mountain. It was windy, but delectably warm. I felt so cozy just sitting there in the grass relaxing. This is where Rohan was from Lord of the Rings.
We stopped at a lake, and then at a huge field full of lupins. We stopped at a lake (one of many huge ones in the area) where Alex impressed me with his stone skipping. We stopped at The Chasm, an impressive, deep rock formation, the home to a powerful rushing river.
We drove between forests of a variety of tree types, as well as huge snowy mountains. Before we knew it we were at a very high altitude and we were on the same level of snow. We stepped off the bus and were confronted with a forceful and chilly wind. First we noticed some kea birds, which are a native New Zealand parrot with feathers reminiscent of the scales of a reptile.
We took some photos with a beautiful view and headed back to the bus. We then proceeded into a very old tunnel which had been built about 1.5 kilometres through the mountain. Really amazing. The guide said it took 16 years to build, and with no machinery. The road that followed was very steep and windy and we were glad we didn’t drive. Before long we had arrived at Milford Sound.
What is a sound? A sound is a valley made by mountains which have slowly eroded from rivers. Milford Sound was actually eroded by glaciers, not rivers, which makes is a fjord and not actually a sound. Interesting fact there for you.
The valley that makes Milford runs into the Tasman Sea. We took a cruise all the way out to the sea. It was very windy and very lovely. The mountains were so high and steep. We could see two beautiful waterfalls from the cruise.
We also saw a few groups of seals. But the most awesome thing we saw, which was actually right at the beginning of the tour, were a group of twenty or so dolphins, showing off and prancing around our ship! I have never seen dolphins in the wild before and it was so exciting to see!
Once we reached the Tasman the ship turned around and headed back to shore. I realised I was exhausted from all the sitting around so I had a little nap. And so began the long, long commute back to Queenstown. On the way back we passed Wong Way again, and stopped off for some fish and chips (the tour guide didn’t have a very thick accent and when he announced dinner plans we were a little sad). Quite possibly the yummiest chips we’ve had in a while. We enjoyed taunting the seagulls at this moment.
A few more hours and we had returned to Queenstown at sunset. 9pm! After about a 12 hour journey we are looking forward to finally sleeping in tomorrow!