Sorry for the delay. I’ve been having internet issues! But I am still here!
January 19, 2014
The Fellowship has disbanded. On the beginning of our last day, we had already split up, not officially, but it was an optional activity day. Four of us decided to go on the Milford Sound Coach and Cruise while the others returned to Queenstown. It was a rainy, terrible day to start. But I knew it would make for fantastic waterfalls, but then I began to wonder about how my poor camera would hold up in this rain. So my little point and shoot waterproof camera came out every so often as well. The road from Te Anau to Milford was quite spectacular. As we drove along, we could see all these temporary waterfalls that appeared because of the rain. We were surrounded, and we hadn’t even gotten onto the cruise yet. Along the drive, we stopped off at Mirror Lakes, where on a calm day, you can see a beautiful mirror reflection of the mountains in the lake. Quite lovely, if it wasn’t raining. But even with the rain (at the time, it was just getting started) you could see the mirror reflection but not as fantastic as in the postcards. As we continued down the road, we stopped again at The Chasm. Now that was fantastic with the rushing river going through the gorge. We made our way passed some more temporary waterfalls (cascades) and got to the Homer Tunnel where we waited for our turn to head through the tunnel. It is a one lane tunnel. While we waited, we had some Keas, New Zealand’s parrot, visiting our bus.
After passing the tunnel, we made it to the port with just over 5 minutes to spare. We cruised away on the Milford Mariner. It was a very smooth ride, even with the rain. However, with the rain came mist and it was super low mist. The boat hugged the coast line so on one side you could see the cascades and we even saw fur seals but on the other side, it was like staring through a marshmallow. Thick, white mist. We could not see the other side. And unfortunately, we could not see the top of Mitre Peak, which everyone goes to Milford Sound to see. What a shame. But not to worry. There are reasons why postcards were created. The boat took us all the way out to where the Abel Tasman Sea was entering the fiord. Oh, by the way, did you know that Milford Sound is actually a Fiord and not a Sound? A Fiord is carved out by a glacier and then has the ocean backfilling it whereas a Sound is carved out due to a river. In fact there are 14 Sounds in Fiordland National Park that are mis-named. They are all Fiords, not Sounds. But Milford Sound rolls off the tongue a lot smoother than Milford Fiord so I guess no one is really taking issue with it. And all the Sounds are located in Fiordland National Park! So the issue is taken care of with the correct name of the park. So as we reached the Abel Tasman Sea, the smooth ride became a rolling ride. I have been very lucky this entire trip with motion sickness. I have been taking motion sickness pills, pretty much from the start of the tour. The left-hand driving and the motion of the coach has not been kind to me but with the pills, all is miraculously well. The only time that didn’t work out so much for me was on the Helicopter tour. But at least I wasn’t the only one feeling queasy on the helicopter. As I said, I was on the motion sickness pills and very thankful for it during the rolling up and down. Unfortunately, not everyone did so well during this part. There was a passenger on the boat who literally turned green. I always just thought it was a silly expression, until I saw her turn green. Oh dear. The crew suggested she sit outside in the middle of the boat, suggesting that the fresh air would make her feel better. Perhaps it would but it was also cold outside with the rain and the boat isn’t that large. Being in the middle would’ve made very little difference on whether you felt the rolling or not. Well, as we turned away from the sea, the weather started to clear up a little. But we still hugged the coast to get back to the start. By the time we were back on the coach, the rain had stopped and the sun and blue sky had come out.
What timing! We arrived back into Queenstown just after 8pm where we met up with the remainder of the group at the top of the Skyline Gondola for dinner. Yum! It was a a buffet dinner and the selection was delicious. And with the sun just setting and the sky being clear, it was an amazing view of the Remarkables. What a way to end the day and to end our Fellowship. After dinner, Julie said some lovely things to each member and we got a very nice memento from her, a photo postcard. We had a Sam and Frodo (Katelyn and Larissa) pair, a Merry and Pippin pair (Anthea and Jessica) and a Sam and Rosie pair (David and Annie). I was the Bilbo of the group, going off on my adventure after the tour. I am going to miss them. It was a fun group and I am so glad that I chose to go with Red Carpet Tours. I have met some lovely people and I am glad I can call them friends. My Gandalfs, yes plural: Julie who met me at the Airport and was our leader throughout the tour, Deanna, our Wellington Gandalf who I hope to meet up with again before I leave for home, and Sue and Ben from Queenstown who took me to the Routeburn track and then took me to Arrowtown! I am so glad to have met them on this trip. If my sisters ever decide to go to New Zealand, I will certainly come back with them and even if they don’t come back, I know that I will return. But now that the tour is over, the rest of my adventure begins. I will still be in Queenstown for another few days. I can’t wait to make more new friends on the remainder of my trip. I’m off to do a Milford Track Guided Day walk next.
January 20, 2014
It was another early start for me and I was headed back to Te Anau for the Milford Track. I was joined by three other travellers, who also happened to be staying in the same hotel as me. So the four of us would be spending the day together. We were picked up at the hotel by a taxi and driven over to the Real Journeys office. There we were all loaded onto the their special coach and driven out to Te Anau. Out off all the people on the coach, only four of us were walking the Milford Track. All the others were headed out to Milford Sound for the Scenic cruise. The four of us met up with Richard, our guide for the day and we hopped onto a smaller bus along with Heath and his group of 15 others, who were also walking the Milford Track. Heath drove us to Te Anau Downs where we hopped off and boarded a boat that took us across Lake Te Anau to reach the start of the Milford Track. There were other people on the boat as well, others who would be walking the full track, so they were loaded up with lots of gear. While we were on board, Richard had to bow out of being our guide since he had a medical issue so we had Will, who was originally scheduled to work on the boat. Will was a very friendly and knowledgeable guide. It was a wonderful walk. We probably walked for about 4 hours, approximately 11 km. Two hours in and two hours out. It was nice also because it was just the four of us. I was going to compare the Routeburn track with the Milford Track, my two taste tests of these tracks, but there really is no comparison. They are two different tracks. And I enjoyed both. Would I ever consider walking the full track? I don’t know yet. I am leaning towards no, since I saw all the gear these other hikers were carrying. I like walking. I like hiking. I love the scenery here. But I don’t like the idea of carrying all that stuff with me while I’m on the hike. Anyway while we were walking, Will was pointing out little Alpine flowers and he took us off the Milford Track and we went a round about way to Glade House. Along the way we stopped off at a river and there we refilled our water bottle with fresh mountain water. Delicious! We had lunch at Glade House and then we returned to the Milford Track and walked some more of it before turning around and heading back. Along the way, we stopped to check out an 800 year old Beech tree. Wow! There are a lot of Beech trees in New Zealand and Will told us how to identify the Red Beech, the Silver Beech and the Mountain Beech. He was also doing his bird calls which were really good. Sometimes you couldn’t tell if it was the bird or if it was Will. It was 4:30pm when we returned to the boat. We made it back to Te Anau by 6pm, just in time to see our Queenstown bus take off without us. Hmmmm. Not so good. And it didn’t help that the driver did not have a working cell phone on him. Or it could’ve been working and he just wasn’t picking up. In New Zealand, you cannot use your cell phone while you drive, just like BC. So the people in the Te Anau office could not reach the driver. So our only option? Hop back onto our older bus, and chase down the Queenstown bus. But the other problem was the Queenstown bus was newer and faster than our older bus. But Heath and Richard were good about it. Heath was driving. Richard had a cellphone. Probably within 30 minutes, the Queenstown bus had pulled over. I’m not sure how they reached him. I have a feeling someone in a smaller car was chasing the Queenstown bus and managed to get him to pick up his cell phone or signalled him to pull over because it wasn’t just the Queenstown bus, but another regular car and a guy who escorted us onto the bus. What service! What an adventure! I never thought I’d be in a bus chasing after another bus.
Anyway, wish you were all here with me on my adventure! Luv, Aunty