Had to be at the Kiwi Discovery office by 7am this morning for the Milford Sound trip, so me and Dimitri left at 6.50am. The bus picked us up a little after 7am, and off we went.
We drove alongside Lake Wakatipu for ages (it’s a big lake). The driver was doing commentary on the way, and I found out that Queenstown was originally colonised by a Welshman, William Rees, and a Russian guy. He also told us that there were loads of cars in the lake, from people not being able to drive round the corners: the road is right next to the lake.
The drive to Te Anau wasn’t that exciting: I fell asleep and just kept waking up to listen to the commentary. We stopped in Te Anau for breakfast. With all the other tour buses.
On the road to Milford, we made a few photo stops. We drove through the Te Anau downs, grassy plains surrounded by beech-covered slopes; then stopped at some small mirror lakes, with a better reflection than I got the day I was at Lake Matheson. We then travelled through the Eglington Valley, past lake Gunn and another lake, and stopped at Monkey Creek to taste the really clear river water.
We then drove through the Homer Tunnel: a 1.3km tunnel carved out of the granite rock, which took 27 years to finish. It only got lights last year: apparently the bus drivers used to switch off the headlights and scare passengers.
The tunnel brings you out into Cleddau Valley – same one as Milford Sound is in – and if you’re thinking it sounds kinda Welsh, you’d be right. Milford Sound, the fiord, was discovered by John Grono of Milford Haven, and the fiord, river and valley were named by him.
We then stopped at The Chasm: I missed the explanation about this place, but basically you leave the car park for a five minute walk into the beech forest, where there the river creates a waterfall through the rocks. It was cool, but all the buses get there at the same time and everyone queues up for their photos. Cleverly, they have created a one-way system, but I still wouldn’t like to do the trip in summer: apparently there are ten times as many buses!
We arrived at the port by 1pm for our cruise. It wasn’t the most exciting trip in the world, but we did get to see some waterfalls, a sea-lion and some dolphins. The mountains are huge: you can’t really comprehend it until you see another cruise boat right next to them. And the sides are incredibly steep. I was surprised there was any vegetation growing there at all. They take you all the way out to the Tasman Sea, and you can understand how Captain Cook sailed past, not realising how far in the fiord went. And you can really feel the difference in the tides too!
Don’t know how long the cruise lasted – an hour and a half maybe – but we got the bus from the port, and went all the way to Te Anau with a stop. I managed to sleep, listening to the music TV in the background. I got some food and a hot chocolate in Te Anau, then we watched Love Actually back to Queenstown.
I’m having a bit of a junk food/fast food diet here in Queenstown: falafel kebab night before last, Subway last night, McDonald’s tonight. Watched some TV before going to bed, and there was a horrible story about zoos in China that feed live animals to tigers for the amusement of the crowds. There was a cow that was still alive after ten minutes of being eaten. It was really gross, and not at all natural: in the wild, tigers hunt alone and kill before eating. And people could pay to take animals in, and push them through a food spout for the tigers. And they had taught chimps and bears to ride bikes and juggle with fire, which they could only teach them to do through force. There was also another zoo that kept animals in concrete cells, and the animals developed habits like weaving because of the boredom. And the crowds lapped it all up. As you can probably tell, it had an affect on me.