Published: March 4th 2007February 27th 2007
After a vague few hours in Auckland airport where we managed to miss Jackson by only an hour (!!!), lose the Qantas Club and also pass through the same security checkpoint three times, two very jetlagged travellers arrived in wonderful Queenstown. All that was on our minds was staying awake all day, or at least until our Milford briefing at 4pm. What better way to do that than stock up on Starbucks then jump off the top of a mountain with a Swiss man attached to your back? It was a perfect day and a fantastic experience to paraglide peacefully (most of the time) over the top of the hills overlooking Queenstown. As always, photos will follow, about a million were taken I'm just trying to find my best side... ;-)
Full of adrenalin we arrived at our briefing on time. We even managed to stay awake during the short video where they turned the lights off.
The next day, it was up early to catch the bus to Te Anau and boat across to Glade House. We quickly established ourselves as the group alcoholics by ordering a bottle of wine...
We reconsidered the wine after they took us on what
was sold as a "nature walk" but was actually quite long but really great as we were introduced to some of the birds we were going to be meeting throughout our walk. The fantails put on a particularly good show for us and seemed to really enjoy our company - it may have had something to do with the fact that they LOVE eating sandflies and us humans are prime targets. Ah the circle of life... It was also a great opportunity to find out quickly what parts of me I had missed when applying insect repellant. Hmmmm...
Day Two was when the real walking started... 10 miles of beautiful forests, opening up to a gorgeous lake under a waterfall, where (of course) we had to have a swim. It was pure bliss swimming under the waterfall. Not so blissful avoiding the sandflies who honed in on non-Deeted skin the moment I hopped out...
Day Three and the perfect weather continued. By far the most difficult day up over Mackinnon Pass but rewarding at every step. Every view just got better than the last and it was so cool to step above the treeline look back down to the valley
where we had stayed the previous night (and realise with horror how far we had walked up!). A very friendly weka met us at the monument and the lunch at the top felt very well deserved. Another worthwhile visit while up there was the "loo with a view".
The downhill to the next lodge was nowhere near as horrific as we expected but still hard on the knees. We had a brief rest before heading to Sutherland Falls (the 5th highest falls in the world and absolutely amazing). It didn't take much convincing to walk all the way underneath them and completely test the integrity of our gortex scrambling over the mossy rocks under some pretty hectic water spray!
I quite happily said that I didn't care if it rained now, nothing could ruin this perfect trip. Besides, my boots had gotten so wet under the waterfall they were never going to dry by the morning anyway...
Day Four and someone up there had listened to me. We were greeted by pouring rain that pretty much stayed with us for the entire 14 miles to a place called Sandfly Point (very aptly named!). The rain meant all the waterfalls were
fully in flow and the scenery was spectacular at every sodden step!
Within a few hours of dodging the sandflies, we were sipping gin and tonics in luxury hurrah! And although I did state early in the evening I would barely be able to stay awake until dinner, I somehow managed to last until the early hours following our celebration dinner and visit to the local pub.
The rain continued all night so that we were rewarded with more fantastic waterfalls, all viewed from the comfort of a boat - no walking boots required (a good thing really as mine were covered in mud and yes, still wet). Then it was back to Queenstown to bid a sad farewell to our travelling companions (only to see them minutes later in Queenstown ha ha ha).
Overall, it was a fantastic trip and one of the best things I have ever done. I feel truly privileged to have experienced such a wonderful and special part of this amazing country.
I could do it all again in a second but might wait until after my pedicure... :-)
There are more photos below