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Published: March 13th 2006
First of Many Waterfalls ...
We stopped several times on the way to Milford Sound from Queenstown to walk around - here's the first of the many waterfalls we saw amidst the rain
OK, this is almost too much for me to handle. Like a heroin addict dipping into a back alley and finding a fix, here I am being told that we have more time (!) in this little internet cafe in the middle of Queenstown (Melissa is putting some pictures on her blog entry and the slow computer is giving her fits). So, I thought I'd take the opportunity to start writing about our trip to Milford Sound. This will be written by both melissa and me, as I am also working on uploading some photos...
Milford Sound is the most well-known of the fiords in New Zealand's Fiordland National Park. Its a World Heritage Site (others include the Grand Canyon, the Pyramids, etc). Check out this link for more info:
Fiords are created by the movement of glaciers over the rocky mountains which create enormous U shaped cuts deep to the oceans depths. In this case, the glacial movements have shaped the fiords, which are erroniously named sounds (created by rivers), out to the tasman sea. There are a couple of well known hikes, or traks, here- mildford track & keplers track- but due to not wanting to lug
Rainy and wet!
Here we are atop the boat (on the upper deck). The trip was well worth enduring the cold and rain - we're not just smiling because of the good wine on board!
our boots and hiking gear around for 3 months in exchange for 5 days of hiking, we did not do these. Next time, we promise ourselves. But we have heard today, that it is snowing at the higher elevations of the trek, so we are a bit relieved, given I love being warm, not wet and cold.
We boarded a bus with a well know fiord boating company named "real journeys" and headed down the south island for a 4+ hour bus ride to reach the landward side of milford sound to meet our vessel. We boarded our 40 foot vessel, aptly named "the friendship", with 6 other people (one czeck woman & irish man (married), 2 english doctors in training, one canadian woman and one spanish gent). We were quite the group, and it made for a lot of fun with the evening game of new zealand trivial pursuit! The actual trip to the boat was quite amazing, as the bus driver was chock full of information on new zealand's history, flora and fauna, environmental issues and occupational or entertainment hazards. The scenery was quite spectacular as well, as we went deeper into the cool rainforest (not tropical),
Some cloud clearing in the morning ...
I woke up early to try and catch the sunrise, hoping on the way up to the deck that the rain had stopped and the clouds had cleared. Unfortunately, the rain was still coming down, but I caught the few minutes of clearer sky here with a really long exposure ...
which undoubtedly was wet, rainy and mist filled. It made for an experience- with clouds climbing up the mountain peaks and wind blowing the numerous waterfalls up, as they desperately sought the ocean below.
We boarded the friendship, despite the rough seas and howling winds, and we managed to stay afloat and not sea sick (the poor canadian woman, however, was in bad shape- not sure if she felt better with there being 4 doctors surrounding her, offering meclizine...). The weather did not let up, but the captain toured us around the fiord to the mouth of the tasman sea and then we anchored in a little quiet bay. There were no sightings of bottlenosed dolphins or NZ fur seals on day one, but we did see one little seal hopping in and out of the ocean the next day! We slept overnight in the small berths (good for my size, but i am quite sure the others were sardined in the beds) and awoke to a mystical "sun rise" - more like a "light rise". Spectacular, nonetheless, and we were all thrilled that the rain had let up (for the moment). We cruised around some more and returned
Checking out more waterfalls from the Friendship
Aboard the Milford Friendship (our boat) we got a close look at many more waterfalls. You can get a good idea at how the limited visibility gave the many layers of rainforest scenery a really interesting look
back to the dock, the bus and headed back to Qtown.
**... we're just about to publish this and I have to add a little more description of the Milford trip for y'all...
The Milford Sound boat trip was really a memorable couple of days - insanely cold and rainy, so the weather and comfort part of the memory leaves something to be desired, but it really is a marvelous place to see (you can get a sense of it from the pictures, but hard to completely capture). The lushness of the greenery conjures up the tropical rainforests I've seen, but this place has an odd, fantastical feeling about it ... almost eery. Its like you could disappear in them without a trace - and knowing that there are NO land-based mammals or large reptiles native to New Zealand makes it even more interesting to think about. Its basically a rainforest that has mainly sea-based creatures (mainly bottle-nosed dolphins, fur seals, sea lions, various whales, fish of all sorts - including sharks, and then tons of birds, including penguins). Melissa is claiming to have "tackled" a shark right now while I was asleep on the boat. I'm taking her
at her word.
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