Queenstown and Activities
Once in Queenstown as most activities were cancelled due to inclement weather all we could do was to go out, familiarize ourselves with the town, get back, have dinner and get ready for the trip to Milford Sound early tomorrow. Queens town is little picturesque town on the lake Wakatipu but more importantly it has become the center of activities for tourist. There are numerous daring and not so daring activities organised from here. Starting with the serene Milford Sound Cruise, bungy jumping, gondola, paragliding, jet boarding, parachute jumps, scenic flights, flights to glacier and glacier treks.. the list just goes on and on. In our case we had put everything to the day after as the full day would be taken up with Milford Cruise.
We had an early start as we had to catch a tour bus to Milford Sound. As most tourers were taking the trip Bud had a day off from driving. We left Queenstown at 0740hrs. The Sound cruise was scheduled for 1345hrs and we had 6 hours to get there. The Milford Sound Cruise was one of the major highlight of any South Island tour. The Cruise turned out to
be as delightful as it could be with stunning scenery and dead calm waters. Even though it was into winter we had an exceptionally good day to enjoy it. There were a lot of seals also enjoying the winter sun on the rocks. What is astounding is the sheer angle of the hills. In spite of the it must be the good temperatures at lower levels the vegetation was taking hold even in tiniest of cracks on the rock face. It just looks like a canyon half filled with sea. There were this high cliffs, snow capped mountains ,waterfalls and pristine body of water coming in from the sea for 40 to 50 Km. It all adds to a magical experience.
The bus trip from Queenstown to Te Anau was impressive mostly along the side of the lake. This is one lake where you have a tidal effect probably due to its length of more than 150KM and the east - west orientation or probably it is due to other hydrostatic pressures as we see in some Swiss lakes. The effect is small, 100 tom150mm. At Te Anau we stopped for half an hour to get some provisions for
Milford Sound Cruise. Till we hit the mountain range the scenery was beautiful. The coach driver/tour manager was feeding us info on all the mountains and lakes. The mountains were prominent in endurance training (I don't know who want to run up a steep mountain for 28 km and back down again) and scenic locations were pointed out where certain movies were filmed and what were in progress. The whole situation changed once we hit the gap through the mountains. Everywhere you look the scenery was stunning. The winding road was going through dense forest which occupied the lower levels and the mountains hovered over it with snow caps often with mini glaciers. There is no wonder that most directors want to shoot their films here for it is by far the most superior in beauty than anything I know. We had a few stopovers to take in the sights, but the photos do no justice to what is here. Stopovers at "Monkey Creek" (who would name such a place of outstanding beauty with such a silly name), the "Mirror Lakes" and "the Chasm" were outstanding in their unique way. Then there was the tunnel, single lane with hardly any
lighting and with a 1/10 gradient bored right through sold granite. When we emerged from the tunnel there was a series of hairpin bends and even more outstanding sights, the cameras were clicking but I know how good the pictures will be in conveying the true beauty of the place.
Like my trek to Machu Picchu very often it is the way that is more memorable than the goal. After all this the return back to Queenstown was a meek affair and most tourers were dozing off as the light began to fade. We got back to Queenstown by 2030hrs.
As per plan next morning we went for a canyon jet boat ride. As it turned out the one and half drive to the boat ride site was at least as exhilerating as the jet boat ride. The small coach turned into a small road which was barely wide enough for it. The dirt road was made and used by gold miners. It was clinging to the sid e of the hills reminiscent of the trekking tracks to Machu Picchu. Very often there were "gates" made of two large rocks cut out so that the coach could scrape
through them. There were a lot of scenes which were filmed in the "Lord of the Rings". Every turn in the road showed another fantastic scenery. The. Coach driver was past his fifties I wonder how his heart holds up with this trip every day. All of them seems to be well trained in talking well during the drive. We also stopped at a few lookout points for photographs. For the boat drive we were kitted out with water proof clothing. The jet boat to travel in very little water often we could feel stones at the bottom but the boat kept going. It did four to five360º turns and moved forward and side ways with tremendous acceleration.
After lunch we went on the cable car to the Gondola and did a go kart ride downhill. There were two rides, the first for starters, the second a bit more challenging. The more adventurous went on to paragliding. We then proceeded to Wanaka our next stop. On our way we stopped at Arrowtown a quaint village with luxurious vegetation and fabulous autumn colours. We After a had a couple more lookout stops as we climbed through the mountains towards Wanaka.
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