Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Our weather didn’t hold – as predicted. We had a drizzly drive over to Milford Sound. We didn’t take advantage of the various trecks available from the road although we did stop off at one look-out for a while and at Chasm something – very near the sound – very attractive falls / rushing water that had carved holes in the rocks. Shortly after we arrived a whole flock of Asians arrived in about 5 different buses. We had a head start – but a toddler. Aidan was soon having his hair caressed and cheeks touched. There is something about my kids and Asians… A girl even took Quincy out of Pete’s arms – that lasted about 10 seconds until Quincy started balling at the top of his lungs. Aidan rather enjoys the attention and acts a bit shy and smiley. The same girl walked backwards a lot of the way so she could look at Aidan! In the parking lot we got to see 3 Kea birds – Alpine parrots (the only ones anywhere I believe living in snow country). They are quite large and were at the edge of the parking lot fighting over apples one of the driver was tossing them. Before we had gotten to Chasm we had seen several large handwritten signs saying “STOCK”. We speculated about them. Then we ran into – stock. Sheep to the left, sheep to the right, sheep ahead and behind. Dave wanted to see sheep – I think he can now say NZ has sheep! They were being moved to another pasture I assume and were being followed by a man in a truck (pulling one sheep behind laying down in a trailer) and a barking dog running after them. Other than us, the sheep and a bus coming up behind, it was just a lot of wild landscape. The last 7 km or so before you see Milford are in avalanche country and no vehicle stopping is allowed. Very steep slopes up to snow covered peaks. Hardly any growth established on the slopes. Various waterfalls all along. Then you drive straight into one of the mountains – and through in a 1.2 km long tunnel. Out on the otherside you see Milford Sound below and just have to go down a few hairpins turns and you are there. The rain had actually ceased falling by this point and we had pretty decent visibility to the tops of the mountains. We were with the same tour operator. This time on their boat that takes overnight tours in the summer. Very nice boat and perhaps less people than the previous day on a larger boat. We had signed on for a 2 ½ hour nature cruise. The nice thing about this tour is that it was much slower paced so you could stand out on deck quite comfortably. At Doubtful Sound we were mostly trecking along at a fast clip and it was breathtaking to stand out in most places. At Milford we got right up to the edge of the cliffs at places and came to a halt. They spent a while out in the Tasman Sea – very rocky motion from the waves – the fjords on the other hand are almost like glass in many places. Milford is the most northerly fjord, the steepest inside, and one of the smaller ones. Because of the steepness you could really appreciate the tree avalanches in all their states of regeneration – you saw a lot of places that had had avalanches. We had another picnic lunch while hearing some of the same commentary but also learning new things like that waterfall over there is 2 times the Empire State Bldg, 2 ½ times Eiffel Tour, 3 times Naigra Falls (in height) etc. Waterfalls are a dime a dozen. And you do start to have sensory over load of the ooh and aah scenery variety. We have seen a lot of very pretty snow clad peak scenes with farmland in front and often a river or body of water running through. Right at the end of the tour as we were heading back to the dock we got to see several seals creating and feasting on a “meatball” of millions (?) of tiny fish. Very cool. Several birds had joined in the fray too. Then an ice cream for the road and back to the motel. Aidan got to play on the trampoline a bit – he has gotten very fond of them and much more intrepid about his jumping since our arrival.
We were sad to be leaving Te Anau (I finally learned how to pronounce the name – after we left – tea a now. No inflections on any syllables). It was a small but attractive town on the lake and we had nice lodgings and easy walks everywhere and fun day trips.

Back to Queenstown. The drive back was actually much more attractive than we had expected. Surprise surprise. Quite a few deer farms in with the sheep farms. We had to drop Pete off to fly back to work so that he can finance my travels J We then decided to head out to our accommodations. I had booked us at a place called Nuggets Point a bit out of town toward the ski area. Up a bit into a steep sided valley/pass/whatever it is called. It is a resort and has restaurant, pool, etc – not just a motel like we had been staying at. Our room had more storage than we have at home in SF! It also was set up great for large families – nice queen bed in room with one wall all glass overlooking Shotover River below adjacent to bathroom and then kids room with 4 bunk beds then the laundry. There was another bathroom off the living /kitchen area (with same view in living room to water and mountain). Too bad we weren’t a large family with ma and pa and 4 kids! It actually worked fine. Aidan chose to occupy Quincy’s crib they had set up, I put Quincy in one lower bunk and I took the other. We went down to dinner the first night. They had set up 3 tables in the lounge area (fireplace, books, games, bar). We were the only occupants (thankfully). It was a slow dinner but very delicious. Dave tried venison for the first time and I tried rack of lamb. Yum! Aidan had what looked to me to be the best (most American) hamburger of our trip. They do weird things to burgers here – beets, eggs, you name it on top.

Next entry – boat ride #3 and onward to Dunedin.

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