11-14 April 2010
R and V drop me off at the bus station in Lawrence and I get the bus to Queenstown and again, the drive is dramatic through glacial mountains and rivers and it takes 4.5 hours to get there. I check into my yoff hostel called ‘Hippo Lodge’ and try not to take offence when the shuttle bus driver refers to me as ‘Miss Hippo’. He’s actually very lucky to have escaped the Mapp wrath. Queenstown has a reputation as a party town and this is confirmed when I am unpacking my stuff in my 4 bed mixed dorm and a young bloke comes in wearing only a small towel (to hide something small, perhaps?) and gets into bed and promptly goes to sleep (it’s 7pm in the evening). He stinks of booze but luckily I am heading out to meet up with B’s friend P who is a lawyer in Queenstown. He very kindly takes me out for a Thai meal and I want a reasonably early night as I have booked myself on a tour of Milford Sound and it leaves fairly early in the morning. I get back to find all 3 of my dorm mates asleep in bed (it’s now about 10pm ish) and I pleased that they have partied themselves out so much that I won’t be woken up at 3am by drunken revellers (god, I sound so old....)
I am picked up in the morning by Eco Tours and there are about 20 of us and Martin is our driver. Martin’s monologue is considerably more interesting than Dave’s discourse as he worked in the conservation industry for a number of years and has some interesting facts, including teaching us a NZ saying ‘rattle your dags’ which means ‘hurry up’. After a scenic drive along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and past The Remarkables mountain range, we stop in Te Anau to visit the Bird
Wildlife Park and see some rare NZ birds whose names escape me. It has started to drizzle slightly but since this is one of the wettest places on earth, it is pretty difficult to avoid the rain. In fact, it is so wet that it receives 6526mm of annual rain fall which equates to about 180 rain days.
Milford Sound is not a sound at all but a fiord and it is 16 kms in length and it is the northern-most of 14 fiords that make up the spectacular coastline of the 1,200,000ha Fiordland National Park, part of Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. And it is spectacular (I am starting to run out of adjectives for the scenery in NZ). It rises out of the Cleddau Valley and reveals a large number of waterfalls trickling down the glacial rock like icing on a black cake.
Milford was discovered by John Grono, a Welshman, who named it after his birthplace, Milford Haven and Captain Cook had missed it on two occasions (one nil to the Welshies). We do the cruise amongst the fiords and although the visability isn’t great, one can still get a good impression of how high the peaks are and the waterfalls are in full flow (one good thing about it raining is when the sun does come out, they can dry up in a matter of hours and you don’t get to see them) It’s a long day and we get back to Queenstown about 9.30pm and my 3 roomies have been replaced by 2 quiet Korean girls.
It’s Tuesday and it must be raining. I try to get a bus to Franz Joseph but they have all left so I foolishly get my hair cut with what I think may be a stylish fringe a la Kate Moss but I end up looking like Stirling Moss, so I hide in a cafe and catch up on admin. Tomorrow I am off to Franz Joseph (once I’ve purchased a large hat or a wig)