IT WAS A 6am start today as we downed a hasty cup of tea and headed for our glass-roofed bus.
The journey through the Fiordland National Park takes close to six hours, mostly because our tour guide stops about every 20 minutes to let us walk around and see the sights – the eight passengers are grateful and infuriated at the same time, it’s a confusing combination.
We stop at beautiful and aptly named placed like The Chasm, The Divide and Mirror Lake where the surrounds are predictably picturesque, all of it formed by the effects of an ice age or three when the whole place was trapped beneath a glacier.
When he is driving, the driver can throw out some useful tidbits of information, like how the Sound will get about six meters and 250 days of rain every year – this was one of those days.
We take roads signposted, “DANGER: AVALANCHE”. Our guide tells us that the winds alone from such an event can uproot trees and send them into the forest like a bowling ball into pins. He also recounts countless stories of flightless birds getting wiped out by foreign invaders such as the stoat, the rat and the possum.
It reads like a list of Kiwi Rugby World Cup failures and reminds us of the t-shirts with 91, 95, 99, 03, 07 and the word ‘chokers’ which Australians bravely parade through New Zealand streets every weekend.
Today we are a party of two. Tosh finished yesterday’s snowboarding session with the words: “I’m wrecked, sore, cold and sweating like a pig… same time tomorrow.”
Sitting here with Del on the sleepy bus back to Queenstown, we reckon he’s actually treating himself to a pampering spa day on the sly. You see he’s been coming up a little short of his favoured 16 hours of sleep per day and those boyish good looks don’t come easy.
Who knows what damage this loose-cannoning could cause to group morale? I mean, the three of us have been joined at the hip for two weeks.
I think some strenuous team building exercises are required tonight to restore the trust that has been lost. Plus, I need to find out about something called “après ski.” I’m not sure what this is exactly, but I think it might be German for skulling pints.
Now, where was I?
Ah yeah, Milford Sound: you know the story by know. It’s gorgeous, the ferry takes you through the network of wide deep fjords and out towards the Tasman. The cliffs tower high, hundreds of metres above the water — which would be lying dead still were it not for these six ferries full of tourists.
From the point that a kilometre-long tunnel takes you from snow covered gorge to a wet and misty valley, right out to the sea, there are hundreds of waterfalls rolling down the rock faces. Some are small trickles, but on two of the larger cascades, the boat will nose in underneath the shower providing a soggy trip home for those on the front of the vessel.
Seals and even the occasional penguin will pop up on the shoreline, but describing Milford’s majesty in any more detail would do it an injustice. The 12-hour tour is everything New Zealand can offer rolled into a neat package and we’ve finally seen it.
Tomorrow, we’ll be back on the hunt for adrenaline.