28.12.2010 15 °C
We are all very excited! For five days we are staying in a wonderful bach located south of Queenstown in a hamlet called Kingston. Kingston is located on the Southern end of Lake Wakatipu. From our bach we can look out the windows to the beautiful scenery of mountains and lake. We are looking forward to the time with our Canadian content in the form of the Cronsberrys.
Our five days with the Cronsberrys is packed full of excitement and adventure.
Bach Kingston; Lake Wakatipu (at the bach)
Tour of Milford Sound
Before we outline our day, a bit of information about Milford Sound.
The first key piece of information is that the misnamed Milford Sound is actual a fiord. By definition a fiord is a long narrow inlet of sea water between steep cliffs. The shape of a fiord is carved by ice during an ice age. A ‘sound’ is also a long narrow inlet of sea water however the shape of the inlet was not carved by ice during one of the 12 major glacial phases during the last 2 million years! The Milford Fiord is 16km long with an average depth of 330m. The dominate landscape feature in this fiord is Mitre Peak, a 1692m pinnacle of rock that forms the world’s highest sea cliff. When we were still back home planning our trip to New Zealand, visiting Milford Fiord was one of the things that we decided was a ‘must do’ for our family.
Our Day on the Fiord:
Wake up time 5:30am. We are tired. We eat . . . quickly, and then pile into the cars. As we set out for the day the rain is falling and thick cloud covers the landscape. We are not impressed. One thing we have learned about New Zealand weather is that it can change very quickly so we are hopeful that this will be the case today.
We drove to the town of Te Anau where we were to meet the tour bus that is the first ‘leg’ of our journey. As we sat back and relaxed in the bus, we were able to watch the clouds start to lift and reveal the beauty of the south, middle, and north fiord that are within Lake Te Anau. These fiords are unusual in that they are fresh water fiords and they help make Lake Te Anau the second largest lake in New Zealand and the largest in the south island. The tour then continued along this westerly highway which was spectacular for we were driving through the Hollyford Valley that is flanked by mountains. There is nothing like alpine ranges soaring beside you to make you feel in awe about the magnificence of the south island alps! Not surprisingly, we also drove through a rain forest. In this area of the south island 2 out of every 3 days it is raining thus making the forest in this area very aptly named. During this bus ride we also had a chance to drive through New Zealand’s highest tunnel, Hommers Tunnel. It was a two and a half minute drive through a mountain. The walls of the tunnel were in fact, mountain rock. When we came out the other end, we saw bare rock walls rising all around us for a thousand metres. It was quite a sight to behold. As the bus ride continued we travelled along the Hollyford River, by Christie falls, and of course beside mountain after mountain. When we arrived at Milford Fiord we boarded our boat, which was not overcrowded, and headed out for a 2 hour cruise of the fiord. The first thing that we see on the fiord is Mitre Peak; famous because it is one of the worlds tallest mountains that comes directly out of the sea.
The last 450m of Mitre Peak is in the shape of a bishops headpiece, (a mitre) and thus the name of this mount. Unfortunately the clouds and rain would not allow us to see the entire peak at one time, but we saw most of it. Although it rained for most of the cruise, we could still see out of the cabin windows and we could also go outside on the deck of the boat and stand under a glass roof and take pictures. Many people had told us that rain or shine Milford Fiord is still majestically beautiful. This is very true. Although we did not see the layers of mountains surrounding the fiord, the misty outlines of the land reaching directly to the fiord were indeed beautiful. Besides the steep cliffs at the waters edge, we saw the Bishop’s Foot Stool (the rocks in front of Mitre Peak), seals, and water falls galore. The trip took us right out to the Tasman Sea and back. On the way back through the fiord the rain then let up and we were rewarded with our best look at Mitre Peak.
We were a tired and happy bunch at the end of the trip, but we still had some experiences left on our bus ride back to our kiwi car. First interesting experience was the world’s wettest water, 99+% water, less than 1% contaminants. Most of us got out of the bus, tempted the giardia bug and drank from the stream. Our second interesting thing was snow falling in the middle of a New Zealand Summer. Yes, in the alpine areas snow is very common. We were just lucky enough that on the day before Christmas that snow was falling at 900m in altitude….just where we were during the alpine section of the bus tour. This sprinkling did give us that little taste of home that we were missing.
Umbrella Brigade; Rock Walls at Milford Sound; Milford Sound Water Fall; More Milford Sound
As we approached Christmas in New Zealand we had already noticed that Christmas here was going to be very different. Firstly the Christmas season is far less commercial then what we experience in Canada. This we actually find very refreshing. The second major difference for us is that there is no snow. We would be having a summer Christmas!! This leads to many other differences. For example turkey is not what is commonly eaten for Christmas dinner. Many Kiwi families enjoy a BBQ. For dessert it would be far too hot too cook up a delicious apple pie, so instead the traditional dessert is pavlova with fresh New Zealand strawberries. The third major difference for us is that we would be away from family for Christmas 2010. This we were able to rectify somewhat through the fantastic internet tool of Skype. Although marked with differences, many of the new things that we enjoyed this Christmas were very enjoyable indeed!! We did spend Christmas day with our friends the Cronsberrys and opened stockings and handed out a few presents. We enjoyed home made pancakes for breakfast and roasted chickens with stuffing, potatoes and peas for dinner. Claire and Bronte made a delicious pavlova for dessert. To make the experience totally new, Tim and Paul decided to go for a swim in Lake Wakatipu. It was a nice sunny day and we enjoyed ourselves being lazy and skyping family back home.
The stockings were hung by the stools with care.; Opening Gifts with the Cronsberrys; Chistmas Day Swin; Day Lake Wakatipu; Chistmas Day Dinner
Tour of Doubtful Sound
Also located in Fiordland National Park, Doubtful sound, (also misnamed for it is a fiord. This is because the people who first named the fiord did not know they were fiords and the name stuck.) was our destination of choice for December 26th.
On this early morning start we drove south to the beautiful Lake Manapouri. This lake is another large glacier lake and is used in NZ’s largest Hydro Power Generation. The Kiwis drilled 200m holes in the mountains at the side of the lake and put 7 turbines at the bottom. The water that is used in turning the turbines is then drained through two 9m and 10m diameter tunnels that run 10km to Doubtful Sound. On this tour we were able to get a closer look at the Hydro Power Generators but only after driving through a 2km long tunnel down to the plant. Impressive!!
For this tour our steps were a boat ride across Lake Manapouri, a bus ride to the edge of the Doubtful Fiord, and then a 3 hour boat tour of the fiord itself. The Doubtful Sound cruise was characterized with many waterfalls, a lot of fog, rain and cloud cover. We were hoping for better views, but you can’t have everything. We were constantly reminding ourselves as we were wishing that the rain would stop and the cloud would lift that 2 out of every 3 days in this area, it is raining! SO, we were getting a very typical day on Doubtful Sound! Despite the rain, we still managed to snap a few photos.
High Wind on Lake Manapouri; Hills around Doubtfull Sound; Doubtful Sound; Doubtfull Sound Again
Shotover Jet December 27.
One of the many options for the thrill seeking, fun loving tourist in the town of Queenstown is a ride on a jet boat that drives insanely fast up and down a canyon in the Shotover river. The driver will zoom through a canyon, (Do you remember the canyon swing? Same place.), and turn the boat so that it is facing a bunch of rocks and narrowly misses them. SO, while Gwen and Paul went for the less adventurous, yet quite enjoyable apple pie and chocolate cake with hot drinks in a cafe overlooking the main street in Queenstown, Ayden and Claire got their adrenaline pumping with the Cronsberrys family on the Shotover Jet Boat!. Wind whipped but full of wonderful tales, the jetters met up with the munchers for a picnic lunch in the rain. In fact the rain that started at this point did not stop for 24 hours. We had eaten dinner, slept for the night, packed up and left the bach before we had a break in the driving rain. Indeed, even as we write this now, the rain is pelting outside. Yes, all this rain is bringing back very fond memories of our adventures in Australia!