Cruising on Milford Sound
I spent several days
in Te Anau, a pleasant resort town surrounded by
beautiful mountains, clear lakes, rolling farmland, and captivating fjords.
My food supplies were running low, so
I stopped at the grocery store in Te
Anau the second day I was there and got restocked -- carefully avoiding the
mutton sausages that were my staple during my first week here in New Zealand (for
my not-so-flattering description of mutton sausages,
see News: January
1, 2002 ). That evening,
after a great fish and chips dinner, I strolled around
town in my shorts and t-shirt and watched a beautiful sunset by the shores of
Lake Manapouri. Te Anau is kind of a party town in the summer time, and
there were lots of teens and 20-somethings strolling the streets and having a
Sound cruise was pretty amazing, but I'd heard even better things about
Milford Sound so I decided to check it out. Doubtful Sound is pretty
hard to get to, as I described in my last entry, since you have to drive
to the boat dock, take a boat across the lake to the bus, take the bus
down to the sound, then take another boat through the sound. Milford
Sound is a lot more accessible: basically, you just drive 119
kilometers from Te Anau to the sound, where you hop on a boat.
morning, therefore, I drove down to
Milford Sound and took my second cruise in two days. Milford Sound
is quite different from Doubtful Sound. On the plus side, it's much
more precipitous and, I think, more spectacular, but on the down side, its
much shorter than Doubtful Sound and its a lot more crowded. Imagine filling Yosemite Valley with seawater and then adding lots
of ferns and rain, and you'll get an idea of what Milford Sound is like.
What made it even more fascinating was that it had rained earlier that
morning and the waterfalls were plunging
straight off the sheer granite cliffs. Because there's very little soil
here, though, the waterfalls are ephemeral and were all dry later that
The Milford cruises are pretty popular and the staging building
looked like an airport terminal with all the boats, tour buses, and people
coming and going, but I'd definitely recommend it. If you'd like an
experience with more solitude, though, check out Doubtful Sound.
Then again, if you're not sure (like me), do both. You won't regret
left: Driving to
Milford Sound the next morning to catch another cruise.
center: Another day, another
sound. This is Milford Sound, one of the most famous places in New
Zealand. Although the sound (and the cruise) was much shorter than
Doubtful Sound, it was even
more spectacular -- though it's also a lot more crowded.
right: The sheer granite walls in Milford Sound plunge straight down into the
water. This place gets so much rain that, even though this is the ocean, the top few yards
are freshwater. Freshwater or saltwater fishing -- take your pick.
left: I stopped at the floating
Underwater Observatory in Milford Sound where a spiral staircase
leads down to the observatory.
center: You can watch all kinds of cool aquatic life
from the observatory.
right: A couple of hitcher-hikers that I picked up on my way back to Te
Anau. That's Idit from Israel with the red cap and Jan from Holland on the
right. I ran into Idit again a week later at Fox Glacier, and she was
still wearing her red cap.
For Those Needing A Buzz
few days in Te Anau, I headed north one drippy morning and drove to Queenstown
(pop. 7,500). In case you've never heard of Queenstown, it's the
self-proclaimed "Adventure Capital of the World." I don't know about
the "world" part, but there are definitely more adventure activities
in Queenstown than anywhere else in New Zealand -- and that's saying a
LOT. There's plenty of hustle here for
the tourist dollar and if you've got the money, you can go jet-boating, bungy
jumping, paragliding, skiing, river surfing, aerial sightseeing, ballooning, and
just about any combination you can imagine (bungy jumping from a balloon, heli-skiing,
para-jet-bungy-surfing, etc.). The possibilities are endless, as the entrepreneurs here are
determined to prove. Even Bill Clinton loves it here. After he
visited a while back, he gushed, "I wish I had weeks to spend here."
In tribute to those
bungy fans, here's Van Halen singing Jump.
RealPlayer. If problems, see
Bill's recommendation, I was planning to spend a couple of days in Queenstown
but found it noisy and pretty darn congested, thanks partly to road construction
going on all over town. Even without the road construction, though, the activity level here is definitely on overload
so after a half-hour, I said, "So long," Bill Clinton's comments
notwithstanding. On my way out of town, however, I stopped at Kawarau
Gorge, the birthplace of bungy jumping, where I watched a dozen
adrenalin-seeking junkies take the plunge. It's not for me though because
-- o.k., I admit it -- I'm a wimp. But at least I'm a
half-hour, the rain started pouring on the poor bungy jumpers, so I made a dash
for the parking lot and headed on to the small town of Cromwell. Cromwell
isn't nearly as exciting as Queenstown, I'm afraid; instead, it's like a small version
of Invercargill. Despite it's adrenalin-challenged personality, Cromwell
felt like an old friend because the area, with the rolling grasslands and the
highway fruit stands, reminded me a lot of eastern
Oregon and Washington so I decided to spend the night there. If it weren't for
the Kiwi accent here and the cars driving on the left side of the road, I
would've sworn this town was somewhere out near Spokane.
the next day was to get to Mount Cook National Park, a few hours north of Cromwell, but as
I approached the park it started to rain once again, so I just kept driving
north, not wanting to waste a visit on something I couldn't see. I wasn't
sure where I was going to stay, but I just kept going and after a few hours on
the rain-soaked highway, I pulled into the pleasant town of Geraldine.
After taking out my AA lodging book, I discovered the charming Geraldine Motel, so I figured this
would be a good place to spend a day or two until the skies cleared. As
luck would have it, the New Zealand cricket team was playing an important match
on TV that afternoon and, even better, the town had a great fish & chips place, so
I was quite content. Better still, after playing for eight hours, New Zealand won with a wild,
come-from-behind finish over Australia just past midnight. Ah, life is good.
left: Queenstown was a big disappointment --
very noisy and crowded -- but I stopped outside of town at Kawarau Gorge where
Bungy Jumping was invented back in the 1980s. Note the raft in the river
that retrieves the jumpers... or their bodies.
center: Another victim, another $40.
Just kidding; actually it's very safe.
right: A few hours from the extremely wet West Coast, you're in
Otago, an area similar to eastern Washington. This is Lake Dunstan near
left: Genetically-engineered fruit in
center: Non-genetically engineered
flowers along the highway.
right: The rain returned on Saturday after I left Cromwell, so I just kept driving
north until it
left: Which it did a few hours later
here in Geraldine. This is the Geraldine Motel, the best motel I've stayed
at so far and only US$25 a night. Best of all, a New Zealand cricket match
was on TV that afternoon.
center: My favorite Kiwi cuisine, a fish
and chips dinner, all for about US$2. Malt vinegar (left) is essential.
right: The small, pleasant town of
Geraldine on Sunday morning.
||Left: According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Geraldine is
home of the world's largest sweater. The owners told me they knitted it
several years ago and, understandably, have never washed it.
25, 2002 (Hokitika, New Zealand)
16, 2002 (Te Anau, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 2 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
20, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
16, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
14, 2001 (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)
10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
3, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bellingham, Washington)
3, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
18, 2001 -- Part 3 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
18, 2001 (Watertown South Dakota)
17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
* * * * * * *
Travels (2001-02) >
New Zealand Trip
> January 20, 2002