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January 20, 2002  (Geraldine, New Zealand)

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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 good time.

 

The Doubtful 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. 

 

The next 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 afternoon. 

 

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 either one.

 

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Above left:  Driving to Milford Sound the next morning to catch another cruise.

Above 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.

Above 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.

 

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Above left:  I stopped at the floating Underwater Observatory in Milford Sound where a spiral staircase leads down to the observatory.

Above center:  You can watch all kinds of cool aquatic life from the observatory.

Above 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.

 

Queenstown:  For Those Needing A Buzz

After a 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.

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.

 

Based on 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 living wimp.

 

Within 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. 

 

My goal 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.

 

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Above 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.  

Above center:  Another victim, another $40.  Just kidding; actually it's very safe.

Above 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 Cromwell.

 

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Above left:  Genetically-engineered fruit in Cromwell.

Above center:  Non-genetically engineered flowers along the highway.

Above right:  The rain returned on Saturday after I left Cromwell, so I just kept driving north until it stopped...

 

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Above 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.

Above center:  My favorite Kiwi cuisine, a fish and chips dinner, all for about US$2.  Malt vinegar (left) is essential.

Above right:  The small, pleasant town of Geraldine on Sunday morning.

 

2-1578_At_The_Big_Jersey.jpg (37219 bytes)   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.

 

 

Next News

January 25, 2002  (Hokitika, New Zealand)

 

 

Previous News

January 16, 2002  (Te Anau, New Zealand)

January 12, 2002  -- Part 2  (Dunedin, New Zealand)

January 12, 2002  -- Part 1  (Dunedin, New Zealand)

January 1, 2002 -- Part 2  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

January 1, 2002 -- Part 1  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

December 24, 2001  (Wellington, New Zealand)

December 20, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)

December 16, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)

December 14, 2001  (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)

December 10, 2001  (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bellingham, Washington)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bellingham, Washington)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 3  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 6, 2001  (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 15, 2001  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

August 30, 2001  (Webster, South Dakota)

August 18, 2001  (Watertown South Dakota)

August 17, 2001  (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)

August 14, 2001  (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

August 10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)

August 6, 2001  (Manlius, New York)

July 23, 2001  (Middleton, Massachusetts)

July 22, 2001  (Boston, Massachusetts)

July 20, 2001  (Pomfret, Connecticut)

July 18, 2001  (Denton, Maryland)

July 16, 2001  (Cumberland, Virginia)

July 14, 2001  (Roanoke, Virginia)

July 9, 2001  (Sevierville, Tennessee)

July 8, 2001  (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)

July 5, 2001  (Manchester, Tennessee)

June 30, 2001  (Hohenwald, Tennessee)

June 29, 2001  (Corinth, Mississippi)

June 27, 2001  (Natchez, Mississippi)

June 24, 2001  (Austin, Texas)

June 20, 2001  (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)

June 18, 2001  (Clay Canyon, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 2  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 1  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 14, 2001  (San Diego, California)

June 11, 2001  (San Jose, California)

June 2, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

May 19, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 30, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 19, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

April 5, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

 

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