Day 6 & 7, Queenstown, New Zealand (Milford Sound Cruise & Kayaking)
Now, if someone would’ve told me before I went to New Zealand that they were going to Milford Sound, I would probably say: “Cool, where’s that?” When Jacob told me that it was a part of the itinerary, I performed an image search on Google and was completely blown away. If it was this beautiful and captivating in pictures, I couldn’t wait to see it with my own eyes.
Now, why should this day be any different from any other where we had an activity outside of Queenstown? Why wouldn’t we get stuck watching ‘Dear John’ on the movie channel in our hostel? Why shouldn’t we wait until the last possible minute to peel out of Queenstown? Those are all great questions, and they were all answered as we both realized that we had to shave at least an hour off of our drive to Milford Sound to make it on time for our cruise, and that we (get this) had been driving in the wrong direction for the past 10 minutes. Now, I was in ‘drive like we stole it’ mode and I was assuming that Jacob would tell me things like ‘right’ or ‘left’. Once he realized we were headed in the wrong direction, we U-turned and zoomed back to where we had come from. The talk about whether or not we should scrap this part of the trip came up as we zigzagged through narrow mountain passes, narrowly escaping death once; but we decided that even if the ship had sailed without us, we would find a way to hike around and get some good pictures of the area. It was decided…and I put the rental car to the test.
By the Grace of God or a time portal or just madman driving on my part…maybe a mixture of the three, we made it to the docks 35 minutes before our cruise was going to depart. We sat there, thankful to be alive, and took in the beauty that lay before us. Mountains that, out of nowhere, majestically jutted out of the water were sprawled out in front of us, and surrounded us with an intense sort of splendor.
Our ship’s name was the Milford Mariner and she sat in the harbor with a magnificence that seemed to make the other ships look like posers…o.k. maybe that was written from a bias standpoint, but she was a spectacle in my eyes. We dropped off our luggage in our room, which was surprisingly big for a cruise ship from what Jacob said. We made our way to the mess-deck and sat down with a pilot and his wife and another girl who were all from Great Britain, but who didn’t know each other. I’m so glad that we got placed at that table because none of the other tables were having a fraction of the fun that it seemed we were partaking in. A little later after lunch we went out to the bow to sightsee while the captain called out over the loud-speaker about what we were seeing, adding in clever and hilarious banter when appropriate (which is always). Apparently, the area was going on 7 days without rain, which they actually label as a drought, so the mountainsides which are usually replete with cascading waterfalls, now only had a few. We could see what looked like avalanche scars on the sides of the mountains, which were actually dried up waterfalls, now only trickling instead of roaring. That being said, there were still a handful that flowed faithfully as they have for thousands of years; and the captain even took us in for a really close look on the second day of the cruise.
A little later the first day, after the sightseeing of Milford Sound, we headed out to where the Tasman Sea began, and hopped in some kayaks to explore the caves and outcroppings along the coastline. For the most part this was an enjoyable activity, but for the second part of this little kayak journey, I had a fiesta of sand-flies pestering me and biting my sunburned neck. I honestly think I put off a pheromone or have sweet blood because they seemed to really like some people and leave others alone. A friend that Jacob and I had made on the cruise, Hazel, was nice enough to snap some pictures on her camera of us as we kayaked around. Both Jacob and I were scared to take anything out into the kayaks with us, since our perfect broneymoon trip had been slightly tarnished with my dropping of my iPhone into the Dart River on day 4. We got back on the boat as the captain circled the boat around Milford Sound again, trying to give us different views at different times of the day. It was at this point that we learned that the depth of most of what we were floating over was over 300 meters deep, because of glacial carving (around 1,100 ft if I remember correctly). That evening we watched a comical and informational video/slide show made by the crew about Milford Sound, which also showed just how incredible the area was while it’s rainy. After that we had a fantastic dinner and enjoyed the company of our new UK friends.
That night, Jacob got to see the Southern night sky (including the Southern Cross) for the first time, and I got to be reminded of just how beautiful it truly is. We chatted with some other passengers into the night, and then headed in to get some sleep for the next day, which was to be full of sightseeing on our drive back to Queenstown, since we didn’t do that AT ALL on the way in. 🙂
The next morning, Jacob got to witness this amazing dolphin pod miracle shown in the video below, while I was in the shower listening helplessly as the captain talked about how beautiful they were and listed off facts about the specific Dusky Dolphin species. By the time I got dried off and threw on some clothes, they had submerged or swam off to be awesome somewhere other than right by the boat. We also found out that all of the penguins that frequent the Tasman Sea edge of Milford Sound had literally all taken off 4 days before our cruise. We did however get to see some pretty sweet seal action on the way back to the docks. We watched as a couple of them waddled towards each other, mouth wide open (making, you know…that noise they do), and wrestled for best position on the rock they both inhabited. We got another great view of a beautiful waterfall and of Milford Sound in general, as the boat docked just moments later. We said goodbye to our new friends and set out on the road to try to get some nice scenery shots on our way back.
We stopped several times on the way back and got a chance to see some absolutely incredible scenery that we missed on the way in. I forgot to mention earlier, but to get in and out of the Milford Sound area, there is a mountain tunnel that you have to drive through, and there is a stoplight on either end to let you know if you’re able to drive through at the time or not. You can only go through every 15 minutes. On the entrance to Milford Sound side, there is a group (gang) of vehicle terrorizing parrots, which mostly prey on the rubber lining around the doors on the vehicle. From what Jacob and I heard from the ship’s crew, this behavior is taught by older generations of parrots, which goes to show that hate and terrorism are passed down from generation to generation.
Now little did we know, but after a few stops of breathtaking scenery, it was time to cross another to-do off our list. We picked up our first hitchhiker, an Aussie. Now, this was a first for both of us, so we were a little on edge. Whenever he said he just needed a ride a little ways up the road to where his car was broken down, both Jacob and I were thinking: “Suuuurrrrre ya do…..is that where you’re going to kill us both?” But when we arrived to his broke down van and saw his family waiting for him, we were elated to be alive. Well…we obviously had to do it again. Not an hour later and we see another guy who needed a ride, a Kiwi. This time it was for a lot longer than a few miles and we got to know the guy and to hear his life story AND about his artwork. After a while I looked over at Jacob who hadn’t said anything for a while. I thought he was mad at me for picking up another hitchhiker or for something else I didn’t know about. But it turned out he had a killer migraine and didn’t feel like talking to a body odor emitting hitchhiker or even me for that matter. We dropped our new buddy off at the crossroads to where he was going and made our way back into Queenstown where we rested and then went out for another night of exploring and nightlife, since it was indeed our last night in town.
I think Jacob and I both would agree that we couldn’t have hoped for a better trip. Just the sheer variety of what we did while in New Zealand was incredible. I mean…who skydives, rides in a helicopter, hikes on a glacier, tours glow-worm caves, kayaks down the river in the area where Lord of the Rings was filmed, takes a cruise of Milford Sound- all while meeting tons of people from countless countries around the world…all in a week? It’s fair to say that we were very blessed to be able to go on such a trip, and we thank you all for checking out some of our stories and pictures from our time there!