New Zealand Nov 2004 trip – Milford Sound

This is part of some travelling notes I wrote exactly 4 years ago for a trip to New Zealand in November 2004. Please enjoy the story.

Day 4, 09 November 2004, Tuesday

Rose at 6:05am, intent on getting pictures of Lake Te Anau. Gobbled down the last quarter of the leftover pizza from last night’s dinner, and set off at 7:00am. Strolled along the side of the lake and got to the end of one side of it.

Lake Te Anau in the morning

Milford Track founder, Quintin Mackinnon.
Milford Track founder, Quintin Mackinnon.

Took a photo of a statue of the man who found the Milford Track. Then the drizzle that had been present started to get heavier. I prudently decided to explore Te Anau a little closer to my hotel at that point. Met Shuli and her husband. They were leaving already. The rain gradually became a downpour. I started running back the way I came, but the rain became so heavy that I had to hide under a tree for a while. 7:30am. Didn’t even get to walk more than half an hour.

Lone ship again

Rainbow in the corner
Felt like tilting the camera. So I did. Caught a rainbow too.

The rain lightened up, and I took the chance to race towards the town centre. Took shelter at the local bakery, and since I’m there, might as well order an original Earl Grey with milk (I was freezing) for NZ3.00. I milled around my sheltered side of the road and then decided to walk back towards the lake. Hey, it’s about the only attraction here, and besides, the sky seemed to be clearing. At least the rain drops weren’t the size of mothballs anymore.

I reached the edge of the lake and took shelter at the tourist shop there. This was 8:10am. I decided I had to be back at the hotel to finish packing at 9:00am, to be ready for the 9:45am coach to Milford Sound. Droves of tourists arrived then. There’s Koreans, Chinese, Japanese and foreigners. I don’t mean to be rude, because I can’t really tell if a blondish-brownish haired foreigner is an American, Australian, European and what have you. Sorry.

Luxmore hotel
Luxmore hotel, where I stayed the night before.

Finally waited for the sky to clear at about 8:20am. Took more pictures and since I’ve pretty much done what I wanted, I said goodbye to the lake and went back earlier to the hotel. I checked my luggage, and it was at this point that it hit me; I’m running out of batteries. And camera memory.

I have a Milford Sound cruise coming up, Queenstown the next, Fox Glacier after that, and finally a train passing through some interesting terrain while speeding to Christchurch. And I’m left with half of my batteries. This, is bad.

I solved the battery problem by rushing to the hotel tourist store and buying 8 Kodak batteries (NZ15.80). I’ll think about the memory problem later. Last night, I’ve already cleaned out some obviously bad shots. Bought 3 postcards for NZ1.50 in case I don’t get nice shots during the cruise.

I checked out, and waited for the transfer transportation. Two vans turned up and one the lady drivers told me to hop on. My ticket says a coach but I’m confused at that point so I just obeyed her. The van travelled for like 20 metres, turned left and stopped. The coach station was right beside my hotel! Why make me haul the luggage onto the van then? I could’ve rolled it to the station myself… Waited for the coach, which actually came from Queenstown. At this point, my fascination with drivers’ names waned. Can’t remember his name this time round.

En route to the Milford Sound cruise, I met a Japanese 22 year old female, and her name’s Mie (mee-eh). Finally, my university basic Japanese class put to practical use. “Nihonjin deska?”, I asked if she’s a Japanese (obviously, but it pays to verify…), my first voluntary attempt at conversation on this ride.

Everything flowed from that point onwards. She’s in the middle of a one and a half year vacation. Yes, you read that right. One and a half year. She lived in Perth, and took a vacation to New Zealand. She started at Christchurch, went to Mount Cook (oh I don’t get to do that…), then to Queenstown, and now to the cruise. She has a boyfriend from Hong Kong, so she asked if I knew Cantonese. I said yes, and we exchanged a few phrases (her accent’s atrocious, but my Japanese isn’t that good anyway…). She mentioned Singlish (heard about it from her Singaporean friends), and asked if I’m really Singaporean, because I spoke what she termed as normal English (I’m flattered).

Mountain and sky reflection

Giant tree by roadside

Misty mountainside

Churning stream

Tumbling waters

Didn’t manage to get a good shot of Homer Tunnel (really long and narrow and dark tunnel). Well, I reached Milford Sound, after a few scenic stops (read camera memory depleting stops). Learned from driver’s commentary that the difference between a sound and a fiord is that a sound is carved by water, whereas a fiord is carved by glaciers. On the cruise, there was some buffet food, but I didn’t know if I could take some (without having to pay extra). Didn’t bother to find out, so no lunch. 1:30pm now.

Milford Sound waterfall
My first waterfall.

Vincent clutching handrail
Clutching handrail for dear life. Yes the smile was partially forced. That ship can rock!

Milford Sound mountainside

Waterfall closeup

Waterfall source

Double waterfalls

Cloudy sky

Tasman Sea
The endless sea. Tasman Sea if I’m correct.

Seals
Seals!

Dolphin
Dolphins! Didn’t get them beaching… 🙁

Waterfall point of impact
Aw man, the spray… look at the beautiful concentric circles…

Invisible penguin
There’s supposed to be a penguin here. Can’t for the life of me find it. I finally glimpsed it, but didn’t catch the bird in digital…

I went all out on the cruise. The waterfalls are GORGEOUS! At the end of the cruise, I checked my camera and found I only have 65 shots left. Oh dear… 3 alternatives:

  • Clean memory and take less pictures.
  • Get new memory card.
  • Download pictures into CD, so I can reuse the card (suggested by Mie).

I’m actually more inclined towards option 2.

Cruise finished at 3:30pm. The coach backtracked to Te Anau first for a break, where I went to the pharmacy because I heard an old lady buying a memory card there yesterday. Queue too long, so gave up. Bought a chocolate milkshake because I didn’t think it’s healthy for my stomach to go so long without food, though my stomach’s not complaining too much. The coach then started its long journey to Queenstown.

The journey to Queenstown was similar to the coach rides I had before. At least the first part. Rolling hills and plains. More sheep. More trees. Then suddenly, a large body of water (Lake Wakatipu) appeared on the left side of the coach and steep cliffs on the right. Sometimes, the road hugged close to the left edge, where a watery demise awaited. Or unrelenting rocks on the right threatened to smash the coach.

After the nerve-wrecking journey, I finally arrived at Queenstown at 8:00pm. Said sayonara to Mie and went to check in at the hotel. Room 428. One word. Bad. It’s at the corner. There’s a separating door just outside of the room that keeps opening and closing because of human traffic. I kept thinking my room’s been entered. Also, the room’s beside the main road, and far away from the reception.

Freshened up a little and went to ask the receptionist about the “extreme” activities. I was interested in paragliding and jetboating. Well, it’s 8:30pm, the activities centres are closed (I thought as much), so the receptionist told me they could make appointments for me, which will take place at 8:00am the next day. That’s fine, so I thanked her, and went looking for food. Seems like my basic task upon arrival in a new place.

Family of ducks

Queenstown evening

Walked around town, tried to check out the place Mie suggested for the picture downloading (failed. Couldn’t find it.). And got lost. Again. Yeah, big surprise. Looked for something familiar. Wanted Pizza Hut but couldn’t find the place. Distinctly remembered seeing the signs of Pizza Hut, KFC and McDonald’s. Well, I couldn’t find Pizza Hut, McDonald’s doesn’t seem accessible (found only the sign, but no sign of the restaurant itself), so I’m left with KFC. Plus I’ve gone without solid food for about 13-14 hours, so no time to think. I had Colonel burger (not bad), fries (could build salt castles with the sodium chloride they put) and Sun Crush (an orange flavoured fizzy drink) for NZ7.20.

The sky was dark, and there were these four formidable-looking men sitting beside me who made me a tad bit uncomfortable. I munched as quickly yet confidently (don’t let them think I’m easy prey) as I could, and left for the hotel. Didn’t want to grab my Lonely Planet guide (I’m lost, remember?), but found a familiar road construction sign (Queenstown currently undergoing heavy road construction) I passed earlier.

I found my way back to the hotel (there’s a steep climb up). Fiddled with the room like the days before to make it, uh, as burglar-proof as possible. And uh, while fiddling with the window blinds, uh, broke it. *sigh* In my defense, the blinds were probably weak in the first place. Will tell receptionist tomorrow anyway. This room is by far the largest, and I’ve eaten dinner the latest so far (9:00pm), and as of this writing, it is now 11:59pm. Good night.