Let's go round again!
May 31, 2005
|Doug's parents arrived in Christchurch on Monday 23rd and we spent a couple of days redoing the sights and revisiting the best restaurants and bars.
We returned to Akaroa on Wednesday and redid the dolphin watching cruise, which was even better the second time. We went right out to sea and around to Scenery Nook where we saw some wierd and wonderful rock formations and plenty of dolphins. On the way back into harbour we saw several seals lying around and moving about on the rocks, they were amazing.
On Thursday we drove down the east coast to Dunedin and on Friday we went on the Taieri Gorge Railway, a four hour trip out to a beautiful gorge. We travelled through some beautiful scenery and over some scary narrow viaducts, it was a great trip.
On Saturday we drove west to Te Anau and on Sunday we made the hair-raising journey out to Milford Sound. We had to pass through the Southern Alps at an altitude of over 500 metres and then through the Homer Tunnel which was a terrifying experience! There was barely room for the two lanes of traffic and it was incredibly dark, and clogged with diesel fumes. It was absolutely worth it though for the scenery on the other side, which was covered with thick snow.
We stopped at The Chasm first, a waterfall which you could walk over the top of, where we watched the water rush through some amazing rock formations, it was very impressive and not like anything else we've seen.
Milford Sound itself is best seen from the water so we headed out by boat. The sound is actually a glacial valley and was stunningly beautiful. Sadly the weather was cold, wet and windy but in some ways this was good because the waterfalls were flowing, making the sheer rock sides even more magical. We stopped off at the Underwater Observatory on the way back in which was well worth the extra time and money. We descended about 8 metres below the water to see rare black coral and fantastic fish, much easier and warmer than scuba diving!
The drive back to Te Anau was a scary experience as it had been snowing all day and still was as we left the town. The road was being constantly cleared by snow ploughs and we were advised to use snow chains. It was snowing hard and the road was very windy. Although it was a difficult drive the scenery was incredible, the mountains and forest were beautiful and we almost had the whole place to ourselves. It was one of the most stunning things we've seen on our trip.
Yesterday we drove on to Queenstown. We booked ourselves straight onto the Shotover Jet, a jetboat trip on the Shotover River. It was fantastic, the driver goes incredibly fast through tiny gaps in the canyon walls and does 360 degree turns. The boats can operate in only 10cms of water so it constantly appeared as if we were going to run aground. We came within a couple of inches of the rock faces on each side, it was a thrilling experience!
After that we didn't have much energy left but did manage a gentle ride on the Gondola which goes up to a summit overlooking Queenstown, where we watched the sunset over some amazing views.
This morning we left the tourist trap and wallet crippler that is Queenstown for the long drive up here to Franz Josef Glacier. We saw some more fantastic scenery today, snow capped mountains and beautiful unspoilt lakes. We are here for the Heli-Hiking trip up the Glacier tomorrow, weather permitting.