These last few days have been filled with all kinds of wonderful New Zealandy adventures.
We spent our second day in Queenstown hiking the Ben Lomand track which was fantastic. The wispy clouds hang low here in New Zealand, hugging the mountains before they even reach the peak. This gave us the opportunity to climb through and above the clouds, providing us with a diverse range of sights all the way up. It was a little chilly and snow began to crunch beneath our boots by the time we reached the saddle, but we got the chance to take enjoy our accomplishment with a few summit beers and pb&j’s and the track was absolutely beautiful from start to finish.
We hung around for a while the next morning hoping to get skydiving in but couldn’t get lucky as the clouds continued to hang too low. That has to be my fourth thwarted skydiving attempt now… Haha maybe it’s not meant to be? We spent the rest of the day journeying to and around Milford Sound – the gem of the stunning Fiordland National Park. The drive there was simply breathtaking. We passed through Te Anau right along Lake Te Anau, New Zealand’s second largest lake, stopped at the pretty Mirror Lakes for pictures, and drove through the Fiordland Area until arriving at Milford Sound with it’s enormous rock peaks jutting vertically out of completely still reflective water and nestling into the low hanging clouds that exist here too.
Milford Sound is a cool area not only because of it’s natural beauty but because it has remained essentially untouched. Only 40 people live in Milford in the wintertime, about 200 in the summer, and all the residents work for tourism in the sound. They get all of their water and electricity from one of their permanent waterfalls and cannot build anymore. An old Maori legend says that the Goddess of Death put the annoying sand flies in the area to make sure people come to visit, but always leave in order to preserve the natural beauty.
After arriving, we walked around, saw the sound from walking trails and made our way to Homer Hut in the Gertrude Valley. This was basically glorified camping (full kitchen, running water, mattresses) and we got a night of free accommodation. The best part was that the hut was set in a valley between mountains and the view of the snow-capped-peaks against the constellations and bright white moon was unbeatable.
The next day we climbed our way up to Gertrude’s Saddle. I would imagine that in the summertime, the hike is relatively easy compared to some of the other ones we’ve done but it felt rather treacherous with all the ice and snow that is coming with winter. Let’s just say there were moments on that mountain that scared me so much that bungy jumping seemed tame. Looking back on it, I think I was psyching myself out (anyone who knows me at all knows how much I fall over my own two feet while walking on even ground) whenever I slipped on the ice and especially when thinking about making it back down, but after almost quitting twice, Bennett and I finally joined Pete (who breezed right through it) at the the top. And it was so worth it. The view of the sound was jaw dropping – words will never do it justice. The way back down ended up being a lot easier and harmless except for a few bumps and bruises that I should expect from any normal day, since we ended up taking a different route down where the ice had significantly melted. The combination of the adrenaline rushes, the thrill of overcoming my fears, being so active out in nature and drinking in such beautiful sights might have made it one of my favorite days yet. We spent that night at the Milford Sound Lodge rather than the hut and got in some good warm food and showers.
This morning we took a kayaking tour of the sound which I really enjoyed. We lucked out and had an absolutely perfect day, which was awesome since I’ve never been kayaking before. It was a really wonderful way to see the sound and really feel it’s enormity while being totally at one with nature man (hippy voice but not kidding) and it was so so so beautiful. Milford sound is just unreal and anyone making it to New Zealand absolutely can’t afford to miss it. Were spending the night in Te Anau, the closest town nearby before making our way to Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers tomorrow morning!