Milford Sound, New Zealand

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Southern Alps Flights

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Milford Sound

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October 7, 2000

Awoke at 5:30 AM to start trying to find a way to Milford Sound.  Things are looking great.  We have a trip booked at 10:00 AM.  We had a Big Breakfast at McDonald's and booked the trip from there.  We have a backup trip planned at noon if 10:00 AM falls through.  Its 9:15 AM now so hopefully my next entry will be about Milford Sound. 

 We finally made it.  What a journey, but worth the wait.  I am trying to type this while Scott drives from Wanaka to the glaciers so I can barely see the screen and am bouncing all over the place so I excuse myself in the beginning for my spelling.  The reason we are leaving from Wanaka is because earlier on the way to breakfast we saw a guy in a van The Wanaka Conexixion (really how it was spelled) and Scott asked him "Hey Chief, What's there to do in Wanaka."  Chief replied with " Do you guys like to drink?"  We were a little taken aback that it's that obvious.  The guy told us everything you can do in Queenstown you can do in Wanaka.  It's a little town of 3000 people but has lots of bars.  The biggest plus it cuts off a little big of the long 100 plus kilometers of our trip to the glaciers.  So throughout the day we went back and forth on the pros and cons and decided to leave after Milford Sound and lunch.

Glenorchy Air Flight To Milford Sound Movie

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  Scott's A Little Nervous About Seven People (With One Being 350 Pound Glenn) In A Little Plane  

Glenorchy Air Flight Over The Dart Glacier

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 I had 2 reservations set up for Milford just to be safe.  We had a 10:00 trip planned with Glenorchy Air to fly to Milford, take the cruise out to the Abel Tasman Sea, and fly back to Queenstown.  Me, being a dough brain at times missed that they also did the Dart River.  We had been told the days before that the Dart and Shotover River Jet Boats would probably be closed for a couple of days because of all the rain so I didn't even think to ask about.  During the flight the pilot, a Pat Ball look-a-like I thought which was a little scary, asked the family if they were doing the Dart River.  We asked if we could do it also but when they were left off we found out that they were booked solid for the day.  Lesson learned, always ask, don't assume.  The weather changes here so quickly so do the tours status.  We thought we might have to use our 12:00 noon trip when our pick up still hadn't occurred at 9:45 AM for a 10:00 AM flight out of Queenstown.  I called the company and the assured me that they were on the way.  The driver, who ended up also being one of the pilots, apologized and explained that they hadn't used the planes for a couple days and when they got in to check them a bird had built a nest in one of the engines.  He told us it can be a problem and that they have foam rubber they use to avoid the problem but this bird had worked around the foam and they spent one half hour cleaning the engine.  On the way to the airport a coworker called to the van and asked the driver, again also a pilot, how far away we were in he said 2 minutes.  She misunderstood and asked, ten? Then he repeats 2 minutes then spells it for her T-O, 2 minutes.  Scott and I just look at other and hope he kidding but know he's not.  We didn't realize he was a pilot until they start organizing the planes passengers for departures.  Fortunately, at the time at least we got Andrew the Pat Ball look alike.  Glenorchy Air runs smaller planes and more than the other companies who used probably 20 seaters.  Our first plane was had me and the father of the family in the back seat.  The mother and 2 children in the middle seats, and the pilot and his copilot Scott in the front seat.  In fact the pilot has to get in before Scott so he has to close and secure the door like a stewardess.  This plane is really small I had some decent knee room but I had to due a turtle like move with my head to fit.  We took off and headed to Milford Sound via Te Anau. 

A Tight Fit For Glenn In The Glenorchy Air Plane   Sir Edmund Hillary's Practice Peak For Mount Everest Climb   The Milford Monarch

 The flight was actually pretty smooth except for a couple of bumpy moments.  The scenery is breathtaking.  Flying between the mountains was amazing.  This whole section I'm writing now will be fairly concise because word just can't do this trip justice.  I did take over 100 pictures during the day which is a lot even for me.  We flew by Sutherland Falls which Scott had really wanted to see but it was way off in the distance and you had to look back in a valley to see it.  I think Andrew said it was the fifth highest waterfall in the southern hemisphere.  We end flying out over the Tasman Sea and back down the middle of the fjord that is Milford Sound.  We were told later on the boat that Milford Sound is not a sound at all but a fjord.  They have a little airport there that holds a bunch of these little tour planes and helicopters.  We took a bus on a short ride to the boat departure.  This is why driving in would have been better because they had various other options than just the cruise which we did.  They had an underwater observatory, we saw sea kayakers and to just walk around for awhile instead of this quick 2 hour cruise.  We actually weren't the last people they were waiting for since we had our nesting problems.  The last helicopter got in and we departed.  You turn the corner and this huge waterfall that we saw from the air is right next to the dock.  It's just the beginning, because right in front of us it Mitre Peak.  The day has just turned out perfect.  The only real clouds are around some of the peaks because they are so high.  Since you are in a fjord all the mountains were lit up on the south side due to the time of day so we went down that side first.  The best way I can explain this place is sort of like Yosemite on a much greater scale and if Yosemite had waters filling its valley.  Of course I haven't seen Yosemite since I was 12 years old but from what I remember that's it.  Quite simply it's about the most beautiful place I have ever seen in all my travels. 

Fairy Falls At Milford Sound Movie

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  Milford Sound With Mitre Peak  

Cruising Past Waterfalls On Milford Sound Movie

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Cruising Milford Sound Movie

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Seals On Milford Sound Movie

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Cruising Past Mitre Peak Movie

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 The valley walls just shoot straight up thousands of feet and you can see the station marks of where a glacier had cut its way through.  Waterfalls are everywhere.  I was told that if you can see it during a rain storm it's really spectacular.  A quick side note, Scott slowed down and thought about a stop to do a walk but it's really raining hard so he kept going but after couple of seconds cursed and realized he was driving on the right side of the road.  He's been pretty good so far.  Back to Milford Sound, we saw a couple of seals swimming next to the boat.  The cruise takes you all the way out to the Abel Tasman Sea where it turns around and goes down the north side of the fjord.  At one point he positions the boat almost directly under one waterfall to the point that we were getting hit with the mist from the waterfall splash hitting the water itself.  We pulled right up to a bunch of fur seals sunning themselves.  Like I said before I just can't do the beauty for this place justice.  We got back to the docks and immediately took off for the Dart River.  Glenorchy Airs biggest difference from some of the other companies is that their return trip takes you north to see the Olivine Ice Fields and a bunch of glaciers.  We were flying through these enormous mountains and just feel really fell small, even myself.  Another neat sight we were flown by was the wall that Sir Edmund Hillary practiced before going to Mount Everest. 

Glenn On Milford Monarch In Front Of Mitre Peak   Sun Shining At Top Of Stirling Falls On Milford Sound   Lady Bowen Falls On Milford Sound - 161 Feet Tall   Scott, Glenn and Glenorchy Air Pilot Andrew In Front Of Mitre Peak

As we fly into Glenorchy itself to drop off the family for the Dart River Jet Boat the pilot comes on the radio and says he might have to circle and come in again because there are sheep on the runway. I was in the back and couldn't see so thought he was kidding.  As we are getting ready to land he is pulling out a book and checking something which didn't make me feel too good about this landing to begin with.  As we come in I'm looking out the window and sheep are running away from our plane and we are bouncing down the runway.  I finally figure it out, the reason for the sheep and the bouncing is we are landing on a grass runway.  When I factored that into the landing I think Andrew did great.  As I said before the Dart River was booked so we dropped off the family we were with and took off again.  I joked that now that we got rid of the family we can start doing loops and tricks and Andrew just laughed at me.  We take off and he pulls straight up and start turning and for I while I thought he might do something crazy but he didn't. We were gone for about 5 minutes when he tells us we got to go back to Glenorchy.  I was a little hopeful that someone cancelled their Dart River ride and we were going to get to go, but no such luck.  The pilot who spells 2, T -O flies in with two ladies and two other people arrive by car.  Our pilots plane is bigger than T-O's so the four are going to Milford Sound and we head back in a plane that holds 4 people including the pilot.  This time I get to sit in the front next to the pilot and he was a fairly tall man too so we were a tight fit.  All I tried to do was keep moving my knee out of the way of him turning knobs.  We get to Queenstown in May 15 minutes and circle the field to land.  I'm taking video and notice he's not going to land on the concrete runway but next to it so we get to bounce in again.  I think the only thing I can do now any smaller is a jet glider.  The Glenorchy Air lady who took us back to the Queenstown Motor Park said he does it because it's easier on the tires and their was another plane ready to take off and it made it faster for them.  We had still not paid for the trip yet since they were so behind in the morning so we paid at the motor park.  Regular rate was $260 NZ and they gave us both 10% off to $234 NZ for my travel agent rate.  That's about $100 US one of the best travel experiences of my life.

 Scott had earlier finally located The Cow so we went there for lunch.  The wood fired seafood pizza was great.  It had mussels, prawns, and fish pieces on it.  I found more great bar technology here.  In the bathrooms they had found the solution to graffiti.  Make all your walls chalkboards and provide chalk.  This is genius.  Also in the bathroom was one of those old pull chain toilets that was used in The Godfather but his one was all copper and very pretty for a toilet.  The bar also had a big huge fireplace, as did a lot of other bars in Queenstown.  As I check my notes I realized that this is when we met the Wanaka Connexxions guy.  Another sad thing about the walk there was that Red Rock was packed and the Potato Guy had taken the day off.  We might be his only clients.

Continue To Wanaka - Haast Pass - Jackson Bay

Back To Queenstown, New Zealand

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