We are in fear of being hounded out of the country by irate DOC Rangers, Apparently, BBQ Pommies are the dish of the week according to a comment left from Marilyn. This alone has sent us running for the hills. So to make sure we are not on their menu there will be no negativity on today's post heading but..... as for the blog, it seems the Jameisons are still having issues with excursions and we are starting to question "Why us!"
Before I relate the story, I will mention the positives. Milford Sound, wow what a place to visit. For a change it was bathed in sunlight, (The mean annual rainfall is 6,813mm, and it rains there on average 182 days a year.) The nasty sandflies kept away and the scenery was to die for. Bruce our coach driver was brilliant, funny, told jokes, gave us quiz questions and kept up a running commentary throughout the journey. He even told us that Milford and Doubtful are not actually Sounds. They are in fact Fjords! This from Aurora Expeditions
A fjord is an underwater valley carved by glaciers. Generally narrow, with steep-sided mountains on either side, these U and V shaped valleys were carved by ancient rivers of ice which have since disappeared. Because these valleys are below sea level, they have been inundated with sea water, creating the fjords we see today.
And sounds are
Like a fjord, a sound is a valley that has been filled with sea water. However, a sound is usually formed by the flooding of a river valley, not a glacial valley. This means that the topography is usually less narrow and more gently sloping than a fjord, but it is no less spectacular.
The only true sound in New Zealand is actually in Marlborough.
To continue with our let down, We were picked up by Bruce (as mentioned) of Southern Discoveries at 8.15am. Not 15 minutes into the journey and he gets a phone call. Being the good driver he is, pulled over to take the call. The news was not good. Seems the boat we were booked on had broken down...really?.... not another breakdown to contend with! This was getting monotonous! What it did mean though, we now had to go on a much earlier boat, a larger vessel and not the small nature encounter boat we had booked specifically because of the independent travellers onboard, no tour groups and commentary by experienced English speaking guides only. The large vessel could take several coach loads of tourist and was more of a scenic cruise then the nature cruise. Most of the coaches arriving were full of Chinese tourists. With it being the two weeks of Chinese new year, (year of the Rat) New Zealand seems to be the prefered destination for a mass getaway to celebrate this festive time. A full boat did not appeal to us at all!
And to top it all, with having to get an earlier boat, it meant we could not stop off to admire some of the points of interest stated in the brochure. To say all the passengers on the coach were miffed was an understatement. And before we entered Milford Conservation area the coach was stopped by the Police for a good ten minutes while the underside of the coach, as well as the wheels, were all examined. Goodness knows why unless it was something to do with harbouring unwanted pests or even drug smuggling. (or was it maybe that the DOC was trying to find us because they were waiting for their BBQ!)
|We were pulled over, most cars and other coaches got through.|
|At least I got to take a photo of the rainbow whilst waiting.|
Bruce did manage to take in two of the stops, one at the Mirror Lake and the other a toilet break at Knobs Flat.
The journey to Milford had the most spectacular scenery. The camera was always pointed at something.
|Held up at Homer tunnel for 5 minutes|
As soon as we arrived at Milford we were ushered to the boat. Us and the16 other people on our coach were last in a long queue of Chinese tourists and we resigned ourselves to taking what ever seating was left. But then one of the crew came to our group and escorted the lot of us to the VIP lounge on the upper enclosed lounge with luxurious seating and an outside viewing deck.. It didn't quite make up for the disappointment of not doing the nature cruise but all 18 of us appreciated the way Bruce from Southern Discoveries had managed to get us the VIP treatment.
|A lot larger than the boat booked.|
|At Milford before leaving the Wharf|
|Glum faces from both of us before we had the good news we were to go to the VIP lounge.|
So in a way, the trip turned out okay and we did get to see the Seals. We even had longer at the underwater observatory and Bruce also managed to stop at some of the places missed when on the return trip to Te Anau.
|Returning to Milford Wharf|
So the places Bruce stopped included Knobs Flat (toilet stop) Hollyford Valley Lookout, The Chasm where a short looped walk to see the waterfall could be done and I finally got to see a mere glimpse of a Kea and lastly the Te Anau Downs.
|This was the briefest of glimpses of a Kea running up the slip road to the carpark at the Chasm.|
|Hollyford Valley Lookout,|
|Waterfall at the Chasm|
|Te Anau Downs|