Sounding Milford OutA WANDER DOWN UNDER, CHAPTER 15: IN WHICH A SOUND RINGS HOLLOW
Day 16: Queenstown to Milford Sound. Milford Sound in Fjordland National Park is acclaimed as New Zealand's most famous tourist attraction, promising views of dramatic cliffs, majestic snow-covered mountains, and deep blue water filled with unique marine life. It was a no brainer for us. Of course, we had to visit this spectacular place.
When we arrived in Queenstown yesterday, we booked a helicopter flignt to the sound, followed by a cruise in the fjord and a fixed-wing flight back to Queenstown. On the way down, the helicopter was to make a landing on a glacier. Sound too good to be true? It was.
We knew that rain or snow could, and often did, cancel the flights, but the weather looked good when we started our day in Queenstown this morning. Even though Milford Sound is only about 55 miles away, it's on the other side of the Southern Alps, and its weather has vastly different influences. About half an hour before we were to be picked up by the airport shuttle, we received a call notifying us that our 9:00 flight had been called off due to weather at the sound. The same fate had befallen the 11 a.m. flight, so there was no opportunity to reschedule.
Since we've planned only one more day in Queenstown, and tomorrow's forecast already calls for rain, we decided to drive to Milford today. It's only 55 miles northeast of Queenstown, but there's one minor issue. There is no road across those 55 miles; the drive is a bit more circuitous.
When we asked the GPS to calculate the route from our hotel to Milford Sound, it came back with 183 miles that went like this. Drive 61 miles due south, turn right and go 40 miles due west. After another right turn, go 82 miles more or less due north.
|Deer farming in New Zealand (photo by mark-map.com)|
As with kudzu in the southern United States, the experiment was far more successful than anyone anticipated or desired. By the middle of the 20th century, the population of wild deer had grown to such proportions that they presented a threat to native forests. The government began to hire hunters to cull the herds and keep the numbers in check. In the 1960s, enterprising hunters began exporting venison, and a new industry was born. Rather than killing the excess deer population, industry pioneers began capturing them and putting them on farms. Today more than 3,500 deer farms in New Zealand raise almost two million deer annually.
|One scenic vista after another (much prettier than photo indicates)|
|Fifteen miles from Milford Sound|
|Waiting to enter the tunnel|
Needless to say, our Milford Sound experience didn't nearly live up to the hype we had read about this scenic area. Weather undermined our sightseeing, to be sure, but would it have been that much better? We have no way of knowing and find ourselves comparing the experience with a Kenai Fjords National Park cruise in Alaska where the views were much more interesting and we had a park ranger providing live narration and interaction.
Nevertheless, the views on the route from Queenstown to Milford were exquisite and well worth the trip.
Tomorrow, we plan to see some of the sights around Queenstown before moving on to Mount Cook.
We met an interesting fellow traveler on the cruise today—a native Korean who is a Catholic priest working at a medical facility for leprosy patients on mainland China. He is on vacation and was traveling alone.
- Started in Queenstown, ended in Queenstown
- Mileage - 354 (Trip total: 13,447)
- Weather - 36° to 54°, foggy, rainy, occasional snow
- Deer on farms - 2,847
- Sheep - 13,729
THURSDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER, 2014
More Photos from Today
|Our cruise ship|
|Waterfall we saw on cruise|
|Wetlands near Milford|
|Kea (New Zealand parrot) who greeted us as we waited for tunnel entrance|
|Alpaca farm we passed today|
|Another scenic view along the way|