7:45pm 9th November

What a busy couple of days. We’re now in Invercargill, on the south of the south island. We’ve just had dinner and we’re enjoying a glass or two of wine before we head to bed, we’re both knackered. Our trip to Milford Sound was nothing short of spectacular.

Yesterday we woke up and had breakfast in a local cafĂ©, after finding a secure- ish parking spot for the camper. As we were on an overnight cruise that meant leaving our little snail’s shell behind for a night. Luckily for us, New Zealand’s crime rate is virtually non-existent, so there wasn’t too much issue in leaving the camper on a public road. To be safe, we took the really expensive stuff with us (ie this laptop).

After a slightly delayed start, we were picked up by the coach to Milford. We’re both so glad we never considered coach touring New Zealand: Although the coach driver was excellent, stopping regularly to point out some amazing sites, it was also somewhat annoying to be spending as much time stopped as moving. That aside we did get some terrific pictures, and we did get to meet the native alpine parrots, the Kea. They’re fun birds, dirty green and plump, inquisitive things.

After around three hours (to get 100km) we arrived at the sound. As expected it was utterly stunning, and this was before we’d even boarded our vessel. The boat itself was great too — a 60 passenger luxury cruiser with all the mod cons. Was so nice to have an en-suite after slumming it at camp sites and our dodgy chemical toilet!

On board we met up with a similarly-aged couple (also about a year married) who we got on with extremely well. Despite meeting other people and having transient friendships with them, with Lois and Andy we had enough time to actually make proper friends; hopefully we’ll keep in touch with them over email. They’ve been to NZ before and gave us loads of handy places to visit in Christchurch and other places remaining on our itinerary. Very handy indeed!

Milford Sound itself is beyond description. I think it only needs to be said we took over 450 photographs over the course of the trip. Utterly stunning.

After a cruise around the Sound with the captain explaining what we were seeing over the Tannoy, we moored up and were released to either kayak or go on one of the mini speedboats attached to the back of the ship. Ness and I both opted for the kayak option. We’ve never kayaked before but it was easy stuff; they’re very stable indeed and we quickly got the hang of the paddles. This afforded us the freedom to visit any region of the bay we were moored in at our own whims — we headed straight off to the beach area where we could see the local penguins. They were fabulous! Though shy, with a bit of patience we could see them hopping about and going about their penguiny business.

We must have had at least an hour of paddling about in the Sound before we were summoned back for dinner. Sadly we didn’t take the camera out on the kayaks — we were too scared we’d end up in the drink while trying to take photos!

After dinner (which was excellent) we enjoyed a few bottles of wine with our new friends before taking to the upper deck around midnight to watch the stars. The view of the southern hemisphere’s stars was unsurpassed: We could clearly see the Milky Way and the Southern Cross and indeed a myriad of tiny points of light in they sky. We were also lucky enough to see several shooting stars; it was magical.

The next morning we were woken early (well, 7am) for breakfast and a more in- depth tour of the periphery of the Sound. We took another boatload of photographs, including some stunning ones of the waterfalls running off the high cliff faces into the Sound.

After mooring back at the start point we hopped back onto the coach for the ride back to Te Anau. Unusually, it had snowed on the mountains as we crossed them and on one of our stop-offs I had time to build a mini-snowman, much to the amusement of the rest of the coach. Indeed, a few of the other people on the coach had never even seen snow before, which was quite remarkable!

After waving goodbye to Lois and Andy at Te Anau, we set off for Invercargill, arriving mid afternoon. After the gorgeous sights of Milford, Invercargill is a disappointment. It’s a fairly boring, industrialised city lacking in any charm whatsoever. Oh well; at least we don’t have to stay long — tomorrow we’re off to Dunedin, which is meant to be lovely.

Filed under: New Zealand Trip
Posted at 23:22:06 GMT on 9th November 2006.

About Matt Godbolt

Matt Godbolt is a C++ developer working in Chicago in the finance industry.