23 May 2007
Te Anau, New Zealand
The drive from Te Anau to Milford was an easy two hour drive right up Highway 95. Along the way, there were plenty of scenic stops to make, but I didnt stop as I wanted to get to the boat in time.
There were about twenty other people waiting for the boarding at 3:30 PM…After a short safety demonstration, similar to the pre-flight drill on an airline Place the life jacket over your head, pull the straps around your waist we received the keys to our staterooms (?). A twin bedded room with a bathroom. I paid for a single cabin and had the stateroom(?) to myself.
The boat was a curious mix of a pleasure craft, sailing ship and tramp steamer all rolled into one. The bar opened soon after departure and all of the passengers went up top to take in the fjords. People come to see the fjords. I went for the bar to make myself a hot toddy to take to the top to see the fjords! It was cold and once the boat picked up speed it was very cold to stand in the windy top deck.
The hot toddy gave me the fortitude to remain topside a little longer, wonderful stuff that anti-freeze!
The afternoon entertainment consisted of either a boat ride on the tender ofr kayaking. I joined the tender cruise around the sheltered cove-Harrison Cove. We saw glaciers, fjords, a site for the Lord of the Rings film, and heard dialogue about the local flora and fauna.
Dinner was served and I sat with a computer guy from Boston and an Irish couple. The computer guy just came from a consulting gig in Sydney (Hey Mike S, I tried to find out who he worked for, who was consulting with, but he wouldnt budge) and the Irish couple are doing a round-the world trip. Sure makes for interesting dinner time conversation about where to go, where youve been, etc.
As we were in that sheltered cove, there was no discernable rocking motion and lots of quiet during the night. It rained during the night. Breakfast was served at 7:00 AM as the boat started up the engines and headed down the fjords toward the open sea, the Tasman Sea. It was still dark and around eight oclock, dawn arrived and we could see waterfalls galore running off the fjords into the water we sailed.
I have been extraordinarily lucky throughout the trip as I havent had a lot of rain.
Showers here and there, but an all night rain was exceedingly rare. This was one time, aboard the Milton Mariner, you actually wanted rain and lots of it.
As daybreak continued, we could see literally, hundreds of waterfalls, rainfall trickling down huge granite fjords. The rainfall looked like veins spilling down the fjords on both sides of the ship as we motored toward the open sea. Once we got there, the swells of the open sea starting rocking the boat, the rain pelted the foredeck and people took cover everywhere. As we turned around to start back up the fjords, everyone started taking pictures of the waterfalls. Some were mere trickles and others were raging, swollen deluges cascading into the waterway.
I took more pictures today, that any one day on the entire trip as it is/wqas a beautiful sight to see. At one point, the skipper relinquished the wheel, actually a joystick to come on deck and take pictures as well. The entire crew was out on deck marveling at the volume of water plunging down the mountainsides. The skipper even piloted the 120 foot boat into a waterfall and you wouldnt believe the torrent of water streaming onto the boat. Mist filled the air and everyone was delirious at the roar of the falling water and the cascading water. That was great fun and the skipper and crew were enjoying as well. It is a rare occurrence to get that kind of overnight rainfall and the resultant waterfalls. Some of the falls measured 150 meters or the same size of a fifty story office building. Pretty impressive stuff, Huh?
The boat returned to the dock at 9:30 in the morning and I started the drive back to Te Anau (as there is one way in and out) and this time I took four hours to stop at chasms, scenic spots, camping areas, nature hike spots and just thoroughly enjoyed taking even more pictures.
At one point, I stopped at a chasm that was just a raging torrent of water and saw the most amazing shapes of rocks that had been carved by the water. There were descriptives about the site and quotes from famous authors about what one saw. To paraphrase Thoreau: Man and tools cannot do what a touch of air and water over rocks and stones and a liberal allowance of time can do Tis true, indeed. The drive to Te Anau was pleasant enough and I checked into my hotel which is supposed to be right on Lake Te Anau. Well, it wasnt, but I had seen enough water for one day, so I didnt vetch!! I decided to take a little self-drive tour around Te Anau. Six minutes later I back where I started. Winter is fast approaching and only diehards stay here for the duration. Even the overnight boat cruises are shutting down after this week. Day cruises will continue as busloads of Japanese and other tourist pour into Milford for day cruises. They come from Queenstown, drive to Milton Sound and back to Queenstown in one day- A fourteen hour day. I like my relaxed two day approach to the same itinerary.
Tomorrow, I want to leave early for Queenstown as that is supposed to be the adventure capital of NZ. In the meantime, journey well!
posted Thursday May 2007