New Zealand Travelogue – Thursday, 22nd October 2015

Soundtrack: E-bow The Letter by REM. (I have no idea why this got stuck in my head. I don’t think I’ve heard this in years.)

Google Fit stats:

  • Activity: 3 hours 11 minutes
  • Distance: 9.2 km
  • Calories: 1,769
  • Steps: 13,864

For someone who doesn't like travel we sure used a lot of different modes of transport today. Let's count 'em so far:

  1. Hiace mini bus
  2. Plane
  3. Bus
  4. Boat
  5. Bus
  6. Plane
  7. Different Hiace mini bus
  8. Feet
  9. Gondola
  10. Luge
  11. Luge
  12. Gondola
  13. Feet
  14. Beer scooter

(13 and 14 may be the same thing. It's hard to tell.)

And those are just the modes of transport today!

We started the day off a bit tired. I didn't get a good night's sleep, and SWMBO's was worse. Today was another big day  – we were off on a scenic flight to Milford Sound – so this didn’t auger well. At least it’s a lovely day here.

Another glorious day in New Zealand

We were picked up from The Whistler where we are staying (nearer 9:20am than the quoted 9:05am, but ah well) and taken to Queenstown airport.

There followed a very relaxed approach to boarding a plane. More plane experiences like this please!

Our carriage awaits!

The plane took off around 10am and followed a very scenic route to Milford Sound. (It was a scenic flight, after all.) SWMBO was in the co pilot seat. She had an incredible view of the whole flight. I thought this was a good thing. She was a bit less than happy at it by the end of the flight.

SWMBO The Co-Pilot

I sat right behind SWMBO on the plane. Funny thing – the seat had no Jesus Handles, but right up where you’d expect them to be was the Emergency-Pull-This-To-Remove-Window lever. Yeah, the handle that ditched the entire window was right where you’d grab something to hold on during turbulence. I made a mental note not to grab it. Then I noticed how close the propeller was to the window and I made an extra mental note not to grab it.

The shadow of our wee plane after take-off

The scenery was stunning. All the scenery in New Zealand is stunning. I’ve run out of superlatives for the scenery. But on the scenic flight to Milford Sound, yes, the scenery was terrific.

This is the view out my side of the plane

The promotional material for the flight made a point of saying everyone got a window seat. I chuckled at that, the hidden meaning being the plane was so small there was only room for two-abreast seating.

This is the view out the other side

But yeah, stunning scenery.

Just passing by a mountain

The whole way through the journey I was mentally landing the plane. Some emergency would pop into my head and I’d fret about what to do. There was never any indication that the pilot was unwell, and he seemed very capable, but my brain wouldn’t stop checklisting away.

Turbulence a few times made the trip ‘interesting’ (it took extra effort not to grab the non-existent Jesus Handles) but we landed safely. Never had any doubts!

An uneventful bus journey took us from the airport to the boat for a two and a half hour cruise around Milford Sound.

A tolerant SWMBO in front of the tour boat

The trip got gradually colder and colder. We were well prepared and took seats outside on the upper deck. So did some unprepared people (in jeans!) but they quickly went inside as they got cold and damp.

I’ve run out of words to describe the scenery. Get ready for a lot of pictures of mountains and waterfalls.

Looking back at Milford Sound just as we were leaving


A waterfall

Another waterfall

SWMBO with me (looking like a Sontaran), posing in front of a waterfall

A big waterfall

Lots of waterfalls

A very big waterfall

There are at least five seals in this picture

A spectacular waterfall

The tour boat made a point of dipping its nose underneath one of the waterfalls so I got quite drenched in fresh New Zealand water. (The captain did give plenty of notice this was going to happen, but how often in your life are you going to get the chance to take a fully natural shower on the far side of the world?) The waterproof coat helped a lot, and the rest of me dried out quite quickly.

The boat went to a beach where penguins are known to nest. SWMBO saw a penguin, she thinks, but I didn’t see any. We wondered if it was just an animatronic penguin set up for the tourists, but it was much farther away than the penguins we saw at Lake Moeraki just a few days before.

The scenery of Milford Sound really is jawdroppingly beautiful. There’s more to it than just waterfalls, even if that is all I took snaps of – I  did say I like flowing water!

After the boat tour there was another uneventful bus journey to the airport and then we were on the plane back to Queenstown.

This time I got the co-pilot seat! Terror took a different form for this flight. Instead of worrying about the pilot and concentrating on not grabbing the Jesus Handles, this time I was too big for the seat.

View from the co-pilot’s seat

I’m often cramped on planes, and being cramped is uncomfortable, but here it was terrifying! All the important controls were just a nudge away. If your leg jumps and you’re in the co-pilot seat, you might hit the pedals. Your knees are close to the yoke. There are buttons and switches on every available surface. My checklist for the flight was just:

  • Do not touch the yoke
  • Do not touch the pedals
  • Do not touch the buttons
  • Do not touch anything

You know when you’re in turbulence and you feel like you’re falling? I kept telling myself that when that happened Do Not Grab Anything. Not just Don’t Grab The Jesus Handles, but the full Don’t Touch Anything.

I spent the entire 40 minute flight cramped, coiled up and terrified I was going to kill us all.

New Zealand did its best again, with more spectacular scenery.

Beautiful colours

Terrified as I was it was a huge thrill to sit there and I’m really glad I did.

Landing safely

We landed safely, of course. I did feel a bit like kissing the ground when we got out of the plane though!

Another uneventful Hiace minibus trip and we’re back in the apartment, only to find out we’ve no tea! So, with nothing planned for the afternoon we walked up the gondola to Skyline.

In the gondola, looking down towards Queenstown

There is increasing evidence that I’m scared of heights. (You may have noticed this.) I never used to be scared of heights but now apparently I am.

Riding a gondola up a mountain is not a good place to discover this. My mind kept playing scenes from Where Eagles Dare to distract itself.

The view from the top is – once again – spectacular.

Queenstown seen from the Skyline

They have a luge here too – just like Rotorua’s but maybe a little shorter. So we went down the luge. Twice. It was fun.

Chairlift selfie! This is on the way back up from the end of the luge track

And finally we left there, taking the gondola down. (Yes, the down journey was every bit as terrifying.)

Then it was dinner time so we headed in to the centre for food. We went to Finz – it was excellent. That’s two excellent meals in a row here in Queenstown. I had Oysters Kilpatrick and the overnight-cooked beef short rib. Delicious. The waiter talked about his current obsession with Mondillo wine, so of course we had a bottle.

Tasty wine

This was followed by a dander to Speight’s Ale House (the Distinction Ale was quite nice) and the bee scooter back to the apartment.

And here we are. Knackered!

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