New Zealand - 2007
Our journey to New Zealand, to board the Spirit of Enderby, commenced on October 24. We flew from Seattle to LA,
Auckland, and Queenstown. As a result of crossing the dateline, we never experienced October 25.
Flying into Queenstown was an experience. The last twenty minutes of the flight took place over the "Southern Alps"
which are pictured below. It was a very bumpy flight into Queenstown passing very close to mountains and making a full
circle in a valley that did not seem big enough to accommodate a circling Boeing 737. A few days later the few planes
that tried to make it into Queenstown encountered wind sheer and aborted their landings.
Queenstown is called the Adventure Capital of New Zealand. Since we had little desire to experience the thrills as
bungee jumping, hang gliding, or jet boating, we got in our rental car and proceeded in the left lane to Te Anau which is
located in Fiordland National Park.
Fortune was on our side. Prior to our arrival, southern New Zealand had experienced one of its worst Octobers for
weather. The day we arrived was the first day that snow chains were not required to reach Milford Sound. The road from
Te Anau to Milford Sound is 119 kilometers of some of the most scenic road in the world. At the beginning of the road to
Milford Sound, there is a small entrance station and gate where they told us that the road would be closed at the
avalanche area until 9:30 for avalanche clearing. However, to our delight, when we got to the avalanche area, there was
no road closure. Pictured below are the mountains we crossed getting to Milford Sound.
Due to the high avalanche danger, we were not permitted to stop in the avalanche area. At the 101 km point we passed
through the 1200 meter Homer tunnel which was begun in 1935 and not finished until 1953. It is very narrow with rock
shaped features. Fortunately Jackie did not know what she was in for as she would have declined the trip to Milford
Sound had she known about this narrow tunnel.
Arriving at Milford Sound, we were greeted with a spectacular view of the ten mile long fiord.
Milford Sound gets 25 feet of rain a year, but we were treated to blue skies for our visit. With the abundance of rain fall,
there were water falls everywhere.
There were dolphins (above), seals, and lots of birds.
But the biggest treat was seeing one of the rarest
penguins, the Fiordland Crested Penguin.
such as this one
thousands of feet
down the walls of
Looking back at Milford Sound
from the entrance on the Tasman
Following our trip around Milford Sound, we paused on the way back to hike a portion of the Routeburn Track (below
Finally, we stopped off to do a
nature walk along the road (left
and below). It was a very busy
first day in Southern New Zealand.