We just got back from a trip to Queenstown and doing the Milford Track. Although our trip ended with a cruise through the Milford Sound:
It didn't start out that smoothly. The not smooth part being that we missed our plane. Well our plane was still there when we arrived, but we missed our gate closing by five minutes. Even though it's easy, breezy Cover Girl getting through the airport, you have to actually check in by a certain time prior to departure. Duh. Unfortunately, our five minutes late cost us a pretty penny seeing as we had to buy completely brand new tickets. Ouch.
So instead of spending the morning in Queenstown we spent the morning in the Koru Club, Air New Zealand's lounge for travelers who prefer to recover from their missed flights surrounded by free croissants and businessmen. After not talking to each other for about four hours we got on the next flight and our fabulous vacation began.
Queenstown pretty much immediately jumped to the top of my favorite New Zealand places list. It is the most beautiful little mountain town. We strolled around, had lunch at Fergburger, and took the gondola to the top to see the fantastic views:
Me paragliding. Not. We did enjoy watching the other brave souls though. And when on top of a mountain why not go for an afternoon Luge. Safety first:
After that it was off to our pre-track briefing where we met the other members of the group we would be living and walking with for the next five days. So here's the deal, there are two ways you can do this Milford Track hike, the "guided" way or the "independent" way. As soon as I realized that guided translated to showers and hot meals and independent meant sharing one room with 40 other people who had not showered, I was all about being guided.
Apparently this option was also very attractive to the 50 plus crowd, as Adam and I were the youngest people in our group by many, many, years. As we watched an Asian woman get the video camera out to film her husband trying on his backpack in a conference room, we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. We ate dinner at Botaswana Butchery and spotted Don Cheadle from Hotel Rwanda and Ocean's 11 dining next to us. He was not in town to conquer the Milford Track like us but to film a movie. Go figure.
Queenstown was great, but what we really came to the South Island to do was go on "the finest walk in the world" according to a NZ poet I've never heard of. Despite not knowing this poet, after completing the track, I would have to agree.
Probably because we got to walk through scenery like this:
And see waterfalls like this:
And how bout the same waterfall up close:
And another along the trail:
And I'm pretty sure a hobbit lives in this forest:
I am kind of obsessed with the trees in this country. I've never seen so many amazing ones in one place. Speaking of amazing:
Most of the time we had great weather. Warm days where a dip in nature's pool was a much welcome break for my feet:
When we crossed over the top of McKinnon Pass after many miles up hill, it was cold, rainy, and not very clear but we were glad we reached the top and even gladder when one of our group leaders was waiting at the top with hot chocolate:
Oh yes, hot chocolate is included in the guided option, who knew?! So, we hiked between 10-13 miles a day and at night hung out at the lodge with our new friends. We met some really wonderful people. Imagine camp for adults. And with a bar.
Our best friends on the trip were a lovely group of Aussies. The group was made up of all kinds - Kiwis, Europeans, and Asians, including a white man and his subservient Japanese wife who kept up one of our Aussie friends the first night with their, ahem, explicit adult time. The lodges were very comfortable, as proven by couple just mentioned. Hey check out the view of Mitre Peak from our place the last night:
The great thing about the hike was that even though we were in a group we didn't actually walk as a group. You meandered at your own pace, passing people, or stopping for lunch with other travellers, meeting people from all over the world. Perhaps filling your water bottle from the stream running next to you. Ok, a quick word about the water. I have never and I repeat never seen water so clear and pure. Imagine a river that you could drink from and see all the way to the bottom. We are talking crystal clear people. Amazing. Anyway, it was a great trip and I can now check Milford Track off the bucket list:
Well that's a wrap folks but here's one more for the road. If you thought this place looked good in color check out the black and white version...