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Day 12 : Wednesday 16th March 2005

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Milford Sound and Queenstown

If we thought we had driven a lot so far, then today was going to be a shock! We had decided to drive to Milford Sound, do a cruise, and then drive back through Te Anau and on to Queenstown. A full day of driving to be sure (and a virtually identical day to one Steady-EDI undertook in his Round-the-World trip almost a year ago to the day!!!)

The alarm went off at 6:30am, which caused much shock and commotion, but that was soon overcome! We had bought breakfast and lunch from the supermarket the day before, so that was quickly scoffed and we were checked out and on the road by 7:15am. The drive was initially quite boring, although we did come across a sheep run which held us up for a few minutes. But soon the scenery turned into something amazing, as the rising sun caught the peaks of the mountains all around. We reached the Homer Tunnel in good time and luckily there was no queue, so we drove straight through. I was surprised at the "roughness" of the inside of the tunnel, just the bare rock that had been blasted/hacked through!

On the other side the weather turned from bright morning sunshine into thick fog , typical for Fiordland, which gets over 7 metres of rain annually! By the time we got down to Milford, the cloud was starting to break up. We had booked a Nature Cruise with Real Journeys, this had been recommended to us in Te Anau as a particularly good trip. The cruise itself was excellent, Milford Sound (technically a Fiord, not a Sound!) was beautiful even in the initial foggy conditions. As the cruise went on, more and more of the cloud lifted until we could see most of the mountain peaks, including Mitre Peak, the tallest mountain on the Fiord. We also sailed right up to the bottom of the Stirling Falls, a waterfall three times higher than Niagra that plunges down one of the steep sided walls into the Sound. Needless to say, we got rather wet on that one!

We hit the road as soon as we got back and, but for a short stop back in Te Anau, made good progress to reach Queenstown by late afternoon. Unfortunately we were to find that our accommodation in Queenstown was well out of the actual town, about a 20 mins walk and up a steep hill . But we ventured in nevertheless, stopping to take a few pictures of the beautiful Lake Wakatipu on the way.

Dinner was a so-so curry and we had a few drinks at the Loaded Hog pub, which is bedecked with farming paraphernalia!

Drive to Milford Sound

Milford Sound cruise

Drive to Queenstown