be sure to rollover ‘notes’ to see photo captions!

An early morning – we saw a hot air balloon high in the sky as we left Queenstown. We drove through Otago and saw cows, thousands of sheep, and even a few deer farms. We entered Southland, gassed up in Te Anau, and drove through the Southern Alps and through Homer Tunnel to Milford Sound. The drive wasn’t nearly as rough as expected so we arrived a few hours early. We enjoyed the loud sounds of the rainforest, the lovely views of Mitre Peak and examined some big, papery white spiders that had spun their webs along the tour building’s portico. We had lunch at the one eating establishment – the Blue Duck Café. I ate a meat pie and we listened to the Johnny Cash playing over the stereo.

The boat tour of the fjord was gorgeous. At the beginning of our voyage we saw bottlenose dolphins playing at the bow. We learned that the area gets over 20m (65ft) of rain a year, and it rains 200 out of 365 days. It hadn’t rained in a few days, but previous to that had rained three weeks straight. The fjord was huge and impressive, and the scenery was fantastic – rainforest running up the mountains and right down to the water’s edge, exposed parts of the Pacific plate’s fault line and fur seals sunning themselves on big flat rocks.

We stopped at the Milford Underwater Observatory and saw black ferns, schools of tiny fish, starfish and urchins. The water was full of sediment, which the guide said was a recent development; usually the water was crystal clear and they weren’t sure why it was so cloudy. (note: the observatory is where I got my sand flea bites)

We boarded a different boat to go back to the dock and got a good look at Bowen Falls, which provides water and power for the few buildings in the area. On the drive back to Queenstown we stopped and saw a gorgeous waterfall in a gorge called ‘The Chasm’ and took photos at the Mirror Lake.