Week 13 started with a trip to Milford Sound, a world heritage site, which as the crow flies is about 60km from Queenstown, but due to the Southern Alps, you have to drive 6 hours (one-way) -this is a blessing in disguise as the drive is actually the highlight, this is real Lord of the Rings territory, vast mountains and deep valleys. Milford Sound is pretty awesome too, shaped over 5 ice ages, each one tearing another deeper trench and then filling with sea water. I couldn't really put it into perspective until one of those huge cruise liners was absolutely dwarfed by a waterfall, and the waterfall was a mere tenth of the mountain's size. The previous night we were forced to stay in a government campsite (DOC), these are relatively inexpensive, I say relatively as you really don't get much for your money. This one was basic, a long drop being the sum of it's facilities. But the biggest burden were the sand flies, which made it their priority to bite us, badly, all night long - it probably wasnt the best night to cook our guormet meal of 2 different types of fish; a variety of seasonal veg; and rice - all on one little gas hob.
After Milford we headed back Queenstown way to a place called Glenorchy. We had booked a canyoning excursion for the morning so spent a quiet night on the banks of Lake Wakatipu. I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting the canyonning to be as hard-core as it was, but Rach had honestly expected to float down a river for 3 hours occassionally stopping to jump off a few rocks. What it actually involved was sliding off vertical rocks; jumping into tiny plunge pools; and abseiling down waterfalls, all in very icy conditions. But the most alien aspect and scariest was the odd jumping technique the instructors made you do. It involved jumping out feet forward until you were in a horizotal position and landing heavily on you back! Now if the bungy jump had been a huge achievement for Rach, then this was to be her Everest - she was petrified the whole time and my words of encouragement fell on deaf ears.... In steps Julio! The only thing that comforted her were the gentle words and chisled features of the Greek Demi-God that is Julio. The kind of guy that birds would fly down and land on his shoulders and lists pondering as one of his past times. And of course being one of the instructors he had all the gear, making him look like a Power Ranger, while I'm standing there with in a triple thick wetsuit (with hood); a super tight life jacket; and a helmet so big and dense, the size of a football. If you had put me in a wheelchair you could have started a charity after me, I looked that special. This guy was a pro, at one point I turned to see him stripped down to the waist frollicking in the water for no apparent reason.
We had one last night in Queenstown (where we ended up jigging to Irish music; befriending a dreadlocked guy called Yogi; and eating our body weight in McDonald's) then headed to Wanaka, which is an excellent little lake town up in the hills. From there we hit up the west coast until Fox Glacier, which is where we are now looking forward to hiking up the glacier in the morning.
So far New Zealand has lived up to the hype. Before arriving those who had already visited had nothing but good words to say about this country, and now here, I completely agree. One thing that really stands out is how ridiculous the scenery is, with every bend in the road there is another world class view. With every stretch of tarmac there are dozens of look out points. If you were to take photos everytime you saw something beautiful you'd have literally thousands of snaps. You end up driving by the most insane views saying "we'll stop at the next one" knowing full well there will be one just around the corner.