6th July = HAPPY BIRTHDAY ADAM!
So Anna and I didn't get in until 3.30 am which was the worst idea we'd had so far as the bus to Milford Sound was at 6.30 urghh. We were all pretty ratty in the morning and to top it off Rebecca had borrowed a hairdryer and straighteners from reception and left her passport as deposit... but reception didn't open until 7!! Luckily there was a number we could call for a small callout charge which was a pain, but at least we got her passport back. Our next driver was called E.T and he was pretty good at getting the bus talking and getting to know each other, although thankfully he let everyone sleep for the first couple of hours. All the Stray bus drivers are given nicknames and he got given E.T apparently because when he first started he kept calling home to his mum all the time, hence E.T. as in "phone home" ha.
Milford Sound is actually a fiord and we paid for a boat cruise to take us across it. The area has so much rainfall that it's actually measured in metres per year rather than mm! However luckily for us it was a really nice sunny day and so stayed dry the whole time. Although apparently it's a win-win situation whether it rains or not as if it does it just means you get to view lots of waterfalls. The whole cruise lasted about an hour and a half and I was with Janny for most of it stood on the deck. At one point a school of dolphins swam alongside the bow and I managed to get a video of them before my camera battery died (as usual!) Janny took some photos for me on hers and at one point she suddenly shouted "Be a unicorn!!". Was like eh?? And then "Be a bear!!" What?! So I started pulling mad poses to her funny instructions which ranged from ballet dancer to shark to lightening bolt. After about 10 minutes of this I turned around and looked up and saw nearly 20 chinese tourists staring down at us in complete confusion and taking photographs! We burst out laughing and just sat on the floor in hysterics for about 5 minutes before crawling back inside! Once we'd calmed down we went back outside to look at the view as we sailed back into the docks.
From here we were taken to our accommodation for the night at Gunns Camp, which was literally a small cabin with no electricity and a fireplace to heat it up. We were under strict instructions to tend to it every couple of hours during the night to keep it going... somehow I didn't think that was going to happen. It was a communal dinner that night and we had a kind of veggie spag bol but minus the mince so I ate as much veg as poss while I could... one thing I won't miss once i leave is paying 2 quid for a pepper... A few of us then headed out for a walk in the pitch black where the owner of the lodge took us up a path and through some woods. He told us to turn off our torches and to look up, where we saw... glow worms! They were so weird because it was almost like you could see the tiny dots in your peripheral vision but as soon as you go to focus on them they disappear. I also learnt that the 'glow' isn't actually the worms themselves but their poo.
The next day we were up early to travel to Invercargill. The main purpose of this stop was the drop off point for those catching the ferry across to Stewart Island for the night. This is a southern island off south NZ and apparently is amazing for nature watching as there are hundreds of species of birds and if you get up early you can also see the native kiwi running around (the bird, not man...). However, at a price of $120 I could not afford the ferry over and so stayed in the rather quiet and rainy town of Invercargill. Anna, Rebecca and Janny weren't going to Stewart Island either so we ended up at the same hostel again. We seemed to find a free Internet room which I never thought I'd be so excited to see, but as I've learnt in NZ free Internet is extremely rare and normally charged at an extortionate rate.. turns out we thought we'd found the exception simply because we couldn't see any signs. Therefore all 4 of us took complete advantage and spent nearly 3 hours sorting out all our pictures online - mine needed sifting through since Indonesia. At the end we went to leave and the lady at reception called us back and asked what number computers we'd used. We all just froze as the realisation hit us simultaneously that if the rates were like anywhere else then we could be charged upwards of $15 each, whoops. We all just mumbled a load of nonsense about not being on long and not realising the price.. so she charged us $2 each!! We somehow kept a straight face as we quickly paid and then just bolted upstairs to the room before she could realise what had happened.
Next day the bus was scheduled to pick the Stewart Island lot up at about 2.30 so in the meantime we had a morning to kill. We had a look around the shops and then considered walking to the botanic gardens but because it was absolutely pissing it down there was pretty much a consensus amongst the 6 of us to scrap this and go to the cinema! E.T had a word with the staff and managed to convince them to give us a 'Stray discount' somehow, so we all trundled off to watch Ice Age 4. The film was pretty funny and I think we were the only adults in the cinema not accompanied by a small child each ha! We then scooted off to Bluff where the ferry terminal is. We arrived early but E.T spotted an 'open house' viewing down the road and thought it would be hilarious to drop us off there and make the 5 of us look around pretending to be interested in buying the house haha. So he left us looking around this house while he went to get the ferry passengers which was weird but pretty funny. Janny and I just messed around while I took photos of her posing as if she owned the house - including full on getting in the bed and bath (!), apparently the poor guy who was meant to be showing us around looked really nervous as he heard us shrieking with laughter from different rooms.
After this chaos we then piled back onto the bus and made our way back north to Queenstown. We had two nights and a day here before we were scheduled to catch the next bus north up the east coast to Mt Cook. We returned to Qtown on the Saturday evening and so of course went out one last time (making full use of the $4 hipflasks that Anna and I both bought in Invercargill) and I literally can't remember a thing from that night. There is just one photograph on Rebecca's camera of me with a pink wig on getting a piggyback off a hairy guy dressed as a woman.... interesting.