We've moved on many miles since my last update. The wireless signal here is weak, so I may disappear into the ether at any moment!
We loved Te Anau, with its magical glowworm caves, and our former convent B&B with amazingly friendly hosts George and Margaret. (Complimentary afternoon tea and cake, complimentary glass of wine before you go out for dinner ..!)
Next we drove the famous Milford Road with its changing scenery and increasingly threatening looking weather. We couldn't realistically have unbroken sunshine for the entire holiday, could we? Milford Sound (named after Milford Haven by a Welshman who almost completely eradicated the seal population) is actually one of the wettest places on earth, having between 7 and 9 metres of rainfall a year! So we couldn't really be surprised that it was either raining hard or torrentially for our whole time there. The Milford Lodge had its own glowworm trail. The little beasties require nearly 100% humidity. Our apartment had huge windows looking out on the river, so there was a constant sound of rushing waters. One had to beware the dreaded sandfly, which had already had a go at me. We did the early morning small boat cruise, which took us right out onto the Tasman Sea, rather to Malcolm's consternation. We saw 3 crested penguins and got up close to a seal colony. We also visited the Discovery Centre, which enabled us to see deep water marine life, due to something called the deep water convergence phenomenon. It was wonderful to see the delicate corals, starfish etc.We were 60 feet down, but seeing things that are usually much deeper down.
Even in the rain Milford Sound is a mind-blowing place, with its towering peaks and myriads of waterfalls. It feels as though you are entering a lost world when you emerge from the Homer Tunnel which takes you there. Waiting outside the tunnel you encounter the threatened keas, which are the world's only alpine parrot, renowned for their mischief making. They rapidly begin attempting to remove your windscreen wipers!
I'm going to call this end of part 1, in case it disappears.
After we left Milford Sound via the tunnel and another charming kea encounter, we drove to Queenstown. The coach tours do Queenstown to Milford Sound and back in a (long) day. We managed to time our drive to miss tangling too much with the enormous charabancs. I somehow didn't expect to like Queenstown too much, but was very pleasantly surprised. Being the adventure sports capital of the world it is full of young people about to be thrilled (although how they afford the hair-raising activities on offer is a mystery). Our apartment at Villa del Lago was fabulous, with a panoramic view of the lake and every home comfort. It was definitely somewhere worth staying more than two nights. The only snag was 41 steep steps to negotiate with the luggage, but well worth it for the view!
Actually, after arriving and being very impressed by the scenery and the apartment we awoke to a wet day: shock, horror! I had rather expunged this bit of the tale from my memory, but am adding it now for completeness. After spending a while dripping disconsolatley around the shops for a while we decided to drive to Arrowtown, which we had heard was quaint. It's a former mining/prospecting settlement. Having arrived, we parked in the (only) carpark, but the rain was now torrential. We both fell asleep for a bit, and then woke up and decided to eat our picnic lunch before visiting the town. We had the radio on, but when it fell silent we realised that we'd left the headlights on all this time, and the car's battery was completely flat! We spoke to someone at the car hire company who advised that 'Kiwis are very resourseful, and you'll easily find someone with jump leads'. We were dubious about this, but it turned out to be true, so we were rapidly rescued. We thought we might have to drive around all afternoon to recharge the battery, but after a while the sun came out and we decided to go wine tasting at a vineyard. We had a tour along with a young Japanese couple. Our guide said that the roots of vines go down 6 metres, but I think she meant 6 feet! We were also able to return to Arrowtown and appreciate its quaintness in the sunshine.
Today we've had a long journey to Fox Glacier. First, as it was Sunday, we went to St. Peter's Queenstown, where they were keeping Aotearoa (New Zealand) Sunday, so we sang a hymn about kauri trees and mountains, and heard a fascinating history lesson type sermon. The Anglican Church here was Maori in origin.
Again, we passed through stunning scenery, so I'll be adding lots of pics later. We've seen the moon rise at the Sunset Motel! Not a hint of the glacier yet, but the weather forecast for tomorrow is good, so we live in hope ...