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Up before the sun
We pick up our adventures after our drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound. We spent the night on a Milford Sound cruise. The next morning we were up before the sun. We wanted to be sure that we didn’t miss sunrise. In the early morning blackness outside our cabin’s porthole, we could see a black figure moving around in the water. As the sun started to come up, we were able to tell what it was. Just a little stowaway on board the ship.
Overnight, storms rolled through. We had some rain and the tops of the mountains got dusted with snow.
Dawn revealed snow capped mountains through the breaking storm clouds.
Outside was bitterly cold. We went out for a few quick photos as dawn was breaking, but quickly retreated back inside the forward salon.
The “cruise” part of our Milford Sound cruise
We had a nice breakfast in the ship’s main Salon. Then it was time to set sail for the Tasman Sea. We had a nice cruise out of our cove as the sun came up. The breaking clouds slowly started to reveal fresh snow and hundreds (yes, hundreds) of waterfalls all over.
The landscape gave off a prehistoric vibe. It looked like Hawaii mixed with Alaska. Because we were in a fiord, the steep cut in the landscape above water continued underwater. The captain of our ship loved showing this off by taking us right under several of the fiord’s waterfalls.
As we motored out to the Tasman Sea, being on deck became very cold with the wet air hitting us in the face. Luckily, the bridge was open to passengers. We ducked inside several times as we were underway and chatted with the captain and bridge crew while we warmed up. Even when we were close enough to touch the walls of the fiord, our captain told us we were still in several hundred meters of water.
The views were ever changing as the ship moved along. We got to see the light and weather changing every few minutes.
The sun finally started peaking out from behind the breaking clouds as we made our way back in to port.
A large raft of penguins
One of the surprises that we weren’t expecting was a raft (what they are called in a group) of Penguins. We were told by the ship’s crew that seeing penguins is rather rare. But seeing them in such a large raft is almost unheard of in New Zealand.
Back to port to conclude our Milford Sound cruise
Our cruise back to the Milford Sound port was highlighted by breaking skies and great views in the morning light.
Milford Sound to Queenstown
It was a great morning. And since it started so early, we were able to get on the road early without having to worry about traffic crowding the single road out. We made our way back to Te Anau to get fuel before heading off to Queenstown.
Again, since our day started so early, we made it to Queenstown by lunch time. We grabbed something to eat and decided to head off to Glenorchy to track down some Lord of the Rings filming locations.
The road from Queenstown to Glenorchy was mostly paved. Past Glenorchy is turned to a well graded gravel road.
As we went further up and further in, the road turned rockier. But we continued to find Lord of the Rings filming locations and great vistas.
Shortly after finding the filming location for the Lothlorien Forest, we came across a stream that cut deeply into the rocky road. We decided not to go on. Crossing a stream of that size in our car was not advisable. So we turned back towards Queenstown.
Paradise, New Zealand
On our way back, we stopped at a little town called Paradise. Being from Paradise, CA, we had to take a picture.
We took a side road on our way back through Glenorchy and found a boat house and dock on a lake. Again, amazing views.
On the winding road back to Queenstown, we, again, came across some stunning views as the storms were breaking.
It was a long day. We crashed when we finally got back to our hotel. But this was a day that we will long remember. Milford Sound and Queenstown… it was an amazing combination.