Thursday, September 28, 2006

28 - September 2006

We awoke to another perfect Milford day. The sparse, low-hanging cloud cover was positively mystical as it creeped along and behind various mountains, shadows, and morning-fresh sun rays. After an early breakfast, we donned our beanies once again to go on deck and catch sight of more penguins (are they ever cute as they hop from rock to rock--you can practically hear an accompanying "boing! boing!") and even some seals popping their heads out of the water. Sheer rock walls tower nearly vertical from the sea, and we got up close and personal with a couple of their rushing waterfalls. After a breathtaking visit to the Tasman Sea (nearly as calm as the coves today, which we understand is quite rare), we stopped in at the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory for a glimpse of life beneath the tea-green waterline (stained this incredibly rich color by tree tannins) and then cruised back to the pier (what a stunning view of Mitre Peak from there!).

So we'd seen Milford and the Fiordland by road and by up, by air! Mike and I were the only passengers aboard a dual prop plane for a flightseeing trip over the Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks and back to Queenstown. Our pilot pointed out (and kindly rolled the plane toward) all sorts of remote valleys, cascading waterfalls, lush rainforests, alpine lakes, and cloud-piercing summits. We'll never forget it! There is no better way to grasp the immensity and vastness of this area (much of it totally unspoiled and unreachable). Our mouths were agape most of the way, and we said "wow" far too frequently.

Back on earth, we took a leisurely drive out to Glenorchy (not much of a destination--it's got a population of about 200 people and not a whole lot to offer beyond the much-hyped water activities, but the road there is gorgeous!). Mike once again proved his far superior rock-skipping skills at the glassiest-watered beach with the flattest, roundest rocks we've ever found.

In Queenstown, we toured more of the city by foot (Mike was in desperate want of a genuine rugby ball to take home) before settling on a site for our very last New Zealand dinner and sunset. Then it was back to the inn to pack up our over-grown belongings--we leave this magical place tomorrow!

(This was just our starter...and it only got better from there!)

--An orthodontist could make a killing in New Zealand--as we see it, many Kiwis are in desperate need! Maybe they just aren't as vain as Americans?!

--Sand flies are relentless on the west coast; our ankles are spotted and itching like mad. Bring repellent! (And for anyone eagerly awaiting a rash update from Mike: we do believe it's improving by the day.)

Favorite sign of the day:


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