Milford Sound and Mount Cook

Fred and I got an early start and drove out towards Milford Sound. The sound isn’t far from Queenstown as the crow flies, but the road has to loop all the way around a set of mountains so it is 300 kilometers from Queenstown to the sound. There are many photo stops and short hikes along the road so we wanted plenty of time. We had a great view of the mountains as the sun rose.

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Milford Sound is a giant glacial valley carved out during the last ice age, and it only gets more impressive as you drive through. There are massive mountains with waterfalls cascading down from their glaciers to the green valley below.

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We picked up a hitchhiker along the way, a Canadian who was spending the night in Milford Sound. The three of us continued onwards, stopping at Mirror Lakes which were every bit as reflective as the name suggests.

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The Kea is this crazy alpine parrot they have in New Zealand, and the birds love to play with different materials. When you park your car they will start picking at the rubber gaskets, or any shiny portions they can reach. They certainly aren’t afraid of humans at this point and you have to chase them away. These Keas were hanging out on our car as we waited our turn through the one-way tunnel.

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We finally made it to the end of the road and discussed taking one of the boat trips, but they were all expensive. Also, Fred had done the boat trip in the past, so I decided to skip. Instead we did a nice hike around the Sound to where you could see the giant waterfall across the water.

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After enjoying the views we started the drive back, and stopped at a few more points we had skipped on the way out. Milford Sound was incredibly beautiful, it reminded me of the fjords in Norway with the huge mountains reaching all the way to the sea, covered in waterfalls.

My original plan was to leave Queenstown on this day instead of heading to Milford Sound, so I had to search all around to find an available hostel for the night. Luckily Reavers had a bed available so I was able to move there for the evening.

I got up the next morning and hitchhiked out to the airport to pick up the rent car I was relocating back to Christchurch. It was snowing more so I decided to head back up to the Remarkables to ski for the afternoon. I didn’t want to buy a ticket so I hiked up the old fashioned way, and got a great run down the chutes above Shadow chair. It was a complete white-out up top so I just followed the boot prints hiking and was able to find a good run, and then somehow found my way back to the resort.

After the skiing was finished I got cleaned up in town and grabbed dinner from The Bakery. They make amazing meat pies, and everything goes buy-one-get-one at 5 PM, so I got two pies for under 5 NZD! Fueled up and ready to hit the road I headed to Wanaka, another ski town not too far north of Queenstown.

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I stayed at the Flying Kiwi Backpackers in Wanaka which had a fun group of folks, most of who were spending the ski season in town. It was a good night hitting the town with them, the bar had a great band playing and was surprisingly lively for a Tuesday night.

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The next morning I headed out of Wanaka to drive towards Mount Cook and eventually Christchurch. It was a nice drive through the center of the south island, with some great views along the way. I did a hike along Lake Tekapo and really enjoyed the crazy blue color of the lake.

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I made it to Christchurch around dinner time and met up with Emma and Brendan, the Kiwis I had met in Queenstown. They have a spare bedroom at their place so they let me crash for the weekend until I head up towards Auckland.

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