QUEENSTOWN

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I was look­ing for­ward to my trip to New Zealand. A friend told me that I had to visit Mil­ford Sound. I went on-line to see what tours were avail­able. I typed in ‘Mil­ford

Sound Bus tours’. The BBQ Bus caught my eye.

Iclicked on it and went to their web page. This tour sounded ap­peal­ing; small groups, bar­beque lunch, and a scenic cruise. How­ever, I de­cided to check com­ments on ‘TripAd­vi­sor’. There were glow­ing re­ports, so I made the book­ing.

I ar­rived in Queenstown and was look­ing for­ward to my trip to Mil­ford Sound. It was a 6.50am pick-up from my ho­tel so I had an early night. I woke at 6am, had breakfast and waited in the foyer for my pick-up.

I was picked up by a friendly driver who in­tro­duced him­self as Martin, (he pre­ferred be­ing called Marty). The bus was small and there were 6 other peo­ple trav­el­ling with me that day. I set­tled into my seat and we set off.

We had our first stop at a place called the ‘Devils Stair­case’ look­out. The view was amaz­ing of lake Wakatipu sur­rounded by high moun­tains.

We ar­rived in Te Anau at 9.15 where we had a 30 minute break. We got out at a place called ‘Kiwi Coun­try’, a sou­venir shop and café. I wan­dered down to the ‘Miles Bet­ter Pies’ shop rec­om­mended by Marty to try one of their ‘fa­mous’ veni­son pies. The pie was as good as he said.

Soon we were on our way along the Mil­ford Road. You could see the Fiord­land Moun­tains clearly. Our next stop was at ‘Te Anau downs’ where the boats de­part for the world fa­mous Mil­ford Track. Lake Te Anau was calm and beau­ti­ful. On we went, into the Fiord­land Na­tional Park, the largest in New Zealand.

We stopped in the ‘Egling­ton Val­ley’ and Marty pointed to the moun­tains ahead where we were head­ing. The next stop was Mir­ror Lakes. We all got out of the bus and walked along a board­walk around the side of the lakes. You could see the re­flec­tion of the Moun­tains in the wa­ter. Just be­fore lunch, we had a rest room stop at a small Vis­i­tor Cen­tre where there were in­ter­est­ing dis­plays on the Fiord­land Na­tional Park.

It was lunch time. Marty ex­plained that there were sev­eral dif­fer­ent places they stop depend­ing on the weather. Today we stopped at ‘Cas­cade Creek’. While Marty pre­pared the bar­beque lunch, some of us went for a short ex­ploratory walk. Soon the smell of bar­be­qued meat was in the air and Marty whis­tled for ev­ery­one to re­turn. There were pic­nic chairs for ev­ery­one and plenty of great food. It was a time to get to know one an­other and Marty was the per­fect host.

One hour later we were back on the road. I thought I had seen the best scenery, but it got even bet­ter. Some­one com­mented that they were wor­ried their cam­era would run out of power and we weren’t at Mil­ford Sound yet. We saw wa­ter­falls, hang­ing glaciers, and end­less moun­tains. We ar­rived at the Homer Tun­nel. This was the high­est point in our jour­ney. We en­tered the tun­nel, and im­me­di­ately be­gan de­scend­ing down to Mil­ford Sound. As we came out the bot­tom of the tun­nel, OMG, what an amaz­ing view, this huge am­phithe­atre of a val­ley with the road wind­ing down in front of us. Some­one spot­ted a ‘Kea’. Marty in­formed us that it was the worlds’ only true Moun­tain Par­rot and they only live in the moun­tains of the South Is­land.

We stopped to take pho­to­graphs. There were sev­eral kea around us, all within arms-reach. I was sur­prised at how big and bold they were.

Our last stop on the Mil­ford Road was at a place called the Chasm. This was a 15 minute stop and Marty ac­com­pa­nied us along the walk­way to where the river had worn its way through rocks over thou­sands of years, mak­ing them look like Swiss cheese.

Then it was on to the boat. We ar­rived at 1.15 for the 1.30 scenic cruise. Be­cause we had al­ready had our lunch, we didn’t have to waste time queue­ing for food. Marty showed us to our re­served seat­ing and pointed out the com­pli­men­tary tea and cof­fee. We were then free to wan­der around the boat. We passed the tow­er­ing Mitre Peak, one of the tallest moun­tains in the world to rise di­rectly from the sea floor. We sailed on to the open Tas­man Sea. There were NZ fur seals. The boat was able to get quite close for pho­to­graphs. The high­light for me was the chance to see Dol­phins. A pod of Bot­tlenose Dol­phins ap­peared, speed­ing along­side the boat. Some of them swam on their sides, look­ing up at me. They were with us for some time, then they sud­denly dis­ap­peared, al­most as if on cue. Marty said that the dol­phins are not there ev­ery day. Dur­ing the trip, the skip­per pointed the front of the boat un­der ‘Ster­ling Falls’, warn­ing pas­sen­gers that they

would get wet if stand­ing out­side. There were squeals of ex­cite­ment among a group of peo­ple in­tent on hav­ing their pho­to­graph taken. We re­turned to the wharf at just af­ter 3pm. It was time to get back on the bus and make the jour­ney back to Queenstown.

Trav­el­ling back was time to re­flect on the won­der­ful day I had. We had a brief stop in Te Anau be­fore mak­ing the last 2 hour jour­ney to Queenstown. Marty put on a movie for our en­ter­tain­ment. I was de­liv­ered to my ho­tel just af­ter 8pm. It had been a long day, but one I will fondly re­mem­ber for a long time.

If you’re want­ing a per­son­alised, small group tour, book the BBQ Bus. I highly rec­om­mend it.

Bot­tlenose Dolphin, Mil­ford Sound

Marty

‘Seal Rock’, Mil­ford Sound

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