Flight of a life­time

Gayle Hazel­wood finds a flight with Mil­ford Heli­copters takes her breath away.

Go Travel New Zealand - - Fiordland - GTNZ

Ire­cently had the plea­sure of vis­it­ing New Zealand to catch up with a very dear friend who lives in the pic­turesque South Is­land. I knew my trip was go­ing to be spe­cial as Anne is a keen ad­ven­turer and al­ways knows the spe­cial places to go and sights to see. I had been dream­ing of and plan­ning my trip to New Zealand for years and on ar­rival I was ex­cited to see my old friend who im­me­di­ately took on the role of a won­der­ful tour guide. Anne lives in Te Anau, which was the per­fect place to launch my ad­ven­tures from as there are nu­mer­ous places to see and ac­tiv­i­ties to do all a com­fort­able and gor­geously scenic car jour­ney away. I spent the first day just re­lax­ing and un­wind­ing after my long- haul flight. Anne had a trip lined up for the fol­low­ing day to Mil­ford Sound, and I was keen to be

re­freshed and ready to thor­oughly en­joy the day. We set out very early the next day and were blessed with per­fect weather for our drive which was to take us through Fiord­land Na­tional Park with its stun­ning scenery. The high­lights of the park for me were the pris­tine Mir­ror Lakes, per­fectly re­flect­ing their sur­round­ings. We stopped off and wan­dered around, soak­ing up the lush scenery, crisp, fresh air and tak­ing a tonne of pho­to­graphs for pos­ter­ity. The tran­quil Lake Gunn with its ma­jes­tic back­drop of moun­tains was the ideal spot to throw down a blan­ket and en­joy a ther­mos of hot cof­fee while Anne filled me in on the rest of the day’s itin­er­ary. When she ca­su­ally men­tioned that later we were go­ing to be sight­see­ing by he­li­copter, I was in­cred­i­bly ex­cited and could barely wait to set off again. The ap­proach to Mil­ford is via the in­cred­i­ble Homer Tun­nel: It was hum­bling to think that this sig­nif­i­cant struc­ture was hewn by men with sim­ple picks and shov­els. It be­came abun­dantly clear that the tun­nel was pretty much in its orig­i­nal state as we drove slowly through. I could see wa­ter run­ning and drip­ping from the roughly tex­tured rock walls. It was quite eerie and I al­most ex­pected to exit out into a by­gone era. Back out into the sun­light and our last stop be­fore Mil­ford was The Chasm (a short walk from the Mil­ford Road), with dra­matic views of pow­er­ful wa­ter­falls and wa­ter- sculpted rocks. It was in­cred­i­ble to see and hear the pow­er­ful rush of the wa­ter and get an idea of how this force over mil­len­nia has carved out the boul­ders. Back in the car and on­wards to Mil­ford Heli­copters: It was amaz­ing to think of all we had seen be­fore we even ar­rived at Mil­ford Sound. I grew up in Mon­tana, in the United States, so moun­tain­ous ter­rain is both fa­mil­iar to me and dear to my heart. It has long been a dream of mine to go up

in a he­li­copter and see moun­tains from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. Our friendly pi­lot Jeff dis­cussed our op­tions, and I de­cided upon the glacier trip as I wanted to see a glacier up close. I was a lit­tle ner­vous about fly­ing, but Jeff pa­tiently ex­plained ev­ery­thing and went over safety pro­ce­dures, etc. as we were pre­par­ing to go. My ap­pre­hen­sions all gave way to ex­hil­a­ra­tion as the he­li­copter gen­tly and steadily lifted off over Mil­ford Sound. The view was ab­so­lutely breath­tak­ing: The deep blue lakes and rugged moun­tains seemed so close that it felt like I could reach out and touch them.

“The view was ab­so­lutely breath­tak­ing: The deep blue lakes and rugged moun­tains seemed so close that it felt like I could reach out and touch them.”

Ev­ery­thing was on a mas­sive scale; we were sur­rounded by cliffs ris­ing from a fiord well over 300m deep with many pow­er­ful wa­ter­falls plung­ing as far as 500m into the wa­ter. It was ex­traor­di­nar­ily beau­ti­ful. Jeff ex­pertly set us down on the glacier be­low Mt Tu­toko ( the high­est peak in the Fiord­land Na­tional Park), and we had time to take some amaz­ing and unique pho­to­graphs of the translu­cent icy blue for­ma­tion. The weather was ideal, and we could see for miles and miles out across the moun­tain ranges and across the land that was carved out by slow but ever mov­ing glacial shifts. We set off on our re­turn flight tak­ing us over the moun­tain ranges and val­leys. I truly feel I saw the best parts of Fiord­land. I felt like I was in safe hands at all times which meant I was able to re­lax and en­joy the thrilling and fun ride as we hugged the wild coast­line skim­ming along moun­tain ridges. The flight back was ex­hil­a­rat­ing and the views breath­tak­ing. Back on terra firma, I had time to re­flect on the events of the day and con­cluded I had been on a once in a life­time flight. The pho­tos I took from the van­tage point of the glacier will be ones I will trea­sure for­ever as they cap­tured a unique mo­ment in my life in one of the most spe­cial places in the world.

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