Bright & early the Stray bus et al bid a fond farewell to Queenstown & ventured to the deep south bound for Milford Sound! I have looked in awe at the pictures I have seen of Milford Sound. It looks unbelievable & I can’t my luck that I’m going. Milford Sound was discovered by Captain John Grono in c.1812 after years of being overlooked from the sea as nothing significant. See folks, you can’t judge a book & all that!
Enter dark clouds & rain.
As we approached the fiordlands the rain was getting heavier. Our driver kept pointing out the waterfalls, trying to lift the mood by saying on the bluebird day he went he didn’t see any waterfalls – how disappointing for him….
Although what did I expect, it is one of the wettest places in the world, & the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand. I thought I had my quota of crap weather days throughout my trip, I wanted the luck of the Irish to help me with this one. Unfortunately the odds were against me, even in the height of the summer, it rains around 180 days per year here.
I took a boat tour around the fiords but was it wasn’t especially good. I felt like cattle herded on to the boat, certainly not an authentic experience. I got really fed up being pushed around by other people trying to get the best picture of a fog covered mountain & waterfalls. The rainfall certainly ensured there were plenty of waterfalls for people to take pictures of & never look at again. Bitter?? ME???!
I was genuinely disappointed with the weather. This was one of the sights I was most eager to see & fully expecting to be awestruck. I felt cheated. I know I’m being dramatic, but I had taken the previous cancellations of activities & poor weather in my stride. Now this dark cloud felt like a taunting joke. I was upbeat with my friends but upset with the weather, which I know is silly because I can’t control it, but I so badly wanted it to be perfect.
There are numerous boat tours you can take around Milford Sound. The one I did was average & nothing special. If you know your dates & can book in advance I would recommend booking via the Book Me* website for a considerable discount. There are several tour companies operating in Milford Sound, I expect the tours to be much the same. Please google pictures of Milford Sound so you can appreciate it in all its splendour – don’t use my pictures as a reference point to decide whether to visit. I hope you get better weather!
Queenstown is stunningly beautiful. I fell in love with it instantly. With a seemingly endless amount of activities & enough bars, shops, restaurants & ice cream parlours to keep you entertained – all while basking in incredible scenery.
There is a great social atmosphere around Queenstown. I kept bumping into friends from Wellington, my Stray bus & random people I met along the way.
The Lake Wakatipu shoreline walk around the Queenstown Gardens* is beautiful. You can also play frisbee golf here, it’s a laugh. Afterwards we got a great Thai takeaway, a few ciders & chilled out in a park enjoying the good weather & company. Bliss.
The next stop after Franz Josef was Wanaka! My friends have spoken to me about Wanaka before & you can tell from their facial expressions that they just adore it. The bus drive was 8 hours of nothing much as it rained for the duration.
Wanaka is a picturesque resort town with a relaxed, cool atmosphere. It has plenty of cute shops, bars & restaurants. My friends are planning to move here in the Winter to do a ski season & I know they’ll have a great life here. I’m tempted to join them….
We stayed at Base Backpackers* in Wanaka. Our room had about 4 plugs for 8 people & no floorspace once us & our bags were crammed in. The kitchen for the whole hostel was also quite small & difficult to cook in because there were so many people. My room was above the bar/club & the music was pumping out of it when we were getting ready for bed, even with the window shut. I would not stay here again.
The next day there wasn’t enough room on the Stray bus so myself & another girl hitch hiked to Queenstown. We got picked up within 15 minutes by two fun & friendly kiwi girls. They were a laugh & the drive took around an hour. They were showing us their new tattoos they got the day before – this girl REALLY likes avocados!
*Base Backpackers Wanaka
Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
After an uneventful night in Westport, this is our first stop on the Stray bus on our way to Franz Josef. There is an easy & scenic (who am I kidding, all of New Zealand is scenic) 15 minute loop walk around the Pancake Rocks.
These rocks were formed on the seabed 30 million years ago & raised to the surface as a result of seismic activity. The layering effect is due to sediments of rock, clay, mud, marine creatures, plants, limestone & incredibly high pressure. To be honest I still have no idea how they were created & the information boards along the walkway didn’t help in explaining (for me anyway!). The walkway winds around these ancient structures giving you great views & details of the unique formations.
Apparently when it’s high tide the waves crash into the rock formations & water blasts through the ‘blowholes’ making the whole thing look damn awesome! We didn’t get the weather for this & resorted to viewing the postcards in the gift shop to see the full effect.
Yes, I obviously did crave pancakes after this stop. I can’t tell whether it was because the rock formations looked like pancakes or the amount of times I heard the word ‘pancake’ during this stop. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) I only noticed the sign for pancakes at the cafe once the bus was ready to leave. No pancakes for me. That evening I did create the amazing combination of Nutella on crumpets in homage to the pancakes I wished for yet never attained. I highly recommend this almighty pairing & taste sensation!
*Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
I’m back on a Stray bus & clearly buzzing from my skydive! My new travel companions seem lovely & friendly. We are driving toward Westport on the West Coast of the South Island overlooking the Tasman Sea. We stopped off at Cape Foulwind* & did the short 30 minute walk along the coast. Very picturesque but actually it was smelling rather disgusting by the seal colony. I didn’t last long admiring the seals, I couldn’t endure the stench! Stinky!
I have since spoke to other friends who visited Cape Foulwind & they thought it didn’t smell too bad – Maybe it varies day to day? Maybe I caught the seals on a bad day? Maybe they had a massive night the night before & hadn’t pulled themselves together yet?? Either way, it is a pleasant stop when driving along the coastline & a nice chance to stretch your legs – you can even treat yourself to an ice cream at the car park!
*Cape Foulwind Walkway