March 2 - Queenstown (Rest Day)

March 2. Odo reading 47710

I get up at 6:30, and talk to the receptionist about our Milford trip. She calls, but it's currently raining in Milford Sound. They'll call back at 9:00. I go to the restaurant for breakfast. As I mentioned earlier, it faces the lake. I sit by the window, and here's what I have with my toast:

I can honestly say I have never seen the sunlight casting shadows of a mountain on the cloud above it! It's breath-taking.

I try to connect to do a Web update, but only get busy signals. That's way better than yesterday. I work on the page, and do laundry, while waiting for the call. At 9:04 it comes, it's a go! At 9:30 Chris, Renee, Jurgen and myself are whisked to the airport, and get on a Cessna 207 for the flight to Milford Sound. Our pilot, David, puts me in front. We fly though the Alps, and it is stunning. We cross passes at 5000 ft. We see snowfields and glaciers, and it's breathtaking. We see hiking trails and rock falls, and I wonder at what people will do. I am so glad we came.

We fly down Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea, then turn back on approach to the airfield. We fly a circle around a pod of dolphins. We land at the airfield, and are shuttled to the dock. We board a ship immediately, and set out down the sound. The occasional commentary explains the that the Sound is actually a fjord - a sound is a river-cut valley that is flooded by the sea, while a fjord is a glacier-cut valley etc. I'm not going to describe the towering rock walls, the tenacious trees, the snow-melt waterfalls, the fur seals, dolphins and sun and water, because it would just be inadequate. This truly is one of the most naturally beautiful places on earth. And the denizens seem to know it... they have put laws in place to prevent development. I hope they hold up. I wonder if anyone wants to start an ISP or something here.

When the cruise is about 2/3rds over, a small boat approaches and drops off photos that were taken as we boarded. These Kiwi's know how to cater to a guest, and make it easy to have fun. When we leave the boat, our pilot meets us and we are shuttled back to the airport. Our flight company has a sense of humour - it's other plane is here, and parked together I see their registrations are ZK-WET and ZK-DRY. Anyhow, we go back through the Alps, and I get a little scared as we set up the approach to Queenstown at right angles to the runway. Turns out we land on the grass. Keep Queenstown green! As the end of the trip, we are transported back to our hotel. Turns out, Renee and Jurgen have saved my life - I forgot to take my sunscreen to the sound, and they provided me with some. I used it on my face and arms, but it turns out I overlooked the top of my head. Ow.

I freshen up, and we hook up with David at the hotel, and proceed to the gondola station, and have lunch overlooking the town. Jurgen and Renee both decline to take the gondola back down - they each go for a tandem para-sail. We meet them at the bottom, and then go on a little shopping trip in town. Best t-shirt - "Before you're Old and Smart, you had to be Young and Stupid". I get a cool hat, and some cash (hooray for international banking). Back at the hotel, I do some page text updates, and then we go for supper at "The Cow", an Italian place. I have great spaghetti, the rest have great pizza. They head off, and I go to an e-mail cafe, where I can get a connection. I do my uploads.

As I return to the hotel, (best showers so far, good pressure and the shower head is above my head) I look at the sky, and the unfamiliar stars. Hey - am I seeing Orion, the hunter? Somebody let me know. The elevator is by a company named "Schindler" - yep, I'm in Schindler's Lift. Time for bed.