Wednesday, December 10

Milford Sound, Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers

(see map) trin: We took Lonely Planet's advice and decided to kayak on Milford Sound. There are cruises but the idea of paddling up to the sheer massive cliffs was too much to pass up. So, the morning after our hike, before the sun was up, we hauled ourselves out to bed and headed out to Milford Sound.

It was well worth the effort. The glacier carved landscape makes Milford Sound a truly unique place. Not to mention the waterfalls, tree avalanches and wildlife. While on the water we spotted one seal and a few Erect-crested Penguins.

The highway between Te Anau and Milford Sound is a tourist attraction in its own right. Some of the highlights include: Homer Tunnel, Mirror Lake, Sapphire Blue Waterfalls and Meadows carpeted in blooming Lupin.

These little buggers hang out in the parking lots hoping a dumb tourist will give them a snack. The Kia live in the snowy alpine areas and have a reputation for having a bit of an attitude.

Lupin in a riverside meadow.

That night we took a cruise across Lake Te Anau to the Glowworm Caves, where worms that emit a small green light live on the ceiling.

After days of exploring nature on our own being herded through a cave with dozens of other tourist was a bit of a let down. Mike had expected a galaxy of "glowworm stars" but instead he thought it was more like a Los Angeles night sky. That being said, the worms themselves are still pretty cool.

The next day we took an early morning bus back to Queenstown, rented a car and headed northwest towards Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. On the way we were amazed by the number and size of lakes in New Zealand. Unlike, their Australian neighbors, the Kiwis have no shortage of water.

After several hours of beautiful terrain we arrived at the west coast and stopped to take in a view of the Tasman Sea.

We opted to stay in the town at Franz Josef Glacier supposedly the livelier of the two but did our ice climbing course on Fox Glacier.

I was a little nervous that morning before setting out. While the conditions were not ideal, (it rained the whole time we were on the ice) we both agreed that the climbing was exhilarating and is something we'd like to try again.

Mike reaching the top on his second climb.

Mike repelling down the wall while I belay him.

Lunch time on the ice. Thoroughly soaked we called it a day after eating. The walk back was probably the most challenging part of the day. Due to the rain all of the streams running off the glacier had risen and we had to wade across the freezing water. Not an easy task in stiff climbing boots.

The next day we checked out Franz Josef Glacier from an easy access lookout. Between the trek, kayaking and climbing course we were worn out. I was a little aggressive when planning our South Island itinerary but there was a lot to fit in before heading to Christchurch to meet up with friends.

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