Today was one of those days that was so good it’s hard to believe it was real. We’ve sailed, flown, ascended and rolled – and all amidst blue skies and golden sunshine.
We began the day with a cruise on Milford Sound. The Sound is surrounded by soaring cliffs that were clearly reflected in its calm, mirrored surface. And when I say soaring I do mean soaring; the cliffs are simply enormous. Our skipper was at pains to point out that the waterfalls, that look so small against this towering backdrop, in reality dwarf most of the famous ones of the World. At one point the smallest of several waterfalls was twice the height of Niagra falls and it looked like a garden water-feature against the cliffs.
Talking about this at diner tonight, we came to the conclusion that New Zealand’s problem was confusing height with depth. The waterfalls may be high, but there’s not a lot of water involved. In contrast, most of the really impressive waterfalls involve a huge amount of water flowing – certainly that was our experience in Iceland where the waterfalls made the Earth shake.
Anyway, our cruise was accompanied some of the way by dolphins and seals racing us through the water as we made our way out to the Tasman Sea. In the more open waters the boys were given a chance to skipper the boat which left them thrilled. The actual skipper took the opportunity to reiterate how lucky we were to not only get a clear day but to see dolphins on it. And, clearly thinking everyone too dry, he then took control back and steered us through a waterfall.
The cruise was stunning and it was a great opportunity to get a real perspective on the mountains we’d been walking beneath for the last few days. But we then followed it up with an even better perspective on a helicopter flight back to Queenstown. Again the fantastic, clear weather made the whole experience simply spectacular. We flew over a series of mountains, lakes and rivers; every one sharp and clear against the backdrop of a rich blue sky. The mountaintops were covered in un-seasonal snow and rose to knife-edged ridges that we seemed to scrape over in the helicopter. Certainly we were close enough to feel quite vulnerable in our little bubble of plastic and aluminium hanging only meters from sheer rock faces. It was particularly wondrous to see mountaintop lakes that are invisible from everywhere but above.
In Queenstown once we’d dealt with the logistics of checking back into our apartment and having lunch we set out to catch the gondola up Bob’s Peak, Queenstown’s play area. The Peak is riddled with bike and walking tracks and the very top has an amazing luge track. We had a thrilling time hurtling down the track; and what made it particularly fun was that there was a ski-lift back to the top after each run.
The views from the top of the Peak were also simply beautiful. It was a great place to savour a local New Zealand ice-cream and contemplate a fabulous day.