Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Milford Sound & Te Anau Glow Worms

day 5 : 17th Oct 2011

We were glad we made the right move to return to Queenstown yesterday. Today and the next few days were gloomy and filled with never ending downpour.

We started at 7:30am today from Queenstown. We had breakfast in Te Anau before heading to Milford Sound.

Something new...yummy venison pie

Later this evening, we'll be journeying to the far side of Lake Te Anau to see the glow worms.

The journey to Milford Sound continued. When I was young, I saw a documentary of Milford Sound, I thought it was purely enchanting. Even the name sounded magical and mysterious like a remote Eden on earth. Since then, Milford Sound had been one of my top destination.

Meanwhile, I started to develop this pig-like behaviour in NZ. All it takes was 2 minutes in the car and I will be dozing off. I tried to pry my eyes open to see the beautiful landscape (that I wanted to see since I was young). However, my pig syndrome was overwhelming. At one point, I was fighting so hard to stay awake to see the view that I dreamed of (since I was young), I was literally pinching myself.

Alas! Mother Nature worked her magic wand and for pure 5 minutes, I was fully awake. Admiring hundreds of waterfall from the mountain range :)

Unlike the other lakes that we saw a couple of days ago, the Mirror Lakes is a little bit different. Check it out.

Now, do you see what I see?
If you still could not see what I saw, try reading out loud "Mirror Lakes" for 10 times.

I wonder if Hobbits stayed here?

One of the uniqueness of NZ's lakes is they are all crystal clear. I can see everything inside the lake including the roots of the trees extending inside the lake. The strangeness of it was, I've yet to see any fish in any of these lakes.

We were back in the van when Rhys suddenly cornered into the forest. Branches and leaves brushing against the van. Rhys continued the bumpy ride into an unmarked path with a smirk on his face.

So this is the part where the tourists get abducted. I knew things seems too good to be true with Rhys. Him treating us like kings and queens. Knocking on his door in the middle of the night asking where we can find Asian food or interrupting him in the All Black's game against the Aussies.

"Excuse us Rhys, but where can we find a mart that's still open? We can't sleep". All our whims were accommodated with the same smirk on his face...like the smirk now.

Rhys suddenly said "No one knew much of this place. I called this Rhys's place"

NOooooo......we're gonna die. We're gonna DIE!

The van came out from the forest and into a lake over looking the fiordland. Rhys turned around and said "Get out!"

We obliged and got out from the van. Rhys continued "Go on...take your best shot". I was about to grab a fallen branch nearby and attack him when TH said "Smile, say Cheese!"

OK, maybe I watched too many movies. Maybe I slept too much. Sorry Rhys!
Rhys gave us more preview of the fiordland.

The stream goes on into the distance

We made another pit stop at Falls Creek. The place was alive with waterfall on the left and a strong stream on the right. The water elements were further accented with a downpour. With its width and length, this was the best looking stream of all the streams I saw.

Next stop, Milford Sound - the place I dreamed of (since I was young)

Maori names are very unique. For those who understand the Malay language, they will find the other meaning in Piopiotahi and Punakaiki. (Though the other meaning are not very nice)

So after building up the story for the entire day, we finally reached Milford Sound! (the place I dreamed of since young).

Milford Sound is known as the top tourist destination and the number one hot spot in New Zealand. The fjord carved by ice millions of years ago, is also the wettest place on earth with almost 200 days of rain a year. No surprise that it was raining today. Some say, one has yet to see the real Milford Sound if it wasn't raining. That's when the place come alive (whatever that means...it's too wet and cold!).

We embarked into our 1.5 hours cruise in Jucy Cruze ($65)

The gorgeous scenery started as soon as the boat pulled away from the port. The magnificent waterfall seen here also provides hydroelectric power to the small area in Milford Sound here.

They said a picture says a thousand words. I am going to shut up and let you sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Though I must stress that no picture can do justice for Milford Sound. When seen with the naked eye, the place is really magical. Just as what I've always dreamed of when I was young.

TH all geared up to get some shots against the rain.

Even though it was so cold outside with the rain, we braved them all to take some good shots and videos. Heck, I've been dreaming about this place (since I was young). Out in the blue, I felt more water splashing over me. A huge waterfall poured into the front of the boat. Everyone in front were soaking wet after that. Hahaha!

We also got up close to the wildlife in Milford Sound.

And got lucky. Today, the penguins came out to play! We told Rhys later that we saw penguins and he was amazed and told us we were the first group he led to have seen the penguins in Milford Sound. Woohoo!

There were pretty tiny and the boat couldn't get too close to them. Can you spot them?

Jess & I were satisfied and moved inside to enjoy the view without the chill. Ahh...it was so warm and cozy inside. The boat made a turn back and we saw more fjord and waterfalls.

Big and small waterfalls

Hundreds of falls

More falls

and....I fall Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I discovered that the pig syndrome has a greater effect in boats. I remembered myself dozing off in Mandurah, Australia. Also dozing off in a cruise in Korea. Now I know what to do if I have insomnia.

It was still raining when our cruise ended. The emphatic, Rhys, had umbrellas ready for all of us. We jumped inside the warm van and headed off.

Now at this point, we completely turned into a sloth. Don't know where we're heading. We slept mostly in the car only to be awaken up when we reached a point of interest or a restaurant. Knowing that Rhys has taken care of everything.

The "Sua-Ku" earlier saw a place filled with snow. So, the "Sua-Ku" got Rhys to stop by so the "Sua-Ku" can go play with the snow for awhile.

After the "Sua-Ku" stint, we headed to the Chasm. TH & I had a debate whether it should be called Chasm with the "Ch" or "Kh" sound. (Google revealed I was wrong. It was with a "Kh" sound)

"So what's a Chasm?", we asked Rhys as we approached The Chasm.
"Erm, it's hard to explain. You have to see it for yourself", Rhys said.

It was raining outside. Cold. Wet. Is The Chasm really worth a look?
Well, the name sounded cool. The Chasm. CHASM! Heck, it'll be a waste to come this far and turn into a sloth.

So, we shed our sloth mold and went into the rain towards The Chasm.

When the photograph of this waterfall near The Chasm came out, it felt like a deja-vu. Like I've seen this fall before in a picture somewhere.

The Chasm - I later found out was a deep fissure on the face of the earth caused by the earth surface being pulled apart. For this chasm, it was formed by the force of water and rocks swirling and grinding in the currents. After over thousands of years, the water activity sculpted rocks and rounded basins of the Chasm. Ooo...Something new and interesting!

After our geographic exploration today, we headed back to Te Anau. It was time for some good old dinner. Rhys highly recommended this place.

Mmm...the food was unforgettable. I had a Beef Stroganoff.

TH had a Chicken Schnitzel. Wow...the best chicken and sauce I've ever tasted.

Jason had some lamb

Michelle had some vegetarian snacks

Looking at these pictures made me hungry now...hehehe

Our exploration for the day did not stop here. We still have the Glowworm Caves to check out!

The rain continued when we reached the Glowworm Caves. At one point, I though I would freeze with the cold sea breeze, cold rain and cold night fall.

After a short briefing, each groups took turns into the cave. The cave system itself was interesting. We walked along the see-through bridge while watching the strong currents beneath our feet. There was a tiny but powerful waterfall inside the cave. We ascended a couple of steps towards the top of the fall and not far away, saw the first glimpse of the glow worms hanging from the cave's ceiling.

These pictures are from Real Journeys as we couldn't take any pictures inside as they fear we might scare the glow worms with the flashes.

The climax of the journey was the boat ride into the darkened cave. It was cold and pitch dark inside. All I can hear is the sound of the waterfall and then I saw it. Clusters of lights like stars twinkling in the dark. The boat slowly maneuvered inside the cave as we admired the glow worms in total darkness. The sound of the waterfall in the distance. The atmosphere was pretty romantic even though there were about a dozen of us strangers in the boat sitting side by side.

Rhys was waiting for us when we arrived back in Te Anau. Rhys started the van. Nothing. He tried again. Nothing. On the third time, the engine came alive and we cheered!

We headed back to Queenstown. It will be a pretty long journey. Halfway through, Rhys felt something is wrong with the car. Jason was looking at the van's clock that got dimmer and dimmer as minutes passed. At that moment, all of us were wide awake.

Rhys was contemplating if we should return to Te Anau or push on to Queenstown. We were about 1/4 out of Te Anau at that time passing through a narrow road guided only by reflectors on the road. The clock's light is barely visible now. That was when we hit the brakes and Rhys trying to make a U-Turn back to Te Anau. It was tough as there were no street lights. We couldn't even see if there was a drain or edge that we might fall into.

I turned around to check if there's any car coming our way while Rhys tried to turn his van around. All I can see was complete darkness and that was when I got pacnicky! 101 things could happen now. We could fall into a drain. A car might crash into us. The battery might go completely dead if Rhys hit the brakes again. We will be stranded in the middle of nowhere if that happens. We might be frozen in this extreme weather too.

Luckily, both side of the road were empty and Rhys managed to turn the van around. He continued to push the van back to Te Anau. By now, the clock completely disappeared. The van started to shut down bit by bit. The radio lights and speedometer were gone. Error lights (that we've not seen before) were blinking non stop. It was raining quite heavily and dark outside. The wiper moved as though it was dying. My fear was the wiper (rain was quite heavy) and the car lights (to light the road reflectors). Without them, we might as well drive blind folded.

All of us were in complete silence. Eyes wide open. Praying. Are we there yet? Are we there yet? After pushing the van for eternity, we saw the first street lamp. Then, a car. Then some houses until we reached Te Anau again. As soon as the van reached the gas station in Te Anau, the van went completely dead. Talk about timing!

Rhys called for SOS . All of us waited in the car for the mechanic to arrive. In under 10 minutes, a truck pulled over. Yay! Our rescue had arrived!

We got out of the car as the mechanic checked the van. It was freezing! We ended up having to push the van to a nearby garage which coincidentally was just behind the gas station.

At least we can take shelter in this garage while the fixing goes on.

Bored, cold and wet. We decided to check out the garage.

These broken rubber belt (the alternator) was the root cause of the problem. I later checked with my bro and he told me the alternator was the one that continues to charge the battery. He was amazed that the battery lasted so long when the belt was broken at the start of our journey back to Queenstown. We were travelling with just the remaining power of the battery-uncharged!

The van was fixed. Rhys got us back to Queenstown safe and sound. We were all worn out and cold. All of us were glued to the heater as soon as we reached our motel.

Jess & I decided to have a sweet ending for our day by indulging into our special yogurt. Though the chocolate one is more of an acquired taste.

Come to think about it, the breakdown of the van was something that we remembered the most. Those unplanned surprises. Rhys and the mechanic handled the situation so well (applause). We should thank our lucky stars that all of us were safe tonight!


Hobbeseus said...

Looked like it was a loooooooong and eventful day 5 ! Super Awesome !

Author: QQ said...

it was a long day and one of the best days. heck! every day was nice there