New Zealand's Adrenalin Capital
After surviving a night in Christchurch without having to experience an earthquake we hopped on an early flight to Queenstown. It's a short 1 hour flight from Christchurch. As we approached Queenstown we flew over New Zealand's Southern Alps mountain range. Mt. Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain at over 12,000 feet, could be seen peaking up above the clouds.
If you are addicted to adrenalin and enjoy jumping from ledges then Queenstown is the place to be. You can paraglide, skydive, jet ski, zip line, bungee jump, and ski during the winter. The town it self is only about 20,000 people but hordes of visitors flock to Queenstown yearly in search of an adventure. The town lies on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and also near the Remarkables mountain range.
The main reason why we are in Queenstown is to see Milford Sound, which is New Zealand's largest national park and is truly not to be missed by anyone visiting New Zealand. Milford sound is a fjord in the south west of New Zealand's south island and is about a 4 hour drive from Queenstown and makes for a very long day trip.
The drive to Miflord sounds starts with a windy road along the shores of Lake Wakatipu. At times these roads ran precariously close to the cliff's edge overlooking Lake Wakatipu and I had faith the bus driver knew what he was doing and would get us there safely. Soon lush farmland came into view and seemed to go on forever. There was so much farmland you forget that New Zealand is a small island country where the sheep outnumber the people.
We also drove pass a farm that Peter Jackson has been using to film his next movie The Hobbit. The driver said a few days before our trip helicopters were flying over the farm and the surrounding area filming the scenery. Also, Jackson's crew of 400 plus would arrive in a ferry to work on the film but Jackson would fly in using his private jet. The pictures of the area were taken from inside the bus so they're not the best quality. Maybe we'll see some of the scenery in the final movie.
A trip to Milford sound is not so much about the destination but the drive itself. We stopped at several spots to take pictures and breathe in the pure air. At one stop we drank from the stream that was sourced by glaciers high up above in the mountain peaks. I walked on some rocks in the stream to take pictures and well the rock gave way and I fell into the stream and soaked my shoes. Nothing like spending hours in wet shoes and socks.
Further along the drive we approached a tunnel that from my seat looked way too small for our giant bus. The driver assured us all the bus is within the limits of the road tunnel. Just outside the road tunnel was some snow that had melted and created some caves. There were some brave tourists that went beyond the warning sign and were inside the caves. Wasn't sure if that was a good idea since it was a warm day.
Once we got to the sound we boarded a small boat that would take us on a cruise. The sights of Milford sound were well worth the trip. Sheer rock faces rise up out of the water and some of the peaks were covered with glaciers. Waterfalls cascaded down the rock cliffs straight into the sea. Although Milford sound gets plenty of rain (the most rain in New Zealand) some of the waterfalls ran dry except for a couple of permanent ones. The trees on the mountains hang on with shallow roots since there is no top soil and it is common to get tree avalanches. We saw fur seals bathing in the sun but didn't see any penguins or dolphins that frequent the sound. Our cruise took us all the way to the fjord's opening to open waters of the Tasman sea. Cruises rarely go out into open waters so we were lucky that day since high winds usually prevent visitors from leaving the fjord.
Why else did I visit Queenstown? To bungee jump! The first commercial bungee jump in the world was established in New Zealand. It's a 43 meter jump (141 feet) from the Kawarau bridge about 20 minutes outside of Queenstown. There are higher jumps, about 7 times higher than the Kawarau bridge jump, but I figured I'd start small. The day before our scheduled jump news spread of an Aussie that jumped in South Africa and her bungee cord snapped and she plunged into the swift water below with her feet bound. Not good news to hear the day before my scheduled jump. Too late to turn back now. Go big or go home! Here's a video of my jump and some pictures too:
Kawarau Bridge Bungee Jump
After the jump we went back into town to celebrate the leap of faith. It was fitting that the our last activity was the most adventurous. The next day was our flight back to Auckland and then a 6 AM flight out of Auckland to return home to the good ol' USA. What an amazing trip! New Zealand is truly a beautiful country and the people are equally so.