New Zealand: Queenstown and Milford Sound

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Flying into Queenstown

Late August, New Zealand 2014

New Zealand is dead serious when it comes to quarantine. It took one banana peel to land me in hot water. Basically, I had a banana on the flight and instead of leaving it on the plane, I took it with me since I much prefer to dispose of it myself. But…I was distracted by the scenery of Queenstown’s Airport and totally forgot about it. So the dog got me. Darn it! Thankfully, I was let off with a warning and had to sign a document, which basically said – “ It is against the law to bring in any foreign stuff into New Zealand without declaration. If I do it again, I’ll face severe penalty.” I guess one banana peel will genetically alter rare species of fragile frogs and mutate them into blood-sucking hybrids. New Zealand, you have successfully halted a major threat to your ecosystem.

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Chasing our own shadow

Queenstown in the South Island has a total population of around 12,000 people and is known as a place of great natural scenery, extreme sport, chilled-out lifestyle and a popular location for many movie productions most notably LOTR (Lord of the Rings). The airport is one of the scenic airports in the world and although quite similar to Bhutan’s Paro International Airport, it is a lot easier for the pilots to land their planes in Queenstown.

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View from the plane

The ride from the airport into the center of Queenstown is incredibly short and easy- do take the 8NZD bus ride instead of the taxi. Overall, a very straightforward process.

The day trip to Milford Sound (carved by glaciers millions of years ago) was a comfy ride through some stunning scenery. It was also a great history lesson as the coach made its way around various towns and places of interest. Gold rush and mining was popular back in the old days and one such town was Kingston, a town predominantly inhabited by Irish Settlers. The L shaped Lake Wakatipu that forms the center of Queenstown and the surrounding area is pictureqsque and very much timeless. The driver of the coach shared with us a couple of interesting facts about NZ.

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  • There used to be only one ship in the lake in the 1880’s. That was the main form of transport to get across to the other towns and villages. By 1930’s the number of ships increased up to 33.
  • The Remarkables is a mountain range that zig-zag its way around the area ad is one of the only three ranges that goes from North to South in the country.
  • The cabbage trees that we saw along the drive provide a lot of resources for the Indigenous people- the Maoris. If you see many cabbage trees then you will find a Maori tribe in close proximity as the leaves are water resistant and makes great mats- the hollow trunks is fire resistant and used to make shelters.
  • Drivers need to take note of avalanches as they drive through the area. Always watch out for dry avalanche since they are the “silent killers”- quiet often an avalanche of rock and sand. Wet avalanches are just as dangerous however they are often louder with snow/ice.
  • NZ was well known for gold mines since in the 1860’s, gold was the country’s main export.
  • Possums, deer and stout ferrets are some examples of pests in NZ
  • Although the belief is that there are 20 sheep for every person in New Zealand, this is exaggerated. There are around 4.5 million people in New Zealand and 31.1 million sheep so that is 7 sheep for every person.

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    New Zealanders are outnumbered by sheep. Any death of sheep in big numbers will surely make news just like how cheese company shares are top news in Australia.

I was told that Lake Wakatipu changes level every year. There are many different versions of the myth behind this phenomenal. The one told by the coach driver goes like this: a Maori * princess was captured and held captive by a monster/giant. A young warrior slayed the monster and the heart of the beast dropped into the bottom of the lake but still beats til today- hence the change in water level. Very damsel in distress story. The real reason is because the mountains that surrounds the area rises from the shores in this glacier lake so the lake has a very bizarre rhythmic rise and fall in the water level.

I drank straight from the Lake and I kid you not, it tasted better than any bottled mineral water- refreshing and natural (the real deal!)

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Te Anau

Around 10am, the coach arrived in Te Anau, a town with 2000 inhabitants and most well-known for the glow worm cave. It was discovered by a guy in the 1940’s and later developed into a tourist attraction. The Homer Tunnel, constructed in 1940 was finished 14 years afterwards and from that, we slowly made our way into national parks, passing through Mirror Lake, Lake Gumm, open plains and eventually Milford Sound.

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Mirror Lake

The cruise around Milford Sound was pleasant and it was good to spot some penguins and seals. Since it wasn’t rainy that day- I only saw two waterfalls. If rainy, there could be as much as 100 waterfalls.

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Seals
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Milford Sound

I went on the Milford Sound day trip with JUCY Cruize Milford Sound

www.jucycruize.co.nz

#Maoris are the Indigenous people and first inhabitants of New Zealand. They had a tense relationship with the new settlers when the country was colonized. I love the Maori culture- especially the haka. If possible, I’d love to have one performed at my wedding – too bad I don’t have a lot of NZ friends.