Every good novel has a plot line, something happens (Lou and Martin land in New Zealand), the characters commit to a goal (we head out on our NZ adventure), rising action (Russell, Rotorua, The Squeeze, White Island, Tongariro Crossing, Kapiti Island, Wellington) and a climax. The climax is the point where the characters reach the final goal, seize the prize, have their epiphany of the journey. That is what we found during our time in Queenstown.
As the plane descended into Queenstown, it was obvious this would be a special place. Queenstown is surrounded by the Southern Alps, beautiful vistas and lakes. It is a place full of testosterone and adventure, a place for adventure junkies. More about Queenstown later.
We jumped off the plane and met up with our traveling companions, the Big and the K-Man, loaded into the rental car and off towards Manapouri. a little town on the southern west coast of NZ, actually it’s hard to call it a town, just a general store/café, one small boutique shop, a lodge with a restaurant and a gas station but it is the launching point for our tour of Fiordland.
Our first full day we headed out on what is described as “one of the most beautiful drives in the world”, it lived up to its billing. We made our way through the small and quaint city of Te Anau, had our usual cappuccino and toasties and then off towards Milford Sound. Every kilometer seemed prettier than the last. I found it hard to keep my eyes on the road with the snowcapped mountains, waterfalls cascading down sheer cliffs and mountain lakes that made the scenery doubly beautiful with their reflections from above. This must have been where God saved his last masterful brush strokes when he painted on this canvas called Earth.
The road ends at Milford Sound, which seems right because it dots the “I” in beautiful. There were several adventures that launch out of Milford and we knew that we were going to cruise Doubtful Sound. I had wrestled with the question whether to cruise Milford or Doubtful and chose Doubtful Sound. Now we had the opportunity to do a quick day cruise so I could do a real comparison but that didn’t seem cool enough so we settled for a helicopter ride over the sound and up to a glacier, something a little more tame then a cruise J.
We had already taken the K-Man on a train, plane and automobile it only seemed logical that his next mode of transport should be a helicopter. If you have never been on a helicopter it is exhilarating and unnatural as you gently lift off of Earth and seem to defy gravity. I was in awe with my heart pumping as the pilot comes precariously close to the cliffs and we sat in awe of what lay beneath, deep cuts in the Earth’s crust caused by mountains of ice over millions of years leaving beautiful blue fiords and glacier lakes.
K-Man was clinging to Mama like a Koala Bear, change that Mama and K-Man were clinging to each other like a couple of Koala’s, leaving Lou and I to take pictures. The pilot gently touched down on a glacier and we had gone from summer to winter in a few short minutes, snow and ice all around us. The blades of the copter churned with the wind whipping around us, the two Koalas were inseparable, the view immeasurable, the experience incredible.
We lifted off the glacier and over the side of the mountain, my stomach was inside my mouth, the adrenaline pumping, I am praying the pilot knows what he is doing. I feel like a gnat on an elephant’s behind, the landscape dwarfed us.
We touch down on Earth happy to be down but still on an adrenaline high, we all agreed to just sit and absorb the moment. Once we all were back on Earth physically and mentally we started on the trip back home. The Climax continues.