Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Our Tour to Milford Sound, New Zealand

Milford Sound ... Visiting by Bus

Milford Sound isn't that far from Queenstown as the crow flies, but it's a 12 hour round trip on the tour we took, departing at a sensible 8:15 am. As fate would have it, our bus driver "Oz" (give me a break) is an Australian turned New Zealander. Apparently, if you are an Aussie, it's fairly easy to get permanent residency in NZ. For some reason, the government likes us and gives us special treatment.

Mountains en-route to Milford Sound
He didn't say why he had transplanted to NZ many years ago, but locals tell is us it's a great escape from child maintenance that may otherwise be payable by men in Australia who don't wish to pay it. I'm not of course casting aspersions at Oz ... he may simply prefer the NZ way of life instead of the Aus way of life. Each to his own, but I'm advised that escaping child maintenance is a common motivation for expat Australians.

As would be expected, the trip to Milford Sound is via mainly winding roads and as it had recently rained, there were streaks of water creating water falls in most of the hills we passed. The driver gave us an ongoing oratory about the history, character and special events etc we passed, but of course by the time we had got to Milford Sound we had forgotten most of them. Information overload, but interesting at the time.

Some of the wild life here is unique. We haven't as yet seen a genuine, non-plastic kiwi, but hope to do so before the end of our trip. We saw a statue of a Moa, a larger, more imposing version of the emu at Queenstown.

According to one information board I read, the flightless birds of NZ were once capable of flight, but because there are very few ground level predators, they lost the faculty of flight because it was no longer needed. Now, I'm no evolutionary biologist, but that sounds like a lot of codswallop to me.

Evolutionary biology is full of examples of products that didn't quite work out. It seems more likely to me that the creatures grew wings that didn't work. Why would you give up the ability to do something very effective and functional? Everyone who's read Dawkins' books knows that reptiles grew wings to be able to traverse territory better and to do things like move from tree to tree. Present day lizards with large skin folds between their front and rear legs that glide are testimony to a work in progress; long after we have moved on, they will likely have wings.

The most favoured bird here is the Kea, a type of parrot which is large and apparently very friendly and playful (lovingly referred to as clown birds). We saw a couple on the ground while waiting to enter a tunnel on our return to Queenstown from Milford Sound, but unfortunately never got up close and personal to them.

Milford Sound is probably just a little more spectacular than the whole area here. The hills are a bit taller, the lake just as nice, and of course there is a fleet of tourist vessels waiting to take the thousands of tourists, like us, for a two hour cruise up the sound, which is really a fjord.

The slow, two hour trip up and back along the fjord as far as the Tasman Sea is pleasant with plenty of photographic opportunities. A handful of furry seals was lolling about on a rock providing a different sort of photographic opportunity from the rock walls of the escarpment and the dozens of waterfalls. Apparently the first few metres of the lake is fresh water with an underlying salt water base. Makes sense to me.

Having done the 12 hour trip, I don't think I'd bother to do it all again, but now I can say in true New Zealand speak, "bin thire, done thet."


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