Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

New Year’s Eve morning brought a very different view of Milford Sound.  Veiled and laced by floating mist that grew first into delicate and then weighty clouds, the Sound was eerie, and we felt like voyagers into the unknown.  The entire Sound was changed: its beauty heavy and forbidding, its light muffled, the cliffs seeming to smoke from an unfelt heat.  It was reminding us that our welcome here could be withdrawn.  Simply stunning.


On our coach tour, we had learned that Ridley Scott had recently finished filming the new Aliens movie in Milford Sound and that Peter Jackson had filmed part of his King Kong remake here as well.  We listened for screeching or drums, for prehistoric creatures that could suddenly leap out of the fog, but in the end, we believed ourselves safe and in danger only of not yet drinking enough coffee.

The rain brought out the waterfalls.  All around they appeared, rushing from unseen corners and cliff tops, some flowing in a rush like spigots turned on to refill the Sound and some trickling down like spidery tendrils decorating the rocks.



Rain jackets on point!

The morning brought not only rain but frolicking seals.  They rolled in the water, sliding over and under each other and leaping onto their rocky perch.

After a chilly, wet morning and a filling breakfast, not everyone was as energetic.

When we got back to port, we learned that the change of weather had done more than triggered a hundred waterfalls … it had triggered the cancellation of our flight.  So, it was back on the coach with Craig, who was beyond delighted that it had rained.  He believes the only way to see the glacial landscape is when the wet has brought out its glossy green, when the water is falling.  He was jazzed and ready to talk us all the way to Queenstown.

Our huge coach windows offered a streaked vista en route.


We pulled off to take a quick drizzly walk through the Chasm, which seemed aptly named.  Thousands of years of swirling water and waterfalls have carved ornate patterns in the rocks; the roar of the water is strong, and at points, you can look down into the churn. The path is surrounded by primeval plant life, adding to the otherworldliness.


As we walked back to the bus, something caught my eye–a round bird pecking at the ground.  Was it a kiwi?!  Yes, it must be.

As I got on the bus, I excitedly told Craig, “I saw a Kiwi!” Nope.  He corrected, “You saw a Weka, which is still very cool.”  I saw a Weka 🙂

We stopped midway to grab a quick lunch in TeAnau; we stopped here on the way down, too, which I forgot to mention.   On the way to Milford, we ate at the Olive Cafe, which was good, but much like a thousand other cafes.  This time through, we wanted to get to Miles Better Pies, a tiny hole in the wall with a line out the door.  Always a good sign.  Yum!  We got some curry and thai pies, a fruit pie, plus a GF sandwich, and even managed to squeeze into some seats at the counter.

After scarfing it all down, we wanted more, but the line was long and time was short.  So, instead, Takahe selfie!  This Takahe is only about 1000 times as large as the actual bird, but it works.

Here’s another one, this time in wood form.  As might be expected given that NZ’s only native wildlife are birds and bugs, they’re pretty attached to their birds.  We didn’t hear much about bugs, though.

From TeAnau, the landscape started to flatten again, meaning we were getting closer to Queenstown.  Craig kind of declared it naptime, put on some music, and wrapped in a grey sky blanket, we settled in for a drowsy ride home.

Back in Queenstown, we could feel the city beginning to gear up for New Year’s Eve celebrations.  Stores were closing early in anticipation of the festivities and their aftermath, and the streets were filling with younger folks looking for an end of year party.  At this point in our lives, that urge has passed us by, so we went in search of dinner, opting for a pizza place–Winnies–that offered GF crust.  Winnies has a reputation as a late night hiker hook-up, and while it was almost empty when we arrived, it was packed as we left.  The pizza was fine, but as NYers, we’re a little spoiled.

Next up, ice cream!  We had clearly found the right place: Rick Sanchez approved.

While Ned waited an eternity for his churros, we took our ice cream outside to listen to pre-celebration music and watch the forecast celebration-dampening weather roll in over the lake.

Did we have it in us to party with Queenstown on NYE?  Um, no.  It had been a long day.  But, right next to our apartment was a haunted house, Fear Factory, that the kids had been eyeing since day one.  And, it had to be amazing, because according to a photo displayed out front, Ed Sheeran had visited earlier in the month.  Can’t argue with that.  Ned and the kids went, while I enjoyed a flat white and some NZ tv.

They came back happily horrified!  It turns out that–in NZ–people can touch you in haunted houses and chase you and grab you.  I’ll let the photos do the talking:

These people are scared.

The look on Ned’s face here is priceless, and Harper is just gone.

Penn is clearly willing to sacrifice his dad and sister if need be.

Having survived, smiles all around!

While they were away, I grabbed a shot from our balcony–the lights of Queenstown.  We didn’t get to use the balcony as much as we might have if we had saved the four hours by flying home from Milford, but it was a lovely feature.

We ended 2016 in classic Davis fashion with a game of Shanghai–on the perfect table for a solid Sixteen Candles reference.  Nothing could have been better or more fitting.  Happy New Year!

(Yawn–good night, 2016.)

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