Sunday, March 7, 2010

Milford Sound trip and gloworms

            Today we left Queenstown and headed for Milford Sound. It was about a two hour trip south to Te Anau, than north again for a few hours to get to the sound. As we went north, the landscape got more and more mountainous. The tops of the mountains were often covered with clouds, and lots of little waterfalls ran down the sides. Closer to the road, there were jungle-like forests. At one stop, we saw a waterfall that had shaped the rock into smooth curves. After passing through a dark tunnel through a mountain, and a steep road in a forested valley, we arrived at the Sound.

            We boarded a ship, and set off. After an onboard lunch, we made our way out onto the deck at the front. Mountains rose directly out of the water on all sides, with many waterfalls. The first animals we saw were dolphins playing in the water. We got close enough that they were leaping practically right in front of us. We continued on our way, and saw some seals lying on a rock. The scent was not pleasant, to say the least. The ship continued all the way out to the mouth of the Sound opening onto the Tasman Sea. The whole way, the mountains were absolutely amazing.

            On the way back, we saw the dolphins again. This time they were even closer, and they swam right in front of the ship for a while. Every once in a while they would leap out of the water right in front of us. We then approached one of the larger waterfalls. We got right up against it, enough that we all got sprayed. The force of it was intense.

            When we pulled away from that, we docked at an underwater observatory. We descended into a cylinder with windows all around at the bottom. We saw all kinds of fish and undersea plant life. We came up, returned to the dock, and headed back to Te Anau.

            In the evening, we headed across Te Anau Lake to the Gloworm Caves. We spent most of the journey on the top deck. The wind was really intense. When we arrived, we were disappointed to discover that no photography was allowed in the caves. We entered the cave with a guide, and walked along the side of an underwater river. The guide pointed out the saliva strands of the glowworms. In the light, they looked like tiny strands of pearls. At the top of a waterfall, we got into a boat and headed into the darkness of the cave. We entered the chamber with the glowworms, and all we could see were scattered collections of shining pinpoints of light. At times we could also see their reflection in the water. When we returned, we again spent most of the time on the top deck. The stars were amazing! One of the crewmembers helped us find the southern cross in the sky. It was also just moonrise.

            All in all, it was an amazing day. Some people were a little natured-out, but it was still an awesome experience. In the evening, we relaxed and reminisced about our time spent in the quaint village of Arrowtown, and discussed its fascinating history.

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