Friday, November 16, 2018

Cycling In New Zealand 2018: Day 5 - A Day Trip To Milford Sound

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Cycling New Zealand 2018Day 5 - A Day Trip To Milford Sound
New Zealand, North & South Island : Thursday 25th October 2018
This is part of a multi-mode cycling tour North Island & South IslandNew Zealand:
Travel Distance: 15.40km.     Level: Not Applicable
Travel Time : 9:20am to 9:30pm
Time Taken :  12 hrs. 10 mins. (inclusive of stops for brunch, stops at various scenic spots, cruise around Milford Sound and lots of photo opps).

This is page 4 of a 9-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D4 Wakatipu          |        Go to Other Days        |       Go to D6 Arrowtown >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
    Traffic in New Zealand is right-hand drive, so cycle on the left. Same thing applies when crossing the road, take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from!
    Some New Zealanders can get quite impatient when it comes to driving. So do not hog the road, stay within your lane and put on your indicators when turning or changing lanes so as not to irate them.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    This was a road trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound. If weather permits, take a slow drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound; the route along the Milford Road is scenic with several interesting spots along the way. See "Places of Interest" below for details.
    We followed the Jucy Tours of Milford Sound starting from Queenstown, booking a month ahead hoping for better prices, but there is no differences in the pricing of NZ125 even when booking just days ahead from the hotels in Queenstown. It is more important to note that bad weather can affect getting to Milford Sound as the road there around Homer Tunnel could be closed. Often booked trips can be cancelled because of that; as such best to check a day before whether the weather is conducive and tour is proceeding.
    For cycling, New Zealand has fairly well developed cycling routes that run in the cities, town, villages, and country side. Some of the cycling trails are on dedicated cycling lanes, some on shared lanes with pedestrians or other traffic. Some are on paved tracks while others are on gravel or earth trails, and they go through fairly busy towns, green forests and bright blue lakeside.
    The New Zealand Cycle Trail site provides an interactive map of exciting journeys on 2,500km of trails suited to everyone from sightseeing easy-going riders, to hardcore mountain bikers up for a challenge. The Queenstown Trail site provides cycling routes for various levels of rides in QueenstownNew Zealand law requires cyclists to wear helmets while cycling.

3. Navigation
    When cycling, we used Google Maps in Cycling Mode for navigation but there is a lag when starting off, so one would have to cycle a bit to get the orientation right. Google Maps is also useful as it shows various places of interests that were not shown on GPS units.
    Alternatively, download the MAPS.ME app together with the relevant country maps. This app can be used offline.

4. Weather
    Average temperatures in Queenstown averaged 10°C and 8°C respectively for day and night. It was a rainy day with overcast skies and strong winds of 20kph with gusts up to 35kph.
    On the other hand, Milford Sound was having one of those rare sunny days with bright blue skies and day temperatures averaging 19°C
    Useful weather forecast sites for the New Zealand are the New Zealand Met Service and AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

5. Places of Interests
    Along the route were several places of interests, some of which we visited others we did not for lack of time:
Good, natutral honey can be bought at the Hunny Shop (GPS: -45.46673, 168.68366) in Garston.
Good trout fishing areas around Athol (GPS: -45.50987, 168.57441).
- Great views of Lake Te Anau at Te Anau town itself, at several spots along Lake Front Drive and Te Anau Terrace like the: 
   - Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre (GPS: -45.42384, 167.71885)
   -Lions Park (GPS: -45.41619, 167.7113), and
   - the Te Anau Boating Club (GPS: -45.41037, 167.70612).
- Milford Road, a scenic road leading from Te Anau to Milford Sound.
Te Anau Downs (GPS: -45.1934, 167.8279), for another great view of Milford Sound.
Eglinton Valley (GPS: -45.06022, 167.99633), a large flat land ringed with beautiful mountains.
Mirror Lakes (GPS: -45.02837, 168.01126), at the right season when the lake is not so shallow, the still water of the lake reflects well the surrounding scenery of the Earl Mountains.
- Falls Creek Waterfall (GPS: -45.02837, 168.01126)
- Monkey Creek (GPS: -44.80123, 168.02129) a glacier-fed spring with water so pure you can drink it straight from the source.
Homer Tunnel (GPS: -44.7642, 167.98128).
Milford Sound (GPS: -44.66825, 167.9272).

6. Food
Breakfast: Western breakfast at Sherwood's Restaurant.
Brunch: American breakfast at The Village Inn in Te Anau (GPS: -45.41739, 167.71888).
Tea: Take-away picnic pack from The Village Inn.
Dinner: Burgers at McDonald's at the Queenstown Food Court (GPS: -45.03158, 168.66116). Taken with regrets as we later found out Fergburger opens from 8am-5pm everyday.

7. Accomodations
We stayed Sherwood Queenstown (GPS: -45.02377, 168.69611):
Address: 554 Frankton Rd, Queenstown 9348, New Zealand.
Tel.: +64 3-450 1090
Email: reservations@sherwoodqueenstown.nz

8. Communicating with Each Other
   When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost from the rest. Vodafone prepaid phone cards can be bought at the Vodafone stall located just outside the Arrival Hall. We got ours from a promoter at the shopping arcade within the arrival hall, with each of us getting the prepaid mobile cards at NZ$25 (inclusive of GST) which came with 1.5Gb of data lasting 30 days. Also included were 200 minutes for local calls and calls to selected countries, including Malaysia. This also includes text messages to the selected countries. There's also free chat data when using FaceBook Messenger and WhatsApp.
    Most hotels, motels, home-stays, restaurants, and airports have free Wifi; do note that these free wifi may not be secure and registration could be required. But one can safe on one's mobile data by using these especially for uploading or downloading videos.

9. Communicating with Locals
    All locals speaks very good English and communicating with them should not be a problem.
    
10. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.
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PRELUDE

The previous day we had an interesting ride on the Queenstown Trail around the Frankton Arm of Lake Wakatipu, starting from Queenstown. The ride took us along a lake-side scene of nice flora and fauna and across the Kawarau Falls Dam to the Kelvin Peninsula. Today we head for on of the most beautiful places on earth - Milford Sound!
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THE ROUTE

This route is a bus tour starting and ending at Queenstown. Along the way we pass by several small towns to reach Te Anau. It it from Te Anau that things get more interesting as we travel along the scenic Milford Road and made several picturesque stops. The long 280km. bus trip was rewarded by a beautiful cruise along Milford Sound.


We are blessed today! It had been raining the whole night at Queenstown and this gloomy and cold weather will continue on the whole day. But we will be escaping this bad weather and be heading for Milford Sound, where surprising it is having one of those rare sunny days. The previous time we went there, it was gloomy with overcast skies. So we are looking forward to a grand time there.


Along the way, the weather cleared, presenting nice views of green pastures with grazing cows .....


.... and cold, drenched sheep on a bare hill top.


Passing by Garston brought back memories of the Hunny Shop, during our previous trip we had stopped by here to buy good honey, they have the renown Mānuka Honey, and also Clover Honey and Wild Thyme Honey. For those interested this is their contact:
Address: 5 Garston-Athol Highway, Garston 9793, New Zealand.
Phones: +64 03-248 8507 / +64 0210 265 4335
Website: https://hunny-shop.business.site/


11:00 - We made a stop for quick lunch at The Village Inn in Te Anau and where we were also provided with picnic packs.
It's after Te Anau that the trip got more interesting as we traveled along the Milford Road, where they are several scenic stops; the first of which was at Te Anau Downs for a grand view of Lake Te Anau.


Next was Eglinton Valley, where the eye-catching contrast between the dark tree-clad hillside and the large expanse of rippling golden tussock makes for a stunning backdrop. Golden grass, dark green hills, white clouds in a bright blue sky are all just right for a movie setting. Several areas in the Eglinton Valley were locations in the Lord of the Rings movies, in particular the Eglinton Mountains which represented the Misty Mountains in the Fellowship of the Ring.


Mirror Lakes was a bit disappointing, the strong breeze had rippled the shallow waters and there was no mirroring effect. For good mirror photos, click here.


Then it was up to the hills where the road ran along a bright blue stream with white bubbling waters.


The bus slowed down at Falls Creek Waterfall for us to take photos. The previous day's rain had fed the fall and it came rushing down in a crash of white.


 At Monkey Creek we made a longer stop, curious Kea birds came to look at a more curious us. We were tempted to feed them but a large sign said "Do Not Feed the Kea". The Kea is a species of large parrot, it is now a rare bird as previously they were hunted down.


Monkey Creek is also renown for streams with super clear water. The water is so clear and clean that we were encouraged to drink from it. Many of us did that and collected sparkling cool water for drinking later on.
There are no monkeys at Monkey Creek, in fact there are no monkeys at all in New Zealand! So why is it called Monkey Creek? Apparently this area got its name from William Henry Homer’s dog. AEuropean settler who worked in the Fiordland area as a surveyor in the 1800s, he named is dog "Monkey" as it was an ugly old dog. Monkey Creek is named after a dog and not a monkey!


What's this? Are we going on a techno-coloured roller coaster ride? No, seated at the rear of the bus I could not take a good photo as we rode in Homer Tunnel, so this photo taken from the bus TV screen shows how it's like, just take away the blue and replace it with brown!


For those interested in the various stops along the Milford Road, here's a map listing the various spots along the way.


3:00pm - Yahoooooooo! After a six-hours journey, we reached Milford Sound. Our hearts thump in anticipation as we peeked from the bus windows to see the scenic mountains lining the sound.
Milford Sound is a fiord in the south west of New Zealand's South Island within the Fiordland National Park. It has been judged the world's top travel destination in an international survey and is acclaimed as New Zealand's most famous tourist destination. Rudyard Kipling had previously called it the eighth Wonder of the World. The sound is named after Milford Haven in Wales, while the Cleddau River which flows into the sound is also named for its Welsh namesake. The Māori named the sound Piopiotahi after the thrush-like piopio bird.


Our bus takes us right up to Milford's Visitor's Centre where the boats are docked. Private cars have to park at the public carpark and walk 1/2 a kilometre to get here... heehee, lucky us!
Our boat, the Gem of the Sound, was waiting for us, moored on the dark blue waters below a bright blue sky. Yes, it will be a beautiful weather for a cruise!


As we set sail, a nice view of double cone-shaped mountains rising sharply from the lake greeted us.... and we haven't even left the harbour yet!


Leaving the harbour, we spotted this other cruise boat, it's blue nicely contrasting with the green, grey and yellow of the steep cliffs behind.


Out into the sound, the calm waters are surrounded by steep mountains, their foot seem to plunge into the waters. It's late spring and yet some of these mountains had traces of snow atop. Further behind, taller were snow-capped mountains.


The green mountains have no tall trees and are lined with shrubs forming green vertical streaks that blend into the grey rocky surface behind.


Today, the waters of the sound is a nice blue, sometime a deep blue, at times greenish-blue, and depending on the direction one faces it was also a bright blue! Further ahead, a water fall rush downwards, it's foaming white water conspicuously contrasting with the surround green.


We sail towards the water fall, in the bright sunlight, a small rainbow forms in its misty spray.


As the boat gets even closer, a rainbow could be seen arching into the boat. Hey! Where's the Leprechaun's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.... it must be somewhere deep in the waters of the sound 😂.


We have all worn our raincoats, camera ready for selfies and excellent photos.


Right next to the falls, the sprays of water drenched us wet, luckily we were wearing raincoats and I was using a Olympus water-proofed camera. Dang, I should have worn rain-coat pants too, my top was okay but my pants got soaking wet.


But it was all good fun, getting wet, hair billowing crazily, and us screaming like children to each other.


Lynne came up, saw the wet action, decided to play it safe and scooted back down for drier views...





Nice yah?


Getting away from the waterfall, we sailed towards several rocky shores, where little penguins were playing among the rocks ....


..... and seals were lazily basking in the sun to keep warm. How I wish I could join them after getting wet and cold from the waterfall.


Back inside, Captian Rob had let me sit on his chair... but I dared not take command lest we go crashing into the steep cliffs!


Rob took over the wheels and headed us back for shore, and we turned back for a farewell view of the sound.


Goodbye Milford, fare thee well. It had been a wonderful 90-minutes 14km. cruise!


5:00pm - We head on our 4-hours bus journey back to Queenstown. Although there was a quick rest stop at Knobs Flat and a longer break at Te Anau, most of us were snoozing most of the way and once in a while waking up to spectacular views like the above. 
New Zealand is so beautiful!


Lynne with Carl, our Jucy driver-guide.
Many thanks Carl, for having taken good care of us and for being a very informative and entertaining guide while driving us to and from Milford Sound.

GOODNIGHT!
Tomorrow we will be back to cycling!

(For more photos of the day Click Here)
This is page 4 of a 9-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D4 Wakatipu          |        Go to Other Days        |       Go to D6 Arrowtown >

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