Day 23: Views from sky and water

Today was a much appreciated break from the cycling action.  There was an option to go on a quick ride this afternoon, but not a single person in our group raised their hands.  Yesterday was plenty for two days.  

Rather, today would be a fairly sedentary, yet extraordinarily beautiful and fun tour of a new part of the South Island, the fjord district on the southwestern coast, more specifically Milford Sound.  Today’s activity took place from morning to early afternoon, consisting of a plane ride, followed by a boat ride followed by a plane ride.  

Flight of the Concords (sorry, couldn’t resist)  

We started in Wanaka aboard a seven seat Cessna at 8:30 AM.  The ably piloted plane (I think!) took us over Lake Wanaka toward the mountain range.  From there, we passed over the Mt. Aspire national park, which is basically a large acreage of mountains, glaciers and trails.  As one could imagine, the view of the snow capped mountains and glaciers from a plane flying at 7K to 8K feet was pretty amazing.  The pilot then took us across and south to the fjord area of the south west coast and nicely tucked us into a tiny, tiny landing strip, ensconced by the high cliffs of the fjord. My vocabulary is not nearly wide or imaginative enough to do the visual impact of the flight justice.  A sampling of photos will have to do…

Our little plane.  Everyone got a window seat.  I got to sit next to the pilot 'cuz I'm a good boy!  

Our little plane.  Everyone got a window seat.  I got to sit next to the pilot 'cuz I'm a good boy!  

View of Lake Wanaka from the sky

View of Lake Wanaka from the sky

Beginning our approach into the fjord

Beginning our approach into the fjord

Navigating through the cliffs...

Navigating through the cliffs...

Two if by sea

As the views flying weren’t enough, we got a second show of the fjord aboard a boat resembling a cross between a party board and a D-Day suitable landing craft.  We started at the most inward point of the fjord and made our way out to the Tasmin sea, hugging the coast line one way and hugging the other side on the way back.  The majesty of these glacier-formed cliffs was pretty humbling aboard our little vessel.  There were waterfalls, seals, penguins and even a couple of dolphins.  We pretty much won the lottery on weather this morning allowing even an artistically impaired person such as myself to shoot some pretty slick snaps…

Pushing off by boat into the fjord toward the sea

Pushing off by boat into the fjord toward the sea

Imposing cliffs...

Imposing cliffs...

with even more imposing cliffs...

with even more imposing cliffs...

Safe for penguins...

Safe for penguins...

and seals too...

and seals too...

Where they can shower in a big waterfall...

Where they can shower in a big waterfall...

or two...

or two...

We had a nice little return trip by plane back to Wanaka, passing over a slightly different part of the New Zealand.  At this point, I had reached visual saturation and could not seem to find the heart to take another 60 pictures.  All-in-all, it was another fine display of the intense beauty of this country.  

Tomorrow is our last day on the bike as we head to Queenstown…

Cheers,

Dave