My trip to Milford Sound began most notably with my having to pee.
It’s my own fault, really, because I always insist on having coffee when I wake up. But it’s also the bus’s fault because they took forever to leave Queenstown, picking everybody up from his/her respective hotels. By the time we embarked on the journey, I already had to go to the bathroom, and the bus driver (Ken, whom some American misunderstood his pronunciation and thought his name was Kin) quoted an hour and 20 minutes until our first pit stop.
That was, first of all, a lie. It was closer to two hours. And second of all, when you’re already thinking about needing to use the bathroom and you’ve only just left, you ought to know your bladder is in serious trouble.
Also, why don’t these tour buses have bathrooms on them? It’s ten hours of driving. Surely they could invest in a Greyhound with a toilet.
Anyway, the weather was foggy and rainy, which didn’t help. For a while I was listening to the commentary and admiring the lake and the sheep and the hills, and then I thought maybe succumbing to sleepiness would alleviate the urge to pee. So I dozed. And I awoke in pain. Mind over matter, mind over matter! I could hold out. I’m a pro; I’ve been stuck on a plane in turbulence with the seatbelt sign on and managed not to wet myself (though I did give myself a bladder infection)– this was nbd. La la la.
I asked the driver if we were close to the pit stop place. He said twenty minutes.
For twenty minutes I wished death upon myself. I actually thought I might throw up. I thought my insides were going to migrate upwards and out of my eyeballs. I couldn’t move, and every time I used those damn kegal muscles, I moaned in pain, something I’m sure the girl next to me appreciated. I explained to her I had to pee really badly, but I think I crossed the line of stranger etiquette. By the time we reached our stop, I couldn’t even walk. I looked like one of those Chinese girls with the bound feet as I mini-stepped to the toilet.
It was awful. But thank the Lord we stopped when we did and not a minute later, lest I keeled over in a gruesome death.
After that, I felt free to enjoy the view and fret about the weather. I’d heard that no matter what the weather is like, Milford Sound is awesome. In the sunny weather, it’s, well, sunny and you can see everything and it glistens in the light. In the rain, the waterfalls explode and the water gets all misty and it’s still supposed to be nice. I had faith the sun would break through the clouds just as we arrived, angels would descend, music would play, that sort of thing.
Not to say that DIDN’T happen, but…well, it didn’t happen.
I’m jumping ahead of myself, though.
We stopped in Ta Anau, the cutest little town ever. There were so many cafés and shops, and it’s right on a lake, and all the multi-day tramping adventures seem to originate there. The person next to me on the bus, who forgave me for my death-moaning creepiness, said she did the Kepler track (a hike I want to do, but it takes 3-4 days and I have no camping equipment) said I could do the whole thing in a day if I wanted. It’d be a 16-hour day, but it’s possible. Um, DONE.
While we were stopped, I bought a sweatshirt—my first New Zealand self-purchase that wasn’t edible–and now I have TWO sweatshirts to combat the cold summer! It may have had something to do with the fact it was $40 cheaper than the other sweatshirt I’d wanted to buy, and helloooo, this is me we’re talking about: perpetually cold and annoyingly “thrifty.”
Anyway, more driving. Driving, driving, driving. We stopped several times after Te Anau to take pictures, but because it’s a tour company, they have specific stopping spots regardless of weather, and they were all places that were “really lovely when the sun is shining…”
Regardless, I got some good shots.
And we saw Keas, the only alpine parrot in the world, and they were totally unphased by people. In fact, this one walked right at me with determination, like, “Get out of my way or I’ll tear holes in your flesh.”
Typical bird mentality.
We arrived at Milford Sound (which is actually, I learned from Ken, a fjord and not a sound) and boarded our cruise boat. Ours was the smallest, saddest looking boat in the harbor, but that’s okay. It floated.
The sun never came out, but we did see waterfalls and misty cliffs, and the elusive yellow-crested fjordland penguin.
We also saw sea lions, yay!
It was a little windy…
Even the waterfalls were blowing crooked as they fell.
Then the captain said the Milford Cruise was not complete without getting up in the freezing cold spray of a waterfall, so he took us to the base of one. In an effort to protect my camera (i.e. stay warm), I went inside, but there were some die-hards that stayed on the deck and came back absolutely soaking wet.
The trip ended with the drive back, sans all the stops except Te Anau, where I made the entire bus wait because I wandered off in desperation for a salad. (Actually, I wanted a mincemeat pie because I’ve never had one, but the shop that sold them was closed. Then I became determined to find something other than a cookie to hold me over for the rest of the trip home, and I walked a shockingly long distance to find a café that sold pizza and salad. I would have rather had a pizza, to be honest, but being ever so time-conscious, I ordered a warm spinach salad instead. Turns out, I should have been ON the bus about the time I placed my order, so when I looked at my watch, I had a freak-out moment, annoyed the German barista girl with my, “Is it ready? Because if not, I can’t wait for it,” and then sprinted what felt like a mile back to the bus, where the driver was waiting outside for me tapping his foot.)
And because I am who I am, I’m going to gripe over the fact the salad cost $13.50 because in America, it would have been the size of my head and not the size of half a sandwich.
Overall, food aside, I felt like I was traversing toward the gates of Mordor today. New Zealand never ceases to amaze me with its beauty, even in the rain.
(To view more pictures from Milford, just click here)