The most thrilling experience Mom and I have shared is flying in a helicopter and landing on a glacier above Milford Sound. She might argue that it was my birth, but I need only remind her that I was not a very cooperative newborn. I also present as evidence that on this day in February were both smiling.
Karen (Mom) and American Julie on board helicopter
Pilot Sarah of Milford Helicopters lifted off the ground with us carefully belted in the back and another couple alongside her. We all had our earphones on and so she might have heard me exclaim, “Oh, this is awesome.”
Neither of us had flown in a helicopter or landed on a glacier until now. We flew into Milford Sound, climbed up the face of a cliff and tipped over the edge (keep breathing!). Then we flew over mountain peaks to Mount Tutoko and lowered onto the glacier.
Pilot Sarah instructed us to get out carefully and only walk to the front of the helicopter. We gingerly dropped onto the glacier and then enthusiastically snapped photos. I even took a picture of the so blue sky.
So blue sky
We climbed back in the helicopter and this time we rode in the front. My mom was still wearing her grin. (She did not stop smiling the entire trip.) We lifted off from the glacier and flew over more mountain peaks to a landing pad just on the other side of the one-way tunnel and met up with our terrific bus driver and continued with our group back to Queenstown. The entire trip was the most thrilling and memorable 30 minutes Mom and I have enjoyed together.
I had read so many rapturous accounts of Milford Sound that part of me expected to be a little let down. Then we got to Queenstown and I was so bowled over by the beauty and I wondered if it could be better than the views of Lake Wakatipu or the Remarkable mountains.
Yes it can.
We booked the Real Journey‘s tour of Milford Sound and joined a busload of people heading out of Queenstown at 7 a.m. in the morning. We drove along Lake Wakatipu and then entered an agricultural valley with sheep and commercially-reared deer in the paddocks lining the 2 lane road. When we entered the area called Fairlight I felt my body relax and exhale a sigh. The light and air were so lovely. We stopped at Mirror Lake and we gaped at the beauty. We took a bathroom break and grabbed a coffee in Te Anau (Tea Ah Now). I grabbed some yummy meat pies at the bakery even though we were provided lunch as we boarded the boat. I was surprised that you had to pay $1NZ to use the public facilities. These were outlawed in California in the 1970s because they are discriminatory to women (men can go anywhere!) However, there was a full time attendant and it was very clean.
At last we arrived at the Milford Sound harbor and moved from the bus to a boat. Mom and I hung out on the prow of the boat, braving the elements to avoid getting seasick. The wind was strong on the way out and not a factor on the return. The weather was so fine it was stunning.
Milford Sound is a fiord and a mighty fine fiord. I kept my eyes wide open for a kea parrot or a Fiordland penguin. Alas the only wildlife visible were New Zealand seals.
I took 589 pictures on this day! These are just a few of the wonderful snaps I captured.
One of many waterfalls in Milford Sound.