The drive from Milford Sound was no less spectacular than the drive to it. In fact it was the exact same route.
We realized this morning exactly how remote and inaccessible Milford Sound is. The town contains only one restaurant/pub and it closed early. There was no mobile phone service. Internet reached visitors only via satellite, which was prohibitively expensive for most. There appeared to be only one road in and out which also passed through Te Anau. So, it was not possible to avoid doubling back.
Remember that we were forced to cut a day in Milford Sound from our original itinerary. This turned out to be a lucky stroke. Milford sound was beautiful, to be sure. But it is remote in the extreme. There is nothing to do there but tour the fjords. Our two-hour cruise satisfied our need with this regard. So we were happy to depart the next morning.
The winding, slow roads in the mountains south of Milford Sound melted away by Te Anau. From there the roads opened up to rolling green hills and occasional copses inexplicably dense yet distant from each other. The skies were unbroken blue and the sun quite warm in the cool air.
Our early departure from Milford Sound allowed us to reach Queenstown four hours later around lunchtime. Far off the sea the temperature in Queenstown is much warmer. The sun is Colorado-intense and I put great trust in my sunblock when deciding to walk the town in the afternoon sun. But a thin layer of clouds rolled in and I felt no burn.
This small but dense city reminds me of Durango’s rustic charm. The bars and restaurants are abundant and the lakefront boardwalk supports many al fresco restaurants and wine bars. A block off the lake are the touristy stores selling alpaca rugs, jade artwork, and souvenir t-shirts.
Throughout the city and in the air we are reminded that Queenstown is a summer playground. Paragliders circled above us. They launched from the verdant ski slopes to twist their way to the school’s football pitch that borders our holiday park. And from the pier jet boats and snorkel boats—like a submarine but only submersible to the depth of its short snorkel—are launched into the cobalt blue lake.
Clair and I inspected a dozen menus in preparation of tonight’s meal. But its only 4pm now so we’re breaking for me to write before we head back to town.