Day 7 – Valentine’s Day
This day was another big driving day for us, but also a day to “catch up”. We left our campsite, Cameron Flat, and drove South towards Queenstown, stopping for lunch in a small town. When we stopped for lunch, we decided it was probably a good idea to shower and do some laundry. We found on the Wicked App, a gas station that had both showers and a laundromat. The laundry was a bit on the expensive side – $10 NZD (about $7 USD) total. For the shower, you get 5 minutes for $4 NZD (about $2.80 USD). We had read that several people “share” the shower to maximize the cost benefit, so Steve and I decided to do that. We had made our plan on who was in the shower, while someone shampooed, etc. Our plan was so efficient, we actually had a minute to spare, which Steve gave generously to me to just stand under hot water. While our laundry dried, we did some grocery shopping and scouted places for lunch. Once we finished folding our clothes and putting away groceries, we headed to lunch at a nearby café. The town was near a lake, so of course, we stopped to enjoy the view.
In Queenstown, we parked in a shopping plaza for a bit just to use Steve’s data to make some plans for the future. I had a coupon from an airport magazine for a “buy one get one free” Jucy boat cruise in Milford Sound, so I called and made the reservation for the Thursday we were there. We chose that day, as it was the only sunny day of the week according to the Weather Channel app. We also took some time to look at Australia flights, hotels, apartments, car rentals, etc. We ended up booking a wicked camper car for our time in Melbourne to do the Great Ocean Road. We spent a few hours here making plans for the next few days, and further out in Australia.
We left Queenstown sometime after 4pm, and drove a few hours to Fiordland. We picked a DOC camp spot just as you entered the national park, right next to a lake. For Valentine’s, we didn’t do anything special, same pasta meal. Although, we spent some time walking along the shores of a nearby lake. I asked Steve for one thing – a haircut. My hair was getting long, and hard to manage when you aren’t showering every day. He happily obliged and took about two inches off my hair – it looked fantastic and was much easier to brush through the tangled mess the next day.
We decided to drive the scenic road through Fiordland National Park all the way to Milford Sound, so we could check out the lookout points and get the lay of the land before our early morning boat cruise the next day. The park itself has a dozen lookout points and the drive took quite long. We stopped at every point we could stop – and even though the weather was rainy, cold and cloudy, we enjoyed it all. When stopping at mirror lake, a lake that reflects the mountains behind it like a mirror, we met a gentleman at the map board that turned to Steve and said, “You look like one cool dude, you must drive a Harley Davidson”. It made me smile and laugh. He said he liked motorcycles and him and Steve discussed that topic for a bit.
Our drive through Fiordland was stunning. One highlight in particular was driving through the Homer tunnel. The tunnel is .75-mile long. While you are waiting for the light, there are Keas in the parking lot to entertain you. Keas are often called the Mountain Parrot. They are beautiful, smart and curious (a lethal combo). There are signs everywhere to not feed them but of course people don’t follow rules and feed them anyway. It is for this reason the birds hang out by the tunnel since people stop at the light and will feed them. On the way into Milford Sound one of the Keas came up to my window and when I didn’t give him anything, he jumped on our car and pooped on our window. On our way back out of Milford Sound while stopped at the light, Steve jumped out of the car to take a photo and left the door open. A few Keas thought this was an invitation to check out the car and perhaps enter. They came up and started chewing on the rubber part of the car door and looked at me like, “Can I come in?” I shooed them away and Steve came back and closed the door. One thing is for sure – these guys are SMART! In Milford Sound we scoped out the parking lot and went in the visitor center. We drove back to the nearest DOC camp, 45 minutes away.
We had a 9AM boat cruise, so we left camp by 7:30 to make sure we were on time. Milford Sound was sunny, and we knew we would have great weather for the ride. We got on our Jucy Cruise, and were surprised it came with a breakfast bun and “Orange” juice. I learned that orange juice here isn’t really orange juice, but Tang or Sunny D or something like that. Our cruise was two hours long and went through the fiord. We were treated to big mountains, waterfalls and even seals. Our cruise captain really enjoyed getting up close to the falls, sometimes only feet away. At one point the captain got us close the entire top deck was getting soaked. A Japanese tourist quickly ran to Steve and hid behind him and giggled. It was hilarious. We didn’t get to see Fiordland penguins, whales, or dolphins, but it is hard to be disappointed when we got so incredibly lucky with weather.
Doing small plane and helicopter tours are very popular, and I can see us doing one if we ever return. I think that the cruise worked perfectly for us, especially since it was paid with a coupon!
When we returned to dock, we walked around Milford Sound before hopping in the car. The weather was so incredibly better, we ended up making the same stops we did the day prior to get better photos of the national park.
We had to make a decision on where to go to next. We could’ve gone further South, but as we only had a few more days with the van we thought it would be best to get to Dunedin area that night so we didn’t have to rush to Christchurch on our last day. So we took off to Dunedin, even driving through the town – seeing the famous Cadbury Office and settling into camp 30 minutes outside the city.