This post is coming a little late, but for good reason - the last two days will definitely be some of the most memorable of my life.
Day 17 started at the Cardrona Hotel, where the night before I had reunited with my Mum, Uncle and Auntie. Seeing familiar faces after nearly three weeks of travelling alone was definitely a surreal experience. After five minutes though, we were straight back to where we'd left off; cracking obnoxious jokes and laughing over drinks.
The following morning it was straight into the cars (Mum and I in Gerty, U.M & A.L in their rental Camry), and the five hour trip to Milford Sound began.
We arrived at our accommodation for the evening just before sunset, but there was enough time to drink in our surroundings before we lost all light. A beautiful river behind the hotel feeding into the valley, and mountains surrounding us that we knew we'd get a better glimpse of the day after. It was perfect. Although at this point, we had fallen completely off the grid. No wifi, no cellular - we were completely dark. No matter though, at least now I had some company!
The following morning we drove down to the Sound, and were completely dumbfounded. Milford Sound is perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever seen.
We'd booked a boat tour for the morning, so once we'd composed ourselves - it was straight to the terminal to hop aboard. The whole way I was a little bit worried. Milford Sound receives 7-9 meters of rain per year, spread out over around 200 days. The odds that we would have decent weather were against us, and even though there wasn't a cloud in the sky - the conditions can apparently change on a dime.
My fears were completely unfounded. We couldn't have asked for a better day.
As we returned to the harbour, it was time for the view that sends thousands of people to New Zealand every year. Hell, it's a large part of why I came over here.
Absolutely stunning. I mean look at that. Look at the size. Look at the light. It's completely perfect.
When all was said and done, we still had another 4 hour drive ahead of us to get back to Queenstown. So it was into the cars, and off through Fiordland National Park. I couldn't pass through without getting a few photos though. The first being at the Homer Tunnel, which if you haven't come across before - is one of the most impressive manmade structures I've ever seen. It's a tunnel, bored straight through the side of a mountain. It's a little concerning imagining just how much rock is above you, but all of that falls away once this view creeps up from the darkness.
Fiordland National Park itself is incredible. I wish we could have spent a bit more time there, but after battling with black ice all over the road, the number of stops I could make before we'd be swallowed up by the sunset was rather numbered. I did manage to squeeze in a few mountain views though.
For the night, I'd be staying with the family at the Hilton Hotel in Queenstown. This brought out a slightly deeper mix of emotions than I thought it would. For one, I've become surprisingly attached to Gerty. I love having my life on my back, the mystery of not knowing where I might wind up for the evening, and the peace & quiet that I've only found alone in the middle of nowhere. On the flip side, I love people, my family especially. I love talking, cities, being warm and the comfort of a real bed. I was completely torn, where I never would have been before. To say it was a weird feeling is an understatement.
So this is my plan. My time in Queenstown will be enjoyed with my family. I love travelling with them, and I love having a taste of true comfort again. A few days here should get me well rested, and ready for what I have planned for my final week in the van. I won't commit anything in writing just yet, but if all goes well - by the end of my time in New Zealand, I should be absolutely spent. For now though, it's down to the bar to enjoy a round.