N.Z. – S. Island: The Sound of the King

N.Z. – S. Island: The Sound of the King

Written by: Jessica
Captions by: Diego

Disclaimer: More LOTR and Hobbit jokes ahead – though not as many.

We flew to the South Island on an Air New Zealand flight. This was a much nicer flight and they didn’t make us check baggage! It wasn’t a very long flight, but the views were gorgeous. We had a view of Mt. Cook for a few brief moments, amid a range of mountains. As we descended into Queenstown, we flew low over a mountain—it felt like we should be able to see individual sheep.

The Wellington airport had awesome surprises. Oh man….I could not stop gushing about this.
Of course they would have more LotR life-size pieces!

The airport was tiny, and we quickly picked up another rental car from Jucy. Luckily, they were in the airport this time!  We got the same model of car but this one was functioning without challenges. Diego had tried to ask for a different type of car, but the alternative was a Suzuki, which he liked less than driving a Fiat.

Tiny airport is tiny, just a tarmac and mountains as far as the eye can see.

Our first stop upon arrival was to check into our hotel. The views of the lake along the way were gorgeous. Afterward, we took off to see some local sights. We drove up this really windy road to the top of a mountain to look around at the scenery. The River Anduin flowed in the distance, along with many other views used by Peter Jackson’s team in the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies.

I dragged Jessica up a ski mountain to see the entire area. There was small resort at the top and the sights were impressive driving up but man…it took an hour each way. She wasn’t pleased.
A ski resort during the winter and mountain bike obstacle course during the summer.
I still think the view was worth it, though I would not drive up pure gravel and rocks for 2 hours again.
Proof of Jessica’s unhappy state. I was rocking that picnic table shirt.
Driving down from the mountains, you’re always reminded how pretty NZ is.

Next, we tried to find the location for Arwen’s flood, but to be honest, things weren’t marked well. The nearby town Arrowtown directed us to an area but there were no markers to figure out where it was. A website stated it was farther up the canyon, but we didn’t know how to get there. Still, the river was lovely.

Where they shot the flood in the movie.
Not quite the same spot…it was probably further down. We returned to town after an hour of searching for the real location because it was getting too dark to see and I’ve seen enough horror movies to know it’s time to get out of the creepy woods.
Arrowtown is quite nice – we had a great pizza accompanied by a band playing in the other building!

The next morning, we got on the road for Milford Sound. There were so many beautiful sights along the way that it took us a lot longer to get there than planned. We passed Kingston and gave recognition to Aragorn and his forbears. We had lunch in Te Anau and picked up groceries and ice in a cooler bag, because we did not want to pay the prices for Milford Sound Lodge’s sole place to eat dinner. The bag didn’t work well: the ice melted and got into the trunk of the car.  Perhaps we should have spent less time taking photos, but that wasn’t an option with how beautiful the drive was.

View from our Queenstown hotel in the morning. Everything about this country is gorgeous.
Look at this cute little library! There was even a small little park behind it with a zip line.
This is an awesome idea, I wish this was replicated everywhere. It might even help decrease the obesity epidemic that we have in the US.
The 45th parallel! I’ve now officially crossed the south and northern lines. 

We got in later than planned to Milford Sound, checked in, dropped off our bags at the small bunks in our hostel dormitory, and went to the kitchen. So much for what we brought: fridge only, no freezer. The poor (part-melted) ice cream couldn’t be kept.

Just like in college, but more cramped. Going to bed early is key here so you don’t struggle if someone is snoring. Don’t be a jerk, arrive early so you don’t wake everyone up at 2am.
Shared kitchen wasn’t bad. It was pretty cool to meet everyone from all parts of the world. Don’t count on a freezer though.
Shared commons, it was homely but can get crowded. Make sure you clean up after yourself!! 

We did not enjoy our nights in the hostel-style beds, but they were much more affordable than the hotel rooms which gave us the ability to pay for two nights, so that we could have longer in the sound to enjoy ourselves. The first night we went to bed early enough to not be bothered by the snorers…only, someone came in at midnight and woke us all up. The second night was better, but it still was far from a comfortable arrangement.

Commons area. They also have a shower area and washing machines with dryers. This area has some Kea and they will tear into trash bags for scraps of food.
The reception cabin is really nice! They will sell soap and shampoo if you didn’t bring your own but it’s expensive. They also have a (expensive) restaurant, which we dinned at after kayaking since neither of us wanted to cook.

Rosco’s Milford Kayaks took us out on a great trip on our full day in the Sound. 18 km of paddling, a few of which had dolphins swimming along, feeding, near us. Diego and I struggled to keep up with the group at the fast pace needed to keep up with the dolphins (the others seemed fine, but then there was a military veteran in two of the other three kayaks, and two men in the third—Diego and I just don’t have that kind of strength).  It took a long time to stop raving about how amazing it was to see the dolphins. Another highlight was getting to kayak through the mist of a massive waterfall. I would definitely do it again!

Waking up super early at 5am sucked but it was sooooo worth it for this shot. This was around 6:30 or 7am.
So many dolphins!! Our guide said he’s never seen so many before. Too bad my arms were on fire from so much paddling.
I should have taken a selfie to show how cold I was after going near that waterfall. This is liquefied ice, and I don’t mean water.
They followed us from the start to the end. Dolphins, if they show up at all, typically stick around for 15-30 minutes total. This is a cool surprise.
Milford Sound really starts to shine at dawn or dusk. To the right of the photo is a harbor for tour boats. Keep in mind that you will have to deal with the devil flies (Sandflies). They’re about 1/3 the size of a mosquito but they bite and suck your blood. We took some photos and immediately ran back into the car.

The next day it poured in the Sound. This was actually lucky as it created thousands of temporary waterfalls. It was a gorgeous sight as we went around taking photos. Along the way home, we also stopped to pay our respects to the Ent. The Ent-Meet was going to take too long, so we just said hi to a couple. Afterward, we continued back toward Lothlorien, to where the Fellowship passed the statues of the kings.

Pretty much every mountain was crying when we were leaving. I know the feeling.
This looks like a picture of some woods but this is where they shot Fangorn Forest scenes. It’s the Snowdon Forest in Fiordland National Park.
Another LOTR stop, this time it’s where they shot the Pillars of the Kings scene. Though they shot most the scene looking down, it’s most famous for the the two statues alongside the river. This was Chard Farm Vineyard. Go buy some wine there!

This is the scene everyone remembers, though this was done in the studio with models.

At our departure from Queenstown airport that evening, we said goodbye to some friends and enemies: Smaug, Gandalf, and the Eagles.

Drove back to Queenstown to conclude our NZ stop. Airport was nice but a little small. We quickly went to the lounge.
Quaint lounge but also a phenomenal way to conclude our trip here – good food and drinks in a quiet place with comfy chairs. Not gonna lie, NZ made for some great and amazing experiences. I’m seriously going to miss our time here.

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