Christmas comes early

We gave ourselves an early Christmas present on Monday: jet boating in Te Anau and an overnight cruise on Milford Sound.

Sooooooo many wow moments.

DD was mad keen to jet boat in NZ and we ended up doing it in the most perfect location: Te Anau.

As we were driving up the highway from Invercargill we decided to try and make it to town for the 6pm spin. But when I called the office they cautioned that the weather was pretty dodgy and to check again closer to Te Anau.

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DD was taking a photo of a random roadside laundromat in a little town called Lumsden when the office called back to say we should definitely postpone until the morning due to rain and high winds.

It was a great decision. Monday dawned with glorious blue sky and zero wind.

We had an incredible morning jet boating with our driver Rebecca, the daughter of the owner of the company, FJet.

She looked like she was 16 tops, but she assured us she was “much older” than she looked … 20 … positively ancient!

She was also more laconic than a 60-year-old cattle farmer.

When DD asked how long she’d been driving jet boats she said it was her first day, actually her second, she’d gone for a practice run the day before.

The truth was that her dad asked her when she was 18 if she wanted to be a jet boat driver in the family business – she jumped at the opportunity and is currently the youngest licensed driver in NZ.

She said passengers sometimes refuse to get in the boat with her because she’s a young woman.

But she spun that boat around in doughnuts on Lake Manapouri like nobody’s business.

It was a sensational two-hour experience, without another boat or human in sight.

We also jet boated along the Wairau River, the setting for 90 seconds of Lord of the Rings, which took 300 people, three months and three million dollars to film.

Then we hit the road via the local pie shop, where I picked up a yummy venison pie to truffle in the car on the drive to Milford Sound.

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It’s the most stunning journey through forests, past waterfalls and streams and along the edge of soaring mountain peaks.

In Milford Sound we boarded the Milford Mariner for a night on the water.

After a day of gorgeous weather the rain set in, but we were still thrilled to cruise through the fjords and spot pods of dolphins and watch seals lazing on rocky outcrops.

While some of the more adventurous passengers went kayaking in the drizzle we sipped a glass of wine and admired the view from the warmth of the dining room.

It absolutely gouted down with rain throughout the night and the next morning, the weather was so intense that the road to Milford Sound was closed for a few hours due to rock falls.

But the Milford Mariner powered through the Sound and made a brief foray into the Tasman Sea before returning to port alongside soaring cliffs covered with hundreds of dramatically cascading waterfalls.

It wasn’t the experience we were expecting, but it was magnificent nonetheless and we were thrilled to be there despite the drenching.

We spent most of the trip back to shore in the warmth of the bridge, which gave us a great view of the surrounds,together with an entertaining commentary over the radio system between the captains of the other boats out in the extreme elements.

Our captain told us he once took a group out overnight that got stranded onboard the boat for days because the roads were so badly effected. Luckily the chef always keeps a well stocked larder.

I also enjoyed listening to the loud speaker commentary by the aptly named environmental officer Forest, who sounded a lot like Neil Finn.

After disembarking in the drenching rain, we dried off while sipping coffee at the visitors centre until the road reopened, then drove past a few hundred more waterfalls that had sprung up overnight as we made our way out of the mountains.

Then we trekked back to Queenstown to celebrate our last night in NZ. But I’ve blathered enough for one day, so I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

Great holiday – ten out of ten.

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