At 7 am the weather conditions again did not permit our trip to Milford Sound in New Zealand’s Fjordland National Park. Just as we were giving up hope of making it out there on this trip, the weather changed. After some last minute snafus and a rush to the airport, we made the 10 am trip out to the Sound. The flight took off from the Queenstown airport from the grass field despite a perfectly serviceable paved runway being available.
We headed out to the Sound over the Southern Alps. The views were spectacular, but it was quite turbulent as the pilot seemed to like to fly in the wind rotor of the nearby peaks. All told, this flight segment was more adrenaline inducing than yesterdays river sledging adventure.
We landed in the very small airport at Milford Sound, ironically on pavement, and shuttled over to the waiting boat. The boat, one amongst many in the sound, took us the length of the Sound to the Tasman Sea with stops to look at the seals and dolphins along the way. The pod of dolphins was particularly interesting to watch with their playful antics alongside the boat.
After about two hours, we returned to dock and to the airplanes for a less turbulent return to Queenstown. The landing was again on grass—it must be a Kiwi thing.
After lunch, we headed out to the Ben Lomond Forest for some more mountain biking. The Climb from Hell was still painful, but we managed to stay on the bikes for some or all of it. At the top, we headed over to the Ben Lomond Link, as we tried before, but this time we dropped a trail that a person in the local bike shop had suggested.
Ants’ Track comes off the Ben Lomond Link a little ways in. Despite being on the trail map, the entrance is barely discernible and not marked. Though the track was clearly visible, there was only one other bike track that was clearly
visible in the pine duff on the trail. The trail itself was steep, real, real steep, particularly given the modest traction that the tread allowed. The pitch of the trail varied only from steep, to real steep, with the occasional insanely steep segments tossed in for good measure. At many points it was unclear whether we would be able to check our speed sufficiently to allow survival on the way down, leading us to walk 20% or so of the descent. Good fun! Becky wants to try it again, this time wearing full body armor. Dave wants to try it again when the tread allows better traction.
Ants’ Track drops onto Ben Lomond that we did two days ago. Ben Lomond, in turn, took us to roughly the midpoint of the Climb from Hell. We revisited the agony with a climb to the top of Vertigo, one of the main descending trails in the area. Vertigo is a fast bermed trail that drops quickly through the forest. Vertigo was rated as an intermediate or blue trail, which is more or less about right (Ants’ is correctly labeled as black). We took an offshoot of Vertigo called
Rockgarden, for obvious reasons. This trail segment was also labeled as blue, but had some pretty steep knarly sections that had to come as a big surprise to the visiting shuttled gravity droppers on rental bikes. Rockgarden rejoins Vertigo that eventually drops to the start of Original that in turn takes you the rest of the way to the bottom. Overall, it was good fun.
After washing up, we headed to dinner including Green Lip Mussels. Dave could have sworn he heard vacuum cleaner sounds as Becky started in on the mussels. Diners at neighboring tables were on guard to avoid flying shell debris.
Tomorrow we head to Christchurch for the last leg of the journey. We will possibly do a ride in the Christchurch area, assuming that we can find an XTR brake pad. Can’t understand why the pads went so fast.