|We decided to spend three nights in Queenstown which is considered the adventure capital of NZ. There are over 170 activities that one can participate in that originate here. Today we opted to take a tour out to Milford Sound and were picked up at 7:30 a.m. (we always seem to be the first on and the last off the bus) and after a number of other pick-ups we were on our way....we headed out of Queenstown over the Falls Dam which was built at the mouth of the Kawarau River where Lake Wakatipu flows out into it.....our driver told us a little story as to how the dam was nick-named "Fools Dam"....it seems that back when gold was discovered in the area, a few get rich quick minded fellows thought they would build a dam across the Kawarau river where Lake Wakatipu flowed into it....by stopping the flow of water, the river would dry up they figured and then they could simply walk along the river bed and scoop up all the gold that would be strewn about....they failed to consider that the Shotover River a little further downstream would still be flowing into the Kawarau and even though they stopped the water from spilling out of Lake Wakatipu, the Shotover continued to flow and backfilled the Kawarau so that they were unable to "pick up the gold" as they had planned and hence the dam was nicked-named Fools Dam...seems to me that this might just be one of those tall tales. Lake Wakatipu is the third largest lake in NZ and the TSS Earnslaw, an old steamship, still churns around the lake, over a century after it was built, taking passengers back in time to experience a paddlewheeler journey...I had the opportunity to take a ride on the same steamship when I was here in 1991. Another 45 kilometres down the road from Queenstown is the village of Kingston on the southern edge of Lake Wakatipu...a heritage steam engine known as "The Kingston Flyer" puffs up and down a 14 kilometre section of track (some of the few km's of track left on the west coast of the south island) between Kingston and Fairlight giving the tourists another excuse for something else to do when they converge on this part of NZ...the area between Queenstown and Te Anau is home to a significant number of NZ's sheep....everywhere you looked there were acres and acres of sheep farms....we made a stop at Lake Te Anau for coffee and then continued on our way to a spot where we could see the Eglington Valley and the Earl Mountains named by the Earl of Eglington (who obviously thought very highly of himself)....next stop was Knob Flats, so named for the odd land formations that were left behind by retreating glaciers so many years ago and roughly the beginning of Fiordlands National Park and the starting point for the Milford Track, often described as one of the world's finest walking trails which takes hikers out to Milford Sound. From here we headed up the Hollyford Valley past Lake Gunn and Falls Creek coming upon Monkey Creek where the water is 99.8% pure....all those that had empty water bottles filled them up and commented that the water was cold and crystal clear.....we continued on our way past spectacular mountain peaks and a high-walled ice-carved amphitheatre to the Homer Tunnel that was rough-hewn thru solid rock..work on the tunnel construction commenced in 1935 and when completed in 1953 it had a length of some 1200 metres and dropped some 800 metres from east to west, opening up into the Cleddau Canyon and providing easier access to Milford Sound. As we drove down into the Cleddau Canyon we came upon the Chasm Walk, an area where the Cleddau River cascades down thru boulders in a narrow chasm, the 22 metre Upper Fall, and then 16 metres lower flows down under a rock bridge and then another set of falls...the sound of the plunging water was deafening...and the foliage was green and lush...soon after, we arrived in Milford Sound which is thought to have been discovered by a certain Maori tribe (Iwi) over 1000 years ago and which they named "Piopiotahi". Legend has it that Tu-te-raki-whanoa, a godly figure was given the chore of shaping the coastal Fiordlands....as he sang a powerful chant he hacked away at the towering rock cliffs with his adze (ax) which was called Te Hamo. As he moved northwards, perfecting his work, he created long winding inlets where the waters would provide refuge from the restless, often stormy seas outside the Sound. We boarded the Milford Monarch for our two and a half hour cruise on the Sound that offered spectacular views of Sinbad Gully framed by Mt. Phillips, the Llawrenny Peaks and Mitre Peak (so named for it's resemblance of a Bishop's Mitre) which rises right out of the sea, the Bowen Falls with the grave-like mounds of debris below known as Cemetery Point, cliffs, water falls that seem to vanish into thin air, mountain walls and the Stirling Falls where the captain steered the boat right underneath the spray cascading off the mountain...those of us out on the open deck got a little wet...after returning to the pier we got back on the coach and retraced our tracks to Queenstown where we arrived back at the Pinewood Lodge at about 7:30 p.m...it had been an extremely long day on the bus....