Russell Kirkpatrick's Journal
Wish I could tell you how good that was. I knew it would be good, but I had no idea it would be magnificent.
Stuart agrees - he is gobsmacked. We're going around with silly grins on our faces and speaking in silly French accents like a couple of schoolchildren.
Didn't begin so well - the flight was delayed. But at 11 we set off, and the moment the plane lifted off the vistas opened up for us. I got a shot of the Remarkables with Lake Johnson in the foreground. Up and over the mountain ranges we went, and I took a good photo of the Hollyford Valley halfway between Queenstown and Milford. We flew straight at Mt Tutoko, the highest in Fiordland at just under 3000 metres, and it seemed so close we felt we could reach out and touch it.
We flew to the coast, affording a glance back at Tutoko, and then down Milford Sound to the airstrip.
Then the money shot - Mitre Peak, the most photographed mountain in New Zealand.
The cruise lasted two hours. I must have done it a dozen times, but never in mid-winter, and it was freeeeeezing. But good. Photos are largely a waste of time. 2000 metre mountains rise straight from the ocean, and you sail in between them. Waterfalls galore, both Bowen and Stirling falls are over 150 metres tall. This is what waterfalls should look like, Australia! (Even then, it's been dry recently and they only have about a quarter of their normal flow.) We saw seals too.
After the cruise came the flight home and my real treat. I told the pilot I was a fantasy author, and as the centrepiece of my second book I'd written about a lake above a waterfall where the Jugom Ark is found, based on Sutherland Falls and Lake Quill near to Milford. He agreed, for the price of the book - I'll send it to him - to take us there on the way home. I wrote about it but I've never seen it - until today! He took us right to the lake and flew us all around it. Magnificent!
The rest of the flight home was beautiful, with the view to the north of Lake Wakatipu, encompassing yesterday's Dart River Safari, the bst moment. All finished by 3.30pm.Gobsmacked, I say.
The day began early with Stuart complaining bitterly about - well, let's say men are men and sometimes smell like men. Too tough for you, Stuart? Take a drink from Hard Man's Creek, that's what I say.
We were taken from Queenstown to Glenorchy by bus, then by 4WD to the Mt Aspiring National Park. Must say, the weather was stunning and the vistas impossibly gorgeous. For those who know the movie The Two Towers, the Dart River valley was used as the backdrop to Isengard.
Photo opportunities stumbled over each other.
The jetboating was very enjoyable - a little tame for someone who's done quite a bi of it in the past, but still much beter than the standard Queenstown fare. But the highlight has to be the scenery. Truly otherworldly.
Stuart MacBride is a very funny man. Many people are funny without intending to be, but Mr MacBride means to be funny. Droll, in fact, is the best word to describe his wit.
He has discovered he is taller than me, and takes every opportunity to explore the comic possibilities this affords. I refrain from thwacking him with the box I carry around.
Anyway, today we took in the sights of the Moeraki Boulders, Dunedin, the windswept and hoar-fristed central Otago plateau, and Queenstown. All were splendid, none more so than the boulders.
Tomorrow we sally forth on a wilderness adventure, 4WDing, walking and jetboating our way up and down the Dart River valley. If I'm unlucky, Stuart 'Six Foot' MacBride won't drown.
Today my youngest brother James and I played our annual golf grudge match. To my surprise James won, helped a little by the 18 shots I gave hom. But he had a glorious period that meant I was consigned to the 2009 dustbin.
After lunch Stuart and I headed off for a three hour drive south to Oamaru. An odd place to stay, but there is a fun little place to watch penguins come ashore and that's what we did. Eventually. After not being served petrol at one service station, despite asking nicely.
Then there was the evening meal. Oh dear! To call it a meal would be a serious abuse of the word. We were told they had a buffet but no menu. Our hearts sank, but bravely we agreed. Mistake! The meat was stringy, the veggies over-sauced, the plum sauce diabolical and the custard, oh dear, looked like reconstituted vomit. Certainly someone must have eaten it. Before it was served.
Accommodation is excellent, andwe are off to the Moeraki boulders tomorrow morning.
I'm about to set forth on a trip around the South Island with a total stranger.
I've done this before, of course: long-time readers of my blog will remember three years ago I took Ellen Datlow on a week's tour of the South Island. This is the same deal, only my un/lucky companion is Stuart Macbride, the Scottish crime fiction author.
We were brought together by the amazing Linda, she of Penny's bookstore fame and weird and wonderful contributor to this blog, as well as part-time donkey. (Don't ask!) Linda is an avid crime fiction reader and met Stuart in Harrogate a while back in her role as intrepid fan. Stuart's over here doing media work and looking for a holiday after meeting a deadline. I'm in need of a break. It all works.
So for the next week or so I'll be gallavanting around with what promises to be a mad Scotsman in tow. I just hope it doesn't decide to snow...