March 2000

Donna's Wedding Day, 4 March 2000

The 4th of March was Donna & David's "big day" and Auckland certainly helped to make the day one of complete perfection - the weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky, it was warm and sunny and hundreds of thousands of Aucklander's gathered in central Auckland for a huge ticker-tape parade to celebrate! (OK - they were there for the America's Cup parade - but it certainly added to the special day!)

The ceremony was held in the gardens of The Lodge, Herne Bay. David and his groomsmen looked very dapper as they awaited Donna's arrival - which was just a few minutes late! A solo singer began to sing a wonderful rendition of Shania Twain's "From This Moment On" as the bridesmaids filed in looking very glamorous! Then Donna appeared on Glyn's arm almost bringing tears to our eyes - what a stunning bride! The celebrant (Alex) performed a very humorous ceremony culminating in a reciting of that excellent poem "The Owl and the Pussycat". Donna and David looked very much the couple in love as they exchanged rings and promised each other a lifetime of happiness.

David's moment
of truth!
The happy couple -
Mr and Mrs Thompson!!
The Smith and Davies connection! The Wedding party have a toast on Auric!

The reception was as perfect as the rest of the day - wonderful food, great company - and everyone had a ball dancing the night away!

Queenstown - Walking the Milford Track 12 - 19 March 2000

Back in March we enjoyed a truly memorable week away in Queenstown and the Fiordland! For the first few days we relaxed in luxury at the Millbrook Resort in our very own cottage which was set amongst a little "close" of cottages, surrounded by the famous and extremely picturesque Millbrook golf course.

The cottage was absolutely amazing - large and beautifully decorated, with its own secluded patio and gardens, looking out across the golf course with stunning 360 degree views of the snow-capped mountain ranges in the distance.

We spent the days playing golf, shopping, dining etc. and generally making the most of our last relaxing few days before the Milford Track! On our last night we went for the prep talk for the track, picked up our backpacks etc, and spent the evening cutting down the contents of our packs to as little as we could possibly envisage needing - basically our day outfit which we would wear for each of the four days (and wash and dry each night!), jumpers and wet weather jacket, cap and gloves, an outfit for wearing at nights, sleepwear and sleepsheet, plus insect repellent (don't do the track without it!)etc. Anything more would just become a pain - more weight to carry! We compared our packs to see who had the lightest - I won (unfairly - as poor Brent had to carry some of my gear as well - due to my recent back injury).

The next morning we met up with our group of 42 fellow treckers (shown with us in this group photo with our two tour guides).

After a long bus ride, lunch and then boat ride we walked just 1 mile to our lodging for the first night, Glade House.
After settling our things in our rooms (8 bunks per room) we all then went on a 2 mile bush walk with our guides to learn all about the trees and birds that we would be seeing on our walk the next day.

That night we enjoyed the first of many 3-course dinners with wine and our guide (Hamish) then gave us our first entertaining slide show, letting us know what we could look forward to doing and seeing the next day on our walk.
The next day we took off tentatively on our 10 mile (16km) walk through lush native bush alongside the Clinton River towards Clinton's Canyon. It was a little daunting looking up the long valley - seeing how far we still had to go! There were some dramatic sights along the way, such as the dead forest (killed by floods from a landslide in the early 80's which blocked the Clinton River).

We were pretty exhausted by the time we reached our accommodation for the night - Pompolona Lodge.

On the track to Clinton's Canyon

Some trees killed from flooding from the big landslides.
Day 3: The day I'd been dreading! The ascent to the top of McKinnon Pass (Altitude 1154m!) - 9 miles in all for the day. We started out at 7.30am and the path got steeper quite quickly! We stopped at Mintaro Hut for a snack, surrounded again by the cheeky Keas (mountain parrots). It didn't take long for us to reach the beginning of the zigzag trail which eventually took us all the way to the top of McKinnon Pass.

As we approached the top of the pass the morning mist disappeared, to reveal another sunny, clear blue sky day. The views from the top were sensational! WOW!

Up the top looking back at how far we have come!

We made it! The Memorial Cairn

We savoured lunch at the summit in Pass Hut. From the top, we thought the rest of the walk would be easy! (Wrong!) The descent had been decribed in a guide book as "bone jarring" - how right they were!
However once we got down below the tree line we were rewarded with some really stunning sights! Through the "Enchanted Forest" we walked along fabulous suspended wooden walkways beside a waterfall which spilled from one lagoon to the next. We even spyed a Blue Duck surfing from one rock pool to another in search of food! Our legs were shaking by the time we reached Quintin Lodge and we had to have a quick lie down to recouperate!
Before dinner Donna, Brent and I did manage to summon the strength to do another 70-minute walk to and from Sutherland Falls - the world's fifth highest waterfall! Quite a sight - glad we did it!
Day 4 promised 13 miles of mostly downhill walking (yay!). The lush forest continued to change as we walked along the track which included an extensive boardwalk and numerous suspension bridges - really beautiful! We came across quite a few spectacular small waterfalls such as the one shown here - a busy day for the camera! Unfortunately my back started to really "play up" again on this day - so I was relieved to finally see the last marker come into sight! From this marker it was only half a mile to Sandfly Point (aptly named!) which marked the end of our walk! Here we took the first boat out across Milford Sound to Mitre Peak Lodge.
At the end of the track - what an achievement! Those of us who made it onto the first boat out!
We sure showered and relaxed that afternoon before getting together with the rest of the group for the end-of-walk celebration dinner. The evening ended late with laughter, music (David joined in with a guitar!) and dancing.

On the last day we were taken on boat cruise around the Milford Sound (more impressive waterfalls - and even a group of seals!) before taking a bus to Te Anau for a lovely last lunch together with our 42 walking companions! From there we bused to the airport. Goodbye Queenstown and Fiordland! We had an unforgettable time!

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