Secker Goes Globetrotting
6th Jun 2012
Milford Sound day trip
As we were checking out of the hostel in the morning, the receptionist was telling us that the road to Milford Sound was currently closed due to a rock slide. The big snow storm we were expecting didn't happen so we thought he was kidding around. He wasn't, the road was really closed. Bugger. We set off anyway, I napped as usual and woke up to find us back in the mountains. Ah, I hadn't realised how much I'd become attached to the mountains in NZ but I was really happy to be back. We still didn't know if the road was open and our driver was suggesting what we could do. Damn - I was due to leave at 8 the next morning. There were two things left on my list for NZ. Milford and whale watching at Kaikoura. The day before I'd got so fed up with being on the bus all day and by the time we would have got back to Queenstown that evening it would have been 3 days of full on bus travel. Going back to Auckland by his would have taken 4 days. Apart from Christchurch and Kaikoura I'd already done the other stops. If I wanted to go to Milford and we couldn't then I'd have to change my plans. I still had a bit of time before I needed to be back in Auckland and I figured if I had time then surely I didn't have to leave the south so soon. I mulled it over on our way to Te Anau. The road was open so we were going, but I couldn't shake this feeling that I wasn't ready to go back to Auckland - it felt too soon. So I canceled my plans and thought I'd figure it all out the next morning. I felt relaxed that this was the right decision for me. We stopped at Te Anau for a spot of breakfast. Te Anau is the 3rd largest lake in NZ and to walk around the edge is 500km apparently so it's pretty big! Its got 3 Fjords too and is the result of glaciers (at least i think thats what he said) We looked to be in for a sunny day which meant we could see the mountains in all their glory. Milford Sound is part of the Fiorland National Park which in total is the same size as Devon and Cornwall put together.
The area just missed out on making the 7 wonders of the world list as it ranked 8th but that's still pretty good going considering how many beautiful places there are in the world.
The road that takes us through to Milford is the result of the post war depression and was a public works scheme (designed to get people back into work by using manual labour, it was common in the US and Europe post WW1). It finally got finished in the 1950s.
The road to Milford Sound is statistically the most dangerous road in NZ. I can sort of see why, it's got many tight corners.
Not many maoris settled here though because it's commonly one of the wettest places on earth, it rains 2 out of 3 days. In 12 hours one year, Fiordland had the annual rainfall of London.
We stopped for a few photo opportunities, the first was the mirror lakes. They're exactly as the sound, a set of lakes or a lake that gives a perfect reflection of the mountains in the background. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.
Next photo stop was of mount earl. Not as beautiful as the mirror lakes but still pretty enough.
Our next photo stop was of Mount Tutuko and also here we could fill up our water bottles from the stream as it was fresh water. Tasted much better than the stuff out of the tap I can tell you!
The Homer tunnel is an almost one way tunnel - it has passing bays to allow traffic flow and in the peak of summer it has traffic lights to control traffic. It's the single biggest engineering feat in the area - which is to do with how they built it way back when - with lots of dynamite.
I can't recall why it's called the Homer Saddle, prob something to with one I the original founders of the area but it reminds me of that other great Homer (Simpson) and it made me chuckle. The views were will pretty wonderful, in fact I think it was getting prettier the further into the park we went. It had rained loads the day before and then it had been so cold that the waterfalls had frozen.
On the other side of the tunnel we stopped for a photo of the valley that would take us down to Milford Sound. On a rainy day this valley is called the valley of a thousand waterfalls. There were already a few so I could half imagine the scene on a rainy day.
Unlike the rest of NZ, Milford was not discovered by Captain Cook - be thought it was just an inlet and carried on round the coast. It was discovered by a Welshman in 1821 instead who named it Milford (haven) after his home town in Pembrokeshire. It got changed to Milford Sound although it's not technically a sound, it's a fjord which is different.
We boarded the boat shortly before lunch - we were all starving by that time having eaten an early breakfast! The hot buffet was great but sadly the boat starts its journey so we missed some of the first bits.
I was stunned by the scenery earlier on in he day but I was even more stunned by the views. It was pretty windy Li on deck but as we journeyed out to the mouth, the view of he "sound" was spectacular.
We spotted some rather lazy fur seals on our way back and got really close to a few waterfalls. It was just breathtaking - I use that word a lot but i cant think what other word to use to do it justice.
On our way back we got dropped off the underwater centre to look at black coral. Black coral isn't black but white and it usually grows 50-100 metres under the sea - Milford is the only place in the world you can view it at 10 metres. It's got something to do with deep water emergence caused by the mountains but I didn't really follow what they were telling me.
Half an hour later we were back on the boat and then back on the bus for the 4 hour return to Queenstown.
I managed to stay awake for most of the journey that we had by daylight - watching the sun go down and the stars come out on yet another fantastic day.
On the journey back from Te Anau, we got treated to a movie which was a good way to pass the time as no lights in the bus means no reading and no scenery to stare at.
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