Milford Sound

Trip Start Apr 02, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, May 21, 2011

How can I possibly explain what I saw today in a way that would do it justice? Words are just not enough, hopefully the photos I took will suffice

Got up early to get organized for my trip to Milford Sound, Tanya took me to Frankton Road to meet the coach at 7.50am. The coach was less than half full & most of the other passengers were Japanese, with a few English & Spanish people. The driver, Russell, seemed an amiable fellow & gave us plenty of information throughout the day on what we were seeing, some of the history of the area, the flora & fauna & a multitude of other facts. He said that if we thought we'd seen some great scenery around Queenstown we hadn’t seen anything yet as what we would see later was much, much better – I couldn’t imagine how.

It was a lovely day & the sun streamed through the windows Some of the passengers slept on the way to Te Anau & I struggled to stay awake but I didn’t want to doze off & miss anything. I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t stop for photos anywhere so had to take them through the coach windows & risk reflections. We got to Te Anau just before 10am & had a refreshment break of half an hour. I didn’t want to go into the same café as everyone else from the coach, looked a bit ambience free anyway, so had a walk down the road & found a lovely little café with a very friendly lady at the counter. A coffee & a muffin later & I was ready for the off again.

After leaving Te Anau Russell stopped several times, before we arrived at Milford Sound, so we could take photos. He was so correct the scenery was even better. Each place we stopped for photos was amazing but some more so than others. We got out at a place called the Mirror Lakes (so aptly named), the reflections in the water of the Earl mountains was absolutely incredible.

At Monkey Creek, on Lyttles Flat, Russell told us to toss the water in out bottles out & refill them from the mountain stream so several of us did just that & the water tasted fantastic – wish I’d had a bigger bottle! There was a great view of the Upper Hollyford Valley & Mt Crosscut from there.

We stopped for about 5 minutes at Homer’s Tunnel – that was a major feat of engineering. William Homer, who’d explored the Upper Hollyford Valley, proposed the building of a tunnel in 1889 beneath the saddle that he climbed as to get to Milford Sound one had to go by steamer or walk the Milford Track. It wasn’t till 1935 though that 8 men with pick axes, shovels & wheelbarrows began clearing debris from the base of the saddle. After hitting solid rock heavy machinery & hundreds of men were brought in. The work ceased during World War Two so it wasn’t till 1953 that the tunnel was completed.

The tunnel is 1.27 km long & wide enough for 2 cars but only 1 bus, truck or caravan can go through at a time. During the summer the tunnel is controlled by traffic lights but they are removed for the winter.

On the Milford side of the tunnel is the Cleddau Valley, named after a valley in Wales (actually Milford Sound’s original name was Milford Haven after a town of the same name in Wales). The Maori name is Piopiotahi after the piopio bird, which is now extinct; piopiotahi means 'a single piopio’ &, according to Maori legend, one flew here in mourning after Maui died in his attempt to win immortality for mankind.

The road down to Milford Sound is steep & full of hairpin bends with dramatic scenery. The day had become a little cloudy & clouds were shrouding the tops of the hills. We stopped at the Chasm, which is so dramatic, it is where the Cleddau River disappears
through a narrow chasm & has carved strange round shaped holes in the
rocks by the sheer force of the swirling water. It was a 15 minute round trip walk through the
forest to see it, unfortunately the photos fail to show just how
fantastic & dramatic it is.

We arrived in Milford Sound at 1.31pm & were due to board the boat at 1.35pm so there wasn’t much time to waste – I sure didn’t want to miss the cruise. The boat left at 1.45pm & we were on the Sound for the next hour & three-quarters. The scenery was really fantastic & the day down at the Sound was clear so the views were incredible. The boat covered the entire length of the Sound going out almost to where the Tasman Sea met Milford Sound. At one point the pilot took the boat so close to the Stirling Falls that the water cascaded onto the boat, he warned people in advance but I stayed out on deck as I wanted to take photos – consequently I got soaked, although at the last minute I went inside so didn’t get totally drenched.

When we were near the entrance to the Sound a dolphin followed behind us then went to play alongside the boat for a short while; others were playing further away. Then at Seal Rock a NZ Fur Seal climbed out of the water & sat on a rock as though posing for us to take photos, it was hard case! Towards the end of the cruise it started to rain a little bit that was ok as I was already wet from the waterfall. The boat docked again 3.30pm & we were soon on board the coach. On the return journey the coach was very quiet, some people slept. After stopping at Te Anau for a short break Russell put the movie "The Fastest Indian" with Anthony Hopkins on, I had started watching it years ago but never saw the entire film.

When we got back to Queenstown I stayed on the coach to be dropped off in town so I could meet Tanya but first I had a look round the shops – still trying to find something to send back to England & eureka I found something perfect, perseverance pays off!! When Tanya came we went for a burger at Fergburger, I’m not usually keen on burgers but these were amazing & so big. When I got mine I wondered how I would be able to get my mouth round it. Afterwards we intended going for a hot chocolate but all the cafes were closed or closing so we just came home & got sorted for bed.
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