The next morning we had a lie in, only joking! Bacon and egg sandwiches for the hardy travelers before we put on brave faces and headed out into the rain. Sadly it was due to rain for the whole day but we were in fjordland and heading for Milford Sound which gets 7 metres of rain a year so we always expected to see it in the rain. The receptionist at the hostel told us that in fact it is even more impressive then as the waterfalls are all the more powerful. It's fair to say that we were well informed. In truth the only thing that the rain spoilt was our fashion sense as Steve and I plodded around in somewhat uncoordinated bright red, purple, green and blue waterproofs spoiling any photos we were in together. As we drove down the Milford Road, which takes about 2 hours, the landscape steadily became more and more dramatic with the mountains shooting up from the roadside giving us close up views of their waterfalls and glaciers
. There were long sections of the road that are at high risk of avalanche where we were not allowed to stop the car to take photos so instead we drove at a crawling pace to take it all in and steal some snaps. We also shared the misfortune of one tourist who was too busy admiring the views to realize his campervan wasn’t going to fit under the exit to the tunnel and managed to take the roof off his rental campervan – sympathetically we pointed and slowed down for a good look! By the time we arrived at Milford Sound itself the rain was in full swing but as we were encased in our waterproof layers nothing was stopping us jumping on a boat for our cruise out into the sound. In fact by the time we were up on the top deck making the most of the complimentary (I love that word) tea and coffee the rain had settled to more gentle spitting and the mountains around the sound all were standing out like looming shadows in more shades of grey than can be imagined. Each one topped with a hat of clouds that hundreds of waterfalls tumbled out of like they were coming out of the sky. After banking many more photos we were dropped off at a midway point to have a look in an underwater observatory at the bizarre sealife. For any intellectual types who are interested Milford Sound is in fact a Fjord not a Sound and it has three meters of fresh water, from all the waterfalls and rain, sitting on top of the sea water below which creates a very unique habitat for wildlife. Just a few meters under the surface you can see starfish, coral and other creatures who usually only live at great depths underwater
. Steve and Dad seemed to know just what to do to be able to take good photos down there but even with my fool-proof 'Aquarium’ setting on my camera I wasn’t exactly achieving much more than blurs of colour so I settled down near a friendly starfish and let them do the documenting for this experience. On the boat back to Milford we powered through a few more teas and coffees before stepping ashore and walking along the bay to get away from the few crowds that were getting on and off boats. Another good thing about the rain is that the view points that are usually crowded with tour buses are surprisingly empty. In the sun the mountains all around make reflections in the water which I’m sure would again be another spectacle well worth seeing but I couldn’t be disappointed with the mood of Milford we got to experience, it was grey on display in more glory than I could have given it credit for ever before.
For the drive back down Milford Road there are so many hikes and views to visit it was quite helpful to be inhibited by both time and weather to help us cut down our options. Our first stop was at The Chasm where we watched the Mountain Parrots (Kea) causing mischief while we ate our picnic in the car safe from their clutches. A short walk then took us into lush forests to see great gushing water falls had carved out a fantastic shapes in the rocks below and the water was so powerful given the rainfall I’m surprised we didn’t see it happen in front of our eyes
. On the way back through the Homer Tunnel once we appeared out the other side we were surprised to find ourselves in a snowstorm so the boys had a play in the snow with the parrots and I kept warm in the car! More walks, suspension bridges and waterfalls later and it was time for us to make a move back to Queenstown with a 5 hour drive ahead of us. We made it back to QT in time for a lovely meal out on the town and had heard rumors of another beautiful weather day tomorrow.
Time for a tea break,
Amy, Soaked Steve and Damp Dad