. However the land lies, that's the route you take it New Zealand! We already knew a bit about this tunnel, called the Homer Tunnel, because we had read in the guidebook that they have a naked race through it each year (nutters!) but it was still a bit of a surprise. Lets get one thing straight, driving through the Homer Tunnel is nothing like driving though a tunnel back at home- Conwy Tunnel it aint! Basically it was just big enough to fit two vans in side by side, it wasn't concreted on the floor or walls, there was water gushing down the sides, there were no lights and it was on a sharp decline through the mountain. It was less like driving though a tunnel and more like driving through a long cave! As we came out the other side it felt like we had been transported to another country. There was tons of snow on the ground, we were higher than the clouds but, thankfully, it looked like the sky was beginning to clear. As we descended into Milford we saw that this destination wasn't really even a town- there was a harbour for the tourist boats, some toilets, a cafe and a small row of apartments for the workers to live in. We pulled up and walked down to the harbour. We had decided to go on one of the smaller boats which specialised in nature trips and, when we saw the huge size of some of the boats, we were really happy with the decision we had made. Once on board and warming up with a nice cup of coffee, we headed out into the Sounds. We had really high expectations of the Milford Sound as this is how our guidebook choose to describe it: "There are simply no words in the thesauraus to describe the sight of Milford Sound...In every sense Milford Sound is quite simply New Zealand at its glorious and unparalleled best"
. High praise indeed, and we couldn't agree more!! The Milford Sound is not only the most beautiful place we have been to so far in New Zealand, but I think it is possibly the most beautiful place I have ever seen during my time on this planet. I can't describe how wonderful it was. Sheer cliff-faces, snow-capped mountains, lush rainforest, hundreds (yes hundreds) of waterfalls, all crammed into one long thin corridor that reached out to the sea. My descriptions don't do Milford justice, you'll have look at the photos, or better yet come here, to experiene how immense it is. On our boat trip we were really lucky to see some seals and even two of the ultra rare Fiordland Yellow Crested Penguins, which are one of the rarest penguins in the world with only 2000 remaining. They were so cute and looked like the tap dancing penguin from Happy Feet as they hopped about on the rocks. Towards the end of the trip we went to have a closer look at one of the waterfalls. The captain of the boat announced that he was going to drive the front of the boat into the waterfall and that anyone who didn't want to get wet should go inside. Surfice to say that everyone else scarpered and left me and Tom by ourselves at the front. Now I thought that when he said he was going into the waterfall we would get quite close and we might get a bit damp if we stayed at the front... what actually happened is that he put the nose of the boat directly into the water and me and Tom got drenched to bone. Our clothes were soaked from head to toe, my hair was dripping wet and we were shivering with the cold
. It had been worth it though! Considering that some campsites in New Zealand charge extra for you to have a shower we were pretty happy to get one for free! Back inside the boat everyone was looking very lovely and Tom and I were sat in the corner looking like two drowned rats drinking coffee- a lovely American woman came over to me though and told me that I had 'really expereinced that opportunity to the max' which I thought was sweet of her. After we got off the boat we ended up chatting to a couple from Essex who were also traveling the world- their itinerary had been a bit faster than ours though and they had already been to Africa, India, Asia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and only had South America to do before they went home. I was quite jealous of some of the places they had been to but at the same time I don't think we would really enjoy a trip like that because they had spent such a short amount of time in each place- I'm glad we are taking things a bit slower. The drive back to Te Anau was an adventure in itself because we were running really low on petrol even though we had filled up before we left- driving over mountains drinks up you fuel- and we encountered a coach on the way back through the Homer Tunnel, eek! But we made it back in one piece and headed out for little walk around the lake to finish the day off. Even though we would've liked to have spent more time in Queenstown, we definetly made the right decision by going over to Milford today as the weather report was awful for the next few days- because of the forecast of heavy snow you had to carry snow-chains and the avalanche warning had been raised. We stayed in another DoC camp tonight and had a lovely tea of scrambled eggs, beans and toast and I got my worst ever score when we played cards...boo hoo!
We were up at stupid-o'clock this morning in order to get to our boat trip for 8:30am. We weren't sure how long we still had to drive to get to the dock so we left extra early just to be sure. As we were driving along at about 7am we saw some wonderful scenery with really great names like 'The Chasm'; one of the best things about driving in New Zealand is that the place names are really descriptive, we've seen some great places like Stinky Creek and Mount Awful! Anway, as we were driving the terrain suddenly got a lot steeper and the temperature dropped to below freezing. Before we knew it we were climbing up the side of mountain and approaching a tunnel through the rock. Now this might not sound very exciting but Tom and I were pretty shocked at seeing a tunnel as it's the first one we have seen since we got here- keen to preserve the natural beauty of the country, the roads follow the natural paths laid out in the landscape, which means that if there is a big mountain chances are you are going to have to go over the top of it rather than through the middle of it