Day 12 – Milford Sound

Alarm goes off stupidly early this morning at 5-45am as we swapping the car for a coach and cruise trip to Milford Sound. The journey starts from the centre of Queenstown and heads off for 3 hours to Te Anau. Along the way the driver gives us some commentary on the history of the area and lakes we pass as well as the usual funny quips you get with a coach trip. A 40 minute break and we are back on the road but now we get lots of little stops for photo opportunities and there are plenty of them as we start travelling through some huge snow capped mountain ranges.

After travelling around the beautiful Lake Te Anau we then enter the Fiordland National Park and the Eglinton Valley. This is large flat piece of grassland with huge mountains either side and a real jaw dropping scene. From there we head on to Mirror Lakes which are 2 small lakes next to each other and are known for the stillness of the water which then reflects perfectly the mountain range that sits behind them. The only things that spoils this are the wind and a small family of ducks that live on the lakes but neither bothered us and we were in luck, getting the perfect mirror shot.

We then drove further into the valley passing some stunning mountains and deep tree filled valleys. We stopped at a few points to take some photos and then headed for another landmark, The Chasm. This is where a river crashes down off the mountains with gorgeous clear water and settles in a small pool before crashing down further into the valley below. What makes it different is that the water over the years has worn holes on the rocks leaving what appear to be a bottomless chasm that absorbs some of the cascading water. The driver tells us to be careful with our cameras/phones as just a few weeks ago a girl dropped her phone over the bridge never to be seen again. My camera strap is tied firmly around my wrist 😉

The final stop comes after a long uphill climb around a narrow mountain road. Suddenly we have a huge valley off to our left that rise up at the far side into a massive snow capped mountain. It really is breathtaking to see and is put well into perspective as there are some people below stood next to a snow pile. They appear to be about an inch tall. But then we notice the road we are on suddenly stops and there are traffic lights. This is when we realise we are going to be driving through this mountain in a tunnel that is only just big enough for the coach to fit. This was a little scary and very claustrophobic and im a little on edge for the 3 minute journey through. The daylight at the far end cant come quick enough and then its straight on down the hill to the port of Milford Sound to meet up with our cruise boat.

Once on the boat we are given a pie and a beer, perfect lunch for me, and then we are off with the stunning Mitre Peak directly in front of us. This is the highest mountain in Milford Sound and dominates the landscape with its iconic shape. The cruise sails out along the left side of the sound and we are given details of the geology and glaciers that once formed this wonderful place. As the captain steered the boat close to the side for a look at the vegetation we are treat to the sight of 4 seals basking on the rocks, a real bonus. The weather is amazing again with mostly clear skies and temperature of 20 degrees. This is very rare for this area which is know for being the wettest place on earth getting  even more than the Amazon Rainforest. We are also told that it is a Fiord and not a sound as sounds are rivers that have been flooded by the sea whereas a fiord is created by a glacier carving its way through the mountains. This is what happened here and the sides of the sound show the proof of at least 3 glaciers moving through here. As you can see, it was very educational and one last fact was that to be classed as a drought in the sound it hasn’t to rain for 7 days, something that has only happened once on the last 45 years that the captain has been working here….today is day 8 and has become officially the driest period on record.

The boat, as we get a view of the Tasmin Sea, now starts to rock quite a bit and we are informed that this is because we are now being pushed by the sea’s waves rather than the still water of the sound. The boat turns into the waves and we get the first of our drenching’s as water suddenly is thrown on to the front of the boat where we are all stood. The captain thinks its funny and has clearly done this many times to his customers. We were warned though to bring waterproofs. We turn around now and start to head back along the left side and back to the harbour. First up on our left are a series of rocks that look like two turtles kissing. Then its more seals and we get a bit closer to these but they aren’t interested in us and are just lazing about.

Then comes our next soaking and a real awesome sight too. Its a huge waterfall that comes off one of the mountains and the captain warns us to either put on our raincoats or go back inside. The reason for this is because he sails the boat directly underneath the waterfall with gallons of water suddenly dumped on to us. I tried so hard to get a good photo of this but my camera was also drenched making it impossible. We then head back in slowly passed a 3rd waterfall into the harbour as our 2 hour cruise comes to an end. It takes . along time to get here and the cruise isn’t that long but it really is worth doing at least once for the stunning sights. A real amazing experience that will live with me forever.

The only thing left now was to head on back to Queenstown and this was a shorter journey as there were no stops other than Te Anau for a quick coffee and to go the loo. The final part of the journey was taken up watching a film called The Worlds Fastest Indian which id highly recommend to anyone. Tomorrow we leave the west coast and head south east to Dunedin.