Published: July 4th 2006May 26th 2006
Described as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, Milford Sound is an area of magnificent natural beauty. I planned my trip there perfectly to stay the night in the backpackers on shore and join one of the cruises early the following morning to explore the full 22km of Milford Sound by boat. At a relatively quiet time of year for visitors there was only myself, a traveller from Ireland, who’d been staying in the same hostel, the tour guide and the captain making the excursion!
With waterfalls plunging hundreds of metres into the fiord it was all pretty spectacular, complemented with astonishing geographical facts and figures, many opportunities to take photographs of the scenery and each other, and even included a free coffee and muffin! Really the best part of the experience for me was the sparsity of tourists in such an idyllic spot, and the fact that it had been raining all night so the fiord was at its most impressive. The photographs really don’t do it justice. For anyone who is in two-minds as to whether to make the journey into Fiordland, I can only assure you that, even if driving through disappointing weather along the Milford Road,
Aoraki Mount Cook
At 3754 metres, Aoraki meaning 'cloud piercer' is New Zealand's tallest mountain
your efforts will be rewarded once you reach the sound. As I drove back down the Milford Road towards Te Anau I was amazed at the sight of packed coaches streaming along in the opposite direction and took great pride in knowing that I had avoided the tourism chaos.
After Milford I had a memorable time sharing a backpackers chalet near Manapouri with an English/Aussie guy, solving life's great mysteries, including analysing different ways to maintaining successful jobs and relationships and agreeing on the enjoyment of living a basic life while travelling. We shared a meal together and talked until late. It felt like saying goodbye to an old friend when we went our separate ways the next morning, but I suppose that's what backpacking is all about.
My journey north took me back through Cromwell, where I had already been on my trip from Dunedin to Fox Glacier, and as it is a rich fruit orchard area most famous for its apricots, apples and cherries, 63km from Queenstown on the shores of Lake Dunstan, it seemed rude not to pause there for a while to sample a delicious boysenberry smoothie!
On reading a comment in a
The largest glacier in New Zealand
visitor book recently I wasn't expecting much from the town of Twizel but in fact I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived. The surrounding plains were used for a lot of the filming of the Lord of the Rings films and with the backdrop of the Southern Alps it makes a beautiful location. It just proves not to believe everything you read! Luckily, with not many backpackers around I was given the use of a self-contained lodge with double-bed all to myself at a lovely place called Omahau Downs. Luxury when you're travelling!! I managed to catch up on some uninterrupted sleep which can be rare in shared dorms.
And then it was on to one of the focus points of any trip to New Zealand - Mount Cook. I stayed in the YHA hostel in the village but didn't rate it very highly, although did meet some interesting people and spent the night playing cards with them. I was very pleased with the change in weather for a walk to the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View and happy to be in the South Island at this time of year for the beautiful autumnal colours around Lake Pukaki
One of the many waterfalls
This one being over three times taller than Niagara
and views of the mountains.
Unfortunately due to maintainence work in the area there wasn't any power from 8am to 6pm the next day so the majority of businesses took the opportunity to have a day off - typical kiwi attitude! and I enjoyed the scenic drive to Lake Tekapo at a very leisurely pace.
There are more photos below