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Published: February 21st 2010
It was a little before 7:30 when we headed down the hill to catch our bus to Milford Sound. Pea and Lessor, our new friends from Denmark, joined us as we made the walk down. Walking down from the Hippo Lodge is certainly a lot easier than the walk up.
We got on a Kiwi Experience Bus and realized it was a lot nicer and comfortable than the regular buses we had been riding over the last 2 weeks. These had foot rests and the chairs reclined. It was good since we would spend most of our day on the bus. As the crow flies Milford Sound is actually quite close, unfortunately for us we were not flying. A rather large mountain range impeded our path which forced us to take a three hour bus ride to the sound.
The drive there was amazing; we even got to see a full rainbow. We passed two huge lakes and several mountains on our way there. We stopped for breakfast at a small restaurant called the Pop In Café. Elyse and I both had a breakfast sandwich. After breakfast we still had another hour or so in our drive. As we
neared our final destination the driver pulled off at a small lake which reflected the surrounding mountains and trees. It was a quick stop only 20 minutes at most. There were a few other brief stops for photos before we got into the Fiordland National Park.
The road weaved through the mountains and made for a pretty slow pace. There were a few single lane bridges that we had to wait for the oncoming cars to pass before we could proceed in our journey. This is a pretty common thing in New Zealand. Often times there isn’t even any traffic control devices that indicate who should be going and who should be stopping. By far the oddest of these single lane bridges doubled as a train trestle.
The driver stopped just short of one of the single lane bridges so the group could get out and take photos. He instructed us to be careful since the rushing water of the nearby waterfall made it hard to hear the traffic. There was a huge cascading waterfall that looked out of place in front of the bridge. It was so large and fast that it dwarfed the size of the
Milford Sound 13
Mazda Commercial Zoom Zoom Zoom filmed here
bridge and adjacent bus. On the other side it seemed to be a lot more mellow.
We all got back on the bus but were not able to drive fast since an Asian man chose to walk in the middle of the road back to his car. Elyse and I were used to this type of behavior in China, complete and utter lack of interest in what was going on behind him, even if he was holding up a huge bus filled with 50 or so people. His mission involved walking in the middle of the road back to his car. It sort of reminded me of what we could expect in Shenzhen once we returned. As we climbed the hill there was some patches of snow. The driver informed us that it was the remains of old avalanches that had yet to melt.
The driver made an announcement that we would soon approach the Homer Tunnel. It was a 1,250 meter tunnel bored thru the rocky mountain side that fell one meter for every ten meters it traveled. This was a one lane tunnel that had a traffic signal at the front of the entrance. The light
Milford Sound 16
effects of an avalanche
would turn green every 15 minutes to let cars enter. We were allowed to get off the bus and take some photos. There was a kea, native bird that looked like a parrot hanging out next to the side of the road. It was a little strange to see such a bird in the snowy landscape.
One the other side of the tunnel was cliff faces that reached high into the sky. The weather was cloudy and was a little rainy. There were literally hundreds of waterfalls coming down the cliff faces all around us. The road to the floor of the valley was windy and steep. Apparently the Mazda “Zoom Zoom” commercial was filmed at this location.
Once we got down the road it wasn’t long before we got onto the boat. We passed the small airfield on our way to the boat terminal. We were given three tickets as we exited. One for the boat, one for our buffet lunch, and one for the underwater exhibit. Elyse and I were both glad that we brought a fleece jacket as well as rain coats with us because it was colder than we expected. We were actually glad
that it was raining since 90% of the areas waterfalls disappear a few hours after the rains stop. So it was a good thing. The mountain peeks were so high that they were not all visible towards their tops on account of the clouds.
This area is so amazing and epic that a detailed description would not do. The sound is something that you need to see in real life to comprehend its size. Even in pictures water falls that are 450 feet look small. The pictures don’t really do the place justice. There are more mountains in New Zealand that are over 2000 meters high than both Austria and Switzerland combined.
One of the highlights was when the ships captain steered for a huge waterfall and soaked everyone standing on the bow of the ship. Afterwards those with tickets were dropped off at a small looking building in the middle of nowhere along the rocky banks of one mountain. Inside we walked down a spiral staircase 30 ft below the surface of the water. There were huge windows that allowed visitor to see the underwater world without distorting the actual size of the fish.. About an hour
later we were picked up by a much smaller ship and headed back to the docks. Along the way we saw a pod of bottle nose dolphins moving though the sound.
We took the same roads home and the bus ride back would have sucked if not for the driver playing a movie for us. We watched The Hangover which Elyse and I had both seen, but that was a while ago and we both enjoyed watching it again. We arrived back in Queenstown around 8pm. We had pizza at a place called Hell’s Pizza. We ate with a couple from Calgary, Ben and Lisa. After dinner we hoofed it back up the hill to go to bed. It was a long day and we were looking forward to sleeping in.
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