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Published: June 10th 2009
En route to Milford #1
See how half is thick cloud and the other half is clear blue sky? 'mazin'
So back down to earth with a bump. After leaving the Remarkables Lodge, we headed south then west and arrived at a place called Te Anau - this was the last proper town before heading on to Milford Sound.
After our night at a campsite, we woke up to a murky, overcast morning. While filling up with petrol, we checked about the road to Milford as we’d heard that it was compulsory to carry snow chains during particular winter months of the year. However, on asking the attendant, no snow chains were required today. I felt better after hearing that as I didn’t relish the thought of being stuck out in Milford Sound in a massive snow storm.
So we drove north out of Te Anau wondering what we would find - we’d been told that it would be an “epic” journey to Milford so wondered what to expect. We’d been on really bad roads back up in the North island so imagined a single track, unsealed road, half barricaded with landslips and strewn with potholes. However, when we’d been driving north for about half an hour, the smooth tarmac’d, two lane road had not deteriorated to anything and
En route to Milford #2
Best looking barbed wire you'll ever see.
was still a smooth, tarmac’d, two lane road. So far so good. We did see a sign saying this was the most avalanche prone road in the world so we had to be on the look out for huge moving masses of rocks/snow. According to the rough guide, after the last death by avalanche, back in the early eighties, helicopters fly overhead and drop dynamite on suspicious looking piles of snow (“Hey you, yes you, pile of snow! Whaddya think you’re doing there?”) to create simulated avalanches (obviously they close the road first - otherwise that’s a bit cruel) and thus reduce the risk.
Enough of the facts. Half an hour out of Te Anau and we were in a winter wonderland! We had driven under and out of the blanket of cloud that had hung so listlessly over the town and into clear blue skies, thin, quickly disappearing mists and everything covered with a heavy, sparkling white frost. Beautiful. This did also mean that the temperature had dropped by about 10 degrees but who cares about that when you’re sitting inside a nice warm van and your fiancé (couldn’t resist!) is the one taking the fab pictures outside?
A bit further on is the Mirror Lakes which are really self explanatory. The water is so absolutely still - I don’t think there were even any ducks on it (not surprised as it was absolutely FREEZING). Good photo’s though.
After a couple of hours or so, we made it to Milford Sound. Luckily, it was a fair bit warmer here. Milford Sound is a strange place - there is one café which doesn’t have to make an effort (and it shows), a motel type place, 2 large car parks and the boat/ferry terminal. We walked around in the sunshine, had warm drinks from the slack café (tea served in a coffee plunger? I ask you!) and then drove 5 minutes down the road to the motel/caravan park for the afternoon/evening (it was bloody cold there as the frost did not thaw all day). Surrounding the motel were Kea - the worlds only alpine parrot. They were very inquisitive and one landed on the roof of the van and walked about while we were cooking tea. In the middle of the night, we heard another one drag the bucket (that we leave under the sink pipe outside) about
for a few minutes and when we woke up the next morning, saw that it was a few metres away! Cheeky little things.
The next day, we weren’t so lucky with the weather - it was a slightly warmer yet grey day. However, we’d arranged to go on a cruise of the lakes so were looking forward to that nonetheless.
We headed up to the boat terminal and discovered that we were 2 of a whopping 9 people on board a huge catamaran that could easily hold three hundred people. Well at least we weren’t going to be jostling for space to take photo’s! As we pulled out into the water, a group of dolphins came over and for a few minutes they were riding the waves at the front of the boat and playing - was a great sight - you could almost reach out and touch them, they were that close!
We saw a variety of waterfalls, flora, fauna and some seals just chilling on some rocks and admired the stillness of the place. Milford Sound is a drowned glacial valley and as the valley sides have been carved out by a glacier, a few
The Mirror Lakes 1
I cannot tell you how cold it was that day.
years back, it has a U shape and is very deep. This means that the odd cruise ship pops down here quite happily. After a couple of hours, we returned to shore (but not before seeing the dolphins again - this time we saw them as they were playing with some canoeists!), got back in the van and started the long journey back to Te Anau.
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