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Published: June 28th 2008
Isn't it gorgeous! Check out the sign.
NZ Day 7
Milford Sound and the Surrounding Fjordland
We started out the day at a reasonable time of 8’clock and left the hostel by 9:15am. We fueled up and then headed for the road to Milford Sound. We didn’t know exactly what we were going to see but we were prepared to stop wherever it looked inviting or nice. And stop we did. But there were too many places to stop every time it was nice because that would have been every 5 metres.
First we stopped at Mistletoe lake and walked on a little loop through the forest looking at the lake and the beautiful snowcapped mountains reflected in the lake. Then we headed deeper into the Fjordland National Park, which is a World Heritage Area.
Our next stop was Mirror Lakes. They get their name because they are typically still and reflect the mountains behind them so magnificently. The only thing that I didn’t like was that it was a popular tourist attraction and we rocked up when there were 3 other coaches filled with tourists there. Thankfully they were leaving so we didn’t have to weave around too many other tourists
Here is a view of some of our driving in the Fjordland.
to take photos on the boardwalk between the road and the lakes.
We also stopped at a place called The Chasm. I was expecting it to be like Standley Chasm from the outback that had pretty much dried up and we walked in between the rock walls that the water wore away. But instead The Chasm was filled with the gushing waters of the river that was currently carving it. And we were on boardwalks overlooking the crazy shapes that the water carved away. It was a pretty amazing sight.
We were amazed as we went further into the parkland how much snow there was everywhere. I thought the snow on the valley floor looked like the melted marshmallows on top of sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving before they are browned on top. Luckily the roads were well cleared and it was safe driving all the way.
We crossed through Homer’s Tunnel, which is a tunnel blasted through the solid rock of the mountain. It’s pretty incredible to drive through because it’s just a solid dome of rock and it’s very impressive to feel like you are inside a mountain.
After crossing through the tunnel we ran
Solid rock tunnel carved out of a mountain!
into a man on a small turn off of the road who had stopped with a bird on top of his car. He waved us in and we were introduced to Henry the Kea. (We named him Henry and he was a Kea, which is a native NZ bird). Henry hopped off the man’s car and came over to hang out on our side mirrors. I rolled down the window to take a better photo and it looked like we wanted to jump right in the car and join us. We spent some time getting to know Henry before we were ready to leave but then we realized Henry didn’t want us to go. He kept hopping around the car and it took us a while to get him far enough away so we could pull out without the fear of squishing him. It was fun to get to know some native NZ wildlife so up-close and personally.
For lunch we sat on a picnic bench overlooking Milford Sound and Mitre Peak. It was a very calm and relaxing spot. We decided not to do a cruise on the sound to save our money and because we had heard
Our friend the Kea and the guy who showed him to us in the background.
from other travelers that when the weather was cloudy the cruise didn’t seem all that special. I was happy with what we did get to do in the area.
On our way back down the road from Milford to Te Anau we took a little detour down a fork in the road to see the little settlement of Hollyford. It was a very small area about 7km off the main road that housed a small museum of Gunn’s stuff and a little store and some cottages. Outside the store was a signpost that had distances to local and far away places. There were also some other funny signs.
Gunn was the last name of the first man to settle the area. He evidently has a long and interesting history written in his biography that was sold in the little shop. The lady running the shop said that Gunn’s son was the owner of the shop and property now. Gunn’s camp was the original settlement in that area and it seemed like a nice place.
Another feature in the parking lot was a US H-Bomb that the Ministry of Defense deactivated a while ago. (or atleast that is
Looking down at the water carving away at the rocks.
what the bomb said. Of course I was a bit skeptical and it was just kind of a weird place for it to be. I guess that’s why we took the road less traveled. To see the things that not everyone takes the time to see and discover.
When we crossed the 45 degree South Lattitude Line of course we had to make a big deal and stop. Sarah and I realized that this was the farthest from the Equator that either of us has ever been. It was definitely feeling today like the breeze was coming straight from Antarctica. There was a definite chill in the air.
Driving through Milford Sound really tired us out so we came back to the hostel to rest and upload photos. We booked an evening on a cruise to some caves to see famous NZ glow worms.
The glow worm tour started on a boat called the Luminous that took us across the lake to the place where the caves were. Unfortunately, since our tour started at 7pm (and we just passed the winter solstice), we could not enjoy the beauty of the lake because all we could see off
Here was our picnic at Milford Sound with Mitre Peak in the background.
the sides of the boat was pitch blackness.
When we got to the other side of lake we were split into five groups to go in and explore the caves. Sarah and I were in group number three so we sat in the Cavern House to warm up before going into the caves and get a brief safety information spiel. After we heard the spiel we were wisked into the cavern. In all of the safety talks they told us we would have to bend over and go up some steps in the caves. Sarah and I were very intrigued by the stress on bending over, but sure enough to enter the cave we had to walk along a path with a four foot high ceiling for about 10 metres. Isn’t wasn’t bad but bending was necessary.
Once in the caves we couldn’t get away from the sound of rushing water. The cave was quite actively being carved out. The water was fed through the cave from a lake system high in the mountains above the cave. In the cave before we got back to the glow worm grotto we saw some of the places water had dripped
Latitude 45 degrees South
I'm souther than I've ever been!
in and carved out large vertical tunnels in the ceiling as well as got to taste some of that water. We also saw a pretty impressive waterfall of the rushing water.
After that we had to be absolutely silent because our guides said that the glow worms would turn themselves off if they heard noises or there was light. (So cameras were not allowed at all in the cave ). We got up to the grotto and stepped into a small boat. The guide moved our boat by walking around on the edges of the boat and pulling us along by cables in the ceiling. As soon as we left the docking area it was pitch black and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. But then we looked up and saw the glow worms. The weren’t lit up everywhere but there were patches here and there. As we progressed further into the cave we saw more and more. The guide brought us really close to the sides of the cave so that big patches kind of illuminated us enough so I could see my hand for a little bit.
It’s hard to describe what
I wonder if the top sign is pointing at the sky or the NZ flag?
glow worms look like but my best attempt at a description is to say that it looks like stars in the night sky. But really really bright at the center and more of a glow around them. The glow worm isn’t actually a worm its just a larvae of a kind of fly that reacts chemicals in its tail to make a heatless glow that attracts insects for it to eat. The glow worm catches the insects through “fishing lines” sticky threads that it hangs from the mucous hammock it lives in. The lines kinda work like spider webs. One glow worm can have up to 70 strings to catch insects on.
After the glow worm grotto on our way back out of the cave the guide showed us Percy. The cave that we were in was very “young”. I think she said it was only 12,000 years old. Percy was a stalagtite that was about 400 years old. It was only about an inch long. Craziness!
When we got back to the Cavern House they served us complimentary tea and showed us a short documentary on glow worms. I was also allowed to take some photos of
the display. Which is how I got this photo of a glow worm and its strings.
Tomorrow we set off to Invercargill and then the southern most tip of the Island. The closest thing to Antarctic in this country.
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