Magnificent Milford Sound

It is 119 kilometres from Te Anau to Milford. We left Te Anau at 10 AM figuring we would take about four hours or more to travel this road as we heard and read that it is a heavily trafficked road with lots of photo op stops on up the way. For the first half of our journey we did not see another car, no sheep, cows or deers and the mountains were hidden in clouds. When we made our first stop for a restroom break there were two vans pardoned for camping. At the next stop, Mirror Lake, all of a sudden there were two buses unloading and cars pulling in. We don’t know where they came from. Mirror Lake was well laid out with a path we could walk in either direction and a sufficient number of views along the lake that we did not feel crowded. Miraculously the clouds had given way to sunshine and beautiful snow covered mountains were reflected in the lake.

That was yesterday. No internet since.

Now in the Postmaster Cafe in Riverton. Spent last evening cruising Milford Sound. Awesome starry night. Spent the night on the Milford Mariner.

We have been on Stewart Island since March 5. In internet parlance that is like dropping off the end of the earth, however, we just discovered that the library has a free wifi hot spot whether the library is open or not. Unfortunately outside here the sand flies are biting.

The Chasm Falls was an amazing jet of water hurtling through a narrow limestone gorge, carving potholes on its way. We were able to view the falls from two different bridges from dizzying heights. Again the pathways were well laid out to handle streams of tourists ambling through. We were there ahead of bus loads and at no point did we feel crowded.

We drove through the mountain entering the Homer tunnel at 700 metres and came out of the roughly tunnel 1.2 kilometres further at 920 metres. Although everyone said we would see keas (parrot) on the other side of the tunnel, we did not…until our return journey the next day. Then three or four keas were hopping along  side our car and looked as if they would fly right into the car looking for handouts. We saw them land on other car rooftops and trunks.

We arrived in Milford Sound much earlier than predicted. It was sunny and warm in Milford where we had cappuccinos and our picnic sandwiches. Apparently the only sun in New Zealand was happening in our corner. Everywhere else was cold and wet. It was the first people had seen sun in Milford in a couple of weeks.

At 4:30 PM we boarded the Milford Mariner where we were given keys to our suites and warm blueberry muffins. The cruise in the Milford fjord was awesome. We were told that it is even more beautiful in a downpour as the high cliffs cascade with even more waterfalls. The 160 metre falls closest to the dock supplies fresh water for the sightseeing boats and for the village. There are 170 permanent residents. About fourteen thousand hikers walk the Milford track each year.

We cruised out to the Tasman Sea and along the shores of the sea. We were meant to anchor in one of the bay’s close to the mouth for the night and do some kayaking but it was too windy and wavy; so we cruised back to Deep Water Basin, closer to our starting point and spent the night there. We had a great buffet supper with lamb, roast beef, green-lipped mussels, scallops, shrimp, cod, lots of vegetables, and salads after our chowder appetizer. The dessert table was bountiful with pavlova, mango cheesecake, lemon tarts, brownies, fruit salad, a cheese and cracker board, and bowls of nuts. Obviously we did. to eat everything, but we ate too much.

It was a full starry night with many constellations we could not name, except for Orion. In the morning our captain took us along shore in a small tender and told us much about the fjord. Our cruise on Milford Sound will not soon be forgotten.

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