Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Milford Experience

Day 42
Milford Sound
Location: 44 35; 57.5" S, 167 48' 52" E

It’s only 120 kilometers as the crow flies from Queenstown, but it took us 310 kilometers to get there. We traveled on the BBQ Bus to the famous Milford Sound today.
Milford Sound is one of THE places to go in New Zealand. It was one of three things my parents wanted to see while they were here visiting. The fiord (it’s not really a sound in geographical terms) and its surrounding area are part of the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage area.
The whole day was really quite spectacular. We started out driving along Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range. The lake is the second largest in New Zealand and is the result of a very large glacier doing its work. The mountains were very rugged and share the distinction of being only one of two ranges that run on a north/south axis (the Rocky Mountains being the other). We made our way to the town of Te Anau, the jumping off point for many of New Zealand’s famous walking tracks. From there we entered Fiordland National Park and wound our way through the valley bottom along numerous emerald colored lakes and rivers. After a casual creekside lunch we got to the core of the day, the Homer Tunnel and Milford Sound.
The Homer Tunnel was started in the 1930’s and finished in the 1950’s. It’s pretty rustic inside and only looked wide enough for one car. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any of the giant tour buses coming the other direction. The “wow” factor was high as we exited the tunnel into Cleddau Canyon with its endlessly steep glacier carved walls.
Finally, we arrived at the boat dock and started the cruise through the fiord. I felt like I needed to pinch myself. Sometimes it’s hard to believe you’re finally at a location that you’ve had on your list for a long time. The mountains and rock walls surrounding the water were much bigger and higher than I had imagined. The prominent Mitre Peak was the first thing to fill my view – it was awesome. The water was almost glassy and there were several waterfalls cascading from high and low. Vegetation can somehow grow (it rains on average 9 meters per year) on the vertical cliff faces. Not only do they have snow avalanches in Milford, they also have tree avalanches.
We toured on the water for just over an hour. Then we re-boarded the BBQ Bus and retraced our steps back to Queenstown. The views were just as good going the other way.
And yes, the BBQ was great.

1 comment:

JennSean said...

Another amazing adventure...thanks for letting us tag along.