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Te Anau – Milford Sound – Queenstown
I was sort of looking forward to Day 6 because of Milford Sound. I’ve read so many exciting stories about the place prior to the trip and now, everything will be fully unveiled in front of my own eyes. I couldn’t even sleep properly the night before as I kept thinking about the place.
But first, I had to get over the slight disappointment when I found out that it was still raining when I woke up the following day. Feeling helpless about the weather, we packed our bags before checking out from the hostel.
It was still dark when we hit the road. Coupled with rain, our designated driver took the road with extra attention.
I couldn’t recall much what happened during the journey as I dozed off halfway. Somehow when I woke up, the skies have brighten up but the rain still did not even budge a bit. However, with brighter skies now, we could see much more – with mountains on both sides of the road, but they were no ordinary mountains. Hundreds of waterfalls were lining up the walls of those mountains. The scene was so gorgeous that we even stopped by the roadside to get better view. Thanks for the persistent rain, otherwise we wouldn’t able to witness such jaw-dropping scenery.
Temporary waterfalls.. Such a scene..
We came to The Main Divide (politically known as boundary between Canterbury and West Coast regions) and at 900 metre plus elevation, we could see some snow on some higher mountains. The Main Divide is also where Homer Tunnel is located, and it is a unique tunnel built in 1954 to connect Milford Sound and Te Anau. The tunnel is not wide enough for two vehicles, so traffic lights are erected at each end of the tunnel.
The scenery was even more stunning after passing the tunnel. It was a place like no other, more like stepping into another world. This is a truly mystical place and I’m so glad to be able to make the trip thus far.
We arrived at Milford Sound an hour before our boat cruise and it was still raining as heavy as ever. I was more worried about the cancellation of the cruise due to bad weather but luckily it did not happen.
Time passed very quick and we were on board the huge Milford Mariner operated by Real Journeys. The boat sailed out shortly and began to introduce the history of Milford Sound.
Milford Sound (Piopiotahi in Māori) is a fjord in the south west of New Zealand’s South Island, within Fiordland National Park, Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve, and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. It has been judged the world’s top travel destination in an international survey (the 2008 Travelers’ Choice Destinations Awards by TripAdvisor) and is acclaimed as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination.
Most of us didn’t really pay attention to the boat captain as we hang out at the deck taking photos and videos. It was still raining but that did not deter us from witnessing some of the great temporary waterfalls, which usually appear after heavy rain. How amazing! With the boat cruising along and close to the rock cliffs, it gave us some great, unobstructed view.
Milford Sound runs 15 kilometres inland from the Tasman Sea at Dale Point – the mouth of the fiord – and is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) or more on either side. Among the peaks are The Elephant at 1,517 metres (4,977 ft), said to resemble an elephant’s head, and The Lion, 1,302 metres (4,272 ft), in the shape of a crouching lion.
Milford Sound sports two permanent waterfalls all year round, Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. After heavy rain however, many hundreds of temporary waterfalls can be seen running down the steep sided rock faces that line the fiord. They are fed by rain water drenched moss and will last a few days at most once the rain stops.
The boat captain made its way back upon reaching the tip of Milford Sound, which oversees Tasman Sea. On the way back, the rain had stopped, so we happily hang out at the front deck. Unknown to us (due to us being busy taking photos), the boat sailed slowly and closer to Stirling Falls. With the amount of rain that day, the roaring sound of the falls caught our attention. Still swinging our cameras around, little did we know that we were actually getting closer and closer to the falls. The boat continued to sail close to the falls, and when water started to splash the deck, we had no choice but to move to the rear of the boat to avoid getting drenched. We were too late for that though, as we completely soaked in water splashed by the falls. Despite that, it was great to feel the full force of nature!
The boat docked at the terminal and thus, ending our amazing two hour cruise. A wet day at Milford Sound, nothing short of ordinary. I left the place feeling euphoric!
The skies started to clear up by midday, and as we went back, we took the opportunity to stop by Homer Tunnel again for more photo opportunity. And much to our excitement, we found a gigantic, thick slab of hardened snow (or likely ice) near the tunnel. We also came across the highly endangered alpine parrot, Kea.
Continuing our drive towards Te Anau, we also managed to stop by Mirror Lakes. As the name suggests, the calm water gives mirror-like reflection but it was quite windy that day, what we saw was ripples. Nevertheless, with great weather, the photos turned out to be great as well!
We stopped at Te Anau for a quick lunch and refuel before hitting the road towards Queenstown. It was tiredness that got better of me as I dozed off, only to be awaken when we stopped for quick relief at Kingston. It wasn’t too long after Kingston that we came upon the beginning of Lake Wakatipu.
Lake Wakatipu is an inland lake (finger lake) in the South Island of New Zealand. It is in the southwest corner of Otago Region, near its boundary with Southland. With a length of 80 kilometres (50 mi), it is New Zealand’s longest lake, and, at 291 km2 (112 sq mi), its third largest.
The drive was truly scenic and we actually stopped by to get some photos of the scenery. However, due to the day getting late, we couldn’t afford any more stops.
Close to an hour later at about 7PM, we finally arrived at Queenstown, the adventure capital of NZ. The city is lively at evening, and shops at every corner of the road sell most of the adventure stuffs. The sky was getting dark, so we hurriedly checked in before heading out to get ourselves the famous Fergburger, which is just few steps away from our hostel.
We then took a stroll at the lakefront along the beautiful Lake Wakatipu, and we settled down quite early that day due to tiredness. It was certainly the longest day we had by far, with a lot driving involved but most importantly, we enjoyed the best of NZ so far!
Stay tuned for Day 7!