Monday, 15 February 2010

New Zealand Day 4 – Milford Sound

Well, just when we thought the scenery couldn't get any more amazing, we took a trip up to Milford Sound for the day. It's about 115km from Te Anau and is a bit like driving into a scene from Lord of the Rings, especially early in the morning with wisps of clouds lingering at road level – who knows how many orcs might be hiding in there! Mountains, mountains everywhere as you drive up and then over a winding pass, before heading down into the valley and the head of Milford Sound itself. Apparently it shouldn't really be called a sound, it should be called a fiord, as sounds are carved by running water whereas fiords are carved by ice. Again, we'd left a bit on the early side, so had about an hour or so to kill before our pre-booked 'nature cruise' departed at 10.30am. Postcard purchasing, coffee drinking and then meandering onto the foreshore of the sound/fiord all passed the time (although the latter was cut short by K being surrounded by sandflys with a mean look in their eyes – he didn't seem to appreciate me taking time to set up my arty picture of the mountains reflected in a pool of water with a duck swimming across the middle!)

The cruise up and down the fiord was simply stunning. It took us a couple of hours to travel up the water to where it meets the Tasman Sea, and then back again, lined on both sides by sheer rock faces, waterfalls plunging into the water, seals basking on rocks and the occasional pod of dolphins popping up for a bit of a playaround. We seem to have been incredibly lucky with weather recently as apparently Fiordland in general, and Milford Sound in particular, is one of the wettest places on the planet. It's all to do with the mountains forming a barrier against the Roaring Forties, a weather system that brings water-laden wind along the fortysomething latitudes, a collision which ends up with 7-10m of rain being dumped on the land each year. It rains most days but didn't today!

We had lunch onboard and then once we got back to dry land, we headed off for a bit of a walk up Key Summit, a peak in the middle of the mountains that's fairly low at 900m but sits in the middle of a basin surrounded by peaks of up to 2000m. Once again, words fail to do justice to how gorgeous the views were.

The return journey to Te Anau was, of course, beautiful and then once we'd freshened up, we sampled another Italian restaurant before heading to the only place in town to be on a Saturday night – the Moose Bar. A guest covers band called Rogue were playing (all the way from Invercargill!) and to be honest, they were a bit shit. But we clapped and whooped enthusiastically anyway!

Link to photos in top right above.

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