Tuesday, February 3, 2009

To Milford Sound

February 4, 2009—We left Dunedin early in the morning of the 23rd because we had a long drive ahead of us. We had to decide if we should take the Southern Scenic Route or cut across the southern part of the island, so we took the advice of the guide books and followed the Scenic Route.

We stopped about an hour out of Dunedin for some breakfast, and when they brought us our “hot breakfast,” we could not believe how large the portion was—a large amount of whipped scrambled eggs, sausage, ham, a brat, and toast. We didn’t come close to finishing it all.

We continued around Catlins Coast, the southeast corner of the island. We then went through Invercargill on the south end and stopped at Gem Beach where we went out and spent over an hour picking up rocks of all types and colors. We really had a great time and ended up with about 8 pounds of rocks from this beach.

We arrived in Te Anau late in the afternoon and went to check into our motel what we had reserved earlier. Unfortunately, it was not the same as presented on the Internet, so we canceled and found a lovely room at the Lakefront Lodge that even included a spa bath. Steve enjoyed that after a very long day of driving. Te Anau is a lovely resort community situated on a rather large lake, and we loved being there. We only wish that we had been able to spend more time there.

We left fairly early on January 24 for the drive up to Milford Sound, and this drive turned out to be everything that we had expected. The drive was through lush, green forest, and the mountains were shrouded in clouds early in the day. All along the way there were small springs running down the mountainsides that fed into large and beautiful rivers. Steve was drooling over the possibility of trout in these rivers. The drive was up steep mountainous roads, through a tunnel, and then down steep roads on the other side. The Homer Tunnel is three quarters of a mile long. It requires that your headlights are turned on, and a red or green signal light at each end indicates when you are allowed to proceed through the tunnel.

We arrived at the docks for Milford Sound and checked in for our tour on a smaller boat that we had chosen because we felt that it would be more personal. Our boat “Friendship” pulled in to the dock around 10:15, and we all boarded in just a few minutes. The weather began to clear just in time for our trip, and the scenery was just spectacular.

We began our clockwise travel around the sound, enjoying views of waterfalls—one of which we pulled right up under—and seals sunbathing on the rocks, while the captain gave us excellent information about the Sound and its history. This area is geologically active, has experienced several large earthquakes in recent years, and is expected to suffer a very large earthquake in the near future.

At the mouth of the Sound we had to wait for the right time to make our turn because the waves from the ocean would be on our beam. The captain accomplished this with no problem at all, and we continued on the opposite side of the sound. This side had even more spectacular waterfalls, and again, the captain pulled right up under one of the large falls. At this time, the captain drew our attention to a large pod of Dusky Dolphins. We were able to get fairly close to them, and while I was video taping them, one dolphin jumped and spun in the air. They were fantastic to watch, and we found out later that it is rare for them to let the boat get so close.

On our travels we have met some of the nicest people just by offering to take their pictures. Someone is always out of the photo, so when we see a couple or family taking pictures, we offer to take it for them and this always leads us into a great conversations. On this trip we met a very nice couple from South Africa and enjoyed getting to know them.

We left to make the drive back to Te Anau and then up to Queenstown. Not far down the road we passed a car on the other side of the road that had pulled over because it was overheating. A woman and her two kids were in the car so we stopped to help them. It turned out that the brakes had overheated so Steve told her to let them cool off before she continued to the Sound where she was meeting some people who could check them out for her.

We had a beautiful drive back since the clouds had pretty much disappeared, and we stopped along the river to take pictures of it and one of the many falls flowing into it. We also stopped at Mirror Lakes. The picture below at the right shows how reflective the water was--look closely

Just before we got back to Te Anau, a truck came around a corner signaling us to slow down, so we did. When we rounded the corner, a whole herd of sheep came running at our car; however, they did go around the car without doing any damage. It was an “up close and personal experience.”

We reached Te Anau and then headed inland and north to Queenstown, where we would spend the night. We made this part of the drive in about 3 hours and drove through rolling hills filled
with more cattle and sheep—wow!!!
In the next few days I plan to post the last leg of our travels, which will be the west coast of the South Island then back to Whangarei.

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