Saturday, 22 October 2011

New Zealand 2011. September 13th. Queenstown to Milford Sound.

The Main Highlight at Te Anau?
Tuesday 13th September.
Rudyard Kipling called Milford Sound ‘The Eighth Wonder of The World. It may have been a while since Kipling made the above statement, but with Milford Sound being “The place most Kiwis want to Visit’, and number One on the AA New Zealand’s ‘must do list’. As well as Trip Advisors 2008 tourism destination winner, it appears that it has not lost its allure.
The Sound is a Fjord, located in the south west corner of New Zealand’s South Island, within the Fiordland National Park. By road, Milford Sound is 307 km from Queenstown. We were advised not to self drive, due to the time of year and probable road conditions. So following this advice, we booked a coach trip with a company called ‘Real Milford Sound’. There are many coach tours from Queenstown, varying from small mini buses to large luxurious coaches. The prices vary accordingly. The one we opted for was mid range, the coach had a glass roof and on board toilets.
At 07.15 we were picked up from the clock tower in Queenstown. The coach was not full, in fact it was not even half full so we had room to spread out. Firstly, we drove along the banks of lake Wakatipu, then through flat farming land to the town of Te Anau. I had been disappointed that we did not have time to stay at Te Anau, however, seeing the town I realised we had not missed anything and were better off in Queenstown, to be honest,Te Anau was really, quite underwhelming. In contrast, the 120 KM 'Road to Milford Sound', from Te Anau to Milford Sound was not underwhelming, it was breathtaking.The Milford Road twists and turns through an amazing collection of diverse sights, according to the Tourist board this makes this 'one of the worlds finest Alpine roads'. We drove through unspoiled mountain scenery before we reached the Homer Tunnel, this is a 1.2km tunnel through the mountain. When you emerge from the tunnel you are on a mountain road, where rain forest meets snow! When we emerged from the tunnel it started to snow. This road is prone to avalanches, we saw evidence of many previous avalanches, despite this the road was of good quality and was open to all traffic. We had a few stops on our way to the sound, to look at the Mirror Lakes, The Chasm, The Edlington Valley, rainforest and Kea.
All the tour busses arrive at Milford Sound at the same time and get on to the same boat. By the time we arrived it was pouring with rain, but the Sound was still an impressive sight. Milford Sound runs 15 kilometres inland from the Tasman Sea and is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 metres or more on either side. Milford Sound has two permanent waterfalls all year round, Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. But today, due to the heavy rain fall there were many temporary waterfalls to be seen, running down the steep sided rock faces that line the fiord.
The drive back to Queenstown was very fast and we arrived at our accommodation at around 19.00. Despite the weather ,it had been a good day and I can understand what all the fuss is about.
I would recommend driving to Milford Sound, as the road is as impressive as the Sound itself. It is easy to drive yourself in a car or small campervan, I think the dangerous road stuff is overdone.
In the evening we went into town, where rumours were rife that the England Rugby Team was out in Queenstown. We never did find out what bar they were in, but then I don’t think I would enjoy going to an establishment where the main attraction is tossing Dwarfs!