“The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time” - David Henry Thoreau”
The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is regarded as one of the most scenic roads in New Zealand and is an experience worth living. The benefit of a driving holiday with a very knowledgeable guide cum driver is that he made these frequent stops for us to enjoy the beauty.
We travelled along the edge of Lake Wakatipu, through Kingston and Mossburn to enter Fiordland National Park. With the Eglinton River besides us we reached Eglinton Valley, once filled with glacier ice. We made our first stop here – the open green field against the backdrop of huge mountains that tower along the valley sides, some two thousand feet above the valley floor looked very surreal!!! The majesty of the mountain scenery and valley definitely called for some dancing and singing ‘The Sound of Music’. As we entered our van we found a bee inside. True to NZ tradition where they don’t interfere with nature, Stephen gently caught it in his kerchief and let it free.
Soon after that we stopped at a small stream, which had the sweetest water I have ever tasted. We filled our bottles with the chilled sweet water before taking off again to changing landscapes and thick forests – the location of several scenes from the Lord of Rings series.
Other highlights of the drive included a stop at the Mirror Lakes. Luckily for us it was a nice still day so that we could see a perfect reflection of the Earl Mountains. And it was time for more of Stephen’s stories – a small Korean boy while peering into the lakes lost his glasses and Stephen retrieved them for him, for which he was treated to Tequila! He insisted he had only Tequila unlike the Koreans who have blood and whiskey!!! Later I googled and found that there is a drink called ‘Blood and Whiskey Sour’ made with blood red oranges and whiskey!
The next part of the road is called the “Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain” so called because an optical illusion causes the approaching mountain to get smaller rather than larger. Next stop was for a short walk at Cascade creek to view the creeks of splashing water.
As we reached Lake Gunn, it was time to stretch our legs - Stephen sent us off one a nature walk, an easy 45 minute loop track through thick forests where we managed to see some birds including the wood pigeon.
At The Divide, which is the lowest of the passes in the Southern Alps the road goes gradually downhill and after a short distance we stop at viewing platform with impressive views of snow topped mountains. Some of us catch a fleeting glimpse of the Kea, a bird found in this region flying around.
The last stop of the day, before we reach Milford Sound for our cruise is at the Chasm. A 20 minute walk leads us to the spectacular waterfall where the Cleddau River has scoured its way through solid rock.
The Southern Discoveries Milford Sound Scenic Cruise takes us through the majestic fiords and we see the Mitre Peak, one of the highest mountains in the world to rise directly from the ocean floor. Seals laze on the rocks and we relax on the cruise. Magnificent waterfalls can be seen on both sides. The captain of the ship takes us under one of them and insists that if we go under it we will emerge looking 10 years younger – guess that is the secret of my young looking friends!!!
After the cruise we travel to Queenstown and on the way we see this fence strapped with shoes. Nice way to dispose of old shoes, I say. If Stephen is to be believed there was a similar Bra Fence in Queenstown!!!
As we approach Queenstown the “Adventure Capital of the World”, my heart starts thumping. Because it is here that I have decided to do Sky Diving – but more on that tomorrow!