With all the tourist buses on the road to Milford we were pleased to see an almost equal number of toilet signs along the way… stop in 5kms… 6kms…4kms. We didn’t avail ourselves of any of these (largely in fear of being overrun whilst in the conveniences!) but I was delighted (I think!) to read signs in many of these “little rooms” all over Southland asking users to “Please put ALL paper in the toilet” – some in no less than ten languages and all with accompanying pictures demonstrating the correct and incorrect ways to dispose of the said paper.
But, enough “toilet talk” and on with our journey… The mountains rise up beside us and one can easily get the feeling that they want to close in and engulf the unweary traveller. Mighty, sheer rock faces are stunning to view but hard to capture their true magnificence on camera.
There is a constant “Wow!” factor in this land of the Hobbit and I feel the first uncomfortable feelings of claustrophobia. How amazing were the men who “conquered” this terrain!
There are many short walks and tracks one can take on the way to Milford from 30 minutes to 6 hours or more. Our time only allowed for a couple of short walks so after driving through the Homer Tunnel [Info spot: Named after William Homer who discovered the Homer Saddle on 27 January 1889 and suggested that a tunnel would provide access to the Milford Sound.]
we had a second break in our trip at The Chasm. This is a pleasant stroll through a “goblin forest” to, as the name suggests, a chasm in the rocks where the water falls in dramatic fashion. It was impressive enough to us but, as mentioned previously, the region had been without the usual rainfall when we visited – to see the chasm after a decent rainfall would truly be awesome.
In the twenty-plus years since I was at Milford, things have grown… buses lined up in the car parks, cruise-boats lined up at the wharves, tourists buzzed around the info centre and cruise-boat terminal, cruise-boats came and went… We ate our sandwiches in the terminal, took the mandatory photos of Mitre Peak and had a wander to the info centre. One day I will return for an overnight cruise… in the summer after some heavy rain… so I can truly enjoy the magnificence of the sound.
The two hour trip back to Te Anau was broken only through the Homer Tunnel where we saw some keas flitting about. [Info spot: Kea is the only true alpine parrot in the world. It is endemic to NZ; a very curious and unusual bird.] We hadn’t seen any of these birds on our travels thus far so I was keen to make an acquaintance. As there were no obvious signs telling us not to feed the birds Jim threw a small piece of biscuit at one of the pair as I prepared to capture the beautiful colours under the wings. It took a few tosses and I gave in to the cold before the keas obliged!
The mist rolled in as we wound our way back through the towering alps so the luxury of our “new” motel unit beckoned us without further delays….