Te Anau to Milford Sound

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
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42
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Trip End Dec 29, 2008


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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, June 14, 2008

The drive down to Te Anau from Queenstown took us, yet again, through more spectacular scenery, valleys, gorges, mountains (including The Remarkables) and undulating, English style countryside and lots and lots of sheep. 

There are also lots of vineyards along the way and we pop into one and have a look around.  We are quite shocked at the price of some of the wine!  Either, wine in the UK is really cheap or, the Kiwis keep all the good stuff for themselves and export the cheap stuff. It is quite easy to spend $250 or more on a bottle in the vineyards (although they are called wineries here!) .  Some of the more expensive bottles were limited to two per customer - not really a limit that mattered much to us!   All along the way there are lots of places to by fruit, vegetables, meat and the famed Manuka Honey direct from the growers which is definitely the way to shop.

Te Anau is a small town settled by the edge of yet another huge lake  (Lake Te Anau)   It is also the nearest town to Milford Sound, we pop into the DOC (Dept. Of Conservation) Information Centre for information on the National Park that surrounds Milton Sound.  We get to hear of some recommended walks and some basic and rural campsites in the area.  

Then DOC offer that we watch a little film in a private cinema all about the region, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site -  We have now lost count of the number of World Heritage sites we have visited on this trip, but we are pleased to find out that there are 300 such sites across the world, so perhaps we should adopt a lifetime aim of visiting all 300......... 
 
Milford Sound is listed as the "Number 1 Must Do" in the AA guide and for good reason. Even the drive to get there is amazing.  It takes a couple of hours to drive through the National Park to get to Milford Sound itself.  The scenery is spectacular with many waterfalls, large lakes and wide creeks and some very imposing mountains from which all the water runs.   We stop on  the way for some short walks, including a visit to the Mirror Lakes which, as the name implies provides a mirror image of the surrouning landscape.

The drive takes us through Homer Tunnel, which is quite simply a long  (1.5kms) hole blasted through the mountain to create a tunnel just large enough for one lane of traffic.  It is quite spooky as all the roughness of blasted rock is clearly visable in our headlights and we head into darkness the only vehicle in the tunnel as we roll downhill deeper and deeper into the mountain.   When we find daylight again 5 minutes later when we are the other side of the mountain and our breath is taken away by the towering vertical sheet of  black granite facing us.  However there is a road for us to follow and it is just one hairpin bend after another winding down into a crevice.  It is at this point we remember the advice of a woman in Christchurch "it is better to get a coach......."

The road is safe enough, although slow going with all the bends and werecall that one of the reasons for recommending a coach is that the driver can be too easily distracted with all the stunning scenery (that, and I suspect the fact that she was selling coach tours).   As time went by the road got more and more amazing -  steeper sides, and bendier bends, so much so that we stopped being able to stop for photos.  But we will always remember this as a great drive although we are glad it wasn't in the snow.
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