Where are we, Alaska? (9/20/09)
Hello again everyone!
I left off with our arrival in Te Anau, which is important mostly because it is the gateway to Milford Sound. After a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs (when I look back at our trip, I realize we only ate instant noodles, PB&J and eggs.), we checked the weather forecast for the drive to Milford. Cold & wet (typical Fjordland weather) with a moderate threat of avalanches. This meant we had to rent snow chains for our car. And in a brilliant decision, we decided Maggie would drive. Not the driver from New York. Not the driver from Wisconsin. Texas got to drive.
The road to Milford Sound is 120-kilometre road that connects the fjord with civilization. It’s a dead end road with a magnificent ending point. The drive in itself was amazing. Fields of golden grass line the road, flanked by snow capped mountains. As we got closer to the end, there was snow everywhere. Eventually, we were in an Avalanche Zone and could not stop the car at all for any reason. This was slightly frightening. Snow was falling as we hit the tunnel, driving through a mountain. After the remainder of our gorgeous drive, we arrived at the parking lot and stumbled upon a very friendly Kea, which is an extremely endangered species of parrot that lives in the mountainous areas of the South Island. I was only about a metre from it, which was pretty awesome.
We hadn’t booked our cruise in advance, but this turned out to work in our favour. Since it’s the off season, we were able to haggle the prices down and ask for “student discounts.” We boarded our cruise at 2PM and for the next 90 minutes were in absolute awe. This is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. While it was raining and misty during the majority of our cruise, this can be one of the best times to see Milford. There are only 3 permanent waterfalls in the fjord. All of the others dry up within hours of the rain stopping. We got to see probably hundreds of waterfalls. The boat we were on was quite small, so it was able to get really close to the falls and other sights. We even drove under two of the larger waterfalls, allowing me to get some awesome photographs and to get soaking wet by these ice cold falls. Coffee, tea & hot chocolate were all included in the cruise and we all agreed that this was the most beautiful place we had ever had coffee.
Words can not fully describe the beauty that is Milford Sound. All I can say for sure is that anyone who visits the South Island of New Zealand and doesn’t make a stop here is definitely missing out.
P.S. I almost forgot to mention that Maggie is a fantastic winter driver. =)