Where two next?

Antipodean travelogue through the eyes of two - one textile and one building lover. It'll be hard to differentiate the two!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Milford Sound (1) Day 9 (Post No. 97)

Day 9 saw us driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound. The route was very picturesque and we took some pics along the way. Here's one from a look out with Milford Sound, I think, in the distance.

There is lots to see along the way which helps break up the journey. Our second stop was at the Mirror Lakes whose name requires no further explanation. Here's some pics although it is hard to do them justice without a wide angle lens.

Milford Sound is home to one of the finest tramps in the world, the Milford Track. It is a four day 53.5km track from Lake Te Anau to Doubtful Sound and it is not for the faint hearted. You have to bring your own provisions with you and stay at the huts provided by the Department of Conservation, there is no camping allowed along the track.

Tramping in NZ can be serious business depending on the tramp especially during the winter months, although a lot of the tramps at this time are closed. The Milford, is the sort of tramp where you could cross a stream and on your return, two hours of rain later, find an impassible river!

It was while we were exploring Doubtful Sound the day before that our guide told the story of how a taxi boat driver, bringing people to the start of Milford Sound, noticed that one trampers bag was considerably small. Out of concern he asked the tramper before he set off was he sure he had enough provisions. The tramper replied that he planned on eating in the restaurants and bars along the way. Needless to say he didn't get very far. McDonald's might be everywhere but they are not on the Milford Track. Thank God!

As we didn't have the time, or probably the "bottle", to do the Milford Track we inquired about a shorter more casual tramp in the local tourist information centres in Te Anau. They recommended a few and we settled on the 3 hour return tramp to Lake Marian. Here's a few pics.

The first twenty minutes of the walk are a relatively pleasant forest walk with defined footpaths culminating in a really nice look out of some rapids. You cross over the river associated with them at the start of the tramp. See pic of suspension bridge above. Here's some pics of the rapids themselves.

After the rapids the only other highlight, for us, was seeing these unusual purple mushrooms.

The mushrooms were the only other highlight because what we were to discover shortly after the rapids is that the going goes from gentle to tough! Something the info centre failed to inform us. We have been on a few tramps at this stage, some as long at 14kms, but this was by far the most difficult. An SAS assault course would have been easier. Undeterred we ventured forth and literally climbed for almost two hours until we came across a dried out river bed.

We didn't bring our abseiling equipment, so after eventually getting down and then seeing what was in front of us we decided enough was enough. We sat down ate the last of our provisions and tried to save some of our water for the return leg. By this stage I reckon hardened Sherpas would have given up!

It was while we were descending that we came across an American girl returning from the lake and she confirmed that we were ten minutes from it at the river bed!!!!!!! I don't think any of us cared at that stage as we just wanted to get down before dark!

Our advice is do the first twenty minute short tramp to the rapids and then head back. We never got to see the lake, but it just cannot be worth all that effort, something the American girl had intimated in any event. Or perhaps she was just trying to make us feel better!

We headed from there to Milford Sound. To get to the Sound you have to go through the tunnel pictured below and then down a very steep descent.

We had spent most of the day stopping off at the look outs along the way and tramping. The weather was fantastic the whole day but the light was beginning to fade by the time we got down to the Sound. Here's a few pics of the Sound.

The original plan was to go on a boat cruise the same day but because of the tramp we had run out of time. We convened a special meeting to ratify the necessary changes to the itinerary to include an extra night at the Sound as opposed to returning to Te Anau. It would make our trip the following day to Queenstown (36) all the longer, but the motion was carried unanimously!

We ate that night in the local pub/ restaurant and settled down into our camper van in the car park overlooking the Sound. It was very early in the morning when we heard the rain start to beat down, something it continued to do for the entire night. We hoped that the morning cruises would still be going and that the rain would ease. It didn't. After changing our itinerary and staying at the Sound that night we awoke to rain and zero visibility!

We called another meeting over breakfast and the difficult decision to up sticks and head onto Queenstown was passed. It was while we were leaving that we got to see all the water running off the cliff faces...... every cloud! Here's a pic.

The scenery from Milford Sound to Queenstown was again superb. It almost became an irritation to me as we just didn't have time to stop and take photographs. It was while we were driving through a Red Tussock Conservation Area that I eventually pulled in to take the following pic. Worth it too I think!

If the West side of the Southern Alps is a sub tropical rain forest then the East side is closer to an arid climate with grasslands that you would associate with it. The clouds dump all their moisture as rain as they rise over the Alps heading east creating the high contrast between the two sides. This makes for some amazing contrasts in the landscape within very short distances. The two sides and top of the alps offering three distinctive environments. All of which are incredibly beautiful.

Again I have decided to finish the post with one of my favourite pics from our trip. We didn't get to travel the Sound itself but the pic from the shoreline I think say it all!

Milford or Doubtful? Take your pick! Even though we didn't get to experience it fully Milford I think wins, admittedly by a short head!


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Feast of Saints Peter & Paul (Post No. 96)

There are many advantages to living the current life we are living and there are few disadvantages, most of which involve friends and family. Here's a pic of my immediate family and my Auntie Ann. (Just in case you thought I had two mothers!)

Why the picture? Well it was my Dad's 70th birthday today, so I rang him to wish him a Happy Birthday yesterday, as we cannot obviously be there.

Why yesterday? Well for years he thought his birthday was on the 29th June, until he recently came across his passport which showed his date of birth as the 30th!

Why the confusion? Well his parents had a shop in our home town of Enniscorthy, and the 29th June was a Holy Day of Obligation, the Feast of Saints Peter & Paul. Therefore the shop was shut giving everybody the chance to celebrate his birthday with him. So now we get to wish him a Happy Birthday twice in the one month, which has a certain novelty to it at the moment!

Happy Birthday Dad, sorry we can't be there.

As you would say yourself,

Beidh la eile! (Gaelic meaning there will be another day)