After we woke up and had some brekky in Dunedin we began heading west toward the small city of Te Anau to grab a camp site at the local holiday park and then begin our drive to the Millford Sounds. As soon as we got to driving the landscape started to gradually change from green rolling hills to more mountainous scenery. And more sheep!
We packed a lunch at the holiday park and got ready to head over to the Millford Sound marina. I had thought based on looking up driving directions on how to get there that it would take about 1.5 hours to get there. So we decided to allow 2 just in case. As we started driving we soon realized we needed more time for our drive because the entire road to the sound was so windy. We were riding along and taking in the amazing scenery around us which just kept getting better and better as we kept on. I was itching to pull over and stop at the dozens of shoulders with amazing outlooks on crystal blue rivers and mini tramps through the rain forest to caverns and everything, but I knew we couldn’t afford to lose any time on the way to the boat. We promised ourselves we would stop as much as we wanted on the way back as it would stay light much later into the evening.
But soon enough we looked at the time and we were closing in on our departure time for the boat that would take us through the sounds and we had no idea how far away we were. Long story short, we made it but we ended up having to take another boat out since we missed the initial one. The people at the marina were really nice (it seems like they run into people being late for their departures all the time) and didn’t charge us extra for moving onto another boat. So all in all it worked out in the end and we got to experience the majestic Millford Sounds from the water. It was a bit stressful trying to get there on time, but we made it. And it was totally worth it. The sounds were breathtaking. I don’t think my pictures can really do it justice, you have to be standing there at sea level to really feel the immense power of the mountains around you. The Millford sounds were carved away over millions of years from ice age glaciers. Absolutely magnificent.
The cruise itself was really nice. There was a top deck where you could stand and take pictures and an inside area with large windows. It was pretty windy up top and I found it hard to steady my camera at times while up there. They took us along the water all the way out to the ocean and back. This sound was just one of dozens of water ways that were carved from the glaciers and they span all along the bottom south west corner of the southern island of New Zealand. The cruise also took us up close and personal to a few waterfalls. They said that only two waterfalls out of the dozen or so that we saw were permanent waterfalls in the Millford Sound, the rest appear after it rains and can disappear with hours sometimes. I can’t imagine how awesome it would be to explore the sound one day and chart all the waterfalls, then come back another time and have them all be different!
Along the way back we also saw some seals basking in the sun on some rocks. Some of them were getting feisty.
After the short cruise we started heading back to camp. Now we could take our time and discover some of the things along the way that we missed. First we saw this sign that said “The Chasm” and when Steve and i saw that we looked at each other with wide eyed wonder. It was a 15 minute walk to “The Chasm” and we really didn’t know what to expect. It ended up being a gigantic rocky pit that was carved out from the river that flowed through it. It was really amazing, but not exactly what we expected. I was sort of hoping there would be some giant pitch black hole in the ground. It was still awesome though.
Another thing that was really cool on the way was a really creepy tunnel. There were stop lights on each end and they stayed red for 15 minutes to let cars from the other side through. There was no electricity inside the tunnel. And just before you went through it there were small glaciers and waterfalls all around.
We also saw an Emerald color lake, make more strong flowing rivers, and lots of rain forest. There was another stop as well that was very beautiful and we made it there just as the sunset was starting to appear. Mirror lake was this small pool off the side of the road that was clear still water and made for some pretty photos. There was even a sign off the side that mad the words “Mirror Lake” written backwards and upside down, so when it reflected into the lake it looked correct on the reflection. Those clever kiwi’s.
The last leg of the drive back to Te Anau was amazingly beautiful. The sun was setting ahead of us and seemed to slowly envelope the mountains and pastures with beautiful twilight colors as the night sky began to emerge between the clouds. So if the day hadn’t been sort of out of wack with being late and changing boats, we would have never been able to see this beautiful sunset. I liked this ending better :)