Sunday, 23 October 2011

NZ: The road to Milford Sound

We flew from Wellington to Queenstown and missed the lovely northern beaches of the South Island - as usual  saving something for a return trip.  The best thing about the flight was that it gave us an unusual view of Mt. Cook (the highest mountain in New Zealand) from above the clouds.  Thanks to the pilot who announced the view and the empty seats that allowed me to scramble for a better view.  It was breathtaking!

From Queenstown, we rented a car to drive to Te Anau as our base for exploring the area.  If we had come to New Zealand 5 years earlier, we would have contemplated doing the legendary Milford Track - a 4 day 53 km track, once described as "the finest walk in the world".  As it was, reading about it was all we could do.  As a compromise, we took the "road" to Milford Sound instead.  And it was spectacular!   We were alerted to the first view by all the tourist buses along the road - Mirror Lake was as photogenic as expected - how perfect could it get!  And you could almost see it from the road, no strenuous hikes to worry about.

But we were gluttons for punishment - we decided to do at least one hike before Milford Sound.  The great weather allowed us to do the hike up to Key Summit - a two-hour hike, uphill all the way, which reminded us of the hike up to the Tea House at Lake Louise in Banff.  There was not much to see along the way, you just kept going through sheer faith that something good will be at the end, and the last half hour of the hike required a lot of faith!  
There was one waterfall...

And this enticing view near the top...

But in the end, it was all worth it!
This was the stunning view at Key Summit...

The way down was easy.  
Green stone?

And some pretty ferns on the way down

More majestic views of mountains on the drive to Milford Sound -

This looked like a receding glacier -

The short lineup to go through the narrow one way tunnel.  Apparently the waiting area is an avalanche area in the winter


Next post: the famous Milford Sound

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