Tour of South Island – Day 9
Tuesday 15th February
We slept much better in the insect free campsite. We packed up and, after doing a bit of shopping, drove to Milford sound. The stunning alpine 66-mile drive takes in the most spectacular terrain and is one of the most scenic highlights of New Zealand. Every winding bend brought a new view better than the last. The journey takes you from the green grass lowland pastures of the Eglinton river, through native bush, up into the rocky mountainous area around the Homer tunnel.
Completed in 1953 the Homer tunnel pierces the sheer rock to allow access to Milford Sound. The tunnel is just under a mile long and 945 metres above sea level. There are another 10 miles of mountainous terrain beyond the tunnel through a valley with sheer sides of shattered rock.
According to Maori legend the fiords were created by the legendary Tuteraki with his adze, he started in the far south and by the time he reached Milford Sound he had perfected his technique and carved an awe-inspiring fiord. Piopiotahi, to give it its Maori name, stretched out in front of us making a dazzling sight. We parked up and went and booked a cruise for later in the afternoon. We had a lovely lunch and then explored the various walks around the village of Milford.
We were so lucky to have a beautiful blue-sky day for our cruise. Words and photos cannot describe the beauty of our surrounding. We saw seals sunbathing, breathtaking waterfalls which the boat went right into, and majestic mountains rising 1200m out of the sparkling water. We went out to the sea and then returned down the other side, it was awe-inspiring. Although it was cold the sun just shone all afternoon. While talking to the skipper later we learnt that they only have about 80 days a year like this so we were lucky.
Milford sound is the top thing on the list of 101 things to do in NZ and I think I would agree with them.
After our cruise we stopped at the Chasm half way between Milford and the Homer tunnel. This was an impressive rock chasm formed by the rushing waters of the Cleddau river. The loop walk offered views of waterfalls and sculptured rock formations.
We had looked at a few campsites on the drive up but they were all DOC sites with compost toilets, a no no as far as I was concerned. Peter and Margie can use them because their motorhome had a shower and toilet but we decided to drive to the Gunn camp. It had been recommended by the i site in Te Anau. It had proper toilets, showers, a kitchen with an outside barbeque and …….. SANDFLIES.