Thursday, 6 September 2012


So here's part II of my wonderful Spring Break trip in New Zealand's South Island. After finishing the Kepler Track, Emma, Matt, Sammy and I headed up to Milford, home to the ridiculously gorgeous Milford Sound. It's an uber-touristy place (there are no permanent residents there, so technically every single person is a visitor to the region), but there is a reason why people flock there despite the maddening sandflies. Legend has it that the sandflies were released into the region to discourage settlers, as no one should live around that kind of beauty and eventually take it for granted. That plan certainly worked!

Milford Sound is not actually a sound, but a fjord (fjords are specifically steep-sided glacial valleys), but "Milford Sound" was already famous by the time someone realized that. To make up for the mistake, they named the whole area "Fiordland," incorrectly spelling "fjord" in the process. Despite these errors, it is still the most beautiful place I have ever seen!

We arrived in Milford in late afternoon after a semi-terrifying journey on Milford Road, one of the most dangerous roads in the country. It is extremely narrow and full of hairpin turns on the side of a mountain, but it offers breathtaking views of the mountain range! Once you drive through the 1.2km Homer Tunnel, you are rewarded with a stunning lookout point just beyond before descending all the way into the valley. [By the way, I forgot to mention earlier that I took my turn driving on the trip - in the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road! It was a bit scary at first, but I'm surprised at how quickly I've gotten used to it!]

my first view of the mountains past Homer Tunnel
The sun was setting by the time we arrived down at the fjord, but we went on a quick walk around the area before checking into a cozy lodge for the night. 

the sunset behind Mitre Peak (on the right)
The next day brought absolutely beautiful weather, which was quite lucky in a place that rains 180 days a year. We decided to take a cruise in order to get out on the water, which gave us magnificent views and an audio tour of the region as we sailed through the fjord to the ocean and back. In addition to the stunning scenery, we were joined on our cruise by a pod of dolphins, who played around the front of the boat for quite some time. One jumped completely out of the water only about 2 meters away from the boat! We also pulled up close to "Seal Rock" (I bet you can figure out what we saw there!). The 90 minute ride was well worth it (and we all got free muffins with our tickets, too!). 

Mitre Peak in the daylight
Bowen Falls
Milford Sound was formed by five successive glacial movements
Seal Rock
Our boat pulled up right underneath this waterfall - we were so close we got sprayed by the icy water!
At the lodge the night before, we ran into some other international Otago students, Xavier and Megan (from Belgium and Canada, respectively), and we all decided to go on a hike after the cruise. We drove a short distance up Milford Road to the trail toward Marian Lake. Unlike the wide, clean trails of the Great Walk we had just completed, the trail to the lake was quite untamed and involved a lot of tramping up rocky paths, which I actually preferred (it was a "purer" NZ tramp). The lake was situated in a valley fairly high in the mountains, and it was beautiful! (Boy, NZ has given me many opportunities to use that word!) We picnicked on a large rock by the water, and while the others went to explore a waterfall, Emma and I sunbathed and relaxed on the rock. It was a marvelous way to spend an afternoon!

(just as a point of reference for the scale of this place, many of these large boulders were taller than me!)
We hiked back down to the carpark in the late afternoon, and after dropping off Xavier and Megan, headed back toward Te Anau for the night. Although we only spent one day in Milford, it has become one of my favorite places, and should be a bucket list destination for everyone!

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