Today we woke to a forecast of rain and with the low cloud it certainly looks like rain. It’s a 2 ½ hour drive to Milford Sound (even though it’s only about 119km) and we were told there’s a lot to see along the way so we headed off early. We were booked on a cruise at 12:30 and had to be at the cruise terminal at about noon. We stopped at Mirror Lakes which, as the name suggests, is famous for its mirror-like images. We were told that the reflections are best in the morning when there’s little to no breeze. Of course, it was an overcast day so we didn’t see Mirror Lakes at their best due to there being no blue sky. It wasn’t raining, though, and the water was calm so there were still good reflections, just not fantastic. We stopped at a few viewpoints along the way and got used to seeing, and being approached by, bold Keas. At one spot there were two that were very bold. I was sitting in the car with the window open taking a short video of one. I had just stopped the video when the Kea flew up onto the roof of the car, where the other bird had already flown. Unfortunately I didn’t get that on video, they are quite dull-coloured greeny-brown birds but they have bright orangey-red under their wings. Anyway I still had the window open when the Kea leaned over from the roof to look into the open window! That’s one very big beak! I was too busy trying to get the window closed, before it decided that the inside of the car might be a good place to be, to take any of those close-ups. It’s really obvious that, despite the ‘Do not feed the Kea’ signs, people still do feed them.
We continued on to Milford, deciding to try to see the other prime sites on the way back. We hoped that by afternoon the cloud might have lifted and rain moved on. There’s a tunnel that goes through one of the mountains, Homer Tunnel and is single-laned and controlled by traffic lights. While you’re waiting in line for the lights to change you see more Keas hanging around in the hope that someone will be silly enough to feed them. It’s a rough-hewn, unlined 1207m tunnel that drops about 120m over the length of it and emerges in the spectacular Cleddau Valley.
The boat we were on was a good looking sailboat, though the sails remained furled and we motored through the sound. We started off up on the top deck, but it proved to be quite cold, windy and rainy, so we soon moved inside. Stephen did spend a lot of time outside taking photos – and a lot of time coming inside to dry the camera and the lens. Milford Sound is very different to Doubtful Sound. Milford is smaller and narrower, but it’s equally beautiful. They are different and I don’t think you can really say one is better than the other. Both are gorgeous. The almost vertical-sided mountains just go straight down into the water. There are lots of waterfalls at this time of year with the snow melting and we even motored right in under one of them. Once again we saw New Zealand Fur Seals and clearly saw three Fiordland Crested Penguins.
We sailed along one side of the fiord, out to the Tasman Sea, then turned and came back in along the other side. The rain was pretty constant by the time we got back to the dock, but it stopped long enough to walk to a spot called the Chasm on the way back. It is stunning. The force of the water of the Cleddau River has carved and sculpted the rock into the most amazing shapes.
It was too wet and cold and visibility was too poor to stop at any of the other walks or viewpoints along the way home so we just drove straight back to Te Anau. Even with the bad weather we’d had a great day. Milford Sound is worth the journey.