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                      FIORDLAND -    QUEENSTOWN TO MILFORD SOUND, South Island NZ


 

 March 6

 Our trip through central Otago revealed the scars of the nineteenth century gold rush that  boomed and died. Now sheep inhabit the countryside everywhere.

 

Queensland

When we arrived in Queenstown it was raining. We had planned to bypass this self-styled adventure capital with all the trappings of an international tourist destination. However, because of the wet weather we decided to visit some of the shops in search of some rainwear.

The town of Queenstown is situated in magnificent scenery, set beside a lake against picture postcard snow capped mountains. The town itself, albeit touristy, has a lot of charm. We enjoyed our visit there very much.


Te Anau

The road to Te Anau was absolutely gorgeous. Much of our views were encased in clouds but what we saw was spectacular. Te Anau is situated by the placid waters of Lake Te Anau and is often referred to as the "gateway to Milford Sound."

Barnyard Backpackers

By the time we reached Te Anau it was late in the day. We checked into Lake Anau Barnyard Backpackers just outside of Te Anau near Manapouri. Our log cabin overlooked a herd of deer peacefully grazing, with a beautiful backdrop of the mountains of Milford Sound. We really loved our little  cabin and were glad we were staying there for 2 nights.

Cheap SHEEP Shots

We had been on the road heading to the Fiordland when the traffic was stopped for a sheep drive. Thousands of sheep surrounded the car. I jumped out of the vehicle armed with my camera and they all abruptly stopped in their tracks and would not advance. Sheep were piling up so I quickly hopped back in the car. The photos below were taken from the car window. Steam rose from the backs of the sheep in the cool morning air.

 

   
Fiordland National Park

March 7  Milford Sound

The drive to Milford Sound took us on an impressive scenic highway through New Zealand's largest National Park that travels the shore of Lake Te Anau and across the sheer forest covered mountains to emerge at the glaciers carving the splendor of the 15km fiord. We managed a glimpse of Miter Peak through the clouds. This majestic mountain is the most photographed in New Zealand.

Mitre Peak 1692m

Our first stop was Mirror Lake, where a viewing platform sometimes reveals a picture perfect image of the surrounding snow capped peaks reflected in the water. However, when we were there, the reflection in the water was that of grey clouds!

As the morning progressed, the clouds diminished giving way to some superb backdrops.

We had intended to follow the trek to Lake Marian which is a pretty walk through the valley. But due to the heavy rains and flooding, the water was 4 meters above normal and the road and trail were closed.


Because of the abundance of rain that had been falling in the area, the mountains were alive with dozens of waterfalls cascading down the sheer rock faces. The area is truly beautiful but we couldn’t help making constant comparisons to our own Rocky Mountains and to our familiar BC panoramas.

The twisty road eventually comes to Homer Tunnel.  The rough-hewn rock walls of the dark one lane Homer Tunnel drip water as it descends 1 km through the mountain, an eerie feeling.  As we were waiting in line for our turn to proceed, we spotted Rick and Corby (Emerald) 2 cars ahead. We agreed to meet at the next pull off.


The bridge was partially washed out, damage caused by the creek flooding and driving a log through the bridge.

The Chasm

We both pulled in to the parking lot at the Chasm eager to do the 10 minute walk to a series of falls where the water has spun small rounded stones that have cut fluted channels into the rock. However a barrier displayed a notice that the trail was closed due to flooding.

Dejectedly we headed back to our vehicles but noticed another couple emerging from the trail head. They assured us the trail was passable so onward we went. The only damage was on the bridge over the falls, where it had been partially washed away.


A chance encounter

We met up with Rick and Corby again in Milford Sound where, after spending a considerable amount of time circling the parking lot we finally found a place to park. The area was packed with tourists brought in by the busload. After discussing our options of taking a crammed boat ride to tour the Sound, we unanimously agreed that a hike would be more enjoyable. The info center informed us that many of the trails were closed but we could climb to Key Summit, which would take a couple of hours, so that's what we all agreed to do.

 

At the base of the mountain Corby offered us all some chocolate covered coffee beans, which must have given Gord an adrenaline kick into high gear. He raced along the path, Rick on his heels (Rick and Corby are in great shape) while I dawdled at a slower pace, Corby and I stopping to chat with other hikers from Israel, Sweden and Spain.

 

The views from the summit were dazzling. And, the rain clouds had vanished, making way for a brilliant blue sky

 

We looked down on Lake Marian fortifying our decision to make the effort to climb to such a high elevation.

The native vegetation on the mountain was unusually unique with an abundance of lichen and mossy growth residing on the gnarly tree trunks.

We clambered down the mountain much quicker than we had climbed it and bade farewell to Rick and Corby who were continuing on to Queenstown that day. Back at the deerfarm backpackers, we enjoyed a leisurely drink and cooked supper in the community kitchen.

Backpackers are a great place to meet interesting people from all over the world. We met people from Austria, Holland and many from Germany. And we kept crossing paths with the same Chinese couple from place to place as we circumnavigated the South Island.

There was a definite chill to the air that evening so we fired up the heater in our room. But in the middle of the night I awoke sweltering so opened the door for some air. Silhouetted by the moonlight were SNOWFLAKES, albeit tiny non-lasting speckles, but nonetheless snow. By morning, there wasn’t any evidence though, just a wet ground.

Click here for PHOTOS OF FIORDLAND

 

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