Swinging by Milford Sound
So this trip was a bit of a whirlwind and went by way too fast, but none-the-less New Zealand showed us it’s amazing and dreamlike scenery yet again and did nothing less than impress us with this amazing road trip. We took off on a beautiful early sunny morning after and hopped in our almost too small little red car and hit the highways to the south. This time the car was filled with my good friends Tara, Tessa, Heather, and Char (aka Nar Nar) and we rocked to strong guitar melodies down the highways past the lambs and sheep, baby cows, and horses in the fields that lined the road. We stopped in Gore to check out the giant trout, and then continued on to Te Anau for PB&J’s on the beach of the lake before making our way into Fiordland’s National Park. The day was beautiful and sunny and the light reflected off the mountain-surrounded lake while we enjoyed the raspberry jelly and crunchy peanut butter. We then took off down the road into Fiordlands. We were soon stopped by a herd of what was probably around 200 sheep walking down the highway in between pastures. The sheep dogs were running around keeping an eye on the few stragglers and keeping the herd together as they trotted down the road. Something like this would never happen in the US and it was a truly unique New Zealand experience. After the sheep had made it safely into their new home, we continued on to the Mirror Lakes.
The road soon opened up and we could see the valley that ran between huge peaks, giving us a glimpse of what was to come. We pulled over at the lakes, which displayed perfect reflections of the surrounding mountains. They were not only perfect mirrors of the spectacular environment, but were also crystal clear and displayed old sunken trees and fish making their way amongst them. A New Zealand robin also landed near us on a wooden post which was a rare experience as these birds are not very common. The NZ robin differs quite a bit from the US version and was a small bodied pale blue bird with abnormally long legs instead of the usual larger bodied, worm holding robins you find in the US. We then jumped back to the little red car and continued on towards more sights. Within minutes we began the hill climb up to the tunnel in the mountains over to the sound. We passed signs warning against avalanches, piles of snow, and small waterfalls of the snow melting off the tops of the rugged snow laden peaks. After passing through the tunnel, we came out to spectacular views of the valley of mountains that eventually would lead to the sea. We slowly made our way down the curvy, steep grade while our breaks began to burn and smell until we stopped to see The Chasm. We hiked for a short distance through dense green damp forest over creeks and small wooden bridges until we could hear the sound of rushing water. When we did reach the chasm it was nothing short of impressive. It was this huge hole of a waterfall that had carved out these now moss covered fluorescent green rocks into multiple holes, circles, intricate swirls and curves. The force of the rushing water was obvious with the large logs and trees that had been lodged in between the hollowed out rocks amidst the mist of the water that poured upon them. The bridge that crossed over this larger creek allowed perfect views of the significant drop into the chasm and really allowed you to grasp the force of the water running by underneath. The scenes of the outdoors of New Zealand never fail to make me ponder over the wonders of this earth that we populate and leave me in complete awe of it’s beauty.
We then hiked back to the car and continued now on to Milford Sound. By now the sun had left and had been replaced by a light cloud layer that threatened to drizzle. When we got to the Sound, a cloud hung over the prominent peak and in the open sea, but it was still stunningly beautiful. We walked along the tidal coast rocks and enjoyed soaking up the views of Milford and the huge waterfall that was pouring out water and mist to our left. Although we weren’t here very long the place was still incredible and we thoroughly enjoyed the short amount of time we had there. I could have spent days just staring at the ocean and mountains and exploring the area looking for waterfalls, creeks, aged trees, and kiwis. However, we needed to get to our campsite to get the tent up and eat before the sun went down on our lovely and incredible day.
We set up camp in a light drizzle next to the lake and mountains and ate noodles and beetroot soup from our small stove. We ate and laughed, perfectly happy and content with our incredible day. That night we went to sleep, the five of us stuffed in a 4-person tent while the kiwi’s that were running about in the forest cried out to each other. The rain continued throughout the night and we woke up slightly damp and wet. We quickly packed up the soaked tent and blankets that we had put between our sleeping bags and the tent floor and got back in the car to find civilization and hot drinks. As we drove down the lonely road the sun rose over the mountains and we only passed two snowplows headed to the pass to clear the snow that had fallen 200m above us. We even saw a rainbow over the valley as we exited. We enjoyed breakfast and hot drinks at a small café in Te Anau and then headed for Cromwell where we would be hitching from back to Dunedin. Tara, Tessa and I hopped out of the car at Cromwell, got our stuff together, and then headed to a corner down the road where we could wait for a car to pick us up. We caught a ride with a kind old man within 5 minutes. He even took us to a viewpoint as he drove us to our next destination Alexandria. He dropped us off outside of Alexandria and we waited for our next ride, a kind mother headed to Invercargill to pick up her son. As she drove us on the sun beat through her car windows and I nodded off while Tessa kept up conversation. From here we hopped out at an intersection in the middle of nowhere as she took her turn south. For being in the middle of fields and sheep we surprisingly caught a ride within 2 minutes of being out of the car. This was our last ride and the kind father out to watch his son’s soccer game and the rugby match the next day took us all the way to the Octagon, the center of Dunedin. Hitchhiking was much easier and safer than I had imagined. It really was a pleasant experience and good end to a wonderful trip.