Queenstown to Te Anau and Milford Sound

[image:462,right]We had a lot of fun in the morning exploring quaint and historical Arrowtown. It's far prettier then Queenstown and we regretted not finding some dinner there the previous night, for there looked to be some very reasonable eateries.

[image:463,left]Our next destination was Te Anau at the foot of a lake of the same name. As we departed Queenstown I couldn't help but think that the range of our left might be fencing in Mordor. Snow clouds still dusted the tops of the hills, even in late Summer. We passed a vintage steam train pulling tourists along through the valleys. It would have been a fun and very scenic journey for them.

On reaching Te Anau and the Anchorage Motel we were quick to unpack and book a Milford Sound cruise though the reception. Not stopping for lunch, we set out towards this famous part of the Fjordland National Park.

[image:464,left]The park's entrance is into yellow grassland at the base of a river valley. Grey clouds lay ahead on the towering mountains, and we hoped they wouldn't cause problems. We carefully wound our way upwards along single lane roads and bridges, into forest, to find ourselves at Homer Tunnel, a narrow, but long, unlit pass straight through the mountain. On either side of us, snow. We drove through, not knowing what lay beyond.

Beatrice was feeling sick from the winding paths and a lack of lunch, so we pulled over, precious time passing. Below us, the road wound tightly and steeply down the mountain side, with patches of snow at the edges. The weather was wet and the air foggy, the Alps splitting the South Island's climate in two.

We had made it that far, there was no sense turning back, so we continued into the gloom, hoping there would be something to see at the end of it. Somehow we got to Milford Sound, early enough that we could partake in a meat pie from the cafeteria, but soaked from the pouring rain that lay between there and the car.

[image:470,right]The boat set off into a grey gloom, the famous landscape obscured by fog and rain, and Beatrice fell asleep on my arm, worn out from the driving and never very good on boats. It was rather disappointing after the effort we made in travelling to the sound.

The return through the mouth of the fjord marked a change in our fortunes. The cloud lifted and an astonishing landscape was revealed. The same rain that had hidden our view was now streaming down the mountainsides as temporary rivers and waterfalls, something we would have missed on a sunny day. We stood out on the boats decks and felt the spray of a waterfall and watched the seals on the rocks.

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[image:490,left]When the boat returned to the dock it was time to return to Te Anau. Freed of the need to arrive at a certain time, we took the return trip at a more leisurely pace, enjoying the scenery, the water cascading down the sides of the dark, bare grey flanks of the mountains and into forest streams. The unlit Homer tunnel was just as terrifying to drive through as on the way in, the drive up to it as motion sickening. We stopped again on the other side, snowbanks visible on the side of the road.

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[image:500,left]The landscape kept changing the further along the road we drove. Mountains coated in greenery, lakes and forests of different trees, until again we arrived back in the grassy valley floor, surely a place for the horse lords! At this point we were quite concerned, for we had not looked closely enough at the petrol tank earlier and it now read just above empty. The warning light had been on for a while by the time we made it back to Te Anau.

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We had another scare in the town when I discovered my wallet was missing. We searched the places we had stopped, eventually finding a note posted up on the light pole near a previous parking spot. A Japanese tourist have found my wallet on the ground and brought it into a nearby shop. I thanked the kind owners and found in their store a suitable snow dome to bring back to Beatrice's family, who collected them. We had hunted quite hard for that, so it was a happy ending all round!