Can we just get there?
12.11.2009 - 12.11.2009 64 °F
Jeannine has had a few must-see sights on her list for a while…things like the Taj Mahal, the pyramids in Egypt, and Milford Sound. She can finally cross Milford off the list because today was set for a cruise at Milford. We had plans of starting early in the morning to drive the two hours to Milford. Unfortunately, the night before at 11:00 pm I had a moment of panic as I lay in bed and tried to remember if I turned off the lights in the car when we arrived. I donned my fleece and shoes and headed outside to have my worst fears realized. The car was dead! I checked with the hotel clerk and she said the two gas stations in town don’t open until 7:30 or so. I tried to go back to sleep (without waking Jeannine) with the help of Sufi breathing and chants.
The next morning we found the gas station open at 7:00, but the mechanic didn’t arrive until 8:00 so we went to have breakfast at our new favorite café, The Olive Tree — pancakes with blueberries and eggs with a wonderful mushroom sauce, yum. A quick stop at the gas station, $30NZ poorer, and we were on the road again.
On the drive up from the nearby town of Te Anau we learned that Milford isn’t really a “sound” (a river valley flooded by the sea) but rather it’s a “fiord” (a glacier-carved valley that’s been flooded by the sea)… details, details. We stopped to take photos of Te Anau Lake, Mistletoe Lake, and Mirror Lake and because it was a clear, calm morning the mirror effects on the lakes were impressive. Jeannine glanced at one lake as we passed and had a shock when she saw a perfectly upside-down mountain reflected in it.
We were both curious about the Homer Tunnel which cuts through a mountain to get to the fiords. The guidebooks list all kinds of precautions and warnings about the dangers of the tunnel and we were expecting a tight squeeze. As we approached, it was so small it did look like a penny stuck on a pumpkin. But they only let one side through at a time so it wasn’t too bad.
We arrived at the visitor’s center and got a coffee while we waited for the cruise. The classic view of Milford shimmered outside the window with the famous Mitre Peak in the distance. I started talking to a couple next to us and discovered that they were also from the USA traveling from California. We had a nice talk and all got on the boat.
We moved out on the water toward the Tasman Sea, following the path the glacier took as it carved out the fiord. We were treated to sparkling waterfalls, penguins, and fur seals as we cruised along. I was really happy we’d purchased the telephoto lens for our camera. Even with the rocking of the boat I was able to catch a few good shots.
On the way back out of the mountains we made a few stops to take a look at the temperate rainforest where the famous Milford Track winds through. In a couple of the parking lots we got a close-up view of the Kea birds that we learned about at Rainbow Springs. These birds are known to be super-intelligent and curious. In a video they were shown to solve puzzles and cooperate to get food. They also like to destroy cars by ripping the rubber off of windshield wipers and from around the doors. We kept an eye on our car.
A Cultural Aside…
Another clothing trend we like is how the big, brawny workmen wear little billowy shorts and big work boots when they’re working. It doesn’t matter how cold it is, they’ll be working on a road crew or building something, wearing a hooded coat and those silly shorts. It never fails to amuse.