Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Milford and Doubtful Sounds (plus Lake Manapouri)

The Routeburn track ends near what Rudyard Kipling described as the '8th wonder of the world' - Milford Sound. Milford is actually a fiord, carved by a glacier with sheer mountains rising straight up from the sea (perhaps the tallest examples of this anywhere in the world). Even more cool is that the sheer cliffs continue straight down below the sea another 3000 feet!

We arrived at Milford after our hike to find gorgeous weather (despite the pouring rain a few miles away). Despite the aching muscles we dragged ourselves out for some pics including the one above. It was almost so pretty that first day it seemed fake, out of some digitally enhanced movie or picturebook. Peter Jackson eat your heart out.

The next day we hopped on a cruise to explore the sound more closely. The weather was more iffy but wow was it gorgeous. Given that the water stayed several thousand feet deep right next to shore the boat was able to maneuver in close under many of the numerous waterfalls and next to the animal life. We actually got to see Penguins! Penguins! Cool and cute when they hop about. Alas it was raining so no good pics to show you.
The pic above is looking back at the end of the sound - you can see the same waterfall you saw in the first pic from the previous day.

Overall a fun few hours out on the water. Unfortunately, the sound did feel a bit commercialized (at least by NZ standards). In the pic above you can see two other tour boats plying the sound in the far distance . Good for perspective if not to appreciate the pristine nature of the area.

After the cruise we hopped on a bus and headed for Te Anau. Te Anau is a small town on a big lake by the same name that serves as a base for the area. It was to serve as our rest stop to recover between our two hikes. Go hot tubs!

Anyhow, the next day we started our journey to see Milfords big brother - Doubtful Sound. Doubtful is so remote you need to take a bus to a boat - ride for 50 minutes and then hop on another bus for 30 minutes, before arriving at yet another boat to see the sound. The cool thing is that after Milford it is the next most accessible fiord along NZ's beautiful SW coast.

While we weren't expecting anything from the journey to the sound we were amazed by the beauty of Lake Manapouri that we crossed along the way. See below for just one of the many amazing views we were treated to.

Given that Doubtful is many times the size of Milford and much more remote it has much more of a feel of a pristine wilderness. We went with a small tour operator that allowed us to cruise the sound for hours. So pretty - countless waterfalls, hanging valleys, sheer cliffs, seals, and mountains mountains mountains. cool stuff.

Doubtful from above.

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