This is the day for Milford Sound, the impressive and narrow
fiord with high rocky walls, plenty of tropical vegetation and water
The idea is taking the first cruise of the
morning, which will sail across the highlights of this place explained
in this mini guide:
This place is the wonder of this travel and we know it rains
300 of the 365 days of the year, so we must be ready for this. This
rain rate is basic for maintaining this paradise, with all the
vegetation, the water falls and even the fauna, with seals, penguins,
dolphins, turtles, etc…
After the cruise we would take the Milford Road
back to Te Anau where we want to visit some caves which ceilings appear
with stars due to the glowworms. These are insect larvae with the skill
of making light in order of attracting food. The tour time is 2 PM:
The sun raises bringing light to our lonely place,
along the river and the white mountains we must go through today. As we
don’t want any issues with the time we are on the road very early in
order of reaching the cruises terminal as soon as possible. Landscape
on both sides of Milford Road is changing as we’re getting closer to
the mountains, but the camping grounds keep appearing along the road. I
don’t know that was the last one was based from.
I’m still afraid about having to use the chains
and seeing how the snow is closer to the road as we’re going on is not
helping. A tongue of snow is across the road, but somebody has already
cleaned the road. We’re grateful about that, despite there are several
signs along the road warning about the avalanche risk and forbidding
any stop of vehicles on specific parts. And then, Homer tunnel appears.
I don’t know why, but I expected more of this
tunnel. The sign is showing 3.81 meters high and, at that moment, I
cannot say if our motorhomes are lower or not. I use the walkie-talkie
to ask to the ones behind if they think – or can see – if my motorhome
is small enough as per going into the tunnel and the answer is “No”. On
despite of that, I think a lot of campervans of all sizes have passed
across that tunnel multiple times so I go into the darkness closing my
eyes. Nothing has happened; I can follow the line in the road praying
for not having any kind of vehicle in the other direction as I’m
driving by the middle of the road because of the narrowness of this
tunnel. The light at the end means we’re saved this time, but it has
seemed so long for me.
On the other side of the mountains the road snakes
down steeply in sharp curves through the snow. I know just after going
down is “The Chasm”, the stop we want to do. But it is not, we only
find covered signs and a closed car park. Then, now through rainforest
with the ferns we’ve missed for some days, the signs to the jetty
appear. I already know only buses can go to it and campervans and cars
must be parked around 300 meters before.
We’re the first in the big parking except for one
campervan which seems to be sleeping. From this spot we already have
the views we’ve seen in all the postcards. We can see also some flying
bugs, it’s weird, as we are not meeting any bugs at all. We’ve been in
dense rain forest and haven’t seen any fly, spider or even ant on any
of them. We put the repellent we bought in Northern Island as, although
we don’t know if they are or not sandflies, we can see how we can reach
the end of the travel without using it a single time.
We can walk by a wooden pass through the trees to
the terminal building, which is closed. There is an info note at door
explaining opening time is 9 AM. Still 30 minutes! So we come back to
the motorhomes and back to the terminal around 20 minutes later, when
we can see the staff of the different cruise companies arriving at work.
When they’re going to open we are more than one
group waiting to come in. People is asking questions desk to desk but
we know where to go as I already did that work: we go directly to
purchase the tickets at Juicy Cruize desk. Finally we didn’t rent the
campervans with them but we will do the cruise, for which we’ve just
paid 55$ per person. As we have time now until boarding I go to Real
Journeys desk because we want do the glowworm tour this afternoon with
them and I book it for 8 persons. We pay 70$ per person here and we’re
scheduled at 2 PM, but we must be there at 1:40 PM. It’s quite tight,
but we will.
We go outside to the jetty to make pictures of the
landscape and the boat, which is the smaller one.
It’s 30 minutes more what we must wait to sail on
it and enjoying the one hour and a half cruise through what seems to be
“The lost world”. This first cruise is the only one including free
breakfast: tea or coffee and a big muffin.
The snowed peaks contrast with the dense green
vegetation enveloping all around. The fiord is a quite narrow water way
between tall vertical green walls from the top of which magnificent
water falls can be seen here and there. Until the boat reaches the
infinite Tasman Sea, where it turns around and come back.
Landscapes are stunning and our cameras work with
no rest although we can check they’re not capable of taking all what
we’re seeing and living.
As a perfect end, the boat approaches to one of
the water falls to stand quite in the end of it for a morning shower.
It is a wonderful experience and we’ve been
feeling like living in a world only seems to exist in movies.
Show must go on and, although we don’t want to leave such
nature wonder, we must be on time at next. We take the road back and
feel afraid again when reaching the tunnel, hoping doesn’t getting any
incoming vehicle in our way.
But that was not possible, the next cruises time is the one for the
people coming from the cities in coaches and we keep meeting them all
along the trip to the tunnel. We wait at the entrance for the last
vehicle to leave until it is “clean”, but the rest are not doing the
same and, in the middle of our drive we start meeting the buses. We
freak out at this moment, I remove my wing mirror and try to get as
much at the left as possible until a noise makes me stop, the coaches
are not stopping and pass by our side slow and so close I even could
touch them with my hand. We’re forced to end and are grateful to reach
the end of the tunnel.
Milford Road to Te Anau is a
two hours’ drive but we knew we could do it in less and we’re in Real
Journeys offices building, along the lake, at 1:20 PM. We haven’t
stopped a single time in our way. When I asked on Juicy Cruize desk
about The Chasm I got a confirmation it is closed. Covering the signs
and closing the access to the parking is the way of closing a peace of
We get the tickets but we’re not getting enough time to lunch as
boarding time is just after parking the motorhomes. In the meantime,
we’ve been able of checking what the noise we heart at tunnel was:
there is a quite ugly scratch in one of the tallest motorhomes, in the
left side of top over the driver cabin.
in a day Only this one is quite different as it goes through the lake
very fast. It’s a 30 minutes trip starting with the views of the snowed
row of mountains at the bottom and ending in the middle of some islands
until we end disembarking in one of them.
A guide from Chile has taken our group for him because of the language,
so we’re going to get a “private” tour in Spanish. He explains the
details of the river which, coming from the top to the lake has been
opening the caves on its way, just before getting into them.
We’re the first group in passing by the very low entrance, leaving the
rain forest behind, into the darkness, which can be barely saved by the
soft lights in the metal pass ways we’re walking over. It is
completely forbidden to use any kind of camera. It seems these animals
are very sensitive
to light and noise, so that’s why is so dark and why we’re asked to
don’t talking. After some falls inside the walls we take a boat and
float in completely darkness and silence to a part where the only we
can see is the group of blue points, as if they were making
constellations inside the cave. At that moment, although we’re all
seated together, we can only hear the noise of the running water. Our
guide uses as less as possible his lantern for the tasks of tying or
untying the boat. The experience is magical.
Once out of the caves we go to the visitor center where there is an
exhibit about the fauna in the island and we can assist to a
presentation with videos about the life of the glowworms. It’s strange
and very interesting.
After the return trip through the lake we’re back in our motorhomes and
ready for driving to Invercangill. We’re quite satisfied with what
we’ve eaten in the island: giant cookies and some sweets. So we’re not
going to stop until reaching our destination.
is still daylight we choose the scenic route passing by Manapouri and
reaching the South Coast quite sooner, instead of the one marked at the
map at the beginning of this page. This allows us to see the typical
vegetation of the Southern Coast still at daylight and amaze us with
the shape of the trees, constantly hit by the wind coming from the sea,
as per growing with a 90º turn in their trunks, with the tree being
parallel to the ground.
We’ve chosen Beachside Holyday Park, just outside Invercangill, which
we get at dark, just before finding out how the road we were following
to come here ends directly on the sand of the beach. It’s because of
the help of a car that we turn around in the beach and get the right
turn to this park.