After the Glaciers we started to make our way down the remainder of the west coast in order to reach Milford Sound. We camped 2 nights, the first at beautiful Lake Wanaka and the other at Moke Lake near Queenstown. On the way we also stopped in Queenstown for a morning to search for a hostel for when we returned a few days later.
(Lake Wanaka – this was not our accommodation)
(Our campsite on Moke Lake)
Sadly these two nights camping introduced us to the rather cold nights on the souther part of the south island. We both suffered and it became clear our super cheap sleeping bags were crap.
Queenstown is a really lovely place and is also the place to come in NZ to do extreme sports. But as we only stopped for a couple of hours we will say no more until we return for our 3 night stay.
After Queenstown we went in search of better sleeping bags and then drove on towards the entrance to the Milford Highway. We stayed in a lovely cabin on a hill with panoramic views of the mountain range. At this hostel we took advice from the staff as to the best way to see Milford Sound. They suggested kayaks. We then completely ignored them and took advantage of the 2 for 1 boat cruise offer we got with our hire car. Once that was booked we set off to camp near Milford.
One recommendation we did take from the hostel was to camp at Gunn’s Camp. This is an old Public Works camp from the 1930’s consisting of a selection of basic cabins in a valley complete with the quintessential beautiful New Zealand river.
(a typical cabin at Gunn’s Camp)
Our intention had been to camp but rain was forecast overnight so we enquired as to the availability of the cabins and cost. The cabins such as you see above were a fair bit more expensive than camping but the woman could see we fancied sleeping in one so she offered us their basic cabin which was allegedly popular with backpackers. We went for a look at what turned out to be a shed! A shed containing 3 beds mind you. The cost for this was barely any more than to camp so we went for it, but we did feel like the poor relations in the garden shed! That said we ended up having the best nights sleep we have had for a while. Helped in no small part by our new warm sleeping bags.
(the Cabin/Shed we slept in!)
Having secured our shed we set off to Milford Sound and our boat tour.
The drive from Gunn’s Camp to Milford was the most incredible drive we have had so far in NZ. Which is saying something as the scenery here is a constant barrage of jaw dropping mountains and blue waters.
The road gradually starts to twist and climb up through the mountains before eventually reaching a tunnel. At this point the view was of an almost arena like cauldron surrounded by huge rock walls. It was cloudy so I didn’t get a picture but this was taken nearby the next day.
After exiting the tunnel, which was hand dug incidentally, we continued our spiral like descent down to sea level and Milford.
Milford is a strange place. It is so far from civilisation that you really don’t expect to find an almost airport like terminal sending people out on various boats. We were handed a boarding pass and sent towards gate 7. Nobody confiscated our drinking water.
The Sound, which is in fact a Fjord, is highly impressive. The steep mountains on all sides harbour many trees which grow in nothing more than the moss that clings to the rocks. The waters are still and dark and on a rainy day such as the day of our visit endless waterfalls tumble from great heights.
The downside of the rain was that clouds had enveloped the mountains above but nevertheless the views were very impressive. Here are a few pics to give you some idea…
(a waterfall being buffeted by the wind)
(the water really was sloping like this… honest)
(note the tourist ship which handily gives an idea of scale)
(a sea lion…..or maybe a seal? Anybody?)
(waterfall number 352 of the day…the most impressive)