I hit another travelling miulestone today by missing my coach: I grabbed a taxi to catch it up at thw next stop and I think I got a better ride as alongside the usual snippets about places and geology I got a much more personal view - and a tutorial on trout fishing in return for an explanation of servers and peer to peer networtking!
What with the mountains and the lack of roads going to Milford Sound (which is north of Queenstown) means going south slong the lake fgirst. The river is a fabulous blue and as clear as can be until another river joins it. The road is a fun, bumpy, twisty ride that goes past the old pass over the mountains (devil's staircase: but surely the devil who likes the easy life would install secret lift?), over the old river bed (only moved a few thousand years back) and past Kingston (sadly I didn't see the steam train). Lots more sheep, all wet, and a very small creek called So Big.
We caiught the coach up at Te Anu and chugged on up to Milford. The mountins along either side of the road would be much more impressive if you could see them through the loud and the rain meant the Mirror Pools weren't reflecting but the clouds made the passes through the southern alps very atmospheric. There's a very impressive hanging valley and again, it looks very eerie in the mist and cloud.
We stopped to look at a waterfall which you have to stand in the middle of the road to see, tramped five minutes into the rainforest (mainly umpteen kinds of local beech which kill off the manuka tea tree bushes that shelter them once they reach a certain height and grow just about everywhere, copper-barked mountain fuschia, a very odd spikey tree that looks totally different when it grows up and a lovely local tree called the miro, at which I stand and gaze (ob latin pun)) to see The Chasm. As lots of coaches stop in the same place you end up standing in a queue in the forest! The chasm is a set of bridges over a waterfall that has carved some wonderful curves and galleries out of the rock and it's worth braving the human traffic jam for.
The trees hang on by their fingernails as there's no topsoil to speak of and occasionally they all just skid downhill. There are also snow avalanches and we stopped to look at the snow left behind from last winter's avalanches before heading through the Homer tunnel.
Didn't see anything of Milford but the ferry terminal - as it rains some 200 days of the year there I suspect it's under a large umbrella. We cruised down the fjord, which they spell fiord and call a sound, in rain ranging from drizzle to downpour. This did make the waterfalls very impressive, especially when they seemed to pour straight out of the clouds. Felt a little sorry for Lion Mountian (which does look rather like a lion) as it's sitting *in* the water and looking very damp.
We headed out into the Tasman sea a little way: the boat rolled and pitched very pleasantly but when we turned back into the wind, my new hat blew off and very nearly went right overboard. This would be a shame as I think together with my new scarf - which gets longer every time I put it on - I have a rather rakish Tom Baker look going :-)
I took at hot bath to dry out when we got back (er...) My b&b is at the far end of the lake front and again I have a room that could house a small circus: I have yet to meet the cat whose whiskers this is (there's a cat, it's called the cat's whiskers...)
Back onto the water for a trip across the lake to the Te Anau caves where we punted through a cavern of glow-worms in the dark (also crawled under low rocks, looked at rushing underground streams and got totally disoriented and didn't spot the whole thing doubled back on itself). Less interested in gory details of glow-worm lifecycle than in pretty blue green glow on ceiling which is like nothing I've ever seen apart from fibre optic lights: it's actually the glow-worm's stomach rumbling to tempt in dinner... Pretty spectacular and the boat back over the lake in the dark was very relaxing.
Much gloom cast over my evening - craning my neck on the glow-worm tour seems to have knocked out one of my favourite earrings - wah :-( if it was in the punt in the glow-worm grotto I doubt I'll get it back :-( and the long stroll around town when I got back doesn't make it easier to find either...
Spirits cheered a little by discovery that there's a local owl called the Morepork, named becase, well, that's what it sounds like it's saying... Also like the story of Quentin who discovered the land route from Te Anau to Milford, acted as a guide on what's now the Milford Track and vanished after his boat was found aground in shallow water, presumed drowned: he was apparantly a drunkard who sat on the gunwhale and steered the boat with his feet on the tiller.
The upside of all the rain today: no andflies!
Mary on a Blackberry so pardon typing errors