We woke up early so that we could try to make the first boat cruise departure from Milford. The road winds up into the mountains and through a tiny tunnel out into the Sound. A couple of kilometers from our campsite we realized the weather was completely different from where we had stayed. Everything was frosted and it was freezing cold.
To get to the Milford Sound you must drive through a tiny tunnel in sheer cliff. It looks surprisingly like (a less frozen version of) The Wall in Game of Thrones. Zhoel had a great time telling me that we were going north of The Wall.
We drove extremely carefully, using our 4wd. We would’ve still made it on time, but we turned a corner to find a young English guy who had crashed his hire car into a tree. He was okay, but disoriented. We stayed with him until help came (there was no cell phone service for miles). By the time we got going we had missed our boat. While we were contemplating which ride to take instead, we met a couple from Minnesota. We chatted with them for an hour and they told us about a cruise with a buffet lunch. We were sold since we hadn’t had time for breakfast. The cruise lasted about an hour and forty minutes and it was awesome. The weather is rarely good in Milford Sound, but we had a bright, sunny day. In fact, we learned that it is the wettest inhabited place in the Southern Hemisphere. The views were astounding.
The Sound is actually a fjord, not a sound, because it was carved by glaciers. It was formed over thousands of years by 5 glaciers. There are steps in the walls that show the different glaciers that carved it. We saw many waterfalls and mountains. One of which, Stirling Falls, is two times the height of Niagara Falls. The skipper took the boat right under the waterfall and soaked all of the people on the front. They loved it. There were so many wet selfie sticks. Our cruise was almost all Chinese people and a translator repeated the entire tour in Mandarin.
On our way back to Te Anau, we stopped at many of the interesting stops. The Chasm was a waterfall that had such force that small pebbles had swirled around carving out large round holes in the stone.
In the carpark there were 3 keas playing with tourists. They are cheeky little parrots that run around trying to steal food. They are very smart and remember people who feed them. One flew onto the car of a man who fed them bread. It refused to fly away when he got in. Instead it flew to his mirror and stared at him, waiting to be fed more.
Our next stop was Mirror Lakes. When the sun shines on it, you can see straight through the water to the bottom. When it doesn’t shine directly, you can see the exactly reflection of the other side. It was very cool to see the mirror image of snowy mountains and plants.
We made it back to Te Anau and started toward Queenstown.