Tuesday, May 1, 2007

South Island Picture Time- Part V (Milford Sound)

Mentioned briefly in this post, but quite frankly the pictures do a better job talking than I ever would. I have over a hundred pictures from this day, and for good reason as you'll soon see.

Note to family and anyone else who comes to New Zealand: while we can debate what other parts of New Zealand to come to, going on a trip to Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park is non-negotiable. I mean, it was raining the whole time we were in the Sound itself and I still thought it was one of the greatest things I'd seen! Okay? Okay.
A pretty-but-typical view on the way to Fiordland National Park (Milford Sound is inside this park, which is so large it hasn't been fully explored yet). Ho-hum, nothing to see yet... by the way, you may notice that the weather deteriorates as we go closer to the Sound, rains while there, and gets nice and beautiful on the way back. That's just the way things work in New Zealand- the weather on the interior has absolutely no bearing on the weather on the Coast no more than 70 miles away.
The view of the lake from the town of Te Anau, which is the last town before going into the national park and where we stopped for breakfast. (It's a 12 hour day from Queenstown- you drive for four hours, take a cruise of the Sound, then drive back, arriving at 7pm or so. It might sound like a lot, but you really don't notice.) Te Anau is the site of another LOTR moment, by the way, so perhaps someone can spot just which scene this is from.
The aptly named Mirror Lakes in Fiordland National Park. Just lovely.
My aesthetic sense can't help it- here's another picture of Mirror Lake. Unfortunately the mountains were *just* tall enough that I couldn't get a picture of them lengthwise; anyone good at Photoshop want to help me with the composites? You get a nice desktop background out of the deal...
The view from a stream we stopped by in the park- you can actually see more of the mountains than the camera view picked up, but my camera didn't like the contrast much. The stream was also nice because it was pure spring water so we could fill up our water bottles, the result of which was I spent the rest of my time on South Island nursing a bottle of some of the best spring water you've ever tasted. It's pretty much all snowmelt, too, so it was nice and cold when I capped it...
The road down to Milford Sound. This is the view right outside the Homer Tunnel, which is about a kilometer above sea level, and the surrounding mountains are all about 3 km high. The road proceeds to go down at a very steep gradient (very nessecary, as you're only a few kilometers from the ocean!), but the mountains stay the same impressive height so you have to stare straight up if you want to actually see the tops of them.
A typical view on the drive down from Homer Tunnel, put here because I'm attempting to give you a sense of how immense these mountains are (but probably failing miserably- sorry!). In order to see the top of this odd little peak, you would seriously be looking straight up.
The view from the dock of Milford Sound. It was actually really cool with the cloud cover as the mountains kept mysteriously coming in and out of view... for the record though, this is New Zealand's most famous tourist destination so you've probably seen a view of this in nice weather.
Typical view of the Sound during our cruise, which lasted about two hours.
A bit closer up to that same waterfall...
The same waterfall yet again, to give you a sense of scale. This place is huge!

Another pretty waterfall. There are two really good things about seeing Milford Sound in the rain- all the waterfalls are in full force (including some that only appear in the rain!), and everyone else is huddled inside missing out because they don't want to get wet so no one gets in the way of your shots.
There are no less than eight indavidual waterfalls in this picture. Anyone who can find all eight gets the official "really good at finding waterfalls despite the clouds and mist" award.

Note about all these waterfalls before I forget: Milford Sound itself is not a LOTR location (though the river that runs into it is), but portions of the Jurassic Park movies were filmed here. You know for example that waterfall in the first one when the helicopter's landing, and you find yourself thinking "how on Earth did they find that waterfall?" Now you know.
Imagine the fact that there is a lot more mountain to be had here, as in several thousand feet more so I couldn't fit it all into my camera view. Then imagine that this is coming straight out of the water and you're right next to it... that is the sort of scale you need to apply to Milford Sound.
Another nice, misty view of the Sound. This was towards the end of the cruise, so it was time to head back to Queenstown...
Back to the pretty-but-typical views of the New Zealand countryside. I include this because of the white dots in front known as sheep, because I haven't had a sheep picture yet and would be giving you a skewed vision of the South Island if there were no sheep pictures!

By the way, if you're ever bored in the New Zealand countryside, play a game with the person sitting next to you whereby you get points for spotting a stray sheep, sheep in illicit relationships, lambs standing on the backs of their mothers via unknown methods... trust me, sheep are only boring if you aren't paying attention to the right things!