What is it with the Germans when they say they will do something you know they will do it, and to 110%! So when the two bold lassies told me we WERE to take off for Milford at 07.30 sharp, you bet I was going to be there on time to collect them. In fact, the fear of being late kept me tossing and turning all night and hence getting a poor nights sleep. Anyhow I did wake at 06.15 and had a shower and worked my way up to the main building to have my brekkie. Dragged open the door at 06.45 and it squaked so much you could have heard it in Cork and no doubt all te backpackers heard it too. Anyhow I was met by an austere long haired American who grunted a good morning back when I quipped did she have any 3 in 1 oil or WD 40? I thought I was being very clever to think up of that so early, but guess what.. no she did not appreciate my humour. She was on the internet..possibly to coincide with the folks at home and then decided to engage me in converstion re the joys of fast internet speeds.. whoosh over my head especially at that time... she may as well have ben talking about quantum physics for the amount of attention I was giving her. Went to brush my teeth and the handle of the loo door fell off and I thought with horror I was going to be late if I got locked in...how would I explain that one to the Germans? Looked at the watch..yikes it was 07.15 and they will be waiting for me all bright eyed and bushy tailed and prepared in Carmens hostel. I rapidly got into the car and Melissa informed me smugly that I would get to them at 07.31. Now that was never gonna happen so I was passing the local possums at breakneck speed and came to a flying gravel stop outside the hostel at 07.30. The reason we picked this time was to avoid the tour buses that begin to motor around 8 and therefore it would be best to be ahead of those especially on twisty roads and a two hour drive. No such luck! Carmen arrived at my car window at 07.31 precisely and asked me where Julia was. She had not appeared yet.Well slap her wrists for such tardiness!! Well in fact the bould Julia was LATE!! Ireland dous points! She woke at 7.40 and ended up getting ready so fast that her head nearly spun off. Her first time late up for nearly 20 years and what a morning to pick!! She tried explaining the reasons while trying to digest her rapidly scoffed breakfast and me tearing down the highways. Julia told me to turn Melissa off as the stupid unit had NO idea where she was sending us and was wrong! I obliged willingly and Melissa was sent to coventry for another day. Even though we got on the road at 7.55 by God weren't some of the tour buses already started and got to Mirror Lake in front of us. NOT a good start to the day which was crisp cool and lots of low lying cloud... also not a good start. The Mirror lakes are amazing and we were clicking away. All I could hear was one of our lassies shooing the ducks away as they were causing he mirror on the lakes not to be so reflective!! Any way we got our pics and tore off towards Milford.
The sun began to come up and all I can say is that this country continues to improve. I have yet to get a bad day here and hopefully will not. Fiordland National Park is just incredible. Huge mountains, loads of lakes and enough waterfalls than you could shake a stick at. Our plan as to hit Milford early, have a look around and then get out before the buses got there in droves. The "city" of Milford has a population of 180. I think my terrace in Cork has more folk than that or maybe that was that how many were up in my house on Christmas Day?. Anyhow the numbers in swell during the day to about 100 times the 180 and there are a lot of cruisers, helicopters and scenic planes etc around. We would have a nose and leave and then do a few hikes on the way back. With the morning sun just beginning to show it glory, we decided on a whim to go and take the earliest cruise we could get and then feck off. Nothing could have prepared us for the absolute magnificence of this place. Mitre Peak is used in the tourist brochures of NZ as it is the highest mountain that rises out of the sea at 1682m. It was incredible in the first of the morning light. There was not a cloud in the sky for most of the day and the sun beat down. Now this is incredibly unusual here as they get a huge annual rainfall. Some say between 7-9 metres and it rains around 300 days of the year. A drought is when they do not get rain for 7 days in sucession.The blessings of St Patrick were on us and he paid off even more when we came to Rainbow Falls. I dont think the camera will take a still of the double rainbow that we saw but all was going so well I expected to see Darby O Gill and the little people with several crocks of gold there too!
Another falls the Bowen Falls is 160 metres high and the boat goes as close to it as to get everyone in front soaked. A bit like the Timotea ad for shampoo but without the polynesian woman, but including several foreign tongues in their red ponchos! Needless to mention I stayed inside for that one!
Got back to dry land gobsmacked but congratulating ourselves on a unanimous decision to go out on the Sound. Even though the place is commercialised, it's done in a subtle way.. there could be 5 cruisers heading out at the one time, but they dont pile up together.The most annoying thing was the sound of the helicopters taking off, flying overhead and landing back again after a few mins and folk forking out a fortune for their few minutes on board. Anyhow on a day like this, it was well worth the money. Walked around the small 20 mins jaunt there and beat off another few hundred sand flies and scarpered away from the place. It was now 1pm and the buses were piling up in the car park and the helicopters taking off like a military manoeuvre. Even bumped into the Israeli couple I met in Queenstown the other night in the hostel with Andrew. God this world is getting smaller. Dejavoo again. I must not have insulted them as she even greeted me with a hug!
Went to have our picnic, outside the Homer Tunnel, (a VERY rough version of the Jack Lynch one but this is under the mountain) and looking out over the valley below as the huge walls of the mountains towering above us. It was really surreal and not a puff of wind as the place was so sheltered the valley so narrow..... hence the name Fiordland!
Anyhow we headed towards the Chasm, an amazing waterfall with a big black hole and the torrent shaping out the waterway into a smooth channel. Then to the Divide and it was here we started our hike up to Key Point. This is part of the famous Routeburn Hike, a 3 dayer walk I think. We could not have asked for better weather and to say that the hike was incredible would be to underplay it. There is an Alpine garden on top of the point and it was like something that Disneyworld contrived..spongy ground, mosses, lichens, gnarled trees, herbs and minature plants. gorowing and full of colour and mixtures. Met a few people who advised going further as the view would be worth it. It would take 15 mins according to the yank.. another lie..It was more like an Irish 15 mins... ish. Actually it took 40 mins to reach the part of the way and I went well off the path. I think the girls gave up at the section where they sank up to their "North Face" ankles in muck. I could hear a few shrieks carried on the warm breezes as they sank! Anyhow they sat down and chatted and took in the view of Marian Lake while I trudged off and on track getting my legs scratched and covered in muck. Met an Italian who cheerily persuaded me to go on for another 10 mins. I did, and boy was it worth it. Incredible views. According to the brochure the Key Summit provids spectacular views over the Hollyford, Greensotone and Eglantine Valleys. I took a little video clip to remember it but by now it was 17.15 and we had at least a 2 hour hike back. Not a good place to get stuck without appropriate gear but Julia said " we have cereal bars".... the solution for everything... and NO she is not the marketing manager for Kelloggs! These bars would not keep a newt fed for the night or provide any heat or shelter! Got down in record time and headed back for Te Anau. We knew the sunset would be good but we were not prepared for what we got.. We would screech to a halt, hop out of the car with several more "oh mein Gotts" and then just shake our heads in admiration or disbelief. At one stage the cars were lining up behind us to take the same pics. It was just when we were on one final hurdle that we scorched around a corner in front of Lake Mistletoe and nearly ran off the road with what was on view ni front of us. You could not have got a more fantastic end to the fantastic day . The sunset behind the mountains and the colours reflecting on the lake below. Geese or ducks or some member of the bird family migrating for the winter in large V's across the sky and you have an idea. In fact I think that even some of the birds were so impressed with tonights sunset that they decided to stay put!
By the way my last pic count was 2400! Are yawl ready for them? Add to that two day overnight cruise to Doubtful sound and I think you will be making excuses not to meet me and review the hols when I get back. Anyhow most of the details are contained on the blog so all you have to do is look and the pics in the same way and we did... OH MEIN GOTT!