Waking up before dawn we were packed and on the road from Queenstown through Te Anau and on to Milford Sound. The drive took us first along the southern portion of Lake Wakatipu giving us our first view of a sunrise here. The drive continued through a very pastoral area with farming and sheep galore. Another thing that we see continuously is road kill – we think they are the local variety of possums. We’ve contemplated trying to count them as a road amusement but I fear we’d quickly lose count. We passed through Te Anau, stopping only for gas after those first two hours of driving as we were heading out to Milford Sound with nary an amenity between there and back. At the station Dian asked the attendant what he thought of the Milford Highway drive and his response was “it’s bloody gorgeous!”. That boded well. The drive was beautiful with all the usual twists and turns, the speed ups and slow downs and the surprising spots, like the one lane bridges and the long, dank, dark tunnel. But after another two hours of driving we arrived at the head of the Sound where we were directed to a spot in one of many cars parks. We then boarded a shuttle bus to the pier, driven by the happiest bus driver I’ve ever encountered.
Once inside we encountered a number of boat operators but we chose Mitre Peaks, as they had the smallest boat which we thought would have fewer passengers to contend with and be able to get in closer to good spots. While waiting we met a charming Hungarian foursome… Three visiting Hungarians along with a Hungarian guide who is now a NZ resident. Within an hour we were on board and headed out. The next two hours brought phenomenal views at every turn. We passed multiple waterfalls, baby seals resting on rocks and went clear out to the end of the Sound where it meets the Tasman Sea. While on board Dian, in her inimitable fashion, began chatting with the sweetest bunch of young folks. The five of them were from Germany, England, Canada, Minnesota and Alaska. They had spent months in Thailand and New Zealand doing charitable works. We found them so engaging, polite, inquisitive and charming. It was especially fun to be outside with them when the boat went under a huge waterfall. Everyone got soaked!
Once back the ever happy bus driver returned to take us back to our car. No sooner had we started out when I spotted a hiker hitching with a sign reading “Te Anau”. Screech!! On went the brakes. I knew my daughter would never forgive me if I passed him by. So, into the back seat we squeezed in “Truncle”. What a character! For the two hour drive back to Te Anau he talked non-stop. Russian born, raised in America since age ten and now working on a PhD in neuroscience in Germany he’d been hiking the southern island. Once in town he scooted off to resupply and we went to find our Airbnb and have dinner.