Relishing the Kiwi comfort

Relishing the Kiwi comfort

Travel tales

Relishing the Kiwi comfort

A journey to Milford Sound, New Zealand includes all the elements that make a globetrotter go ‘wow’. I came across a contour of stories during my trip from Queenstown to Milford, in Fiordland. 

The scenery in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand, is striking. Jagged peaks, placid lakes, green forests and narrow gorges sculpted by picturesque glaciers are renowned. We were on a tour of South Island and decided to hire a coach with the driver. Stephen, the driver and guide, arrived at the hotel a little before the appointed time with a bit of bad news. Rain was forecast at Milford Sound. This was a dampener to the excitement and beauty comes at a price. Stephan told us that we could look forward to some spectacular falls and that was a beacon of light on an overcast day!

Our eyes feasted on the vibrant autumn foliage around the Remarkables, the mountain chain adjoining Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu (or the ‘Sleeping Giant’ in Maori as it looks like one). The lake is a whopping 80-km-long, 40 metres deep and is fed by five large rivers and springs. He went on to say that for those with the luxury of time and energy, a number of walks, rated as ‘Great Walks’ including the ‘Kepler Track’ and the ‘Milford Track’ are common activities.

The geography of the landscape and notoriously-temperamental weather changes along the drive. Our eyes scanned farms at regular intervals where ‘kale’ and other vegetables are grown. It was strange to know that farming is not a means of livelihood but merely a hobby. It was a soothing sight to see cattle and sheep grazing on rolling meadows, just like in the rest of the country, but what struck us most was that, for hours on end, there was not a single human being in sight.

As the dark clouds gathered, we soon found ourselves in a forested area. Interestingly, it was created by bringing in trees from different parts of the world which have adapted to local climates. Stephen shared insights about the region’s geography. He pointed out that schist, the rock formed as a result of glacial activity in South Island while the North Island was shaped by a volcanic activity. In the midst of listening to such stories; clouds lifted up and prompted us to make a photo stop at a large clearing, bordered by  rugged mountains and a beautiful rainbow that arched across the distant sky.

There we were, marvelling at the rainbow across the Southern Alps for the moment! Driving along, we came across the Eglington river which flows along the glacier valley. Far to the left were the Humboldt mountains and the Humboldt Falls, which remained hidden from our view. As the rain resumed true to the forecast, we arrived at the boardwalk in the Mirror Lakes region. 

Monkey Creek was our next point of interest. Stephen had brought paper cups so that we could sample the water acclaimed to be the purest. We reached Tanoa, a peaceful, lakeside town and pulled into a café cum store to recharge and shop for Merino wool. Driving into the heartland of Fiordland, the schist gave way to towering granite peaks.
A bend in the road among near-vertical cliffs brought us to the renowned Homer Tunnel, which bores through the granite rock.  The driver expertly manoeuvred  the vehicle along the tunnel, which has the world’s best set of alpine traffic lights that help people to get across safely. Out of the tunnel, we emerged at the spectacular Cleddau Valley where the river plunges through boulders to create the mighty Chasm. As we got off the coach to view the Chasm, we were delighted to spot an obliging Kea, the native bird of South Island. We set off on this wonderful 20- minute walk through lush rain forests, wetlands and roaring waterfalls.

  The water disappears between a narrow chasm and hence the name. Back in
the coach, dripping wet but well-exercised, we resumed the drive. A short drive from here marked the end of our journey at the magical Milford Sound.

This drive always brings back a bouquet of beautiful memories even today.

How to get there

We travelled by Singapore Airlines. We made the journey to Milford Sound by Limousine South and joined the Southern Discoveries Milford Sound Scenic Cruise. We stayed at Auckland City Hotel and Tanoa Paihia Hotel at Paiha and at  Sudima Hotel in Rotorua.

Sudha Rao
(The author can be reached at 26711713)

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