Day 14 - Monday 04 March – Faults, seals and waterfalls…
An early start this morning and the alarm went off at 5:30... Ouch. I was so tired. So was Jeff. We went down to the breakfast buffet at the hotel. Gabi drove us on the epic Journey to Milford Sound stopping on the way at ‘The Divide’ car park so that we could ascend the steep climb up to ‘Key Summit’ on the Routeburn Track. The ascent took Jeff and I about 45 to 50 minutes. It was amazing at the top with some or inspiring mountain views over Fjordland National Park; real mountains; very very tall and slightly foreboding. Some of the mountains still had snow on them. We walked the nature walk on Key Summit and observed the bog plants, flowers and trees. One thing about New Zealand is that indigenous trees and plants are just allowed to grow. This means that wooded areas and forests are very dense. Trees and rocks are covered in moss, lichen and weed. In the summer months when the forest dries out in the heat, fire is a real threat; and while we were in Te Anau, there were really bad fires in Nelson again.
There was a little bit of rain today but none of it landed on us thankfully. The walk did require sturdy shoes and I was glad of my walking boots especially on the descent back to the bus.
After our walk Gabi drove us along the mountain pass road through a long tunnel and out to Milford sound. We drove up and down steep and undulating hills more dramatic than we are used to in the UK. The scenery was exceptional, ranging from broad grassy flats, dense rainforest, and towering mountains through to glacial lakes and alpine herb fields. No other road in Fiordland offers such a diverse glimpse into New Zealand's alpine zone. We stopped off at a viewpoint to observe the force of water on rock.
At Milford sound we took a boat tour with a lunch buffet round the very large lake. The boat, which was very big, pulled alongside small colonies of seals on the rocks; and alongside waterfalls. It was lovely. You could see the famous Mitre Peak; tall, pointed and foreboding pushing up steeply out of the water. After the boat trip Gabi drove us back to Te Anau. That evening Jeff and I went out for a very nice beer and pizza. We leave tomorrow to go on to Mount Cook National Park.