|What an amazingly beautiful place Milford Sound is.
However, being eternally engineerish, the coolest part for me was the Homer Tunnel on the way there. Imagine driving continuously upwards via numerous switchbacks towards an amphitheatre formed of sheer granite walls - it seems as though the road will simply smash right into the side, bugs bunny style, like when the roadrunner moved that movable tunnel out of the way and the coyote just smashed into the rock! It really looks like the road has nowhere to go, and then suddenly you see this very small hole in the wall with a traffic light. It's a one way/one lane tunnel, so there are lights at either end to control the traffic. We spent 15 minutes waiting for the light, which I used to walk around and snap some shots of this fantastic cliff bound basket. There were a number of Kea around (smart birds that will open your packs and steal your credit card if you let them!)
As we entered the tunnel, it immediately got very dark. It's poorly lit, roughly hewn, and the road is full of holes and unsealed portions. To add to the drama, it's about a 14% decline as you plummet forward in the dark! There was water dripping everywhere and you could feel the temperature drop at least 10 degrees. You cannot see the other end. The thing is about 1.2 km long straight down, and the first time you're in it, it's the freakiest thing. However, it's quite interesting that they just left the walls rough - especially with the fact that thousands come this way to see the Sound. The other end is equally as spectacular, with hanging valleys all around and literally hundreds of waterfalls.
Once out on the boat in the Sound, things get even more amazing. Here, there are THOUSANDS of waterfalls as the entire fiord is steep walled, having been carved by a number of glaciers over the eons. There are very few flat spots and almost no vegetation on the fiord walls. Consequently, when it rains (and it was on and off when we were here), countless waterfalls form that are not normally there. This is why, as our captain said, it's almost better to see the place in bad weather when you can see the falls! Fantastic! The annual rainfall in the region can reach over 9 metres, apparently the highest in the world. 24 hour record was over half a metre!
Anyway, it was a great day trip from our bunk beds. We got a new room last night still with twins, but not bunks so that was better. It's really packed right now because of New Year's coming and all the vacation time people have right now, so we take what we can get! Today, we just came from hiring our pots pans and extra special rain coats (it can just pour here and we decided to get these over our existing gear) for the Kepler, which we start tomorrow (New Year's Day). The weather is a bit foreboding, so I asked Kristine to put some of her witchcraft to work to keep us a little drier! We also bought a whole bunch of dried foods because all there is along the way are huts with bunks and gas cooking facilities. Four days in the bush - should be a riot! We may even get to ford some rivers along the way!
So, no updates for a few days as we do the tramp. Trekking is called tramping here incidentally. Kristine keeps calling herself a tramp...er. ;) When we get back, were heading for Mt. Cook, and then finally to Christchurch. Our time in NZ is quickly approaching its end, as we leave for Melbourne on the 8th!