Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Road to Milford Sound and Every Sign tells a story

Before we get to the main course, a brief entree.

There cannot be a single bridge in New Zealand which does not have a name, not only do the big bridges have names, but also so do the very small ones you might not even notice you are crossing.

Today as we drove down a dirt road for some

Dirt Road Roaring Creek-1

considerable distance in a very remote part of New Zealand, we passed over bridges with routinely descriptive names such as that above (the stream it went over was roaring with a considerable force of water) and then we came to a set with a different tone and

Swamp Creek Dead Horse Bog
Deadmans Creek Grave Creek

then tucked away in the woods by the side of the road was

Donald Keith Grave

the grave of Donald Keith whose headstone read “Sacred to the Memory of Donald Keith aged 59 years native of Scotland who lost his way and died from exhaustion here on May 5th 1886”. Here it seems that most road signs tell a story of some sort.

The Road to Milford Sound

Milford Sound is one of the most visited parts of New Zealand and you can get here by almost every means of transport. Even though it is at the end of a cull-de-sac some 2 hours and 110kms long, dozens of coaches drive there and back each day laden with trippers who are allowed 5 minutes at each of the sites along the way before they embark on a 3 hour boat trip around the sound and then they drive back again. Some even spend 10 hours return in a coach from Queenstown in order to fit a visit in.

We took 6 hours to cover the 110 kms because we stopped whenever there was something to see such as:

Mirror Lakes

Mirror Lake which was not having a good day because it was raining, or to admire the mountains

Mirror Lakes Mountains

which were feeling a bit cloudy

Hollyford Valley Lookout

or the Hollyford Valley

Gertrude's Valley

and Gertrude’s Valley where you really do start to feel small, plus a diversion to see the 200m high Humboldt Waterfall. This is some distance off the main road and hence is seen by few.

Having driven past the Moraine Creek Swing Bridge

Moraine Swing Bridge

which is one of the most swingy bridges we have encountered and admired the views from the centre of the bridge

Moraine Creek up stream
Moraine Creek Downstream

you walk uphill through a rain forest past some lovely rotting trunks and lichen

Rotting Trunk Lichen

to get near to the Waterfall

Humboldt Falls

which is a really amazing sight (there will be a video of the water falls whenever we stay somewhere with decent bandwidth)

Travellers at the Falls

and you feel rather small with it roaring behind you.

Back on the main road, one interesting element of the journey is Homers Tunnel which is somewhat of an engineering feat in itself. It is a one way tunnel (traffic light

Entering the tunnel

controlled with an internal gradient of 1 in 10 and a few passing places if you happen to meet someone who has ignored the lights. You have 15 minutes to get through

Kea at Homer Tunnel

before the lights change again and during your wait you are entertained with some wild Keas who have learnt that

Kea on Van

humans mean food. Going northbound towards Milford, the tunnel exits the mountainside half way up it with the usual

Exiting the tunnel

switchback road down. At the bottom is another sight ,

Giant Fern 

firstly a rain forest with some enormous ferns in it – the leaves of this fern are about 2 metres long

 Chasm Quotation

then a quotation and you walk around the corner to a

Chasm Water

roaring river going through a gorge. A few kms later you arrive at the end of the road – The Milford Sound Road does try to impress you, particularly in its final 30 kms or so.

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