You have to drive South around three mountain ranges and through (yes, through) another mountain in order to reach Milford Sound (unless you’re prepared to carry all your stuff on your back and walk the Routeburn Track, which joins Glenorchy to the Milford Road).
As we continued on towards Knobs Flat, in the direction of Milford Sound, Ken said he thought the Milford Road is the most beautiful road in New Zealand. I was on the verge of protesting again, given the awesomely beautiful roads we’d already driven on. I thought we’d pretty much seen mountains every which way mountains could be. Then, suddenly, this view opened out in front of us:
The change of colour, scope, light, perspective; everything. Wow. I tried to take a panoramic pic but my phone couldn’t cope with the immensity of the panorama. Yes the same phone that took all those other panoramas. Somehow 360 degrees was about 180 degrees too much for it! Wow.
We arrived at Knobs Flat 👆🏼 and the young lady welcoming us offered us the office’s stash of board games. Hurray! It was a bit limited but I picked up Scrabble for our evening’s entertainment (enhanced by wine) and we settled in to the very comfortable cabins.
It has to be said, the quality of showers in New Zealand motels is variable but generally was much better than I’d expect in the UK. Ironically, here in the middle of nowhere, with no WiFi or phone signal, the running water and electricity worked just fine and in fact, the showers were some of the best we’d experienced! And they had a two hob gas burner with mini grill in each cabin too.
In the late afternoon, we followed the ranger’s suggestion of going for a short walk to a hidden waterfall. I suspect her estimation of it being a fifteen minute walk was probably borne out of spending most of her time the last few years mainly in this rather remote spot, where minutes or hours probably don’t really signify much beyond helping to provide an indication of when the sun might rise or set. There’s a lot to be said for joining a slower pace of living in our often far too hurried world, I think. About which more later…
We had a little adventure on the walk when we came to the stream the lady had mentioned and were faced with a choice of two possible tree trunks laying across it over which to cross the raging torrent. Both looked like they’d be tricky to not lose your footing on, and also tricky to disembark from at the other side. Intrepid explorers that we are, refusing to be defeated, we set off in our various conditions of health and mobility, with various different ways of negotiating this hurdle, and all made it to the other side triumphantly (though maybe a bit wary about the return journey).
When we reached the waterfall after a lot of clambering over rocks and tree roots in the forest, it was indeed spectacularly high. I also saw what she meant when she said I could try wild swimming in the pool if I wanted but it was pretty small, though deep and the waterfall would probably flay me alive. Also, I’m not sure I’d have been able to get down there or back up again.
Stu enjoyed taking some decent shots with his proper camera here. After marvelling for a while at the waterfall, we made our way back. Having got most of the way back with no trouble, Ken stepped remarkably confidently over a slippery log and promptly slipped on something small the other side, falling to the ground! Ouch! That’s normally my trick. Fortunately he seemed relatively unscathed so we continued on. And we all made it back over the stream again one way or another.
So the wine we cracked open over dinner was of course purely medicinal! Here’s Stu polishing off our delicious über macaroni cheese:
After dinner I introduced the assembled company to my usual old skool party tricks. (“I pass the scissors crossed”, which Stu guessed almost straight away, the clever bean (maybe it was something in that macaroni cheese?!?!??) and “Magic finger”, which as usual no one managed to guess – yes, I’m still doing that one… anyone who’s been around on such occasions, sorry, not sorry! Anyone who’s not experienced these brain teasers, bring me a bottle of wine some time and I’ll introduce you to them.) Then, we played Scrabble, which Tash won with great panache, while the guys talked photography together.
We stayed at Knobs Flat for two nights, which gave me time to really savour the quiet, and to enjoy the prolific birdsong particularly at dawn and dusk. Below is a video recording some particularly beautiful birdsong. I’ve no idea what the bird was, but the way its song echoed around the quiet valley was quite something. The Milford Road which runs right past here is pretty busy with coaches and cars going to Milford Sound especially during the day, but it is a very beautiful place.