Apologies – I’ve just realised this post should’ve come before the Milford Sound one! Hmmm if I can rejig them I will!…
We awoke to gloriously sunny and clear weather and more stupendous views:
We drove on and as the landscape kept changing, opening out into wide valleys framed by mountains, then narrowing into forested areas, we passed a sign saying “Latitude 45 degrees South”. The temperature was getting appreciably cooler although in the truck it was easy to not notice how we were climbing until my ears popped.
Near Lake Gunn I finally managed to capture a tui singing:
The many lookout lay bys were beautiful with increasingly dramatic mountain views. This was a special moment at one such viewpoint:
More views en route…
We stopped off at the Chasm waterfall, which was torrential even though there hadn’t been so much rain here lately. There’s a short bushwalk that takes you through a beautifully lush wood, everywhere dripping with fresh water, sun sparkling off the leaves, to the top of the thundering waterfall.
On returning to the car park, Stu and I found the others all busy being entertained by a couple of kea birds. We were hoping to see some in the wild and we weren’t disappointed. They seemed pretty untroubled by the humans around, pecking away at anything peckable at, true to form.
From this point we drove up to the Homer Tunnel, which works its way down through the heart of Homer Saddle in the Darran Mountain range. Apparently this 1.2km long tunnel was initially dug by five men using only picks and wheelbarrows in 1935. Other relief workers during the Depression then joined the work and it took five years to pierce the mountain, though due to problems with avalanches and the constant stream of snow melt coming into the tunnel, and also World War II, it wasn’t completed and opened until 1953. The men lived in tents in the mountains while they were working on it.
The tunnel has since been widened and lighting has now been installed to make it possible and safer for the tourist coaches to get through on their way to Milford Sound.
As we approached the tunnel, we were at the snow line. Throughout NZ there are great lookout lay-bys you can pull into to look at the stupendous views, and we often ended up leap frogging these with various camper vans on the route. As you approach the Homer Tunnel, though, there’s a risk of avalanche, so you are no longer allowed to stop beyond a certain point (except when there’s a queue of traffic waiting to enter the tunnel, of course). Entrance to the tunnel is controlled by traffic lights, so the traffic is only coming through in one direction at a time, so when you make this journey to Milford Sound, you have to allow about half an hour extra in case you hit a red light.
The earliest photo I could take after exiting the tunnel was this:
We made our way along this beautiful road all the way down into Milford Sound area, where Stu and Tash and I hopped on a boat and K and L went for a walk (having done several boat rides on the Sound before).