So, on our second to last day on our trip around the South Island, we paid a visit to the notoriously beautiful Milford Sound. We made an early start to the day, leaving our camp in Te Anau at 8am in order to make it to our scenic cruise on the sound at 11am.
As we entered the gateway valley that would lead us into Milford, we passed a road sign that notified us the risk of avalanche that day was 'low'. Not so reasurring when you weren't aware there was any risk at all! From then on, the three of us became very aware of the spikey mountain range all around us and the delicately balanced cap of snow on the head of each. The 'No Stopping' signs all added to our sense of unease.
Half way through the valley, we came to a break in the no stopping zone and pulled up to take some snaps of the awesome scenery. We also met a couple of Keas who'd just given the travellers in front of us a bit of a shock by flying at their open camper door whilst they tried to take a picture of it.
Fortunately, we passed through unscathed and wondering what on earth we had been worrying about. A few days after we returned to Christchurch, however, we heard there had been a land slide in the area and those driving on the road that day had to be air-lifted to safety. Yikes.
We boarded our boat and set off from the pier into the sound, glaring enviously at our fellow passengers who'd had the foresight to purchase a meal ticket along side their boarding pass. The smells from the buffet drifted upstairs whilst I found myself paying no attention whatsoever to the safety annoucements!
Once up on the top deck, however, my mind found it a lot harder to ponder on anything but the view...and occasionally switch back to the stack of snickers at the snack bar...but mostly my mind was on the view!
We sailed past several tumbling waterfalls, only a handful of which were permenant features of the cruise. The others had been created by the heavy rain over the last few days, including a twin stream named 'The Fairy Falls', which had a particularly mystic appearance which would dissolve and return to the realms of mystery in a couple of days.
As we turned back towards the pier, the previously calm journey became distinctly less enjoyable as the ocean wind turned its gusts in our direction, forcing us to pull our hoods up and huddle together like little blue penguins.
On the way back, we passed a group of seals basking on the rocks, loving the drizzly weather. I envied their jelly warmth!
Heading back through avalanche valley we drove the 2.5 hours back to Te Anau to refuel and grab something to eat before getting back on the road towards Wanaka again. As we approached the town by late afternoon, we saw a large shape in the middle of the road. When we drew closer, we could see the shape was in fact a rather big Austalasian Harrier feasting on a fresh victim of the road. He held his ground until the very last moment, before stretching his enormous wings and rising back into the air, grazing us with his wing tips as he passed. It was all over before we had chance to grab a camera!
We returned to Lake Outlet Holiday Park and began to prepare our hot dog dinner whilst gathering a small hoard of Chaffinches outside the camper. They really are curious, bold little creatures. I even had them eating bread from my hand and attempting to sneak past us into our portable home. Cheeky things.