Golden morning hours in Milford Sound
No matter how beautiful Milford Sound is during the day, it is horribly chilly in the early morning hours after a starry, cloudless night in autumn. In fact it must have been very close to zero degrees Celsius, which I concluded from the frost that was all over my car on the out and inside and the sudden cold rush that crawled up my body as soon as I got out of my cozy sleeping bag. Time to get a warm shower and team. It must have been 6.30 when I got up trying to catch the golden morning to take some nice pictures.
And boy, I was lucky that day to have surely perfect conditions. The sky was cloudless and perfectly blue while a thick cushion of mist hovered above the fields and the lakes, that you encounter, when you drive along the Milford Valley.
A certainly special place alongside the Milford Road is “Mirror Lakes”, where the water is so calm that the mountains will reflect in them. I have been there yesterday already, but towards the end of a day the water tends to become more unsettled than in the morning, so I came back. By surprise I was not alone. Hordes of Asian Bus tourists have roamed the place and left barely any space for setting up a tripod, so I waited till they left. Fortunately there was no Muppet amongst them throwing stones into the water, so the surface stayed perfectly calm.
I really wished that this morning would never end. The whole valley was one big winter wonderland and yet full of colors, which made it a certainly surreal place. Once again, the Fiordand has proven to be a magical place.
But unfortunately there was a little glitch to the story. My really great Toyota was a quite thirsty hell of a car and consumed more fuel than a British teenager at a binge drinking party.
So I became more and more worried if I will make it back to Te Anau. I really wanted to stop much more often to take pictures, but I knew it was impossible to waste any more gasoline.
But my estimations were spot on. I’ve arrived in Te Anau on the very last drop of gas. The people in the petrol station looked quite curiously at me and my car, when I rolled into the station. I still had my tripod on the seat next to me which apparently looked like a rifle, according to the guy behind the counter. I just smiled.
After a refill I was ready for the next chapter.
Lake Manapouri / Lake Monowai
South of Lake Te Anau lie the other three big lakes of the Fiordland: Lake Manapouri, Lake Monowai and Lake Hauroko and since they are supposed to be great places why not follow them down the South West coast? A look at the map revealed that I can easily reach each of them apart from Lake Hauroko, so I set out for the first one on the list: Lake Manapouri.
Unfortunately, the weather was rather dull when I arrived in the adjoining village of Manapouri which is a popular tourist spot in summer. But around that time of the year it was a horribly boring and forsaken.
Even the lake itself seemed quite unspectacular, gray and uninspiring that I left this place quite quickly and rather headed to Lake Monowai that was an hour away.
Till I arrived there, the sky changed into a much friendlier face with some blue spots and even some sun. And apart from that, the lake was a simply great place.
Escape from Monkey Island
After I spend some time around Lake Monowai, the rest of the route was rather clear. Following the highway further down leads you straight alongside the south coast of New Zealand. If you look down south here you can see Stewart Island as a faint spot in the background and behind the horizon the next land will be Antarctica.
Following the highway along the south coast will lead you into the three more or less big places at the coast: Riverton, Invercargill and Bluff, where Highway 1 begins. This shall be my final destination of this road trip. Afterwards I will have to head back to Queenstown, and finish this trip that has been great so far. There was only one thing, everything went pretty much as I have planned it. There was no surprise turn or some other quirks along the way. I just wanted something unexpected. Whatever it was.
And then, somewhere on my way to Riverton I saw this rather odd sign, that caught my attention instantaneously.
Monkey Island??? Hell yeah! Guybrush Threepwood, Elaine Marley and LeChuck are with me since I started playing computer games really, so it was more than a duty to visit Monkey Island personally. I think I have never been more exited about the question how such an Island might look like. But what can I say? Have a look by yourself:
The Island lies at a certainly beautiful spot and seemed to be quite popular because I met quite a few people down here. There was even a family living permanently in a bus, that seemed not quite ready for a ride.
Actually I had some great pictures from that place, but it seems that I have deleted them accidentally. Stupid Michael.
In fact, quite a few pictures are missing from that day and I don’t know why. But due to that fact I will keep the last chapter quite short.
To the End of the World and back
Alright, so after this nice excursion to Monkey Island I was ready to finish this journey off by visiting Riverton, Invercargill and last but not least Bluff.
Riverton is a really nice town, but since it is very small one can really just drive through to get on the way to Invercargill, which has more than 100.000 inhabitants and was probably designed artificially, since all the streets are perpendicular to each other and are reaching for miles. Not very spectacular, but not utterly ugly either. It was probably the best one could create at the verge of endless nothingness. At least the huge burger I had was very tasty.
But the day was getting old and the sun started to hang low on the horizon, painting the world with mellow yellowish colors. Certainly the right time to arrive in Bluff, the most southern Town on the South Island and the beginning of Highway 1 that reaches through the whole country up to Cape Reinga, the northern tip of New Zealand.
It felt like a good place to declare this trip as officially over.
And not just the last two roadtrip days, the big lot of this South Island Holiday laid already behind me and curiosity for the unknown was replaced by happy memories and a great time.
1 1/2 more days will await me in Queenstown. Then I will head for the airport once again flying home to Auckland and the real life.
Once more, I looked quietly past the Bluff Lighthouse, enjoying the gentle sea breeze and dreaming of freedom and being out there on the ocean again, heading towards unknown land and new adventures.
Then I sighed, stepped back into my car and drove away into the setting sun, towards Queenstown with a smile on my face.
Some more pictures (Not that I have found too many…)