We were hoping for good weather today as it had been lovely and sunny yesterday and the predictions were good. In fact it was quite cloudy and very misty and ‘atmospheric’ and began raining, real Welsh rain, as we approached Milford. We had got up early to avoid the rush and it was a good idea. We decided on a small boat to get up close to the famous sights, but we could hardly see a thing as we sailed out. It was too wet to contemplate taking the big camera out on the boat, so the little Sony Cybershot was called into action. However it did start to lift as we continued and we were able to see the range of fantastic waterfalls, called things like ‘the four sisters’, really well and the huge sheer walls of stone towering over us in the fiords. We saw the results of what they call ‘tree avalanches’, where the trees kind of unpeel from the rock face when the stress is too great, as they are only really rooted in lichen and mosses, and there is no real soil. It was all quite spectacular, seeing the scale of the tiny boats against the cliffs.
On the journey back, in better weather, we were able to appreciate the stunning views all the way to Te Anau. You pass through rainforest environments with huge trees with lichen literally dripping from their branches, and ferns of every description. Then near the tunnel there is Philadelphus and Hebe blooming on craggy boulder strewn mountains. Unfortunately they were working on the already narrow and treacherous road so no photos possible here. When we got to the Mirror Lakes there was a bit of a breeze but it was still possible to see their effect even with the ripples. At one of the car parks we came across a couple of Kea birds feeding on picnic scraps. Very bold and almost tame these birds are the size of ravens and have lovely plumage and a harsh “keeeaa” call. After a quick late lunch back at Te Anau we drove on down the scenic route to Invercargill. We passed some very tortured pines on our way. The strong salt laden south westerly winds have distorted the trees that are the first obstacle they encounter from the South Pole.