Fjordland – the southwestern corner of the South Island – feels very different from the rest of the country. For one thing it’s almost all a huge temperate rain forest. So you’ll have a forest of conifers littered with huge ferns, and these crazy mountains that don’t belong in the Lord of the Rings – they’re the source material for it. It’s hard to stop thinking about the movies here – there are reminders all over.
Milford is a very isolated corner of Fjordland. There’s one road in and it’s probably one of the most dramatic/terrifying drives of my life. You pass a series of huge mountains and cross over several huge ones on the way. Then the clincher – just when you think you can’t go any higher (you can’t) you have to drive through a one way tunnel, that has no lights and is on an incline so you can’t see the end – talk about the gates to Mordor – and get this it’s …one way.
“One Way” you say, “No”! Yes, in fifteen minute intervals it’s one way each way. If it takes you more than fifteen minutes to make the trip, get ready to share the road.
We were there just after a rainfall and there were literally thousands of waterfalls of every size. Quite impressive.
We did a small boat tour – small being 75 people and it was quite nice. The captain took us in under a few waterfalls and got us quite close to the native wildlife – seals and dolphins. I’d recommend it.
Camping in a rain forest, no I won’t recommend that. We stayed at the Milford Sound Lodge and got a tent site. Which was very soon a very wet tent site. That I would not do again.
And of course we had our first encounter with the notorious Kea. Known to Kiwi’s as the “Bossiest Bird in the World”. It’s the worlds only Alpine Parrot – there was a sign at the hostel warning visitor that – “If you feed a Kea dinner, they will eat your car for desert.” It’s true, they evolved on an island that has no predators and their quite big, so they have no fear of humans.