Today (23 March) is our wedding anniversary - our 30th !! - who would have thought it?With better planning we could have been staying in one place but this happened to be a day of travel.So we were up early to catch the 8am ferry back to the mainland.It was a beautiful sunrise and it was sad to see Stewart Island vanishing in the distance. It was good to find the car in its parking space and soon we were on the road heading north west towards Fiordland (yes, this IS how they spell it in NZ). Once again scenery was magnificent, turning to majestic the further we progressed. The weather also continued to be glorious and when we reached Te Anau on the shore of the lake of the same name we wished we were staying here for the night - but we were already booked into hard to come by accommodation at Milford Sound and we couldn't afford to make any changes.Tantalisingly along the shores of Lake Te Anau were a number of operators doing scenic flights.One highly recommended spectacle is the remote fjord Doubtful Sound which is accessible only by air or sea so we thought, this being our anniversary, how about it? We found a seaplane operator willing to go and we were up, up and away.This was another exhilarating experience as Alan the pilot negotiated his way between steep valleys, high mountains and up over the Southern Alps to the fjords on the west coast.With the sun glinting on the waters below and with the wing tips at times seeming almost to touch the mountains it was a thrilling flight - one that everyone should do on their 30th anniversary.
But our anniversary was not yet over and we still had a 120 kilometre drive to Milford Sound where the road ends. Whatever superlatives we've used already, double them to describe this part of the journey.It was so scenic and, in places, spectacular with the road climbing and winding up to Homer Pass and through the Homer Tunnel (an eerie experience going through a dark, steep, single track tunnel) to come out at the other looking down at the valley floor miles below and up at the massive mountains towering above.In another 30 minutes Milford Sound was suddenly upon with the world famous Mitre Peak looming high on our left across the Sound.We stopped to admire the scenery for a few minutes before driving the short distance back to our accommodation at Milford Lodge, the only accommodation in the area.When we'd booked this a few weeks before we'd had to opt for a change of room on each night and frankly we weren't very sure what we'd booked.So it was a wonderful surprise to find that our first night, and on anniversary, we'd be staying in one of their brand new chalets overlooking the river.It was very fashionable, well equipped and exceedingly comfortable with sofa, huge bed, deep bath etc.It also had a semi kitchen and although there wasn't a cooker it had a microwave which E used to prepare fitting anniversary meal of paté and pasta carbonara all washed down with a bottle of bubbly. From our window we were treated to a display of bird life such as Tomtits flitting about in the bushes and our first sighting of Keas as they padded around on our deck squawking loudly.
Unfortunately the next morning we had to pack up and move rooms, but before re-checking in we had another highlight - how many more can we cope with?We were down at the ferry terminal, which was a bit like a busy airport lounge, for our cruise on the Milford Sound.Thankfully we'd booked on one of the small boats (Mitre Peak Cruises) so avoided the masses of bussed in day trippers.From the water the Sound is very special and is every bit as good as it's written up to be.Words can't really convey what it's like but hopefully the photos on the Fiordland photo album will give an idea.One of the bits of fun on the cruise is to take the bow of the boat right into the foot of Fairy Falls and we didn't wimp out on the soaking. We also had a stop off at the fascinating Underwater Observatory to see the deep water sea life, watching us watching them.
Although we'd spent three hours standing on a boat we still had enough energy left for one of the excellent day walks in the area.The walk to Lake Marian meant driving back through/over the Homer Tunnel and Pass to the Hollyford River.It was late in the afternoon and we weren't sure we would the manage the 3 to 4 hour walk - essentially a 400 metre climb - but the going was good and with E topped up with painkillers we did in good time.This is a splendid walk up through woodland following the tumbling river to an isolated mountain lake fringed on three sides by high cliffs.The view at the top was worth every step.
E M xxxx