Sunday, September 14, 2008

Te Anau

From Queestown it was a 2 hour drive to Te Anau, base for our trip to Milford.

Initially, I was concerned about our accommodation as we had opted for a "homestay", kind of like a cross between a hostel and a foster home. A "Fostel", maybe?

I had visions of sitting with a family in their own front room, having to watch the NZ equivalent of Gardener's Question time, listening to the clock tick, and coughing every time you wanted to fart.

On arrival the Christian fridge magnets did nothing to dispel that notion, but it soon transpired that hostess, Rosie, was the most hospitable and easy-going of people, her home welcoming, her room cosy and her cake-baking first-class.

Alarmingly, as I was playing Nothing Else Matters by Metallica on the guitar, I heard her singing along from the kitchen. That must be one progressive church she attends. I restrained from pushing her into joining in on any Rage Against The Machine.

An early start the next morning meant we were on the road by 6.30. After a winding two hour track through snow-capped mountains and tunnels (in reality a cave with a hole at both ends), the visitors centre loomed out of the mist.

We boarded a boat with only around 8 other people, and drifted off through the haze, past giant rocky outcrops and tree-laden crags.

Grand, towering yet serene, Milford is undoubtedly impressive. Yet Lou summed it up accurately by dubbing it the Ayres Rock of New Zealand. And that much is true: the lengthy drive to counter its remoteness requires committment, and the terrain along the way is so magnificent, that by the time you reach the Sound, it's simply the best example of what you've seen on your way in, rather than the like nothing you've ever seen before.

Still, I wasn't going to come all this way and not see it. And see it I did. And I'm glad I did.

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