June 21 - Milford Sound
We woke up this morning around 7 AM, but laid in bed until 7:30 AM. It was pretty warm last night, probably the warmest night so far. I think it must have been in the 40s. I was very comfortable, and I think it was the first night I didn’t wake up multiple times.
We had access to a nice kitchen facility where we had stored our food the night before. We bought cereal in Te Anau before we left yesterday morning, so we ate cereal and a banana for breakfast with hot chocolate.
The skies were very clear and we didn’t know when we would have weather like this again so we went down to the harbor to see Mitre Peak, the main attraction at Milford Sound. Mitre Peak is a large mountain that rises out of the sea over 1,600 meters. It is one of the tallest mountains in the world that does that. Surrounding the peak are a wall of other mountains that form the fjord.
Mitre Peak had snow at the top of it since it was winter time. In heavy rains there are hundreds of waterfalls in this area, but since the weather has been good for the past two days there were only a few that remained. The morning is the best time to see Milford Sound because the tide is high, which allows for reflections off the water. We tried seeing the Sound the night before, but with the tide out it wasn’t as nice.
We did a short 20 minute hike to a viewpoint overlooking the sound. The trail was a little hard to find at first. Andy’s brochure about hikes that he had purchased gave directions on how to find it. It was next to two brown buildings behind the café. We couldn’t find the two brown buildings at first, but after a little walking around we were able to find our way to the trailhead.
The hike was through forest and was slightly uphill most of the way. Just before the viewpoint there is a wooden staircase with about 30 steps that lead to a platform. At the top there is an opening in the trees which allows for great views of Mitre Peak.
We took a few pictures and videos and then headed down. In total it took about 40 minutes. We got back to the parking lot and started driving to our next hiking destination. Since we were no longer doing the Milford Track we had a free day. We wanted to do all the short hikes we had missed the day before because the Key Summit hike took so long.
Our objective for the rest of the day was as follows. Drive about 50 kilometers to Humboldt Falls, 17 kilometers of which is down a gravel road. Do the Chasm Trail and finish with a sunset time lapse back at Milford Sound. All of the hikes were under 30 minutes, so it seemed like we might be finishing the day early.
It was about 9:50 when we left the Milford Sound parking lot. I figured we would be at the first hike around 10:45 or a little after in case there were any stops along the way. As we were driving we decided to make our first quick picture spot. We parked on the side of the road in a little turn off, which also happened to be the start of a hike called Tutoko Falls. It was a 4-6 hour hike that we didn’t intend on doing. The turn off didn’t have room for more than two cars, so hopefully it’s not a popular trail.
The reason we stopped in this particular spot was because there was a one lane bridge, with a foot bridge next to it. There are three one lane bridges on the road to Milford Sound in the last four miles. This one gave the best views of the surrounding scenery. The night before we had passed it by and it looked like a good stopping place.
Below the bridge there is a river and looking both directions when standing on the bridge there are views of mountains in the distance. It was a little cloudy the night before so we couldn’t see them well. Now it was clear. On the foot bridge there was a sign that gave details about the construction of the road, the Homer Tunnel, and the bridge itself. They were all built during the Great Depression to give jobs to people, similar to the New Deal in the United States.
The bridge was the only surviving bridge from the Depression era construction. We took pictures of the bridge and the mountains. Down below the river looked cool and there were a lot of big rocks to climb on and get pictures of with the river and mountains. Andy was taking forever to take pictures so I started looking for a way down to the bottom.
There were only two options I could see. One was to the left of the bridge through a forest that looked like a steep drop off, and the other was under the bridge and across the rocks. I didn’t feel like getting wet in the forest so I went to look under the bridge for the best possible way down.
Under the bridge there were medium sized rocks, mostly around 1 foot to 3 feet in length. They were all piled on top of each other. These are the types of rocks that can wobble a lot when you step on them wrong. They can slip and cause other rocks around them to slide as well or you can twist an ankle on them easily.
It was about a 20 yard scramble to the bottom. From below I could see Andy and I yelled up to him. He finished taking his pictures and then tried to come down to meet me. I waited for about 5 minutes, but he never came. I took a few pictures and then went back to the top thinking he just went to the car to wait for me.
I went to the car, but he wasn’t there. I yelled for him and he yelled back asking where I was. I told him I was by the car. He came walking out of the woods and asked how I got down. He went the way I chose not to go earlier. I showed him the way under the bridge, but before we went down we decided to do some gopro shots of the adventure.
We filmed ourselves navigating over the rocks to the river below. At the bottom we did a few more shots and got a few more pictures. We then made our way back to the top. We spent about 45 minutes at this quick picture spot. Andy had walked down the first hundred meters of the Tutoko Falls trail when trying to find me.
He thought it looked neat so we did some gopro shots of this area. It was a rain forest, so lots of the trees and rocks were mossy. After another 15 minutes we were back to the car. It was now just after 11 AM as we started driving again.
It was about 10 minutes down the road to the Chasm Trail. We turned into the parking lot and nobody was there. Buses got close parking, so we had to park slightly further away. There was a bird in the parking lot, it was the same kind we had seen the day before. It was probably the same bird looking for food.
The Chasm Trail was a 20 minute hike. The Chasm is a crevasse created by a river. I guess it looks like a waterfall surrounded by rocks. As we were getting our things ready for the hike a van pulled up. There was a group of 5 guys that got out. We began the trail and stopped to take pictures of a small bridge and some ferns. The guys were standing in a large circle kicking a rugby ball to each other like it was a soccer ball. It was bouncing around more like a football and they didn’t seem to know how to kick properly. One of the guys just ran up to the ball and nailed it completely the wrong direction of where anyone was standing.
As usual Andy was taking forever with the fern pictures so I was just standing there watching the debacle of soccer rugby take place. He showed me some close up shots of a fern he had taken so I decided I would do the same. At this point the rugby guys were starting the trail. Each of them walked by and asked what I was looking at as if there was something cool to see. I told them it was nothing neat, I was just taking pictures of the ferns. They continued on.
The majority of the trail is very flat, and much of it is raised up on boardwalks. It was a really nice easy trail though and considered one of the most popular in the park. Most people like the easy short hikes. We took at least an hour getting to the Chasm with all the picture taking along the way. Multiple people passed us going and coming back.
The five guys we had seen earlier must have finished the hike in 15 minutes because they passed us coming back before we had even gone 200 yards onto the trail it seemed.
At the Chasm the trail is completely boardwalks and overlooks the waterfall below. It was kind of foggy and wet on the boardwalk. We were doing a few gopro shots and other people caught up to us and walked through. As usual I don’t think they knew what was going on. These people didn’t seem to stop and enjoy the Chasm for very long either.
We spent a good 30 minutes looking at everything and getting lots of pictures and videos of us walking all around. By the time we left I don’t think anyone else was still on the trail. It must have been around 1 PM by the time we were done. Our next stop was Humboldt Falls.
We stopped one more time as we drove to Humboldt Falls on the side of the road to get pictures just past the Homer Tunnel. This particular trail was supposed to be easy and only take about 30 minutes. We decided it should take 2 hours, at least that’s how it ended up. Humboldt Falls is the tallest waterfall in New Zealand. The trail was very easy and mostly flat. A lot of the trees were covered in moss.
There were a lot of opportunities to get gopro action shots from various angles and even some photographic moments of the trail as well. We did some new gopro type angles. One included the gopro being laid next to the trail as we walked by, only showing our feet. We did this on small footbridges and over little streams. We figured it would be good for transition shots.
Along the trail there were a few interesting plants. We saw little green leaves that were growing out of the side of trees. They were bright green, slightly curled inward like pedals on a flower. I don’t know what they were, but they looked neat in the sunlight. There was also a brown stick like plant. It was curled on the end like a pigs tail.
After about 45 minutes we made it to the end of the trail. There is a small bench and a viewing platform of the falls. The trail doesn’t go anywhere near the falls themselves. We were probably a few hundred meters away, but over a steep cliff there are three waterfalls in succession that form the Humboldt Falls. The water looks like it falls about 20 meters from the first fall into a small pool, then off the next fall for about 30 meters into a pool, and then the last fall is the longest at 100 meters. These are all just random guesses. I couldn’t see any pools of water, but based on how the falls were formed it looked like that was the case. The distances are completely made up too, but seem right in my head thinking about it.
We each took our picture in front of the waterfall from the viewing area. I did a lot of self portraits and then eventually had Andy do one for me. I took his picture as well. We wanted to do some long exposure shots and other various things so we ended up spending about 45 minutes at the falls. We did a few more gopro shots on the way down, but made it back pretty quickly. We figured out that if we film a lot on the way up of us walking back and forth, we don’t need to film on the way down since we already got the shots. We had been doing this before, but not very often. I think we will start doing it this way more to speed things up.
We got back to the car around 4 PM, and I had to go to the bathroom. Andy wanted to walk down to a boat ramp to see if we could see any mountains or whatever he wanted to see. It was about a 3 minute walk and there was a long suspension bridge we could see so it seemed worth the effort.
The bridge was about 75 meters in length and was the start to the Hollyford Track, a multi-day hike like
most of the rest in New Zealand. It seems like the hikes are very short or very long, with few that are midrange. Midrange being a few hours in length, short being 30 minutes, and very long being 4 days.
We spent about 30 minutes at the bridge just filming ourselves walking across it. It took awhile because Andy had to find good angles and put the camera down below the bridge and then run back up to be in the shots, then run back down and get the camera.
The bridge overlooked a small river that fed into another river. Over one end of the bridge there were some mountains which allowed for some nice pictures.
After we finished there we went back to the car to have lunch. We were starving. We made peanut butter and jelly. I made them while we drove back to Milford Sound for our time lapse photos.
The gravel road wasn’t very bad at all. It was long and we couldn’t go more than 40 kilometers an hour, but it was pretty flat and had been worn enough that it wasn’t too bumpy. There isn’t much on the road except a few hikes and a small base camp with a store for people doing some of the longer hikes in the area that need to get last supplies before starting or at the end to reload.
We got back to Milford Sound at about 4:40. We parked where we did in the morning and looked for a good spot to set up our cameras. Andy wanted to hike around along the shoreline trail, but I liked the little platform right next to the car.
We walked for about 10 minutes to two lookouts, neither of which were better than the first. The reflection wasn’t that good due to the tide being out and lots of rocks, sandbars, and random logs in the water. The mountains still looked neat though.
We ended up settling for the original spot. I put my gopro on the time lapse setting and placed it on a wood railing on the platform. For my good camera I put my bag down and rested my camera on top of it the way I do when I’m doing self portraits. I used the railing as support so it wouldn’t fall over.
I put my settings to make the sky a little lighter than it actually was so I could get more pictures. If I put it to the natural lighting I figured that it would become too dark and not look as good. Andy wondered around for a little while and then eventually put his a few yards behind mine and on the right side railing. He made his settings a little darker so his became really dark by the time we finished.
As we were getting set up three guys showed up. They had nice cameras and tripods and looked like they were doing the same thing. They were speaking Arabic it sounded like to me, but one of them looked Chinese.
The went down to the shoreline. They spent the next 30 minutes setting up there cameras. The Chinese guy went off by himself and ended up on one of the sandbars. He had a good location for a time lapse, but he didn’t stay in one place very long. I think he was trying to find a better spot or was just taking pictures.
The other two guys stayed together. One of them had his camera pointed straight at the water. I don’t know how he was able to get pictures, but Andy thought it must have been a wide-angled lens. The guy that was with him didn’t seem to know what he was doing.
The guy with the wide lens left his camera and started helping the other Arabic guy set up his tripod. At one point the guy that had no clue stepped in the water and yelled. He must have been freezing, but he never went and put on new socks or pants.
I turned my time lapse off at 5:20 PM. I had about 35 minutes of pictures. I scrolled through my pictures on my camera and my shots looked really good. The clouds were changing colors and moving fast so it made it even better. I have decided time lapse videos are the coolest to make.
It was getting dark and I was ready to go back to the campsite. We thought about coming back at night after dinner and doing a time lapse with Mitre Peak in the distance and the stars above if the weather stayed clear.
We got back to the Lodge and wanted to have dinner. It was about 6 PM and we were hungry. We had tuna so we cut up some cheese, put tuna on a bun, and attempted to melt it in the oven. We also had ham so we made ham and cheese melts in the oven. Neither of them turned out great. Andy didn’t want them to burn so he stopped them kind of quickly.
It was basically a warm ham sandwich and a warm tuna sandwich. We also had a salad with carrots and ranch dressing. The new ranch dressing we bought tasted pretty good, but it’s a little more tangy. For desert I had a cookie and a piece of the Cadbury chocolate we got. I didn’t have any the night before, but it was really good. We may have to get more in the future. To warm up after dinner I had some hot tea.
We cleaned everything up and then sat in the lounge area. We charged our batteries and wrote in our journals. I uploaded a lot of pictures as well and Andy did too. There was a group of about 7 guys that had been staying at the lodge and I couldn’t figure out what they were doing. It seemed like they were working there doing manual labor. I had seen them earlier in the day sawing up logs or something and wearing orange earmuffs.
That night though it seemed like they were in school or doing a class of some time. They were sitting in the lounge while we were writing in our journals and they were doing stuff in work books. I had read a sign that mentioned working at the lodge and getting free room and food. So originally I thought that’s what they were doing. Then I was thinking maybe they were all on parole or doing community service because they were criminals since they were all guys. A lady was talking to two of them about going too fast and needing to slow down. We figured out that they were doing diving lessons.
Milford Sound has a strange phenomenon where the top 5 meters of the Sound is fresh water, and underneath it is salt water. This is caused by all the rainfall. It rains 7-9 meters per year so there is a constant run off of fresh water from the mountains when it rains a lot or when there is snow melt. This must create good diving opportunities. Supposedly the life forms in this part of the sea are similar to those found at very deep parts of the ocean.
The lady finished talking to them about diving class and the agenda for the next day and then started bossing them around. She was telling them things they needed to do around the lounge in terms of cleaning and things like that.
Some of the guys went and did chores for the next hour, and another wanted to play the piano. He was pretty terrible and no Chinese kid, that’s for sure. We stayed in the lounge until about 10:40 PM. By the time we left nobody else was still around. We could have slept there probably if we had wanted to, but the tent had been pretty comfortable so far in Milford Sound.
We put up our things in the car and filled our water bottles around 10:45. I was in the tent and ready for bed and didn’t even feel like I needed the bottle since it was so warm outside. I fell asleep pretty quickly like usual.