My morning began very early (well, very early for me). I had booked a cruise on Milford Sound (Web, Google, Images) at 9:45. Unfortunately, there is only one place to stay in Milford sound and unless you book a year in advance the next closest place is Te Anau….a 2 hour drive. So, I woke at 6AM, ate a quick breakfast and hit the road.
So anyone who knows me knows that I am not at all a morning person. 🙂 With that said, I will say that I can, and do, very much appreciate the nice things early morning has to offer….like watching the sun come up over the distant mountains and the morning light as it breaks over fog covered lakes and dew covered meadows. I’m very glad I left early and gave myself plenty of time because I must have stopped 15 times to take pictures and just to gaze in amazement at the beauty before me…..
The drive to Milford Sound goes through some high mountains, several glaciers and a long tunnel. The road reminded me very much of the mountain roads in NC and Europe….very sharp curves and a LOT of them. This particular drive is made even more challenging by the large volume of tour buses going back and forth all day. Despite all of that, it was a very beautiful drive and I was very excited.
Once you pass through the tunnel you descend quickly back to sea level and enter the Sound. I actually learned later (during the cruise) that the Milford area is technically a “Fjord” and not a Sound. “A Sound is created by a river, a Fjord is created by a Glacier. When Milford Sound was discovered it was mistakenly named a Sound because it was thought it had been created by a river. However it was really created by huge Glaciers, which carved through the rocks to create the dramatic rock formations of the mountains.”
Once you arrive in Milford Sound it’s a 10 minute walk from the parking area to the port. During my walk I got my first glimpse of Milford Sound (below) as well as sign that I just had to photograph and include (recall my blog on Day 32 – The Attack of the Sandflies)….they are truly horrible! 🙂
I arrived at the Milford Sound center on time and while I was waiting for them to load us on the boat I met a great couple named Matt & Laura from Vermont. They were a nice couple who were in New Zealand on vacation for 2 weeks. We boarded the boat and headed out into the Sound.
|Matt & Laura
Milford Sound is amazing :-)! Within 2 minutes of leaving the harbor you’re surrounded by scenery that just blows you away. The guide on the boat said while there are 2 permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound there are….I can’t recall the number but it was in the hundreds (or maybe over 1000) waterfalls draining into the Sound when it rains….which apparently it does a lot. But not this morning….it was gorgeous!
Just to provide a little scale…..the picture below appears to be a small waterfall. However, it’s not until you see it with a large tour boat next to it that you really begin to realize the enormity of the Sound and everything in it. Our tour guide told us that this “small” waterfall is actually as high as a 70 story building….
Milford Sound is yet another place, on the very long list of places around the South Pacific, that is created to being discovered by Captain Cook. Our tour guide told us an interesting story of how Captain Cook created a Spruce Beer that his sailors would drink to prevent scurvy. It’s actually documented (Web
) and the recipe he used is still being brewed in New Zealand today. So I was standing at the bow of the boat enjoying the scenery when my new friend Matt tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a genuine Captain Cook recipe Spruce beer. I looked at my watch and low and behold it was a quarter of five….US east coast time! So I guess Alan Jackson’s song is true…it is always 5 o’clock somewhere. 😉
|It was Delicious
We continued our cruise until we reached the end of the Sound and entered the Tasman sea and turned back into the Sound. Matt, Laura and I had some great conversations and I really enjoyed getting to know them. On the way back we passed a few places with fur seals warming themselves in the morning sun…
And one of the glaciers that feeds Milford Sound….
And the waterfalls….
And one last look before we headed back into port…..
When we returned to the port Matt, Laura and I walked back to the parking area, said our goodbyes and I headed our own way. It was only noon (another benefit of being an early riser) and I headed back to the mountain pass just beyond the tunnel to take a great hike to either the Key Summit or Gertrude[s Saddle with a fantastic view of the sound. I started driving back up the steep, winding mountain road excited to start my hike…..but I spent 1 second too long looking up at one of the mountains I was headed to and BAM, I hit a small concrete curb that was literally 2 inches off the side of the road and I knew immediately this was not good.
I pulled over (as best I could on this narrow road) and when I got out I found the left front wheel was badly damaged….UGH! I turned around and nursed the car back to a pull off where I changed to the space saver and headed back up the mountain.
When I reached the place where I was going to hike I pulled off and considered my options. I still had a 1.5 hour drive (2 hours with the space saver) back to Te Anau. One the one hand I could stay and do the hike as planned since I knew there was no way they were going to have the wheel in Te Anau. However, it was Wednesday afternoon and if expecting they would need to order it and get it delivered the next day I would probably lose another day if I did not make it back to Te Anau before everything closed at 5. After a painful deliberation (I was REALLY looking forward to this hike and view) I decided to head back to Te Anau and see if someone could order the wheel for tomorrow.
|The trailhead for my afternoon hike
Now, if you don’t know anything about using a space saver tire (or tyre as they spell it in NZ and AU) you are not supposed to drive it over 50 or so and should not drive it any further than necessary to get it replaced (no more than 60 – 70 miles or so) and it was 50 miles back to Te Anau. I took my time, let a lot of cars pass and made it back to Te Anau around 4 pm and stopped at the first garage I came to. As expected, they did not have the wheel and did not think anyone in Te Anau would. So they called a used parts distributor in Invercargill (I larger city to the South)….and they did not have the wheel….uh oh. So he sent me to another garage in Te Anau. They did not have the wheel and called the same parts distributor in Invercargill :-(. At this point they said, “I don’t know where you’re going to find that wheel in the South Island”….oh crap!
So I asked if they could call a Nissan dealership. They did and the Nissan dealer did not have the wheel. He checked and there was one in Auckland (on the North Island) but he didn’t know if they could get it to them before the weekend….and nothing happens on the weekend. At this point I was really concerned. Not only did I have plans for the next few days but I had to be back in Christchurch on Monday to fly to Auckland, and I was 7.5 hours from Christchurch with a space saver that certainly would not make it that far. I gave the guy at Nissan my number and he said he would call me in the morning to let me know if they could get it before the weekend. We also called the used parts distributor back and asked him to do a search around the South Island tomorrow morning. He said to call him back at 10 AM the next morning. So at this point I knew I had lost at least one day (tomorrow) but that was all I could do today.
Now by this point you’re probably thinking, “isn’t this a rental car….won’t the rental car company take care of this”….one would think right? Well, I rented the car from a local NZ company and not one of the large international companies (a mistake I will not soon make again) and I knew, as per my rental contract, that I was responsible for any damage I did to the car, no problem. I called the rental agency while I was at the first garage and their basic response was, “we’re in Christchurch, there’s nothing we can do to help you in Te Anau, take it to a garage”. As my good friend Rob Mergen likes to quote from that great classic Caddyshack, “Well tanx for nuttin” (said with a thick Irish brogue). So at that point I knew I was on my own.
Fortunately I had previously planned to stay in Te Anau this evening so I had a place to sleep (everything in Te Anau was booked). So I went back to my place, made dinner and began searching the internet for parts distributors in the South Island (the garages recommendation). I sent my friend Jon in Greymouth (Day 30 – Cross the Great Divide) an email to see if he had any suggestions. He called me about an hour later and told me that I should be able to find it somewhere in Gore (my next scheduled destination) or Invercargill. He said someone in Greymouth might have one but it that of course would do me no good. It was nice to speak with him again and he gave me some hope that I would find one.
So I finished putting together a list of parts distributors and turned in for the night.
|Where Am I