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Feb 6
2015

White Sound

Despite the fact that we had just returned from the Kepler track and that the next day we had the Milford track booked, the good weather and the snow from the previous day left us no choice. A day with good weather in Fiordland is a day you do something, you do not waste it in Te Anau. We booked a cruise in Milford Sound at 14:45 and left Te Anau early because we wanted to see some things on the way.

So much snow in February is quite rare. Not only that the peaks were white, but we also saw snow at the sideways. The first stop was at Mirror Lake. This small lake is a perfect mirror and the reflection of the mountains around is beautiful.

Mirror Lake, Milford Road Mirror Lake, Milford Road

We stopped at another viewpoint and took some photos before we continued to Lake Marian track. The DOC times stated 3 hours return, but we didn't have that much time to spare. We had small packs and our fitness level was probably much better than most people's fitness, so we didn't take this time estimation seriously. Even though we walked pretty fast it took us almost an hour to climb up to the lake, but it was definitely worth the effort. The first 10 minutes or so are easy to walk. The well paved trail ends after roaring waterfalls. The rest of the climb in the bush is steeper and the path is not as good as we expected. An amazing lake surrounded by magnificent mountains appears at the bush edge. Because of the heavy snow and rain the lake was higher than usual and there was only a small piece of land to stand on. As much as we loved to stay there longer, after a quick lunch we returned. Descending wasn't much easier and took us about 50 minutes.

Milford Road Milford Road

Waterfalls, Lake Marian Waterfalls, Lake Marian

Lake Marian Lake Marian

We arrived to the harbour 2 minutes before the cruise started. Perfect timing in my opinion, poor timing in Maya's opinion. We booked the cruise at Cruise Milford. The boat was bigger than I expected. Great cookies were refilled the whole cruise and so was for the coffee and the tea. The captain explained alot and gave lots of details and facts. It was a bit hard to hear everything outside and not that interesting but that might be an advantage for some people. The vast landscape views and the enormous waterfalls along the sound were breathtaking. This cruise is highly recommended. Later I discovered that the views on the Milford track are totally different so don't skip this cruise even if you do the track.

Milford Sound Cruise Milford Sound Cruise

Milford Sound Cruise Milford Sound Cruise

Milford Sound Cruise Milford Sound Cruise

Milford Sound Cruise Milford Sound Cruise

Milford Sound Cruise Milford Sound Cruise

Milford Sound Cruise Milford Sound Cruise

Milford Sound Cruise Milford Sound Cruise

On the way back we also stopped at The Chasm, which I would probably skip unless the tip we got from an Israeli guy we met at the Rees and Dart track. About 150 meters from the start there is a DOC donation box, on the right you can see an unmarked path through the bush. Following this path for another 150 meters will lead you to a nice cyan pool. Much better than the chasm itself, but if you don't have much time you won't miss a thing skipping it and that goes for the chasm as well.

Hidden Lagoon, The Chasm Hidden Lagoon, The Chasm

Milford Road Milford Road

Milford Road Milford Road

Milford Road Milford Road

The next day we started the Milford track but it deserves a post of it's own. The day after we finished the Milford the weather was excellent and as I said at the beginning of this post, you don't waste a day with good weather in Fiordland. We were eager to do the Gertrude Saddle which is mostly an unmarked track, but the rivers crossing, the ropes and the disappointing images from google didn't help. A good night sleep after the Milford, late breakfast and restaurant reservation for dinner made it almost impossible. We decided to pass this track and instead went to the Key Summit.

The Key Summit is a side track branching from the Routeburn track after a short climb from The Devide. The plan was to see both Key Summit and Lake Mackenzie. This way we could complete the part we missed in the Routeburn but we were too lazy and went only to the Key Summit. The DOC time is 3 hours return, it took us about 1:30 return. The small tarn at the Key Summit viewpoint reflects some of the snowy peaks. We spent some time there before continuing another 10 minutes to the upper viewpoint. From there we saw Lake Marian which we climbed to 5 days before. It was amazing to see that only 5 days later all the snow had melted and only a few peaks remained white.

Key Summit, Routeburn Track Key Summit, Routeburn Track

Key Summit, Routeburn Track Key Summit, Routeburn Track

Key Summit, Routeburn Track Key Summit, Routeburn Track

We finished this short day in the Red Cliff restaurant. You might find my extended review on TripAdvisor but the bottom line is disappointing and not recommended. We stayed at Te Anau for a couple of days because we booked 3 nights in advance through AirBnB. This was not the best accommodation we had but we discovered that the couple who hosted us have a food caravan which ranked #1 at Te Anau and we got free breakfast at their "crepe factory". Just in front of the DOC office, they park their caravan and make excellent crepes. Go there for breakfast! You won't regret it.

Our next stop is the farm of Chris and Margaret, but before that I'll have to tell you all about our Milford experience.