Southern Alps, first snow of the season

Today I put another tick on my “bucket list” Milford Sounds I’d seen the photos, read the brochures, and always longed to go there…

At last a dream was to become reality.

Milford Sounds is in the heart of the Fiordland National Park. A world heritage area of immense beauty. Access was almost impossible until the Homer tunnel was opened in 1956. The tunnel is 1270 metres long and it had taken 30 years to build, most of it dug by hand. The road is often closed in winter due to heavy snow falls. Because of the distance, 300 kilometres, from Queenstown to the Sounds, we decided to go on a tourist bus. The pick up was 7am, dawn was just breaking and it had snowed over night. The first snow of the season. The peaks of the Remarkables Range rose above the cloud and glistened as the early morning sun lit them up. Willie, our coach driver, told us he had snow chains on board as the weather conditions can be so changeable.

Being on a coach trip has both its advantages and disadvantages. The road was a difficult drive needing all your attention, so being able to leave the driving to a professional I was free to absorb the scenery.  The downside is seeing all that beautiful and diverse landscapes zooming by at 100 kmph and not able to stop and take photos. Willie did have 2 stops arranged to take photos, along with 6 other tourist buses. It was to see the mirror lakes. A quick, very quick walk through the dripping, moss draped silver beech forest. The wispy, low cloud concealed most of the mountain and the mirror lakes only gave a brief glimpse of the mountain grandeur. The next stop was to see the Chasm formed over millions of years by nature. How I would like more time to take it all in. By now it was raining heavily…

Mirror Lake

Silver beech forest

Beautiful Punga and fern bush

The Chasm info board

The Chasm

It was raining

At each stop Willie urged us to hurry, hurry. “We don’t want to miss the boat that leaves at 1pm for the cruise along the Sounds”

So it was click, click. Look. click click. It was stunning, even in the rain…

We did get to Milford with 15 minutes to spare before the boat left. In the rain it was not the iconic picture that is in all the tourist brochures of blue skies and calm water, but it was mesmerizing to see the dark foreboding bulk of the sheer sided mountains rising from the grey waters with hundreds of waterfalls cascading down. This was seeing the true face of this area. With an annual rainfall of 36 feet, that is what has formed and created this amazing landscape.

Hundreds of waterfalls

Annual rainfall 36feet

Photo opportunities


This is usually shown in tourist brochures with blue skies


A much needed cuppa

I was very pleased that Willie was driving us the 300km back to Queenstown. It had been a full and rewarding day. The atmosphere, aura and spirit of this unique place was more intense in the rain. On reflection I felt it had been special to see it in this mood.

It was 7pm when we arrived back at the hostel. Great to change out of damp clothes, have a hot shower and linger over a glass of wine thinking of the day.

Well tomorrow we head north into the Mackenzie country…


Categories: Milford Sounds, New Zealand | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Southern Alps, first snow of the season

  1. Pingback: Majestic Milford Sounds | gypsy life

  2. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge : Horizons | Memories are made of this

  3. Amazing photos made all the more compelling in that weather. Traveling is not all about blue skies.


  4. Well maybe come with you!!!! Maybe sunny next time…


  5. Wow – “The Chasm” looks really cool!


  6. Jackie

    Great photos…. Think this will have to be my 50th travel trip!


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