THE ROAD FROM TE ANAU TO MILFORD
The day after taking the Doubtful Sound tour, we took the Milford Sound tour. But first, we had to get to Milford and that was every bit as great a tour as being on Milford Sound itself. The road between Te Anau and Milford is arguably one of the most beautiful drives in the world. There are several places along the way worthy of stopping for a while to visit, or to hike and take pictures. Without stops, the drive would take about 2 hours.
Our first stop along the way was at "Mirror Lakes". A beautiful wooden walkway leads along the edge of a series of small lakes. If the light, angle and water conditions cooperate, the mirror effect is lovely. But even without that, the mountains are majestic.

There are many turnouts along the road to pull over and take photographs. Here are a few mountain pictures I took.

Milford was inaccessible by car until the "Homer Tunnel" was put through. The tunnel is 1.2 km (.75 mile) long and is at 945 m (3100 ft) elevation. It was started in 1935 with a crew of just 5 men with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows and a budget of a few thousand dollars. That didn't work out so well since it was solid rock. 10 years later the process was mechanized. But even at that, the tunnel took 20 years and over a million dollars to complete. It's basically a one-lane tunnel even though two cars can pass with great care. In 2004, lights were finally installed at each end to control traffic to a one-way flow which changes every 15 minutes. However, the lights are not used during the winter because the avalanche danger is too high for cars waiting in queue outside the tunnel. Genelle & I were there in summer, yet there is a little snow on the ground and lots of water seeping from the rocks.

Our next stop was at "The Chasm". There's a large parking area and it's an easy 20-minute round trip hike through lush vegetation. At one point we emerged into a clearing to see a beautiful mountain above. The Chasm is 22m (72 ft) deep. That's 7 stories! Sadly, pictures aren't able to portray that depth. The shot I took looking straight down into The Chasm might was well be just a trickle of water a few inches from the surface when in reality it 's a great quantity of water rushing far below. A fascinating aspect of The Chasm are all the odd-shaped holes and rock formations that have been left behind by the water.

We actually made this stop on our return trip heading back to Te Anau. We stopped at this lookout and a sign said there was a suspended bridge down there leading to a beautiful hike up a series of rushing rapids. We didn't see any rapids from here. However, with the benifit of hind sight, I've placed yellow arrows on the first three pictures indicating where the rapids travel through the undergrowth and emerge into the Hollyford River. I did not put arrows on the last picture because I didn't want to spoil the beauty. Up toward that snowy mountain is Marian River. We decided to try the hike.
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We left the lookout above, drove down along the Hollyford River and parked. We found and crossed the "Marian Swing Bridge" and headed off to find the Marian Creek Rapids. The beauty of Marian Creek raging through the lush canyon ended up being our favorite scenery on our entire trip to New Zealand. In fact, I stopped to take so many pictures that we ran out of light and never made it up to the Lake. Bummer! I decided to post a lot of pictures here so I can come back and look at them often. As you can see in some of the pictures, there's a lovely wooden walway (the signs called it a "gantry") following parts of Marian Creek.
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