The route to Milford, aka: One of the most beautiful drives ever created.

After we all exchanged stories about the various fun things we'd all done the day before during breakfast, we all boarded the bus for what would be a fairly long day.  The crazy thing is that Milford Sound, as the crow flies, is NOT far away from Queenstown.  In fact, at the end of my ride the day before, I was closer in km to Milford than I was to Queenstown.  However, as we would witness personally, the terrain is INTENSE, so the drive would be at least 5 hours, if not more.  This, of course, is preferrable to the 5 day trek you used to have to do if you wanted to see the beautiful sound for yourself, before they actually finished the road around 1953.  Luckily, there were no rock slides to close the road either (which actually still does happen from time to time), and we had a gloriously sunny day for this trip.  On our way out of Queenstown, we even got an escort from a cute little passenger train - an auspicious beginning!
Then we stopped quickly for lunch in a cute little lakeside town called Te Anau.  Then we entered Fjordland National Park and things got cooler and cooler.  All of a sudden, my back-seat buddy Alex and I noticed the opening notes to "The Sound Of Music", within moments, we saw why as we rounded a corner, pulled over, and watched our driver dart out of the bus to frolick & disappear into this field.  It was the most amazingly hilarious thing EVER, so of course we all followed suit.

Then, mere minutes down the road, we stopped at lovely little place called Mirror Lake.  Then there was a lovely waterfall, and yet more gorgeous scenery.

 
 

It's so gorgeous, that at one point Craig (our driver/guide extraordinaire) had us close our eyes until we rounded a corner to overlook this valley:
The next oh, twenty minutes or so consisted of Alex & I hopping from one side of the bus to the other, exclaiming about ever 2 seconds that this view was even better than the last.  I swear I banged into the window more than once.  We did stop occasionally, where I was able to get views like this:
 
Eventually, we mad our way through this shockingly beautiful valley to the entrance of the Homer Tunnel, a one-lane tunnel through one of these insane mountains.  Since we had a red-light, we got to stop there as well - do I need to say again how gorgeous it was?

 
 We weren't done with the pretty either.  After a fabulous Mission Impossible interlude in the pitch-black tunnel (Craig really was wonderful), we emerged into yet another gorgeous valley.  As we curved down, the view back toward the exit of the tunnel wasn't bad either.  Plus we stopped at this place called "The Chasm" which was an insane waterfall, but didn't photograph well at all. 

Finally, after all this mouth-agape terrain, we made it to the port so we could board our boat for the evening.  But I'll save all that for the next post!