Te Anau is the closest city to Milford Sound. It is 120 Km away from the Sound. I don’t think there is any through road from Milford Sound to somewhere else. You can go from or to Queenstown by cruise though. But if drive is your only option, when the road is closed because weather or some other reason, you will either stuck in Milford Sound when you are already here or you have to turn back to Te Anau waiting the road to be opened.
The road and the sceneries you see when driving to this place are amazing. Because my limited writing skill, I might have difficulties to explain the truly amazingness of the experience. But I still want to try to share the story.
Leaving Te Anau you will start see some mountain ranges. Then you will pass some valleys with river on your left and some creeks here and there and few lakes large and small. You will drive under some forrest with dense trees. Then you will see valleys again. After that the road start to bend left and right and start to ramp uphill. Once in the while, you will pass some narrow road section where you need wait cars from opposite direction.
The climax of the trip is a tunnel. The length is about 1.2 Km cut a very high mountain. However, because the tunnel is very narrow, it only allows 1 way traffic flow at a time. Therefore, there is traffic light in the front of the tunnel. It will red for couple of minutes waiting opened flow from the other side to pass through the tunnel. Once all traffic passed from that side, from this side traffic will go green and we push the throttle entering a full darkness that is illuminated only by the car headlight.
The tunnel seems unfinished, I don’t know if they are doing some construction or whatnot. But the 1.2 Km feels so long and I really want to see the bright end as soon as possible. Cars also have to drive slowly not more than 30 Km/h. Some water seems dripping from above the tunnel when we pass it. There is no pothole but the asphalt inside there is very uneven.
After some minutes, finally we see the light. Started from just a pinch small then as we get closer it becomes brighter. At the end of tunnel there are some structure that might be hold the roof of the tunnel from that side. As brightness strike, we then realise we are on to of the road and see some hairpin bends of our road to go below us. Around, beside, below and above us are mountains that still magnificent as we have seen before entering the tunnel at the other side.
As we drove out, there was only one car waiting the traffic light to enter the tunnel from this side. I couldn’t imagine how the traffic will look like during summer or peak season. There are will not be only one car in the queue. I also curious how the traffic at the night will be because as the signage in the tunnel entrance from the other side written, the traffic light will be in operation from 7am to 7pm. Maybe there will not much traffic anyway outside that hour. Or also maybe during night there will be no large car, so some small cars going to opposite direction should just be able to pass carefully in very slow speed inside the narrow tunnel.
We start to to turn the car following the bend downhill. There is one flat like rest area where some cars already parked when we are midway from exit of the tunnel to the lowest point visible to us. We decided to stop to want to enjoy shortly the majestic view at this side of the tunnel.
When we were parking the car, a parrot had been hanging on the rear mirror of other campervan that parked there. That is not just a normal parrot, it seems it is Kea Parrot. At the end we spent sometime to try to get a good picture of the parrot. Interestingly, the parrot is also seems very interested to us. It always try to peek to our car every time we open the car door. I don’t know maybe it expects to be given some foods. And some past bad tourist had given them foods which is not right because indeed feeding wild animal will change its behaviour and Kea is under strict protetiction because it seems the population is in the warning level.
After we have satisfied with the photo we decide to drive on and shortly after that we reach Milford Sound Lodge a quite and tranquil campervan park and the only one in Milford Sound.