The road to Milford

March 2nd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Geoff Cumming at NZ Herald reports:

It is the holy grail of New Zealand tourism: easing the path to Milford Sound for domestic and international tourists without destroying what lures them there in the first place – its scenery, ecological value and remoteness.

For decades, tourism entrepreneurs have laid schemes at the door of the Conservation Department without quite prising it open, from a coastal road defying engineering conventions to a gondola.

Now, DoC has allowed two proposals a foot in the door – one a bus-only tunnel with approach roads through two national parks; the other a “back-country experience” involving boat, 4WD bus and monorail. Both promise to cut in half the circuitous 4hr road journey from Queenstown to Milford around Lakes Wakatipu and Te Anau. The applicants plan international marketing to bring an estimated 20,000 extra visitors a year to New Zealand, targeting time-poor tourists who want the greatest hits at speed.

I would have thought environmentalists would be keen to support a tunnel that means that you don’t have scores of buses driving several hundred extra kms a day. But the reality is that many of them are preservationists – they oppose all change.

Opponents argue that getting there is half the fun: the existing route takes in outstanding natural landscapes

It’s simple. If there is a choice of routes, then everyone can be happy. It is true there are some good stops on the way, but the four hour trip back doesn’t see anything new. Some operators could do a loop – drive down via Te Anau but come back directly. That would mean that tourists would gain an extra two hours in Milford itself.

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Milford Sound

December 31st, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

In Queenstown for New Years, staying with a friend. The last time I was here, I had the nonovirus and spent it in the bathroom of my hotel room. So far, has been much more enjoyable this time.

On Saturday headed to Milford Sounds on the Milford Sound Select Bus. Not normally a big bus person, but this was a great trip. The driver was superb – knowledgeable and friendly, and we had lots of stops for photos.

QT0001 <a Lake Wakatipu just out of Queenstown.

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On the road from Te Anau to Milford. Spectacular field. They must have shot some movie scenes here at some stage.

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The hills reflected at Mirror Lakes.

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Note the way the sign is written so it only makes sense in the reflection.

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A field of lupins.

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One of the many bush covered valleys heading into Milford Sound.

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A small waterfall.

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At one of the stops, there was a kea. He happily walked around in front of everyone and then without concern, jumped up onto a car behind and started nibbling at the rubber around their window.

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Mr Kea then jumped onto the roof for an even better perch.

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The lower end of the mighty chasm.

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And the upper end. Not a place to try going over in a barrel!

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At Milford Sound, we went out on a boat. It was pretty wet but the seals didn’t mind.

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A bit of rain on the lens, but still a nice shot of the greenery that grows on often sheer cliff faces there.

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Advancing towards the falls.

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And then the boat approaches them head on and pushes the bow just under the falls, nicely spraying those of us up on top.

Was a great day. I’ve been to Milford Sound a couple of times before, but it never gets old. Has reinforced my determination to do the Milford Track in the next couple of years.

On the bus trip back to Queenstown, they played The World’s Fastest Indian. I’d not got around to watching it previously. Was a very appropriate film to view in Southland.

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