New Zealand – Southern Island -Milford Sound

 RO: Capatul lumii se arata in sfarsit prietenos inca de dimineata, de la prima ora. Kia Ora soare buclucas, care ne-ai dar peste cap toate planurile din zilele precedente! Cum ne-ai taiat tu de pe lista si varful muntelui Roy, si ghetarii Franz Joseph si Fox, si reflexia Muntelui Cook in lacul Matheson. Era si vremea sa te rascumperi si sa te-arati in toata splendoarea pentru Piopiotahi. Da, mai nou suntem experti in ale maorei si parca Milford Sound suna prea a… englezisme. Sa-i dam maorului ce-i al mai maorului si sa ii folosim numele autohton. Nu de alta, dar pan’ la urma James Cook, englezu’, a trecut de trei ori pe coasta de vest a Noii Zeelande si n-a zarit fiordul cel mai cel al tarii cucerite!

EN: The end of the world is finally showing up friendly early in the morning. Kia Ora dear sun, who messed up our plans the other days! How did you manage to cut off the list the peak of Mount Roy, Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers or Mount Cook’s reflection in lake Matheson. It was about time for some pay off so there you are, in all your glory for Piopiotahi. Yup, we’ve became some kind of experts of Maori language and Milford Sound seems to be to… English 😀 So let’s use the original name, as in the end, James Cook, the English guy, has traveled three times on the Western coast of New Zealand and he did not notice the most impressive fjord of the country he just conquered!
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RO: Asa ca ne trezim cu noaptea-n cap sa pornim la drum, speriati de amenintarile Lonely Planet-ului cu puzderia de autocare de turisti care se porneste la drum la ora 8 din Queenstown. Slava cerului ca avem ceva avans si pornim de la Te Anau Downs in toata viteza. Legala, cum altfel. Atata doar ca nu ne lasa inima sa nu oprim de esnpe mii de ori pe drum, mai ales ca la Eglinton Valley tocmai ce s-a asternut o pacla densa peste drum si campurile din jur, asa la baza muntilor, la fix cat sa iti dea impresia ca am aterizat pe cine stie ce teritoriu mistic. Si taman cand era geniul creator al fotografiilor la culme maxime, vedem in zare cardurile de autocare. Pana se ne ajunga sarim ca arsi in masina si-o luam la fuga inspre Mirror Lakes. Macar sa prindem un locsor de pozat reflexiile muntilor!

EN: So we wake up at the first hour in the morning and we hit the road, scared by Lonely Planet’s threatening with the tourist buses that start their journey to Milford Sound at precisely 8 AM from Queenstown. Luckily, we have some distance ahead and we’re starting from Te Anau Downs at full speed. Legal speed, of course 🙂 Just that we can’t help stopping in thousands of places on the way, especially because at Eglinton Valley there is a thick and dense layer of haze over the road and the surrounding fields, at the base of the mountains, just enough to give us the impression that we’ve just landed in a mystic territory. And right when the photographic creative genius was at the highest peaks, we see the tourist buses at distance. Just to avoid them we jump in the car and head straight to Mirror Lakes. At least we hope to get a glimpse of the mountain reflections in our pictures! 
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RO: Si slava cerului, iesim invingatori din cursa contra cronometru! Mirror Lakes sunt niste lacuri micute de pe raul Eglinton, undeva la nord de lacul Te Anau, in care se oglindesc siluetele muntilor Earl din Fiordland, padurea de fag si plantele mlastinoase. Atata doar ca trebuie venit aici la prima ora in dimineata, altfel apa lacurilor nu este complet linistita si nu se creaza efectul acela de oglinda. Suntem patiti cu lacul Matheson de ieri, cand ne-am trezit sa mergem dupa pranz si apele erau valurite si agitate, deci nici urma de priveliste, asa ca am venit cu lectiile invatate. Intre noi fie vorba, Mirror Lakes sunt cum nu se poate de turistice, dar ce sa-i faci… sunt pe marginea drumului inspre Milford Sound, exista o poteca amenajata, spatii de facut poze si parcari de autocare. Cum ar putea fi altfel? 🙂 Pentru experiente mai autentice si mai putin aglomerate, ar merita un traseu complet la Lacul Matheson de langa ghetarul Fox, insaaaa… pe vreme buna. Altfel… nici urma de reflexie in apa 🙂 Da, in Noua Zeelanda vremea buna schimba complet imaginea tarii. Dar n-ai ce face, intr-un loc in care ploua mai bine de 200 de zile pe an, ai toate sansele ca-n doua saptamani de vacanta sa prinzi macar cateva zile ploioase, care sa strice itinerariul. Dar pan’ la urma… Relaaaax, don’t do it! When you want to go to it!

EN: And thanks God, we’re winning the race against the clock. Mirror Lakes are some small lakes along the Eglinton river, somewhere in the northern part of lake Te Anau. where the silhouette of Mount Earl from Fiordland, the beech forest and the swampy plants are all reflecting in the water. Just that you have to come here early in the morning, otherwise the water from the lake is not completely still and it does not create that mirror effect. We know this from yesterday when we’ve been to Lake Matheson at noon and we’ve seen the wavy waters with no reflection at all. But between you and me, Mirror Lakes are extremely touristic, but what can you do… they’re on the side of the road that leads to Milford Sound, there is a nice wooden path between them, viewing points and bus parkings. How could it be different? 🙂 For more authentic and less crowded experiences, it would be worth doing the complete itinerary at Lake Matheson, close to Fox glacier, buuuuut… only if you have good weather. Otherwise… no trace of reflection in the water 🙂 Yes, indeed, New Zealand seems to be a completely different country when there is good weather. But what can you do, in a place where it rains more than 200 days per year, you have all the chances in the world to catch at least a few days of rain in a two weeks vacation, that will probably mess up your itinerary. But in the end… Relaaaax, don’t do it! When you want to go to it!

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RO: Bun, avem muntii pozati, mergem spre Milford Sound, asul din maneca al parcului national Fiordland. Mandretea insulei de sud, cu peisaje ca scoase din revista! Nu degeaba a inclus Unesco zona Te Wahipounamu, din care face parte si Milford Sound, in patrimoniul sau 🙂 Si-avem croaziera in apele fiordului la ora 10:45, cu cei de la Milford Cruises. Sunt o multime de variante de croaziere si barci si tururi din care se poate alege si adevarul e ca e cam greu sa te decizi asupra uneia. Am avut insa doua cerinte inca de la bun inceput: tur cat mai devreme in dimineata, ca sa evitam cardurile de turisti, si barca cat mai mica si mai intima, ca sa nu ne luptam pentru un loc de unde sa vedem o priveliste de Doamne ajuta. A, si apropo, sa nu uitam. Drumul dintre Te Anau si Milford Sound ar trebui sa dureze cam doua ore, nu mai mult, insa ar fi bine de luat in calcul vreo 20 de minute in plus pentru trecut prin tunelul Homer. Mai ales pe timp de vara (adica decembrie-februarie), cand sunt foarte multi turisti in zona. Nu de alta, dar este un tunel lung de 1,2 km, cu o singura banda pe sens, pe care se circula alternativ. Daca prinzi rosu la semafor, posibil sa ratezi imbarcarea pe croaziera.

EN: Ok, we just pictured the mountains, sooo we’re heading to Milford Sound, the ace up the sleeve of the national park Fiordland. The pride of the southern island, with picture perfect scenery! No wonder that Unesco included the Te Wahipounamu area (where Milfors Sound is also included) in this world heritage 🙂 We have a cruise in the fjord’s waters at 10:45, with the ones from Milford Cruises. There are so many cruise and tours options and the truth is that it is quite hard to decide which one to pick. But we knew we had two main requests from the very beginning: we wanted a tour as early in the morning as possible, so that we can avoid the crowds of tourists and a small and intimate boat, so that we will not fight over a small place to see a decent view with the fjord. Aaah, and by the way. The road between Te Anau and Milford Sound should last around two hours, not more, but it would be good to take into consideration 20 extra minutes to pass through the Homer tunnel. Especially during summertime (December-February), when there are lots of tourists arounf. The tunnel is 1,2km long, with only one lane and cars are passing alternatively. If you catch the red light, you risk loosing the boarding on the cruise 🙂 

Milford Sound_New Zealand_1RO: Si-am pornit la drum! Au ce au neozeelandezii sa numeasca fiordurile “sounds”. Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Dusky Sound si-altele asemenea. Problema vine de la exploratorii englezi (iarasi dam vina pe sarmanul Cook), care nu prea stiau ei la vremea respectiva ce sunt acelea fiorduri, asa ca le-au confundat cu niste vai ale raurilor care au fost pur si simplu inundate  in urma scufundarii pamantului sub nivelul marii. “Sound”-ul neozeelandez este de fapt si de drept un fiord, la fel ca cele pe care le-am vazut in Islanda. Format cum altfel, daca nu de un ghetar, care si-a lasat amprenta in forma muntilor ce-l inconjoara (de aici intelegem ce-i cu ascutenia muntelui Mitre, vedeta de la Milford Sound) si-a vaii in care s-a instalat. Cum a trecut Era Glaciara, cum s-a retras si ghetarul, apele marii Tasmaniei au crescut si au inundat valea unde odinioara trona marea de gheata. Varfurile muntilor la vedere, apele marii printre ele, si-uite asa s-a creat splendoarea de la Piopiotahi. Ba chiar undeva pitit printre crestele ascutite se mai vede ramasita ghetarului Pembruck, cel “responsabil” pentru ce-avem azi in fata nostra la Milford Sound.

EN: And we’re on our way! New Zealanders have an obsession to call their fjords “sounds”. Milford Sound, DOubtful Sound, Dusky Sound and other similar ones. This comes from the English explorers (aaaand here we go again with blaming poor Cook :D), who didn’t know at those times what exactly is a fjord, so they confused them with some river valleys that have simply been flooded after the land submerged under the sea level. The New Zealand “sound” is actually a fjord, as the ones that we have seen in Iceland. Formed by a glacier, of course, that has left his trace around the surrounding mountains (and that’s how we understand what;s all the fuss with the Mitre Mountain, the star from Milford Sound) and into the valley where it stood. As the Ice Age went away, the glacier retreated, the waters of the Tasman Sea have grown and flooded the valley where it used to be all that ice. The peaks of the mountains can be seen, the waters of the sea around them and there we have the gorgeousness from Piopiotahi. And somewhere around the high peaks we can still see the remains of the Pembruck glacier, the “responsible” one for what we have now at Milford Sound. 
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RO: Legendele maore povestesc ca minunatia de fiord de la Milford Sound a fost creata de Tu-te-raki-whanoa, care si-a inceput operele de arta de undeva din sudul insulei de sud. Si-a perfectionat el aptitudinile pana ce-a ajuns la Milford Sound unde a facut cel mai frumos fiord din cate exista in Noua Zeelanda. Si-apoi, cand a venit zeita lumii de dedesubt, Hine-nui-te-po, si a vazut cat de spectaculos este locul acesta, s-a speriat ca vor veni oamenii si vor popula intreaga zona, stirbindu-i din frumusete. Asa ca a gasit solutia perfecta sa-i indeparteze! A dat mustele de nisip! Care intre noi fie vorba, sunt cat se poate de enervante. N-o avea Noua Zeelanda animale periculoase sau paianjeni veninosi, insa mustele de nisip, sandflies cum le spun ei, ataca orice bucatica expusa de piele. Dar cine vine inarmat cu repelentul dupa el, invinge razboiul cu mustele de nisip. A si apropo, la Te Anau exista o cafenea numita Sandflies Cafe, unde cica ar avea cel mai bun espresso. La cat de tare ne-au scos din sarite mustele vietii, nu ne-am incumetat sa-l incercam 😀

EN: The Maori legends tell us that the amazing fjord from Milford Sound was actually created by Tu-te-raki-whanoa, who has started his work of art somewhere in the southern part of the southern island. He improved his skills until he got to Milford Sound where he made the most beautiful fjord in all New Zealand. And then, when the goddess of the Underworld, Hine-nui-te-po, saw how gorgeous this place was, she got scared that people will come here and populate the entire area and that they will ruin the beauty of this place. So she found the perfect solution to keep them away! She invented the sand flies! Which are extremely, but extremely annoying. New Zealand might not have dangerous animals or poisonous spiders, but the sand flies attack any piece of exposed skin. But the ones that are “armed” with repellent win the war with the sand flies! Ah, and by the way, at Te Anau there is a coffee shop called Sand Flies Cafe, where they have the best espresso ever. But we had enough of those sand flies, so we are not tempted to try it 😀     
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RO: Si uite ca in sfarsit intelegem de unde si pana unde vine titlul de “a opta minune a lumii”. Milford sound e incredibila, cap coada. Muntii abrupti, varful Mitre in zare, un pic de ghetar Pembruck undeva in departare, cascada-danteluta de la Fairy Falls, focile lenese de pe stanci, rostogolindu-se ca niste bolovani grasani la soare, cascada Stirling de te uda din cap pana-n picioare cand te-apropii de ea, deschiderea inspre Marea Tasmaniei, Observatorul Subacvatic din mijlocul fiordului. Sau zecile de mici cascade temporare, care se formeaza cand toarna cu galeata. Si parca am mai spus ca ploua cel putin 200 de zile pe an aici, nu? 🙂 Saaaau crapatura dintre cele doua placi tectonice ale Australiei si Noii Zeelande! In orice caz, totul pare un peisaj scos din alta lume! Pai cum sa nu iti vina idei traznite sa iti iei si tu un wingsuit si sa te-azvarli pe crestele muntelui Mitre, pana aproape atingi apele fiordului in zbor? Ei, facem pe vitejii, nici bungee jumping nu ne incumetam sa facem, daramite zbor cu wingsuit 🙂 Dar nebunii din videoclipul acesta sigur nu au sange in vene!

EN: And we finally understand why is this place called “the eight wonder of the world”. Milford Sound is incredible, from tip to toe. Steep mountains, the Mitre peak at distance, a bit of Pembruck glacier, the laced waterfall from Fairy Falls, the lazy sea lions on the rocks, rolling like some fatty boulders under the sun, the Stirling Waterfall that soaks you from tip to toe if you go closer to it, the Tasman sea, the underwater observatory in the middle of the fjord. Or all those tiny temporary waterfalls, which form here when it’s pouring rain. Did we say already that here it rains more than 200 days per year? 🙂 Ooooor the crack between the tectonic plates of Australia and New Zealand! Anyway, the scenery seems to be taken out of this world! How could you not think about foolish ideas like taking a wing suit and plunge from the peak of Mount Mitre until you almost touch the waters of the fjord during the flight? 😀 Oh well, we might seem brave but we’re not 😀 We haven’t ventured to try some bungee jumping, not to mention flying with a wing suit 🙂 But the crazy guys from this video are wildly insane! 
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RO: Croaziera dureaza aproximativ doua ore dus-intors si noi am spune ca cea mai buna perioada din zi pentru tururi ar fi prima ora in dimineata. Dupa pranz se aglomereaza foarte rau, barcile sunt arhi-pline, iar sansele sa vezi ceva de pe puntea barcii sunt din ce in ce mai mici. Si sinceri sa fim, cu cat e mai micuta barca, cu atat e mai personala experienta.

EN: The cruise last approximately two hours return and we would say that the best time to do the tours is at first hour in the morning. After noon it becomes really crowded, the boats are packed full, and chances to see something from the deck are smaller and smaller. And honestly, the smaller the boat, the more pleasant the experience is.  
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RO: Aaaa, si cine ar fi zis ca in mijlocul parcului national Fiordland, la Milford Sound, exista un aeroport micut, plin de BN2-uri, Cessna-uri Caravan si 172-uri si elicoptere de toate soiurile posibile? Ei cum sa nu-ti fie mai mare dragul sa te opresti cateva minute pentru un spotting printre fiorduri, cu Muntele Mitre pe fundal? N-o fi el cel mai inalt dintre Alpii de Sud (are aproape de 1700 de metri), insa rasare dramatic din apele fiordului de zici c-ai ajuns direct pe platourile de filmare de la Stapanul Inelelor! Si-acum cireasa de pe tort! O parea el MFN un aeroport in miniatura cu avioane ce zici ca-s de jucarie, insa in zilele de vara este cel mai aglomerat aeroport din Noua Zeelanda, ca numar de miscari. Pai la atatea aterizari si decolari si la atatea avioane si elicoptere misunand pe deasupra Milford Sound-ului, nici nu e de mirare!

EN: Aaaah and who would have thought that in the middle of Fiordland National Park, at Milford Sound, there is a small airport, full of BN2s, Caravan Cessnas, 172 Cessnas and all types of helicopters? How could we not stop for a couple of minutes for some airplane spotting in the fjords, with Mount Mitre in the background? Maybe this is not the highest peak in the Southern Alps (it barely has 1700 meters), but it dramatically rises from the waters of the fjord as if you’ve been directly transported on the Lord of The Rings movie set! And now, the cherry on top! Maybe MFN has a miniature airport with airplanes that seem to be toys, but during summertime this is the busiest airport in New Zealand, if we consider the number of landings and take offs 🙂  
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RO: Oprim la Te Anau, pentru un pranz italian. Nu c-am fi vrut in mod special sa ne indopam cu pizza si pasta pe taramuri neozeelandeze, dar Te Anau e plin de pizzerii si restaurante italienesti. Ce fructe de mare, ce supa traditionala kumara, ce cartof dulce, ce branza locala, ce vinuri din Malborough sau Central Otago? Pizza, pasta, tiramisu, asta gasesti pe toate strazile din Te Anau! Si-apoi ajungem la Invercargill, in sudul insulei, si parca se simte deja influenta scotiana, de zici c-ai nimerit pe undeva prin Highlands-ul scotian. Si incheiem ziua c-un vin pe plaja la Oreti si-un apus de-ti sta mintea in loc. Insula Stewart in fata noastra, nisipul tare si umed sub picioare, valurile aliniate perfect, in linii paralele si-un soare portocaliu, saturat ca-n Photoshop. Da, insula de sud e fabuloasa si ne convingem tot mai mult de asta, pe zi ce trece. Mt. Cook, maine venim! Sa fii grozav!

EN: We stop at The Anau for some Italian lunch. Not that we would have wanted to eat pizza and pasta in New Zealand, but Te Anau is full of Italian restaurants and pizza. No more seafood, no more traditional kumara soup, no more sweet patato, no more local cheese or Marlborough and Central Otago wine. Pizza, pasta, tiramisu, that’s all you can find on the streets of Te Anau. And then we head to Invercargill, in the southern tip of the island and we can already feel the Scottish influence, as if we would have landed somewhere in the Scottish Highlands. We’re ending the day with a wine at Oreti beach and a mind blowing sunset. Stewart island in front of us, the wet sand under our feet, the perfectly aligned waves, in parallel lines and an orange sun, saturated as in Photoshop. Yes, the southern island is fabulous and we’re convinced by that every day. Mt. Cook, tomorrow we’ll arrive! Be great! 
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