On the Saturday of my road trip I am up before the sun. It is 6am when I get in the driver's seat and pitch black outside the car windows. This is not part of some new crazy early bird-travel regimen; it is simply time to drive the estimated two hours between Te Anau and Milford Sound. Because of the curved mountainous roads and, of course, the darkness I want plenty of time to reach my 8.45am ferry. Along the way more and more cars are conjoining; like a long glittering line of traffic lights.
As we drive through the infamous Homer Tunnel, the 1,2 kilometre stretch through solid rock that made driving out to Milford a possibility, and start rolling down the mountains I am already dreading how on earth I will make it back up in case there were to be a queue of cars.
The ferry ride is absolutely beautiful. I go with Mitre Peak Cruises, a company that offer smaller boats than many of its competing triple-decker-boat-companies, so you can get up close and personal with the waterfalls. A single ticket for about 2 hours on the sounds is around $70. The highlights of the trip include:
a) crossing paths with a whole herd of dolphins on their way out to the Tasman Sea
b) driving the boat right up under the mighty Bowen Falls
c) this joke from the guide "and if we were to continue east from here, we'd encounter New Zealand's third, lesser known island... Australia."
Pulse raising, I make it back through the tunnel without any big dramas or engine failures (phew!), and make a few stops along the way that I previously only saw at dawn before retreating back to the campsite for the evening.