The trip out to Milford
At first I was a little daunted by the prospect of what the AA book listed as a five hour trip from Queenstown to Milford.
However, the tour company shrewdly decided to make a day of the trip, with several stops along the way at notable sights. 
The first stop was less than 20 minutes from Queenstown, on the opposite shores of Lake Wakatipu.


The level of Lake Wakatipu cycles over an amplitude of about 20cm.

The Maori legend of Lake Wakatipu:

Once a long time ago in the deep South of Aotearoa there lived a Maori who was chief of his tribe. He had a fine looking daughter. She had glossy black hair and velvety brown eyes. The warrior, Matakauri, had fallen in love with her. However Chief told Matakauri to stay away from his daughter - he wasn't good enough for her!

Chief's daughter, Manata was sorry she was not allowed to be with her lover. Then, one morning, as the people of the tribe were rising, it was noticed that Manata was not only missing from her bed but was nowhere to be seen!

Everyone searched everywhere they could think of, but nothing. Then, with a loud and shocked voice one of the tribespeople called "Over here!" Everyone rushed to the woodland he had been searching, and there, in the mud, was a footprint bigger than a house!

"I remember the ground shaking in the night," cried one man. "I thought it was an earthquake!"

But everyone knew what it had been and who owned the footprint - the mighty and feared giant of the South, Matau. Matau was bigger than all the houses in the village put together. He was bigger than a mountain, and what was more, he had a terrible temper. So when Chief said "who is going to rescue my beloved daughter?" everyone looked down, even the biggest, strongest warriors in the tribe. "Whoever rescues Manata may marry her" the Chief tried in desperation.

Still, no one moved. No one really believed you could come back from a fight with a giant like that. Meanwhile, one warrior was missing. While the Chief had been pleading with his men, Matakauri was already packing his bags.

Off he went with anger and determination in his stride, heading for Matau's lair. Suddenly, there he was, but he was fast asleep, and Manata was tied to his body by ropes made from nearby bushes.

Her eyes lit up as she caught sight of her rescuer, but at the same time she cautioned him. "Be careful! If the wind changes he'll wake up. You'll be killed!" she whispered.

Matakauri was not to be put off. He crept up to the huge mountain of snoring flesh and grasped one of the ropes tied to his lover. "You're free!" he cried recklessly, as he swung his trusty axe, made from the finest greenstone. The axe did not make one mark on the rope. Again and again he swung it, but to no avail.

Manata started to weep tears of despair. "Go back!" she pleaded. "It's useless!" But then a strange thing happened. The girl's tears fell onto the rope and as they touched it the rope melted and broke away!

Matakauri gasped in delight and gathering up his beloved Manata, made for a raft he had tethered in a nearby river. The pair found their way back home safely and when Manata's grieving father saw, he proclaimed the two must be married.

Still, now that Manata was safe, there was one thing Matakauri had to do. He had to destroy Matau the giant once and for all, so that he could never again take away any of his people. Once more, although he explained that while the northwest wind blew the giant would sleep, not one man stepped forward to help.

So there was brave Matakauri, alone again, creeping up to the giant. Sure enough, the giant slept, curled up like a child, his enormous head and feet resting on mountain tops many miles apart. His very snore rumbled across the valley like an earthquake.

Quickly and quietly Matakauri started work on his plan, gathering up armfuls of flax and dried wood. It took many days to pile the scrub all around the huge body, but still Matau slept. Then, just before the wind seemed to be changing Matakauri lit the fire. He ran from arm to leg, across hills and round stomach until it seemed the world was ablaze and Matau was devoured by the flames.

But the flames were so hot and so fierce that they burned a hole in the ground where the giant had been. They were so hot and so fierce that they melted all the snow on the mountain tops.

The streams swelled and the water flowed down into the newly made hole, filling it right up until it became the Lake Wakatipu we know today. The water still lies in the giant shape hole that Matau left, when his head was in Glenorchy, his knees tucked up in Frankton, and his feet all the way down in Kingston.

But there's one strange thing. Legend has it you can never destroy a giant's heart. Sure enough, the heart of Matau beats on and the waters of Lake Wakatipu rise and fall whilst Matau still sleeps.



Next stop was Kingston, where we could ride on the Kingston Flyer, and have the bus meet us at the next stop.  It was actually quite nice, as pleasantly done, not the junked up turistas thing one would think.   I'm not an old-train buff, but it was still interesting.   The train's official site is here.






Next stop was Te Anau, for lunch.  Apparently Te Anau is nice, but probably as a launching point for other, more interesting things.   Where we stopped was not terribly photogenic. 
Next stop was Eglinton River Valley.  Apparently a Lord of the Rings scene was shot here.  Looks vaguely familiar, I guess.


Shortly after the Eglinton River stop was a stop to see the Mirror Lakes.  The Mirror Lakes are not really lakes, but a  set of connected ponds that are sheltered from the wind, so they presumably stay mirror-smooth.  There was a bit of a breeze that afternoon.  Images 2 and 3 show the reflection of the mountains and clouds in the water.  The fourth image would provide an equally impressive reflection of the mountain, were it not for the breeze.
I think this is Mount Christina;  the mountain in the background is the one Sir Edmund Hillary used as his practise ground for the Everest Expedition.