Milford Sound is on the Southwest corner of the South Island! It is just a few miles from the top of the Southern Alps to the ocean at Milford Sound. Unlike the desert like landscape on the eastern side of the Southern Alps, the western side gets loads of rain as the trade winds drop accumulated moisture from the Tasman sea on the western slopes before the winds tumble over the mountains. This created a temperate rainforest on the western slopes of the Southern Alps.
We drove from Te Anau, over the Alps to Milford sound in a day. It was one of the more unusual drives we've taken yet as we drove up and through the mountains. The mountains were forested with Beech trees and the road was twisty and narrow through the forest. Unlike North America, land is not widely cleared on each side of the "highway!" Giant trees literally lined the road and it was more like a giant footpath through the woods rather then a road. Some areas [and bridges] were single land and so one had to keep an eye out for oncoming traffic!
As we drove up the eastern slopes on this cloudy rainy day, we began to notice some glaciers in the valleys of the mountains! These are relatively small compared to the ones we saw earlier in the Mount Cook area and I suspect that they won't be around much longer! As we got closer to the top of the Alps, we became boxed in and I wondered where the road went to until we came to a canyon and the road went through the mountain!
HOMER SADDLE, NEW ZEALAND
Homer Tunnel is carved through the center of the Alps, is 1.2 km long with a 100 slop towards the Western slops. The tunnel project was started in 1935 to provide relief work for the unemployed during the depression. It was essentially hand dug and wasn't finished until 1952!