The predicted rain began during the night. In the morning, it was decidedly overcast and if ever you could say "Looks like rain's coming" the sky today said it! During the evening I had heard some really strange bird calls and heard them again this morning. I can't even begin to describe it but think it is one of those unique indigenous species associated with New Zealand. I missed catching a photo of several different species I couldn't readily recognize. This one actually sat still for a picture but appears to be just a pigeon.
I stopped in Te Anau, filled the tank (no gasoline to be had in Milford Sound) and got an unexpectedly strong cup of coffee. The sun came out and the day was looking promising. I had put my clear visor on when I got up but put the mirrored one back on and removed a layer of clothing. Last night I cleaned and treated the visors with a rain repellent and there were smears of it in my field of view. With all the caffeine in my system, it was getting me quite irritated and I stopped twice shortly after leaving Te Anau to try and clean it. After a few kilometers, I started encountering the bands of bare tar in the corners that were discussed yesterday. That captured my attention enough to forget about the visor and the awesome riding and magnificent scenery did the rest.
After slowly gaining altitude up a broad, flat-bottomed valley, the road began to climb more steeply and as it did so, it brought me back under, and eventually into, the clouds. Light rain and mist made all the trees drip and the wet tar patches needed too much attention with the ever-changing and ever-amazing verdant mountains, steep scree slopes and cliffs all around. A thousand rivulets of water cascaded down the steepest slopes and cliffs. Finally, just a few km from Milford Sound, the road brought me to a dead-end corrie with near-sheer sides. However this is where the Homer Tunnel bores its way through the ridge, sloping downwards in dripping darkness to emerge on the other side of the mountains.
Half way through the tunnel it began to get foggy and I burst out on the other side into a wholly different weather - Rain, close mist and strong winds. The road dropped quickly down a series of tight switchbacks with dodgy surfacing, crossing and recrossing a fast-flowing stream. Unbelievably good fun of course! The weather only began to ease up a bit as I began to approach sea level. When I finally reached the Sound, it was still damp, windy and dull but I was at least out of the rain.
Watch this space! More coming, including pics of Milford Sound and the scoop on New Zealand rain.