I forgot to say, when we arrived in Milford it was dry and hadn't rained for a few days, so there were a few waterfalls. Then it rained all night, and in the morning there were loads more. Water coming out of every possible orifice in the rock. It was pretty amazing seeing hundreds of waterfalls, each hundreds/thousands of feet high.
After staying in the lodge at Milford, I hitchhiked from Milford up the road a bit to the Gertrude Valley, where there's a private hut (NZ Alpine Club) where lots of climbers and mountaineers hang out. Basically this area (The Darran Mountains) is the Yosemite of NZ -- amazing climbing in every direction.
I hung out here for a night and then set out to climb up the side of the valley, onto a knob at the top of the far end and then over into the next valley. The weather was supposed to be clearing, but took longer than expected. So I got a bit wet.
I ended up heading up to the top and camped up on the saddle for a night.
The descent into the next valley turned out way too dangerous to do alone, so I came back. (As well, on the other side was just a bushwhack for about 8 hours, and that doesn't sound too fun either.) At least I did get to use my rented ice axe and crampons (but not to descend the far side, just to go down from the knob). At the end of the day, with a short hitchhike, I was able to camp at just about the same location I had planned, and was still on track. (See next post.)
This guy has some good pics of basically what we saw, but with a bit more snow/ice that when I was there:
Parrots: Check out this article about the Kea bird, the worlds only alpine parrot. They're really curious and will eat your tent, bag, or even cars.