So here I am in Christchurch at the end of my New Zealand tour. I am about to go for a final meal with the group, but before that I will update you on my overnight trip to Milford Sound - New Zealand's most picturesque corner. It was a long drive from Queenstown round to Fiordland National Park. Geographically the places aren't that far apart, but there are no roads directly through the mountains. Initially the scenery was a bit bland, but once we took a right turn at the village of Mossburn (I mention this because its the most southerly point on my world trip) it started to improve. We had lunch in the small town of Te Anau and soon after entered the Fiordland National Park - New Zealand's largest national park, as well as wettest area! Fortunately the rain held off as we made numerous photo stops to view the stunning alpine scenery. There was still plenty of snow on the mountain tops, but not enough for them to implement avalanche no stopping restrictions, which were in force up until a few weeks ago. We drove through the famous Homer Tunnel, which is a 1.2km burrow right through the mountainside, and emerged into thick drizzle, which was somewhat disappointing. Milford Sound looked especially dreary in the low cloud, but I was pleased just to be able to see the top of the 1683m (5,521ft) high Mitre Peak (see above pic), and was able to get some photos in before the cloud descended even lower.
We arrived in Milford Sound at around 4pm, which appeared to be the time all the day trippers were departing. Our tour group was booked on to one of just two boats sailing the sound overnight - there were many more boats during the day. Given that we left at 4.30 and the sun doesn't set here until around 9, we still had plenty of time for sightseeing in the daylight hours. It was a pretty small boat with around 60 tourists on, most of whom were on my Connections Tour. As we left the harbour we had to have a pointless health and safety talk, which given by a German woman, dragged on forever much to my frustration. I was so close to missing the opportunity to see the sound from the town end, which is where the postcard views were.
Despite the weather it was still spectacular to see how sheer and huge the cliffs either side of us were. And there were plenty of massive waterfalls falling striaght into the sound, which the tour boats sailed right up to. It only took us around 45 minutes to reach the Tasman Sea at Milford Sound's other end. At this point the boat moored and we were given the opportunity to go either kayaking or on a speed boat nature tour. Having kayaked in Abel Tasman I opted for the speedboat, which was the popular option. There were so many people on board I thought we would sink, and we couldn't go faster than about 3mph. We caught sight of a few small penguins, some of whom repeatedly leapt out of the water alongside us, but that was about it.
After all the activities had ceased we sailed part way back up the sound into Harrison's Cove, where we moored for the night. It was an uncomfortable night's sleep on my bunk bed, and I awoke early to find that the weather had got even worse, and the rain was falling even heavier. You couldn't see anything of the mountains, but on the plus side, the waterfalls were in full flow. We sailed up and down the sound once more and there was water flowing from everywhere. The Stirling Falls and Bowen Falls which we had seen the previous day had almost doubled in flow, and I enjoyed getting wet as we sailed underneath some of them. It was a refreshing wake up call ahead of our departure at around 9.30am.
I was glad I got my photos in the previous day as from the harbour you couldn't see anything of the sound. I still had a great time despite the weather - Milford Sound in the rain had a really mysterious atmosphere and I was glad to see all the waterfalls. One interesting point to make before I finish is that Milford Sound is not a sound, it is a fiord. I did not know the difference before, but apparently a sound is river carved, and a fiord glacier carved. Captain Cook got his estimation wrong when he named it back in the 1700s.
Incidentally, I have just discovered that I can alter the date of my blogs to the date when I was actually at a place, rather than the date I wrote the blog. This means that they'll appear in the correct chronological order from now on, and is the reason why my Thursday blog is going live on a Saturday.