People have said or written, and it's something I try to remember & hopefully live by, that 'It's the journey not the destination that matters.'. Well - this time it was the destination. Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound in the Fiordlands of southwest New Zealand are worth being called a destination point. (not knocking the journey it was also just as memorable). Both are named sounds but in fact they are fjord's - shaped by glaciers.
First day was Milford. A day to be a mix of rain, snow and maybe some sun. We were fortunate enough to book with Trips & Tramps - a small tour operator. Our van, with only 9 people aboard, was driven/hosted by John. He had lived in the Te Anau area for around 20 years and was very knowledgeable and personal and funny. Allowing us to stop along the way to view the sites and take a short stroll as well as get a personal history. So much easier with only a handful of people. About mid-drive to the park John stopped and offered us tea and biscuits to warm up. There are strict regulations for driving in the snow, and every car had to stop at the checkpoint and prove that they could apply chains to the tires (mandatory to carry snow chains). The pass, although short, is steep and snowy and prone to avalanches.
Aboard our ship with Real Journeys we began the cruise. Narration by Tara along the sail, pointing out and explaining much of what we saw. Let me say that Milford is majestic! The scale of the mountains and rock cliffs seem endless, and the waterfalls flowing in every nook and cranny. Because of the sheer drop-offs the ship can get extremely close - so close in fact the prow of the ship dips into the waterfall providing an ideal photo-op and shower if you missed yours in the morning.
Now Doubful is all together different, much larger but not as dramatic-more serene. A longer journey by bus, boat, bus, and ship provided more commentary and history. The high-lite was watching a pod a Bottlenose dolphins, and seeing a small group of blue penguins swimming. Everyone in the Pacific NW should know this... The Bottlenose is the second largest dolphin, the first of course is the Orca. Something I had forgotten until in Akoroa when swimming with the Hector's and we asked if there were other kinds of dolphins, and the casual response was 'sometimes orcas'. ( cue Mike and Scot's faces and their reaction of 'what?') I'm happy with the small ones.
Both tours travel out of the fjord and to the edge of the Tasman Sea, which was a little restless, and back again. Every turn changed the view and as the weather kept fluctuating it also altered the appearance of each mountain.