NZ Land Logs 16, Year 2: South Island—Milford Sound
Date: Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Weather in Milford Sound Area: Rain, Rain, Rain
Location: Te Anau, New Zealand

It was a rainy day for Alan’s birthday, but actually the rain enhanced our tour of Milford Sound. I’m sure it would have been beautiful if the sun had been shining, but we wouldn’t have seen the hundreds of temporary waterfalls that literally gushed from the mountain sides all around us. We had planned to do a couple of short walks on our way into the Sound, but the rain prompted us to put those off in hopes of a drier return trip. Our tour boat left Milford Sound at 10:30 am and returned at 1:00 pm. At first it was pouring rain with just a hint of sunshine which produced a rainbow for us. But quickly the sun went away, as did the rainbow, and the rain just kept pouring from the skies. We sat with a couple from the Los Angeles area, Carol and Maury who are touring Australia and New Zealand. Their daughter is doing a semester abroad in Melbourne and they are taking advantage of her location to see two spectacular countries. We enjoyed our conversation with them and then headed outside. We had to stand under overhangs in order to get pictures of the absolutely incredible waterfalls. The wind was blowing so hard at one point that it caused the falling water to actually turn and blow straight up. It looked like the mountains were smoking. As we left the Sound and got closer to the Tasman Sea, the rain slacked for a bit and we were able to go out on the front of the boat to see the Tasman up close. According to the boat’s captain, at times the wind was blowing 70 miles an hour and we were getting a little sea spray even up on the second level deck. When we reached St. Anne Point, our captain then turned the boat and we started the return to port in Milford Sound. He explained that Captain Cook had actually passed by the entrance to the Sound twice and never knew it existed. Seeing the way in is quite tricky even when you know it is there. As we reentered the Sound we could only see the lower parts of Mitre Peak which soars a mile above the water. The top was totally surrounded by clouds. We’ll just have to buy a postcard of that peak. The boat stopped in Harrison Cove to drop some passengers off at the Underwater Observation Center and then we were back in port.

It is very hard to describe the waterfalls that we were seeing today. Milford Sound is a fiord and the mountains drop straight into the sea. The mountains here are tree covered and green, but in some areas the cliffs are bare granite. This is where the sheets of water were flowing down the mountains. There were really hundreds of these waterfalls coming down from the mountains. The best I can do is to say that it was an incredible sight. On our way out of Milford Sound we stopped to do the Chasm Walk. Again, it was pouring rain but we wanted to the rock chasm formed by the waters of the Cleddau River. It was well worth getting wet to see and hear the waters of this river as they bounded over and around the rocky riverbed. That was our last stop on the way back to Te Anau but we enjoyed the views of the green and yellow fields in the wide valley rising to tree-covered mountains. At Mirror Lakes we hit the 45 degrees latitude mark. This is halfway to Antarctica, and as close as I am going to get to that continent. We saw one stand of Beech trees close to Milford Sound that signaled the arrival of fall. The leaves on these trees had already turned yellow. That’s the first time we have seen changing leaves. It is the equivalent of early September here, so I assume we will see more of this in the next month. Closer to Te Anau, the landscape changed and we found ourselves in a Beech forest that reminded us of New England. Then it was back to town to the internet cafe. Once emails are sent, we plan to see a movie at the Fiordland Cinema. Ata Whenua or Shadowland is a 35 minute film of Fiordland scenery. That will end our activities for today.

I have to make a correction to yesterday’s log. I only thought I was having chocolate fondant and berry coulis for dessert for my birthday. The restaurant has changed dessert menus, so I was forced to have Mascarpone and passion fruit cheesecake. It wasn’t chocolate, but it was yummy. It arrived with a candle and I was serenaded with a happy birthday song. As we left the restaurant, I stopped to take a picture of a framed t-shirt that was signed by the Lord of the Rings “stars.” A woman working in the restaurant came up and introduced herself as Megan Harvey, part owner of the Red Cliff Cafe and proud owner of the t-shirt. Then another gentleman came up to us that we recognized. It was Richard from the boat Lady in White. We had met him, and Barry and Marilyn that sail with him, a number of times on our journey across the Pacific. His wife from England flew in to land tour New Zealand with him and it was great to meet her and see a fellow cruiser down here in Te Anau. Once again we have evidence of what a small world it is. Leaving the restaurant we looked up to see some pretty spectacular clouds. They were piled like very thick pancakes in the sky–absolutely beautiful.

We leave Te Anau in the morning and head for the southern coast. We will visit Porpoise and Curio Bays and then spend tomorrow night at the Hilltop in Papatowai. Lonely Planet says this is an exceptional backpacker surrounded by rolling green hills and that it has amazing sunset views over the bay. Hopefully the rain will subside by then and we can enjoy a view of the Southern Ocean . On a clear day I know you can’t see Antarctica, but we’ll certainly enjoy a beautiful sunset if the weather cooperates. The owner of the Hilltop reminded us to bring our own food as there are no restaurants or stores in the area. Therefore, I am assuming that there will be no internet. The next logs will be posted as soon as we have a good internet connection.

070306 Web Pics–Milford Sound