Milford Sound

Trip Start Aug 11, 2010
Trip End May 21, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , Southland,
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

If anyone who has been reading our blogs is getting a bit fed-up with hearing about how great everything is and how beautiful and how lucky we are etc, then you might find this blog refreshing.

When we first began to research New Zealand, a trip to Milford Sound was high on our list of priorities. This area is described by Lonely Planet as having 'some of the most spectacular landscapes' with Milford Sound comprising of ‘forested cliffs soaring almost vertically over still, deep waters’. Sounds good. Following LP’s recommendation, that one of the best ways to enjoy and appreciate this place is by kayak, we splashed out on a trip that we would take in two days.

We began the super-long journey in our trusty campervan and were rewarded with some spectacular sights before we even began to journey up the famous Milford road. We stopped for one night in Te Anau and then continued on the next day. It unfortunately rained on the day we travelled up the Milford road which meant that thick cloud obscured the tops of the cliffs. However, it did seem to add an extra layer of vibrance to the rainforest on the edge of the road. Also, the water ran off the tall mountains, forming lots of spontaneous waterfalls. This was impressive.

When we arrived eventually in Milford Sound we found that it was a tiny town that was centred solely on tourism. We got our first glimpse of the views that we had heard so much about and were impressed by them but we couldn’t help but feel a tinge of disappointment that we could see little because of the heavy rain. We looked forward to our kayaking trip the next day when there wouldn’t be any rain and we would get to see the postcard picture that we had glimpsed repeatedly during our stay in New Zealand.

We realised at 6am the next day that things might not happen as planned. Our quick sprints to the toilets and kitchen block from our campervan, in a futile attempt to lessen the impact of the heavy rain and to avoid the ever-present sandflies, unfortunately characterised the whole day. Ever the optimists, we got ready anyway and met the tour group in the lounge. We were told that the trip would not be cancelled despite the company’s earlier trip being cancelled. So we signed the disclaimer, sprinted to the van and followed the group to the harbour with our wipers on full pelt. Here we got changed into stripy, attractive and non-flattering (especially for the men) tight tops and leggings and then put on a fleece, raincoat and huge yellow kayak ‘skirt’. Cool. 

Our guide followed the logic that because we were going to be outside all morning we should go and stand outside as soon as possible. So, despite our reservations, we obeyed and stood in the rain and listened. After a pretty long safety briefing that was accompanied by everyone batting the flies from their faces and trying to maintain their fixed grins, we finally got in the bright yellow kayaks and on the water. Not so fast.... more safety information was apparently needed as well as thorough instructions on what to do with a paddle. Without this information I am sure I would have just thought that it was an extreme weapon to use against sandflies. Please remember that all of this is taking place in the constant, relentless, heavy rain.

When we finally began kayaking the guide asked us where we were from and when we said England she said that we must be used to this weather. I bit my tongue so that I didn’t say that I rarely, if ever, decide to sit outside in the cold rain for several hours, much less pay a hefty amount for the pleasure. Instead, I smiled and tried to enjoy the experience. And it was an experience nevertheless. Some parts were good too like seeing lots of high, lengthy waterfalls that had just started with the rain, and we saw one permanent one which we were told provides the power for the town. The cliffs rose high above us but we couldn’t see the top. This was due to the rain in two ways: first, the clouds were in the way, and second, the rain went into our eyes when we looked upwards so we had to quickly look back down again and concentrate on mastering the art of the paddle. Still it was good to be there. But as we got wetter and the wet started to seep through the layers, this feeling started to diminish. Equally, the constant disappointment from having to turn round because every way to every sight that we wanted to see was too dangerous due to the weather, started to dampen (literally and metaphorically) our spirits. The guide finally gave up and took us back to base two hours early. So our long-awaited trip to Milford Sound had ended with us not having actually got out on to the fjord at all and with us seeing very little.

Overall, it was a disappointing experience. We were happy to get dry again and to get back into our now-cosy campervan.
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Laura Lancaster on

You poor things- that rain sounds dreadful! Glad though that overall you are loving your trip so far. I'm still VERY jealous! Where will you be for Christmas- in Australia?
Sorry I haven't been in touch for a while, my sister is in labour at the moment! Will let you know when there is any news.
Take care of yourselves and I will try and be better at staying in touch!
Loads of love xx

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