Wildlife Checklist Begins With Dolphins - Tick

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
TApanui Hilton (On the farm with Toany and Lindsay)

Flag of New Zealand  , Otago,
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

We woke up in our snuggly warm room to the sound of lashing wind and roaring wind outside and thought perhaps our planned boat tour of the fjord would be cancelled. We dressed in all our layers and full waterproofs anyway, and when we arrived at the port our boat was ready to go. Amazingly they were very happy to take us out despite the fact that there were only 4 of us aboard a vessel with the capacity for at least 150. Milford Sound is one of the South Islands premier tourist destinations and undoubtedly it would be absolutely packed in summer.

We'd picked the nature rather than scenic tour and it was brilliant. Our local guide Nick ditched the microphone and came up on the bow with us in the pouring rain to point out natural phenomena’s like twisted rock formations and tree landsides and also named the mountains and waterfalls. It was actually quite good that it was raining as we saw all of the temporary waterfalls which trickle down and spray out from the cliffs and look amazing.

When we hit the mouth of the fjord the wind gusts were incredibly strong and the swell on the Tasman Sea was intense. Predictably I immediately felt sea sick which meant Mikey and I had to stay on deck, braving the elements whilst the others headed down below for free soup. As the boat turned to head back, we were just talking about how we NEVER see any wildlife when he spotted a massive fin in the distance!!! We both saw it a coulple more times and think it was a whale or maybe shark? Anyway we were very pleased with our spot. Mikey braved the waterfall shower on the way back when the captain brought the ship right underneath it. The rest of us sensibly sheltered inside. It was 150m tall and apparently is the one Wolverine jumps off in the Origins of X-Men film.

A great trip we thought and as the sea had calmed we settled in with soup down below when the captain shouted "Dolphins" over the loud speakers and the trip went from great to FANTASTIC! We ran on deck to see  a pack of about 15, including one calf gliding up and down through the water right at the bow of the boat, some of them surfing right under the prow. The four of us onboard were hanging over the edge entranced. I couldn’t believe how close they were and how unconcerned by the massive boat above them. Their battered and scratched fins were a metre and a half from us and the water from their blow holes was shooting up towards us. The trip was topped off when we spotted fur seals lounging on the rocks a bit later. We are so VERY glad we braved the freezing weather and came out here.  Apparently you usually see the fur seals but the dolphins are only a 1/10 chance.

We’ve got the car for three days and the next destination is Tapanui where Jojo’s cousin Toany and his wife Lindsay live on their sheep farm. At first we’d intended to cycle down this way, but it would add so many miles to the journey that we couldn’t. In the car we should be able to make the most of the visit to the farm and also take in the Catlins the following day before heading back to Queenstown and picking up the bikes from the campsite.

With lots of warnings to drive safely from the boat crew, we hit the road in our little car and saw more of the stunning view on the return drive to Te Anau as the mist had lifted. As soon as we left the fjords the sun came out and clouds cleared. Apparently in Milford Sound they have at least 200 days of rainfall a year, sometimes as much as 10 metres in a year.

We took our time, enjoying the drive and spectacular scenery and making sure we kept safe on the twisting turning mountain roads, stopping to use the internet in Gore before arriving at Tapanui around 6. Amazingly in the dark, Mikey spotted the turn to Beatties road and a after quick stop at a neighbour’s house who told us to look out for the red and black letterbox we were there!

We were greeted with open arms by Lindsay and welcomed into their beautiful house with its enormous roaring fire. The evening was wonderful, great conversation and the best roast lamb we’ve ever had. Their youngest son, Jimmy is at home at the moment before he starts a new job on an enormous farm in July and he patiently tried to explain a bit of what he does there.

The Tapanui Hilton, (see tomorrow’s photo) was a little haven for us, and later we snuggled up in an amazingly comfortable bed with electric blanket, very excited about checking out the views in the morning having arrived in the dark.  It feels fantastic to be in a home after months of tents and hotels and I don’t think either of us realised just how much we’ve missed it. When Lindsay invited us to stay another night, we couldn’t think of anything nicer. Having started to find out a bit of what goes on at the farm, we’re very keen to have a proper look at it!

Miles Cycled; 0,  In a car right now
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