Eaten alive...nearly

Trip Start Jul 30, 2010
Trip End May 29, 2011

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Where I stayed
The Croft Te Anau
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sandfly (or sand fly) is a colloquial name for any species or genus of flying, biting, blood-sucking Dipteran encountered in sandy areas – Wikipedia

Milford Sound – It rains eight days in every ten. Even in summer (like now) and even on sunny days. Simply put you should plan for it to rain. And you should also plan on being eaten by sandflies. No amount of insect repellent – not even my increasingly human repellent smelling hiking boots – make a difference. Stand in one place for more than a moment and you've invited the little buggers to feast upon you. Only layers of clothing can help but even then they find a way in or simply concentrate on your face. Welcome to the beautiful Milford Sound experience!

The drive to Te Anua – the closest town to the Milford Sound – was much quicker than our NZ-AA map said which left us regretting not driving the scenic route to fiordland. Not that the more direct route wasn’t scenic, it was, just not spectacularly so – we’re getting a bit blasť now, we only want breathtaking scenery. You can keep the rest! 

What we also want are some effective Anti-Hay fever remedies.  Four months in hot and humid Asia and not a sniffle (altho’ I know that’s to be expected), four days in NZ and the pollen is killing us...Fortunately (I think) the weather forecast for the 4 days we were spending in Fiordland was wet – good for keeping the pollen down but bad in every other way.

For our first full day in the area we decided to take one of the traditional boat tours up and around Milford Sound. The trip took just over a couple of hours and was, true to the forecast, in wet and overcast weather.  Keeping the cameras dry was a nightmare (last time the D-SLR got wet, in the humidity of the Borneo rainforest, it stopped working for a day or so until it had dried out). Hiding inside was pointless as the rain lashed the windows making them impossible to take pictures thru’ so for nigh on two hours we stood outside grateful for the occasional break in the weather as we ploughed up the fiord (Milford Sound apparently is a 'Fiord’ rather than a ‘Sound’ as it was formed by glaciers rather than by a river – see, you do learn something from this blog!). The views, thru’ the mist were, as you would expect, stunning and I’m afraid none of the photos I took come anywhere near to capturing the scale or beauty of the place.

The weather forecast for the Saturday was dire so we headed back to Te Anau and Manapouri and did several short-walks. However the dire weather never came so we walked thru’ a cloudy, if pretty hot, day (over 25c which is v. hot compared to the temperatures back in the UK right now) which is nothing to complain about. Keeping a half decent pace we managed to stay ahead of the sandflies. Any time we stopped and we were engulfed. So we didn’t stop much!

On the Sunday we decided to do a 3hr walk in Milford Sound. We had hoped that the decent weather of the day before would hold out. We were out of luck and whilst it wasn’t too cold (about 16c, which was cool enough to keep the sandflies away) it was wet. 

Our chosen walk – Key Summit – took us the expected 3hrs. The guidebook said "...walk for an hour and then climb for 30 minutes" What it should have said was ‘climb for an hour and then climb for a further 30 minutes’ because it was uphill all the way. The summit lies about 1000m above sea level and as we trudged uphill we walked thru’ the clouds that were lying in the middle of the valley. At the top there was another 20 minute ‘nature’ walk which took us across the peat bogs to the look-out points, which because of the weather simply looked out onto clouds and very little else. Apparently the views on a clear day are stunning. Such as the previous day. Oh well, at least the cool weather didn’t make the climb too arduous.
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Andy Howell on

There's a great story that Cook named Milford Sound after Milford Haven and Doubtful sound as though he thought they could get it it was doubtful they could get out ! Another cracking entry - say hello to the sandflies from Anna and me, the little buggers must be partial to a spot of Brit at Xmas time.

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