A vision in the mist. Milford Sound, New Zealand

June 30, 2010 at 1:34 am Leave a comment

For some reason the thick fog came as a surprise. We always knew that we were taking a chance coming to Milford Sound, especially during winter. With up to 9 metres of rain annually and around 200 days of rainfall a year, the scales were tipped firmly against us from the outset. Nonetheless when we climbed out of the van in the morning to find that what had been a spectacular and clear view the night before was now a hazy void, we were a little disappointed.

The weather had been so much more promising when Gary had awoken at 7am to photograph the sunrise. With him he had brought back a handful of mystical snaps, an icy breeze, a hundred sandflies and one crazy Kea – an odd parrot-like bird that flew into our van, sat on the steeringwheel and then hopped onto our metal roof, sliding about on his little claws begging for scraps of bread or apple. We had come this far though, driving 291km along a stunning but fuel-intensive road that led to only one place so we reckoned we might as well get out on the water for a bit.

Never has a reluctant last-minute decision proved to be so wise. We had barely cleared the harbour when the cloud cover started to thin and Milford Sound came into sharp(ish) focus. Out of the fog came a parade of chisled rockfaces that plummeted into milky water; waterfalls of every shape and size from long thin temporary streams to thundering sheets; and steep cliffs where moss and evergreens clung to soil-less surfaces. All of a sudden that thick haze that had so bothered us only 20 minutes before was a bonus, adding mystery to the countless lumbering headlands that lay sleeping around the fjiord.

Free cups of awful hot tea and coffee in hand we ran from one side of the boat to the other, partially to be sure that we were taking in every inch of this magical place and partially to keep warm in the thick icyness of the day. All over the boat runaway hats darted across the deck and liquids sloshed out of paper cups as the boat lumbered from the narrowest part of the sound into the open sea. Luckily as seasickness started to colour otherwise blue faces, we turned back towards the dock and… Was that?… A waterfall? The huge group of Argentinians who had been perched on the front of the boat started to scream as the nose of the boat dipped into a waterfall, spraying them all with cold water. Panicing, the rest of the passengers stampeded towards the door only to discover that the angelically smiling boat staff had already locked them in anticipation, leaving us all open to the wrath of the reminants of last night’s torrential shower. Pantomining a racially diverse cartoon we darted for the other side of the boat, running in circles around the boat as it rotated in the spray.

Just as we thought the trip couldn’t get any better it did when one of the Argentinians screamed again, alerting us to some new company. Darting alongside the boat was a pod of huge dolphins hardly smaller than whales. We dutifully oohed and aahed as they jumped out of the water, graduating first to tail flips and eventually to backflips. Before long they were leaping out of the water, bellies exposed, every few minutes to an audience of flashing cameras. Now they were just showing off.

By the time we got back to the boat landing we were completely enchanted by Milford Sound and its inhabitants, not to mention the fantastic boat crew on the Cruise Milford tour. At $70 it was worth every red cent and without a doubt one of the best attractions New Zealand has to offer.

There are more pictures from Millford Sound available in the gallery

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Entry filed under: Travel. Tags: , , , , .

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