Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound
Spectacular, magnificent and great fun. What a great car journey - stops galore for views, although the mirror lakes weren't (see Doubtful below). The walk to the gorge produced a most photogenic photographer hanging on a rope photographing the crashing, cascading waters with his housed camera.
Some people will go to any lengths to get a better picture!
We booked the late afternoon trip toavoid the crowds - the coaches can't use the access tunnel outside 0900-1800 - Once the overnight big cruisers had left we seemed to have the Sound to ourselves, plus a few male sealions chased out during the mating season. After 4 seasons they will be big enough to fight for a mate for themselves, meanwhile they eat and sleep all day (teenagers!). Sadly the crested penguins all seem to have left - none have been sighted for 3 days.
Our choice of ship was also determined by a desire to experience a waterfall from the inside. The first waterfall pounded in as we got closer and closer until the bow of the boat began to fill. The second one was making its own rainbow and very powerful. the skipper got us closer and closer until you couldn't bear to look up into the water smashing down. Eventually just Caroline was left on the deck and the skipper couldn't play chicken any more.
On the way back we drove through the long dark tunnel (dark cos the headlights had got too dirty to show much) and stopped in the car park at the far side to photo the Kea. These parrots got a bit too close as they pooed on Darcy's car big time and kept trying to eat rubber. Darcy, we have cleaned all the Kea poo off the car and managed to stop them eating the door seal! What a fab way to end the day.
On the way
Doubtful Sound is much harder to reach; it involves two bus trips and two boats. The landscape is softer, still spectacular, but by kayak a very different pace. Here and at Milford the fresh water lays on top of the salt water and is stained with tannin, making the light levels in the clear sea water similar to deep ocean. The effect is that sea life thinks the water is deeper than it is so that divers see species that don't normally exist at such shallow depths. The day was broiling and we were slightly hot in wet suit long johns, thermal top and hat with ear muffs - don't we both look so elegant!
The only problem with all of this area, which resembles Scotland so strongly, is that the midges of Scotland are replaced by sandflies, the females of which bite like mad and make you itch incredibly,
The area normally has about 9m of rain a year and runs a hydro-electric plant which, due to a long dry spell, is one metre of lake depth from being unable to work.
We had two glorious dry and quite hot days in Fjiordland - a welcome change in the weather for this trip. So after the kayaking Caroline went for her first swim in NZ - 18C so not too bad.
The overnight kayakers had a kiwi snuffling around the camp - they have also seen a kiwi in the wild, but also haven't seen a possum!