Edit Blog Post
Published: December 14th 2019
Our berth for the night: Milford Sound.
When traveling around New Zealand, if you could choose what creature to be you’d definitely be a bird. Firstly because ,until humans arrived in NZ (about 1000 years ago), there were no land mammals which meant that the birds had no predators; despite the introduction of various animals, which have all later been regretted, they are still ruling the roost - if you’ll pardon the pun. Secondly, and more importantly, due to the New Zealand road system a journey that would be 70km as the crow flies suddenly becomes over 300km is when you have to follow the one and only highway heading south.
This introduces the next stage of our journey: to the untamed, South-West of New Zealand and Milford Sound. The 6 hour drive from Queenstown took us through all four seasons: sunshine breaking through grey clouds, only to be replaced by thundering hail then settling into steady, pouring rain. To reach the sound we travelled through New Zealand’s unspoiled temperate forests and soaring mountains that make up the Fiordland National Park. As the journey progressed, the green gave way to dark rock, grey granite and ever-rising stone cliffs, the view becoming more breathtaking at every turn; the
Massive nose and forehead (waterfall for scale)
greatest reveal, though, was on going through the Homer Tunnel. This 1.2km tunnel pierces straight through the granite of the Darran Mountain Ranges, took 20 years to build, and is what makes Milford Sound the only fiord accessible by road. The Sound, connecting river and sea, was carved out by ancient glacial erosion and is flanked on all sides by towering rocky cliffs and mountains, with thundering waterfalls from glacial melt water and rain. One of the tour guides on our overnight Milford Sound cruise later described it looking like a cross between Jurassic Park, the world in Avatar and Narnia - and that’s no exaggeration.
Milford Sound is home to two permanent waterfalls and plenty more temporary ones if it’s raining - which is why they say that it’s the one tourist destination where you actually want rain. The fact that it was pouring rain (and had been for the week prior) meant that there were literally hundreds of extra waterfalls cascading down the cliffs, an extraordinary spectacle. Now I’m no poet, but the majesty of it all did inspire a few lines which I’m quite proud of:
Rain rain stick around
For my trip to Milford
It’s worth getting soaked down to my balls
For all the extra waterfalls
I’ll admit it’s hardly Keats, but I’m pleased with it.
What I’m trying to say is that it was wet. Very wet. And cold. The recommended packing list reflected this - waterproofs, sturdy shoes, warm clothes and plenty of layers. It wasn’t until we were waiting to board the Milford Mariner, our home for the night, that Charlie admitted that the jacket he’d brought was “shower proof not water proof” and that, whilst packing his overnight bag in sunny Queenstown, he’d decided that a bottle of wine and some roasted lamb sandwiches were higher priority than the aforementioned clothing suggestions. The second surprise came when we discovered that, shock horror, we’d have to sit with other people at dinner. So to be fair the bottle of wine did come in handy for a bit of pre-dinner social lubrication.
All in all, the boat trip was amazing, Charlie managed to dry out eventually and we sat with a lovely couple from Singapore who’d come all the way to New Zealand just to do a pre-wedding photo shoot. They showed us some photos, with her
A fur seal enjoying the rain. The adolescent males chill at Milford Sound until they’re big enough to hold their own against the mature males to look for a mate. Lots of hormones and teenage seal angst one would guess.
in a sleeveless flowing gown on a glacier that they had reached via helicopter. Charlie and I both privately agreed that the “engagement photo shoot” in a park in Manchester that we’d been forced to have was bad enough, and that we’d rather commit harakiri than freeze our nips off in the snow for smoochy photos that we’d be too embarrassed to ever show anyone. They told us that the photographer kept shouting at them for shivering, but fair play to them, the photos were stunning.
All good things must come to an end, though, and it was only as we emerged from the grey rocky embrace of fiordland that we realized the extent of the flooding. Whole roads had been washed away on all three routes heading north, leaving people stranded and unable to get home. We’d been planning to travel up the west coast next and had to cancel our plans, unsure when the roads north would reopen and whether we’d miss our flight to Australia, but just feeling fortunate not to be stuck anywhere more remote.
The silver lining, though, was getting to spend extra time with our lovely friends Tom and Jasmine in Wanaka.
Hundreds of temporary waterfalls, pictures just don’t do it justice. The boat is ringed in red to give a sense of scale.
They’ve been taking a break from training and living and working in a little town called Timaru, and making the most of all their weekends and days off. It was so lovely to see them, and we spent a few beautiful sunny days wining, dining, chatting and walking (in that order). All too soon, though, it was time for them to head back to work and then us to head up to Christchurch on the newly reconstructed road. Driving past the piles of silt, muck and entire trees deposited by the Rangitata river when it burst its banks, and with the shocking news of the volcano erupting in the North Island, served as a sobering reminder of the harsher, unstable side of the nature that we’d been traveling through.
Christchurch echoes that sentiment; struck by the devastating earthquake in 2011 which destroyed much of the city and claimed the lives of 185 people, the effects are still clear to see. Piles of rubble and derelict buildings nestle throughout the city, with the cathedral windows still glassless and boarded up, and surrounded by fences and scaffolding. Amongst all these sad reminders of the destruction, though, the streets are alive with
Unfortunately there was nowhere to stop for a photo next to the “kaka creek” sign.
vibrant street art which started after the earthquake to raise the spirits and morale of residents, and has since become a huge tourist attraction and served to get Christchurch named one of the street art capitals of the world. We spent our last day in New Zealand running in the Botanic Gardens, wandering around the city and eating at the various street food centers - the falafel souvlaki (for me) and barbecued chicken (Charlie) a particular highlight.
I write this last blog as we sit on the plane to Perth, Australia (shout out to on board WiFi) to see family before heading down to Melbourne for Christmas. We are 37 days into our 66 day trip and, miraculously, haven’t killed each other. As this leg of our journey draws to an close, here are some important lessons we’ve learned along the way:
- seen one shrine, seen ‘em all.
- of every two people traveling, chances are that one of them will have a big, twatty camera and the other will have to stand around whilst they take photos of the same thing from numerous angles
- if in doubt, it’s worth packing that extra bottle of wine just
in case, you never know when you might be forced to talk to other people
- Life is short, strutt your stuff like you’re the big nob in the onsen
Tot: 0.03s; Tpl: 0.018s; cc: 7; qc: 24; dbt: 0.0056s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb