The Sound of Milford Sound

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April 2nd 2010
Published: May 28th 2010
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Weeks before I went there I had booked a trip on the Milford Sound
(first a coach was to take me from Te Anau where I would be spending
four nights over Easter and then a boat trip on the Sound) through the
Naked Bus Company, getting what I thought was a good deal, but not
having any idea what I was going to get. Having spent the last few
years in South East Asia where Murphy and his Law is prevalent
everywhere, I really wasn't sure what to expect. I often wondered how
many times my bus would break down on the way out to the Sound (a two
to three hour trip, depending on how many times one stops to enjoy the
marvelous vistas). How many times would the tire fly off, roll down a
steep hill, never to be seen again? How many times will various parts
drop out of the bottom of the bus, parts unfamiliar to even the most
worldly of mechanics? How many flat tires will we get on this journey?
What about the boat -- I had visions of leaks sprouting up everywhere,
with the passengers spread out on the deck, plugging all the holes
with their fingertips, until all their digits were used up. Would it
be a rusted, rattletrap of a boat, would we get stranded in the middle
of the Sound with no one around to pick us up? Would we sink? Surely
we'd freeze, we'd die, we'd rot, we'd become shark bait. Ok, so there
aren't any sharks in the Sound, but perhaps the seals or penguins eat
humans? Killer penguins, yeah, that's more like it.....and everyone
thinks they're oh so cute.....little do they *really* know!

Ok, I'm not a pessimist by nature, but I really had no idea what was
to come of a "cheap trip." As it turned out, the drive out to Milford
was one of the best road trips I had ever taken; it was an incredibly
scenic drive, and we even stopped numerous times for vista viewing, a
chance to see a cheeky little Kea (a mountain parrot living in the
Southern Alps in New Zealand) and to play in the snow. That's not
true, we walked to and touched the one snow patch we came across,
right before the famous Homer Tunnel. It was quite a large patch of
snow, on the ground level, that has been there for months and never
melted (remember, winter is about to arrive in the next few months
here in the southern hemisphere). The trip was full of wonderful
commentary, funny antics and loaded with historical facts of the area.
The coach was first class, and I got to ride in the very front,
staring wide-eyed out through the massive window in front of me, like
a kid in a candy store. The coach was built with massive side windows
as well as windowed ceilings for viewing the high-peaked mountains and
numerous free-falling waterfalls we passed on the journey.

The week before I went to Milford, a freak storm blew through and
knocked over massive amounts of trees, blocking access to the road for
4 days. I saw evidence of this storm on the road in to Milford as well
as before, on my trip down the main north-south road from Nelson. It
hit some areas pretty badly, with it's tornado forces. I was in Nelson
when the storm hit, but at least we were spared there.

The boat was equally as first-classed and all the worrying I did
before was for naught. It was not too crowded and despite the crap
weather (ok, so it can't all be perfect...), I took a stand at the
front of the boat, on the upper deck, and hardly moved for the entire
trip. I had up close views of the incredible mountains (er, not the
peaks, though, as they were all shrouded in clouds) and impressive
waterfalls. Everyone had always said, because of all the recent rains,
the waterfalls would be quite impressive. I kept thinking "Aw,
waterfall, shmaterfall, I've seen them before, whatever...." but was
absolutely blown away by the beauty of it all. I have never before
seen such perfectly vertical shear peaks rising nearly 4000 feet from
the water. The fjords were mind boggling. The waterfalls were
everywhere; I quickly lost count of how may I could see at a time.
Some of the waterfalls never even touched the sound; it was as if they
just evaporated somewhere mid-fall.

I only saw four lazy seals but sadly no penguins. A few dolphins swam
alongside us for a bit, which is always a highlight, but I couldn't
seem to take my eyes off the incredible sheer rock faces, so vertical,
so....up! It made me think of heading to Norway and checking out their

The 100-minute boat journey was definitely a highlight of my trip and
worth every penny. I was so intrigued at the beauty of the Sounds I
wanted to check out Doubtful Sound as well, especially since the boat
company was offering an end of season promotion. For less than the
price of a day trip one could take an overnight trip on Doubtful
Sound, stay the night on the boat and wake up to the beauty and
tranquility of the Sound, alone, with no one else around. But, as luck
would have it (or not have it...), they were fully booked up for the
next 10 days and I was unable to sit around and wait.

Easter Sunday, two days after I took my trip to Milford Sound in the
rainy, cloudy and cold weather, turned out to be a brilliant day, full
of warm sunshine and very few clouds. I talked with a few people who
had a perfectly clear day on the Sounds. Figures. Oh well, it was
still spectacular when I went. After all, I got waterfalls......all
they got was a sunny day and a chance to view the peaks of the
mountains, wildlife viewing and I'm sure, fabulous photos. My photos?
Not so good.....

There's always next time......


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