Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The NZ Lowdown 6: Fiordland (Part II)

The Spectacular Milford Sound

Our day was off to an early start. Actually, earlier than necessary, because a small pattern had begun to emerge. Like many men, M has a TV addiction. And the remote control serves as an accessory appendage for him. By now, each morning has begun earlier than required, with some cricket on TV. And likewise no bedtime had swung around without cricket highlights from the day. This was all quite bewildering to me due to his acute revelation on Day 1 of our trip!  

But anyway, the real purpose of our early start for the day was a guided day tour - the major focus being a cruise on Milford Sound. Our guide Andrew (oddly, a Welshman!) collected us at our hotel & a small group of us made the drive up from Te Anau to Milford Sound, stopping off occasionally at a few locations en-route for photo opportunities.

Milford Sound forms part of the Fiordland National Park (a World Heritage Site), and is reportedly the most famous tourist destination in NZ, in spite of its remote location on the southwest side of the South Island - literally at least 1-2 hours from anywhere. It is really something else to witness - Rudyard Kipling even described it as "The Eighth Wonder Of The World". It's actually a fiord, although was originally, wrongly named a sound by Captain Cook when he charted the area back in the 1770s.

In spite of the gorgeous weather the day before, our Milford Sound day was characteristically wet - the Fiordland National Park region experiences tremendous annual rainfalls, apparently on about 200 days or more of each year!  Nevertheless though, the scenery was spectacular, & I imagine it wouldn't matter what kind of weather you visited this region in - each would bring its own, special mood to the region. I found the low clouds very mysterious during our cruise - very moody indeed.

Moody Milford Sound

We also saw plenty of wildlife during the trip - especially colonies of NZ fur seals on the rocks at the side of the water. They were thankfully completely unimpressed by the numerous boats cruising up and down the sound.

Basking NZ fur seals 

Mitre Peak is one of the most photographed mountains in the country - typically you'll see photos of it on clear blue sky days when it is reflected brilliantly in the water below. Our weather didn't allow us this privilege, but it still looked formidable, rising almost a mile out of the water into the clouds.

The famous Mitre Peak

M stole my small camera. A few hundred photos later…...

The Lesser-Spotted Brit!

We cruised along the sound for a couple of hours - it's about 16km long & opens out into the Tasman Sea - and on our moody weather day, you can imagine how rocky the sea was when we reached it. Quite a ride, let me tell you! But one of the benefits of the area's terrific rainfalls is that they really accentuate the waterfalls that fall from the sheer cliff faces rising either side of the sound. 

The waterfalls were especially spectacular due to the day's rainfall
After a bit of lunch and some coffee on the boat, we finished our cruise & met up again with our tour guide, & our small group drove south back toward Te Anau, with a few more stops en-route for yet more photo opportunities. 

More moody mountainous terrain on the drive back to Te Anau

Another stunning waterfall captured on the way home, off Milford Sound Highway

More scenes from the journey home.
Still moody, but a little sunshine tried to break through by early afternoon

After we dried off back at the hotel, we decided to take a drive over to the Te Anau Wildlife Centre - a great little place to visit. We were lucky enough to see a rare, flightless takahe - a chunky bird that looks like a big blue chicken with a stout red beak. These fellas were thought to be extinct for the longest time, until a few pairs of them were spotted in the mid 1900s on the Murchison Mountains. They look a bit like bigger versions of the not-so-rare pukeko - and birds like this are thought to have been ancestors of the takahe.  

A pukeko (left) and a takahe (right)

Afterwards we were feeling pretty exhausted to be honest, it had been a long day, although great fun and eventful. I should say that in addition to his cricket habit, M had begun to develop quite a taste for fast food "Commonwealth style" -  pasties, meat pies, and fish & chips had become something he'd beg for each day!  So for dinner I gave in to his addiction & we headed out so he could get his fish & chip fix for the day! 

He was also quite taken by the newspaper wrapping!

In spite of the day's amazing scenery, I think this was the bit of the day that he treasured the most.


Angela said...

These pictures are making me insanely jealous!
NZ is absolutely breathtaking, and I love reading your stories about it.

Natalia said...

Beautiful photos!! Isn't that drive to Milford INSANE?!? NZed has such bizarre birds. I loved the pukekos and wekas, they are so damn funny! And I could go for some greasy "fush & chups" right about now

Julie said...

Ah! Gorgeous pictures! I love the seals!

Jane said...

Fantastic photos and a great diary to go with them Nicky. A friend of mine has just returned from a trip to New Zealand and was extremely lucky to visit Christchurch just a few days before the earthquake hit. So terribly sad to see the devastation and hear about the rising death toll.

Heather said...

What beautiful pictures, Nicky! Amazing. I have to say, I'm with M on the fish and chips...any time I've been to England, it is a must for me...can't get enough of them. Yum!

Pete Buckley said...

Milford is an awesome place and these are great pictures - the weather just adds atmosphere to places like this I think.

It's a Dog Tag Wife Life said...

Oh my gosh, your photos are gorgeous! If the whole vet thing doesn't work out, I'd say you could be a photog.

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