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Thursday, January 28, 2016

NZ's Mist-ical Fiordland & Milford Sound

Wicked Camper Van in front of us on the way to Milford Sound,
with the apt quote :It is what it is.  You just gotta get used to it."
"What do I want to do on New Zealand's South Island?  Go to Milford Sound," Wayne declared.  There wasn't really a why, more a "because it's there."  Simply put, Milford's the "most South" Wayne wanted to go.  Everyone needs a turning point.  Milford Sound was his for New Zealand.

Impromptu waterfalls on the cliff at the Milford Sound tunnel entrance.
And why not?  Arguably it's the most famous and likely most visited part of New Zealand's enormous Fiordland National Park*.  While it's easy to scoff, some tourist attractions are just that for a darned good reason.  If you've seen many New Zealand photos, Milford Sound images like Mitre are probably in the mix, garnering "oohs and ahhs."  They feature jagged, towering peaks, white snowy tops, azure skies reflected off glassy surface of Milford Sound.

*Fiordland is New Zealand's largest park, at over 12,500 square kilometers.

Happily, the tunnel through to New Zealand's Fiordland National
Park  s vastly improved over when I drove it 15 years prior.
Later that day, in Invercargill,  friends asked in mock sarcasm, snickering a wee bit,"You got rained out of Milford Sound?!?"

Facts are, those lovely Milford Sound photos were well timed.  One of the rainiest places on earth, Milford Sound rains about two thirds of the time, and does so in prodigious volumes.  Milford Sound gets about 268 inches of rain annually.

Instead of the several days we planned making day trips from our Te Anau lakeside Department of Conservation tent campsite, we bailed.  

Actually, we were lucky.  When we arrived the night prior in nearby in Te Anau and set camp in a forested campsite softly carpeted with pine needles, it was dry.   A little later, we admired the lake laying atop the surprisingly comfortable beach of small, rounded pebbles. 

A couple gals hamming it up in their  de rigeur rain ponchos
near Milford Sound Visitor Center.
Overnight, I awoke a few times to the sound of light sprinkles.  The overcast morning skies lulled me into a late sleep.  Once awake, we hurriedly slurped down instant coffee "to go" from our camp stove, and in the last minute or so breaking camp, "just in case," it began sprinkling again.

Driving toward Milford Sound, the sprinkle became a rain, then an unremitting downpour.  Prophetically, the van in front of us proclaimed, "It is what it is.  You just gotta get used to it."

This Milford Sound area placard explains the view....
Given this is what the view actually looked like,
imagination was required.
Indeed, whatever happens is all part of the adventure.  The rain made for amazing waterfalls.  Everywhere we looked, if there was a vertical surface --and we were surrounded by them -- there was at least one waterfall cascading down.  Many exploded not only down, but also out.  The volume of water was so great it couldn't cascade down fast enough.

The Milford Sound Visitor Center made a killing on their poncho sales.  The crowds were a bit too much for us, with cement floors providing the perfect acoustical system for reverberating sound.  It may have provided shelter, but we weren't going to see the Sound from inside.  We moved on.

The Chasm is one of the short walks we took
in the rain before leaving Fiordland.
Rocks hollowed out by the force of the water at The Chasm.
Leave it to a fellow Washingtonian in
Milford Sound to use a grocery bag to
keep herself dry.  She lives in La Center,
WA.
Mystical or mist-ical, Fiordland's Milford Sound is still worth a stop.

While we spent far less time than we'd planned in Milford Sound, beating a hasty retreat led us sooner to Invercargill, where our friend John Kalb insisted on giving up his bed for us in his house full of guests.  

More on Invercargill in a future post.

We decided the views wouldn't be worth the price
especially on such a misty day in Milford Sound.
Location Location
We're currently road-tripping in New Zealand until ~February 8, 2016.  We're in South Island's Otago area in Oamaru working our way back up New Zealand's South Island.  This post is about our travel a few days ago, January 25-26 2016 in the Milford Sound area in Southern South Island, New Zealand.  Meanwhile our boat is in Whangarei's Town Basin Marina (S35.43.474 E174.19.599), soon to move to Riverside for haul out.  

"Summer" in Fiordland meant the rivers were
graced with foxglove blooms.
Cruising by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand.  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.