So we made it through the night sleeping in the car without a knock at the window from Milford Sounds Lodge’s staff. Before setting off for today’s cruise we thought it would only be right to make use of their showers and kitchen seen as we’d already used the car park as a hotel. Stealing someones bacon from the fridge was probably a step too far so we made do with our eggs and beans and then made our way down to the seafront. Washed, fed and re-energised for a grand total of £0 🙂
The Milford Sounds cruise is what most people come to the area for. There isn’t much else going on here except kayaking and a few hikes into the mountains. We boarded at 9am and set off down the fiord towards the open Tasman Sea. The scenery was beautiful, tall mountain peaks on either side covered in trees, shrubs and moss with waterfalls everywhere. Being a temperate rainforest, it was rather chilly out on deck so I left Nick up there after about 20 minutes and made it downstairs for some warmth.
Milford Sounds gets roughly 6 meters of rain a year. We were surprised to hear that due to such heavy rainfall the top of the sea in this area is made up of clearwater, it’s not until 3 meters deep that salty sea water is found. These unusual conditions apparently influence the sea life in the area too, many species that are usually found at depths of below 100 meters can be seen at just 30 meters deep.
It wasn’t long until we got to see some of the amazing sea life, first up was a group of playful dolphins. They raced along in pairs giving us glimpses as they jumped out of the water. We had swam with dolphins in Dubai but seeing them in their natural environment like this was a first for both of us and the highlight of the cruise for me. After circling our boat for a while a few of them swam right in front where we got a great view from the lower deck, they kept speed with the boat and almost looked like they were putting on a show for us as they swam from left to right, spinning upside down and occasionally rising for air.
After the dolphins we were treated some sea lions and then another first for me when I saw the end of a rainbow. My reaction wasn’t as excited as the table of Chinese people behind me though, it must have been the first rainbow they had ever seen judging by their screams as they run at full pelt to get photos. It’s always interesting to see people’s reaction to things we consider ‘normal’, whilst I’m sure some of the things we find fascinating as we travel the world are just as ‘normal’ to others.
Back to shore, we set off to do one of the hikes in the area, the key summit. Milford is actually famous for it’s 5 day hike called the Milford Track which is apparently one of the most picturesque hikes in the world. But we are in no shape for a 5 day hike so picked this one as it’s a 3 hour return, much more realistic. As we parked up for the hike Nick reversed into someone, we must have been going about 2mph but it was enough to leave a dent on both cars. Checking our excess, it looks like we’re going to have a £750 bill upon returning the car so today has turned into a very expensive one 🙁
Not letting it ruin our plans we set off for the key summit and got chatting to a couple from Canada on the way up (who were on our cruise this morning), they were carrying their new born baby, were probably 10-15 years older than me and I still couldn’t keep up! I blame my short legs. Anyway, after an hour long uphill struggle we were rewarded with some views that quickly made me forget about the pain in every muscle below my waist. It was beautiful, bright blue skies, snow capped mountains and green rolling hills in every direction. It didn’t quite top the walks we did in Banff but it’s my favourite of New Zealand so far.
The plan after the the hike was to head back Te Anau and run around the lake but obviously that didn’t happen. Instead we sneaked into a holiday park, used their showers, kitchen, TV room and internet for 3 hours before heading to Lumsden where we planned to sleep for the night. I’ve just realised we started and ended this day using the facilities of places we’re not evening staying at, it’s becoming quite a habit 🙂