In Te Anau, the gateway to the Milford Sound, we stayed at Rosie’s Homestay (one of the highest rated BBH), which we only can highly recommend. The first afternoon, we just went on a two hours walk around Lake Te Anau to Brod Bay to move our lazy bones after spending hours and hours in the car.
The owner of Rosie’s suggested taking the 10:00 am cruise the next day and this was the thing to do. There is a 09:00 am tour for those who absolutely want the fjord to themselves, but at the end of March the sun is too low at that time in order to enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
Not many places on earth receive more rainfall than Fjordland, 6 meters per year, BUT we had nothing but sunshine for the entire three days of our stay. Blue skies, a bit of a breeze and balmy temperature accompanied us on this wonderful experience. To call this place spectacular does not do it justice, but we are running out of descriptive adjectives, especially after having been to the Doubtful Sound as well. Milford Sound, as well as Doubtful Sound, are actually fjords, because they were carved out of the hard granite by glaciers and then flooded by the ocean. Well, when they were named, this distinction did not exist yet and neither was the word “fjord” part of the vocabulary of the English seafarers who first poked their nose into them.
The Maoris were actually the first to put up camp out there, doing some whale spotting. Early European whalers and seal hunters followed their tracks. The constant rain and especially the very nasty sand flies made life very uncomfortable and nobody lasted here long.
Our small boat, the MV Friendship, took us along the narrow passage with steep, almost vertical slopes plunging into the sea. The highest mountain, the 1692 meter high Mitre Peak, is the best example of this. We also passed several waterfalls and we went so close that those outside were taking a very cold shower.
The vessel carried only 20 passengers that day, so we had lots of space and this intimate environment encouraged getting to know our fellow passengers. We had a truly exciting exchange with a young man from Eritrea, the first person we ever talked to from this country. It gave us some crazy ideas. There is for instance excellent scuba diving, he told us. On top of that, according to him, the region is completely peaceful now. So in the evening, we started talking about further trips…
When we came back to the wharf after a good two hour cruise, the place was packed with tour busses and we praised ourselves for leaving so early, which by the way was 07:30 am, in thick fog that slowly lifted and revealed mountain tops touched by the early morning sun.
Naturally most people come here to tour the fjord by boat, but this area is also popular for trekking or tramping as they called it in New Zealand, with the Milford & Kepler Treks probably being the more popular ones.
Driving back to Te Anau, we stopped at “The Chasm”, where, after a little walk, you come to a spot where the Cleddau River has created the most bizarre rock formations. The little walk is truly picturesque as well. However, when we arrived, there were 11 tour busses at the parking lot and the little path was crowded with mostly Japanese tourist groups who even on this short 15 minutes trail were coached by their guides at two different spots!
Another fabulous little walk was the to Cascade Creek: this is a 40 minutes walk through a forest of red beech trees, but the amazing thing is that the entire floor and all fallen trees are covered by a thick layer of moss. We loved this little stroll!