Milford Sound

The guide’s information on this cruise was really good, but I didn’t manage to note it all down. One thing they did say was that Milford Sound is actually not really a Sound but a Fijord, because it opens out to the sea. It has both freshwater and sea water in it, providing a unique habitat for all kinds of creatures. We didn’t see any dolphins, though they are sometimes seen there. But we did see a penguin preening himself. He was too far away for me to get a picture though.

The largest glacier in New Zealand is the Tasman, and I think they said that it is melting on average 60cm per day now. At the current rate, there won’t be any glaciers left in NZ within the next fifty years. I will have to come back again to try and see one, as our attempts this time were a wash out.

Mitre Peak is the iconic peak that people most easily associate with Milford Sound. It looms in a craggy and formidable way, snow sprinkled, just opposite the jetty where the cruises set off. Apparently one local man has climbed it three times bare foot!

If they go 6 days without rain here it’s considered a drought! If it rains when you’re here, the trip is only more spectacular due to the many waterfalls that proliferate. While we were there, it didn’t rain, but there were still a few permanent waterfalls that fall from a huge height for us to marvel at. Stirling Falls was one of them. It falls three times the height of Niagara Falls! 😲

Here is Lady Bowen Falls:

The cruise boat skippers take delight in seeing how close to these high waterfalls they can sail. On our boat, the crew set out a tray with a load of glasses on it and balanced it on the very front of the boat. The skipper managed to come so close to the waterfall that all the glasses filled with pure glacial water. We then had the chance to drink it of course!

I got chatting with one of the crew of the boat, who’s half Fijian, half Kiwi. He has lived here and worked on the boats for about two years. I guess he must be in his mid 20s.

I asked him what it was like being so cut off from the rest of the world (it takes him half a day to get to the nearest town, even, and WiFi is so expensive it’s pretty much off limits to him). He said to be honest that all the goings on in the world seem pretty meaningless and trifling when you’re surrounded by the product of hundreds of thousands of years worth of glaciation every day. He pointed out the three visible “shelves” in the rock on either side of the Sound (you might be able to see them in the picture above), said each one had been created by an ice age, and divers have found two more beneath the surface as well.

He talked about the climate change issue. From his point of view, it’s sad, but the reality is that most of the species of animal now alive will be extinct before too long if you talk in terms of ice ages, anyway. He expressed a similar point of view to others I’ve met on my travels in NZ that we are mistaken if we think we are capable of really having much effect on the colossal forces of nature at work. But then his dad did work in the oil industry. He definitely has a point though, and it continues to give me much food for thought.

However, it is worth noting that within minutes of having made this statement, he was talking to us about the importance of not feeding kea, because when we give them food (even nuts and fruit) that they wouldn’t naturally be able to find, recent research has shown that it acts like cocaine on them, giving them such a sugar rush that they often become aggressive towards each other. In other words, the world may be going to hell in a hand cart, but there’s no need for us to give it a helping hand, I suppose.

Kea are highly intelligent birds, also having an eye to the main chance. Apparently a pack of keas have been known to hunt and kill a sheep before. The guy on the boat told us a story about a group of kea that had recently been seen dragging cones across a road to stop the cars so they could beg for food!

Kea have also been seen riding on the roof of coaches and cars through the Homer Tunnel to save them the bother of having to fly over the top! They stay hunkered down on the vehicles until they get down to Milford, then fly off. We actually saw a kea sitting on the back of a coach roof, pecking at the rubber seal to the windows, something they’re infamous for.

Some more images from the trip:

Here you can see where the vegetation has grown so well it has become too heavy and slipped into the water, taking some of the rock face with it:

I had my first taste of Lemon & Paeroa on this trip too. Cheers! 😋