Posted by: Wink | February 4, 2011

Drenching rain in Milford Sound – spectacular waterfalls!

Leaving warm and sunny Queenstown, we drove south and then west to Te Anau, a small town on NZ’s largest lake (by volume). Te Anau is the gateway to Fiordlands National Park, NZ’s largest park, and a UNESCO world heritage site.

We stopped to see the takahe bird they have in captivity in Te Anau. There are only some 200 left, as they are flightless and have been preyed upon by the stoat, a ferret type of animal that was introduced to reduce the rabbit population. NZ only has two indigenous mammals and they are bats. All other mammals were introduced – so many of the original birds here were flightless because they had no natural predators.

By lunchtime, as we headed north toward Milford Sound, the rain had started. Dense clouds and driving rain continued as we drove. Jon, our guide, said it was a blessing in disguise because Milford Sound comes alive with waterfalls when it rains. He was right. The mountains are solid rock with little soil so the rain simply pours off into the valleys/fiords. This area receives over 10 meters of rain a year, nearly the height of a four story building.

By the way, Milford Sound is really a fiord not a sound. Fiords are glacially carved while sounds are formed when the ocean floods a river valley. (It is spelled fiord down here rather than fjord.)

To reach Milford Sound, you have to drive through a long single lane tunnel and along twisting roads across many one-lane bridges. We jumped out of our bus several times even though we got drenched to see the amazing power of water cascading from kilometer-high vertical walls of granite.

Around 4:30pm, we boarded the Milford Mariner for an overnight trip which included nosing right up to pounding waterfalls to “give the boat a wee washing”, kayaking in the rain along the shore, and eating our last dinner as a Wilderness Travel group. We had a cozy cabin with a king size bed, and a decent bathroom with shower!

Sent from my iPad

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