Today I am going on a day cruise of the famous Milford Sound in New Zealand. Milford Sound is a fiord – a slither of sea between high cliffs. The weather today is beautiful as can be but I am told it is hard to have a bad cruise….even if it is raining the resulting waterfalls are magical. I take lots of photos but unfortunately they don’t do justice. It is impossible to capture what I see, feel, and think while I am there.
In the morning I head down to the car park at Milford Sound area where the day cruises launch. There is a self pay machine for parking. There is free parking but further away so today I just pay. As I pay I am attacked by sandflies. There is a little shop in the visitors center where I pick up some bug spray. I hope it helps.
I have a little while before my cruise begins so I walk along the water. The views are amazing just from the short alone.
I head down to the pier to board for the cruise. Today’s cruise is a two and half hour cruise. It seems pretty short so I hope it is worth the overnight trip down here. Many come down here from Queenstown by coach for just a short day cruise. It seems like a super long day.
As the cruise starts we are already are greeted with a nearby waterfall.
As we head further and further the views keep getting better.
I admire the sides of the cliffs.
We catch some seals in the sun. I am loving the colors on these rocks as well.
We start to see all the waterfalls along the sides. It is beautiful. Apparently when it rains you will see even more. I’ve been told it is magical.
The boat cruises up to the cliff and the waterfall pours onto the boat and into glasses. They let us taste the fresh waterfall water.
We reach the end of the fiord. Beyond this point is the vast sea. We turn around at this point and head back.
We arrive back at the port. I walk around a bit more to take some more pictures before I head off to Queenstown.
I am not sure the pictures capture the feeling of the cruise but perhaps this short video will….
My drive to Queenstown has many stops so I’ll post more on that later.
This morning I am heading to Te Anau. Te Anau is just an overnight stop on my way to Milford Sound. I could drive straight to Milford Sound in a day but it is a long drive so I choose to break it up with an overnight in Te Anau instead.
From Moeraki the drive takes about 4 hours or so. I don’t stop too much on the way except a time or two for health breaks and great views.
I am running low on gas so I am happy when I find a rest stop Alpine Centre Cafe & Bar – almost at Te Anau – where I see a newly sheared alpaca who wants some snacks.
I am pleased that my holiday park for the night is right around the corner from the rest stop.
The glow worm tour is a cruise across a lake to a cave where they can be observed. I drive down to the port to catch my boat after I settle in at the campsite (settle in = put my perishables in the refrigerator).
We start off with a breezy boat ride ride on the lake. I take in the breathtaking views as we cross the lake.
Once on shore they split us to two groups. My group tours the area around the cave while the tour guide talks about wildlife and the vegetation.
Then we enter into the cavern house where we learn about the glow worms and are given special safety instructions for the viewing. Glow worms are actually fungus gnats in their larvae stage. They glow to attract prey that they feed on and appear in the darkness. Tour guides do not let us take pictures or video inside so I’ll try to best describe the experience: First we walk into a cave along a series of platforms. It gets progressively darker inside. I can start to see little bits of the worms in the moist parts of the cave above and beside us. We eventually get to a set of stairs that lead to a platform where there is a little boat. There are two long benches where our group splits along facing outwards the boat to the sides. There is a boat guide who has a light as we board but after we are safely boarded turns off this light and guides the boat only by grabbing a chain above and pulling us down a water tunnel. At first it isn’t very impressive. Just faint glows but eventually we float to areas with more densely populated worms. Our guide tells us to look up and he glides us by and turns the boat around so all have a great view of the glowing above. We go through a couple sections of these before we return to the start to walk back out the tunnel.
There are multiple scheduled times of the viewings so we wait for our boat to return with another group by the shore.
Soon we take the boat ride back to our starting location. The temperature has dropped and the wind is strong. Only a few of us brave the ride on the top. I spent so much of my travels hot so I take advantage of this moment of coldness; although I regret it later in the evening when I cannot get warm in my van.
Once back to the campsite I prepare my dinner and head to bed. It is late but still light out. It is January but I have to remember this is their summer and the sun sets later.
That evening the campervan is so cold so it makes me want buy another blanket. I have a hard time getting comfortable to get a restorative sleep. I don’t see any stores on my way to my next location so I hope I’ll be ok for the next few days.
Next morning drive to Milford Sound
In the morning I am driving to my next campsite in Milford Sound. I’ve been warned about the narrow, curvy roads and tunnels of this part of the drive. I am nervous but I’ll take it slow and drive during the day.
It is on this drive that my GPS starts to crap out on me. Luckily I have backup systems like google and maps.me and the drive route seems pretty straight forward.
There are a couple stops along the way as well as some walking tracks. I unfortunately do not schedule time for any walking tracks, New Zealand is too big of a country! I do make a couple photo stops though.
Cascade Creek Road
The drive takes somewhere between 3 to 4 hours. I stop along way many times and drive slower than the speed limit just to be safe. Most of the ride is pretty easy but the last probably 45 minutes is the most challenging part: narrow and curvy roads, inclines and declines, and the famous tunnel everyone talks about. The tunnel goes through a mountain and only allows for traffic in one direction but a light outside each side lets the traffic flow in.
It is really interesting driving through the tunnel but don’t get me wrong I’d probably feel different if I was driving through at night or in inclement weather. I am lucky because the weather is spectacular.
So I have arrived at my campsite which happens to be the smallest I’ve had so far but the facilities are nice. The real annoying part of the stay is the sandflies. They are eating me alive here. It is my first real run-in with them in New Zealand. I’ve been keeping score with all my run-ins with wildlife and I’ll add this to the list of my enemies: geckos, monkeys, fur seals and now sandflies.
I check into the campsite and look at the list of all the great walking tracks I probably won’t get to do while I am here.
I empty out the icebox of my van and take the goods to the refrigerator of the campsite in order to keep things cold since the chill box only works when the van is on. I am tempted to eat dinner at the fancy restaurant at Milford Lodge tonight but I must finish my perishables since they probably won’t keep for my upcoming daytime activities. I contemplate leaving my groceries in the lodge fridge while I am out on my cruise tomorrow; you are supposed to date your goods with your checkout date but how will they know if I fudge the date a bit?
The sandflies are ruthlessly attacking me. I hide out in the van with the windows shut and nap. The nap is well needed. I didn’t quite sleep well last night because it was much cooler than I expected; I was kept awake because I could not get warm enough. I wake up from my nap but still too tired to do any walking around or exploring right now so I purchase a gigabyte of data to surf the web (15 NZD in these parts!). Best to save my energy for the Milford Sound cruise tomorrow and the drive to Queenstown afterwards.
I head to the kitchen and lounge and prepare my dinner.
I am actually lucky to get into this campsite, Rainforest Campervan Park, since it is the only one near Milford Sound and limited in space. It isn’t cheap though. There are posh cabins that can be reserved as well. They have a spectacular view.
I’m jealous of the great views of the cabins. At least I don’t have a long drive in the morning to make my Milford Sound cruise.