Wednesday morning we leave Wanaka and make the 5 hour drive to Milford Sound, in the Fiordlands. Well, it should have taken 5 hours, but Mark stops about every five minutes to take photos, so it takes a lot longer. But we begin to giggle because everything just keeps getting more beautiful.
First, the lupins are in bloom, and there are millions of them everywhere. Be sure to click on a few of these pics to make them larger and to fully appreciate the colors.
Then, it starts raining, and the cliffs become covered with waterfalls (click and enlarge these as well!).
Then we get on the overnight cruise (The Mariner) and start cruising around the Milford Sound. Both of us are overwhelmed with the beauty. We had seen the pictures online beforehand and they just didn’t look that impressive. Now we understand why. It’s a matter of scale and without being there or having other objects in the photos, it’s impossible to appreciate the magnitude of the falls and fjords. We did our best to capture it all with a camera, but imagine five-thousand foot sheer cliffs all around you, and thousands of waterfalls falling down the sides. Most of the waterfalls were temporary falls that only occur when it is raining, and we realize we are lucky there is so much rain today. The ship gets really close to some of the falls and we enjoy getting soaked. It’s truly breathtaking, and we both agree immediately that this is the highlight of the trip, and maybe the most beautiful natural site we have ever seen.
It’s hard to appreciate how immense these waterfalls and mountains are, but check out the size of the waterfall below next to a very large ship (this waterfall is taller than Niagara Falls):
and then as we pan back, check out the enormous mountains that seem to dwarf the falls (with another “disappearing waterfall” of its own in the top right, showing that there are yet taller fjords still above that:
Once again, look at the height of the waterfall below compared to the other large overnight ship (100 person vessel) that was traveling in the sound. Also notice the “disappearing waterfall” to the right of the main waterfall. There are a few of these and when the wind picks up, the falls actually flow left, right, disappear, and sometimes even flow upward into the sky until they disappear. It was hard for the eyes and mind to agree on what was happening there!
And finally for perspective once again, the below photo is the same exact waterfall:
So many amazing views, we couldn’t stop taking pictures.
We went for a little tender boat cruise, and I stayed nice and toasty in my wetsuit!
We even got to see some Fur Seals basking on the rocks, although we did miss the penguins and dolphins that frequent the sound.
Over a nice dinner we meet some interesting travelers from India and New Zealand, and then we enjoy a slideshow given by the ship naturalist, all about the natural wonder of Milford. Afterwards we head back out on deck and it’s still light at 10pm. We anchor all by ourselves at Harrison Bay for the night, where waterfalls are still trickling down the cliffs. It truly is magical and we feel like we’re in the floating mountains of Pandora from Avatar.
The next morning we cruise out to the Tasman Sea (but don’t go too far as it’s a bit too rough) and then another hour cruise through the sound before departing the ship (so sad to leave!).