A Travellerspoint blog

Milford Sound Misery

Wondering what all the fuss is about on a rainy, rainy day...

rain 9 °C

Lloyd was indeed feeling better today, but unfortunately our decision to opt out of yesterday’s boat trip came back to haunt us, with some of the most miserable weather we’ve experienced. No cyclone, at least, but heavy rain and mist meant that our Milford Sound cruise could only fail to live up to our expectations. And indeed it did.

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There's something beautiful out there, somewhere...

The boat crew tried to be cheerful by pointing out that Milford Sound receives more than six metres of rain a year, and that it is this kind of rainfall that enables Milford Sound to be the outstanding natural beauty that it is. Or is when the sun is shining. Furthermore, there are hundreds of rainfalls that only come to life when it’s raining. Gee. Lucky us.

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We had to entertain ourselves by allowing ourselves to be dunked in waterfalls.

A visit to the underwater observatory failed to lift our spirits (well, ok, my spirits), although the concept continues to intrigue. The observatory is basically a viewing room that has been sunk ten metres below the surface in order to offer non-scuba divers a rare insight into life underwater. It’s particularly special, apparently, because of a rare phenomenon called “Deep Water Emergence” that occurs here in Milford Sound. Basically, the nature of the Sound means that the fresh water fails to mix with the sea water and forms a barrier several meters thick on the surface. The result is that a deep ocean environment is replicated at a relatively shallow depth. The black corals (actually white as seen in the pictures below) normally grow at much greater depths, but are uniquely visible at the observatory.

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Back on land, we dried off and set off on the long drive back through Te Anau (this time in the rain), and then onto Queenstown. We were reminded: carpe diem. If the weather is good, use it ;o)

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OK, so I guess it wasn't that bad. Though for me the highlight will also be the drive out to Milford Sound along some staggeringly beautiful scenery.

Posted by jacquiedro 20:54 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Feverish in Fiordland

Under the weather, but on the road

sunny 21 °C

We reached our destination mid-afternoon on Tuesday to a spectacularly clear-blue day. The very pretty little town of Te Anau begged to be explored, but it was clear that Lloyd was quite ill and could do little more than rest up. His throat was swollen and a very nasty deep red colour and a little internet research suggested strep throat or tonsillitis. Lloyd rested while I administered doses of medicine recommended by the local pharmacist. For the first time during the trip, we broke into the arsenal of medicines we’ve been carrying with us since California, with Lloyd taking amoxicillin to see if it would help.

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Even the Doc reacted visibly to Lloyd's ugly throat.

After another fitful night of sleep, we headed to the Doctors to make sure we were doing all we could to get Lloyd back on his feet. Sure enough, Lloyd had correctly self-diagnosed and self-administered the right drugs! There was nothing more the Doc could do for us, although for our $75 she did type up a letter that we could use as a referral elsewhere if he didn’t get better.

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Officially sick.

And with that, we were back on the road, for the relatively short two hour drive to Milford Sound. The drive to Milford was a highlight by itself, and we stopped at several places along the way just to take in the view.

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Lloyd at Mirror Lake, still feeling (and looking!) lousy. And one of New Zealand's notoriously curious Keas that came to check us out as we waited to enter Homer Tunnel, just outside of Milford.

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Arriving in Milford Sound, and with boat tickets booked for the next morning, we resisted an urge we both had to get on the next available boat to enjoy the Sound in picture-perfect conditions. Lloyd was feeling rough after the drive and we decided to rest up and give his body a chance to fight the infection. His appetite continued to be suppressed, but the antibiotics seemed to be helping somewhat and we were hopeful for the next morning.

Posted by jacquiedro 20:51 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Around the South Island Coast

Looks a lot like home!

semi-overcast 18 °C

We drove south from Christchurch and picked up the Southern Scenic Route at Dunedin. From Dunedin, you can access the 15-mile long Otago Peninsula where we visited the Royal Albatross Centre, ‘home to the World’s only mainland colony’. To say the wind was ferocious when we arrived would be an understatement. When we attempted to exit the vehicle, it practically ripped the door of the RV right off. I wish I was kidding. The resulting dent from the door bending back beyond its hinge means that our $250 excess insurance fee is now but a distant memory.

At least the albatrosses compensated us for our trouble with some good quality fly-bys. These birds are HUGE, with a wing span well over three metres! To fly, these giant flying machines simply spread their wings and allow themselves to be lifted up by the wind. They come to Otago Peninsula to mate and spend up to a year with their new chicks before heading back out to a life at sea.

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To give you an idea of scale, we took the following picture of Lloyd and a lifesize model of an albatross when we visited the Otago Museum the next morning. Can’t say too much more about the museum: it was far too extensive for us really to put our arms around in the very limited time we had. It would be fabulous to live close enough to pop in a digest a slice from time to time, but the sensory overload we experienced meant we saw a lot, but learned too little from the experience. Come here if you have three or more hours to spend.

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Leaving Dunedin, we started our drive around the southern coast of the south island and into the Catlins. We were reminded very much of California’s Pacific Coast Highway, which – like our New Zealand route – is also named Highway 1. The main difference is the volume of sheep which seem to occupy every second inch of New Zealand – indeed there are ten for every one of the country’s five million human inhabitants.

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We enjoyed very much our hike out to a lighthouse on Nugget Point, a little under half way between Dunedin and Invercargill. On our way out to the Point, we noticed a pair of returning trekkers trying to discourage an elderly gentlemen from pushing his wheelchair-bound companion to the lighthouse. And indeed it was a notorious route, with extremely steep paths working their way to an impressive vista. We were probably five hundred feet or so above the ocean allowing a perfect vantage from which to admire the fur seals frolicking in the green-blue, clear waters below as the waves crashed against the massive gold nugget-shaped rocks from which the Point derives its name.

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Views from our visit to Nugget Point Lighthouse. It could have easily been on California's Pacific Coast Highway!

Overwhelmingly, the experience reminded us of home and many happy memories of weekends spent scuba diving or running along the Santa Cruz and Monterey coastlines. We are blessed indeed. We smiled broadly and tipped our hats when - as we made our return journey to the van - we came across the same determined gentleman and his friend-on-wheels making steady progress towards the lighthouse. We’ll never know if they got there, but I sincerely hope they did.

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Yellow lupins are everywhere here! That's Nugget Point Lighthouse in the distance.

We lunched beachside and then made a small detour to visit Slope Point, the southernmost point of the southern island in New Zealand. This was significant for us as it marks the southernmost point for our world trip, so we made the trek across a couple of large sheep-filled fields, and fought our way to the Slope Point marker. Gusts of wind endeavoured to restrict our progress and whipped up sea foam from the crashing waves around us. Even the sheep seemed perturbed, huddling together in small groups to escape the ferocity of the blasts. We were happy to make our return to the RV and escape to calmer paths, back on the road to Invercargill.

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Posted by jacquiedro 12:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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