We had booked the JUCY tour of Milford Sound – being the proud JUCY people we are! Plus the lady at the travel desk said it was an early tour that wouldn’t be crowded and too touristy – so we were in! Bright and early at 8.30am we arrived at the Milford Sound ferry terminal, all set to board a big boat for a tour of Milford Sound.
Now, Milford Sound contrary to popular belief is not really a Sound (in Geology, a Sound is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, and wider than a fjord), but is actually a fjord – just a bloody great big one! Some Ningkompoop named it Milford Sound instead of Milford Fjord – and the name has just stuck. So for now, we will refer to it by it’s known name and just ignore the fact that in strict Geology, it’s not a sound, but a fjord……
Anyways, we began our cruise with the drizzle surrounding us, but not dampening our spirits! Once again I dragged Long-Suffering Mentor onto the top of the boat to enjoy the liquid sunshine that is New Zealand weather, and to loudly gasp and groan at the magnificent scenery. Seriously! This has ruined me for life! Everywhere we looked there were waterfalls, which apparently only show up when it rains – they disappear within 10 minutes of the rain stopping, so really we were very lucky to be on the tour where the rain was intermittently drizzling or pelting sideways!
Some of the waterfalls were enormous – really loud and powerful! The Captain steered the boat right up to one of them and we could feel the spray on our faces! It was amazing!
We started heading out towards the head of the fjord – to the great Tasman Sea. The Captain announced it might get a bit rough as the wind was blowing at around 40 knots. The stupid man said if we wanted to really experience the Tasman weather it would be good to be on the top of the boat – LSM and I just looked at each other and held on for dear life. The force of the wind was so strong it nearly blew me to the end of the boat! The sleet and rain made it so hard we couldn’t even shout at each other, which was probably a good thing as LSM and I were laughing our heads off. We hung on for dear life while the crew took photos of the mad women on top of the boat, giggling and screaming “Wheeeeeeeee”………
It was then I realised we were probably at the wrong position on the boat! I grabbed LSM and dragged her to the bow of the boat, as the Captain announced for everyone to hang on as the sea was rolling and the waves were very large! We wrapped our arms around the poles on the bow of the boat and hung on for dear life as the boat went up…….up……up…….and then dropped with a gut-twisting BANG! down the wave! Again and again the pitch and yaw of the boat going up and down and up and down……and all the time I am leaning over the bow of the boat with my foot wrapped around an emergency buoy yelling “Sanja, put your hands in the air” with my arms flung wide. The Captain was killing himself laughing!
Apologies everyone, as it was about this time that I stopped taking photos – a) because I didn’t have a spare hand from holding on and b) because by this time we were absolutely and throughly soaking wet and I really didn’t want to have to explain to Long-Suffering Husband why my phone was fizzled! But I will endeavour to describe to you the delights of Milford Sound.
Awesome! Haunting! Oppressive! Beautiful! Stunning! Magical!….nah….no words can describe my experience of Milford Sound. I am ruined for life with the landscape I saw and the majesty of the area……
Anyways, still attached to the life buoy on the bow of the boat, we made our way back into Milford Sound passing black seals sunning themselves in the liquid sunshine on rocks that we couldn’t work out how they got up onto (gawd! They are so funny!) and a flotilla of penguins having a bath in the icy waters of the fjord! The Captain, by this time totally entertained with LSM and I jumping around like fleas, manoeuvred the boat under a giant cascading waterfall so that we were directly under it. The water stung as it hit us with such a force we were forced to close our eyes under it’s stinging barrage. The water was icy cold – and the realisation that we were the first to EVER touch this water that had made it’s way from a glacier to falling on us – it was an experience I will never forget. Nor will I forget looking over at my LSM and seeing my absolute rapture reflected in her face. Kindred Spirits indeed…..
We were now thoroughly cold and knowing our cruise was coming to an end we went inside the boat into the relative warmth – me to find a hot drink and Long-Suffering Mentor to go chat up the Captain. By the end of the cruise she knew all about his work life, social life and where he was holidaying next – but she also managed to find out some local insider information on the best places to hike in Milford Sound, which overall was very useful indeed…..
Having arrived at the terminal, the crew all shook our hands and congratulated us on being idiots, all agreeing we were the most adventurous and enthusiastic customers they have had in a long time, one crew member even saying it was the best cruise she’s been on as the Captain seemed to stop at ALL the interesting sites, and not just the general few. I couldn’t help wondering if that had anything to do with the evident crush the Captain had on LSM – but I wasn’t complaining! So after changing into dry clothes in the back of the JUCY van, we cranked the heater up high and started driving toward the Key Summit.
The area we wanted to go to was back through that bloody tunnel. Now, I am not criticising New Zealand for their roads, nor for their conflicting use of confusing signage, but when you pass a sign like this…..
…and then around the corner you have to stop for a single-traffic tunnel that has been cut through a mountain almost a century ago (!!!!!), it kind of leaves you with irritable bowels……
So, we were stopped at the tunnel, waiting for the traffic to clear so we could have our go in the deathtrap, when LSM leaned out her window to find this……
Now, in all fairness, evolution has not been friendly to New Zealand! They have no native mammals other than some tiny bat that no one ever sees, and the majority of their native birdlife consists of flightless birds, mostly really, really dumb birds like the Moa (now extinct because it was so curious it would walk up to a human to be bopped on the head and roasted over a campfire), the Kakapo which is so dumb and big that there are only a handful left on some remote island of the south of New Zealand, and then there is the Kea. This Kea was standing right next to the JUCY van in the middle of the yellow hazard strip, just staring at us. The anticipation was palpable! LSM immediately began gesturing wildly at the creature, imploring it to go away and move off the road or it would be deservedly squashed by some poor, unsuspecting Asian tourist in a MAUI van, who would then think they had single-handedly wiped out the last of New Zealand’s endangered flightless parrots! The Kea just stared at us, and then proceeded to walk to the car waiting behind us, to resume it’s performance of uncomfortably staring at the driver! Stupid bird!
Not waiting to see the fate of the dumb flightless parrot that evolution has not been kind to, we proceeded to take our lives into our own hands by going back through that bloody tunnel!
Having successfully emerged from the tunnel of doom, we proceeded to our hiking spot – the Key Summit. At this point, I cheerfully dumped Long-Suffering Mentor to enjoy her three hour return hike UPHILL (key summit – der!), while I escaped in the JUCY van to check out a museum that the randy Captain had mentioned.
It was a weird place, like something out of the 1900’s – which was funny because it was actually built in the early 1900’s and served as a camp for those poor shmucks who built the tunnel of doom! There were little huts everywhere and the museum was full of old-fashioned equipment that they apparently used to drill the tunnel through the mountain. Well! Were my fears well and truly allayed!!! Among the old bits of furniture and tools was an intact pelvis of a Moa. At first I thought it must have been a cast but upon closer inspection it was actual bone! I wonder if the university of Otago knows about it!
I decided to get the hell out of this place as it was beginning to feel like the Twilight Zone, but with the JUCY van hurtling down the road, something moved in my peripheral vision and I heard an almighty crack, and I recall thinking “What the f$%#”…….
I have never seen a tree shatter before, but this bastard just smashed everywhere!
I was alone, in the middle of no where, with no way out……with the JUCY van…….
Absolutely no cell phone coverage, and I was due to pick up LSM in an hour. I had no way of telling her what had happened or where I was. So I did what any mature-aged geology student would do……
…….I began looking at the tree and how it fell trying to ascertain why it fell, where the rot had set in and at what point the weakness of the trunk would have given way to allow the tree to fall at that particular angle……anyway…….
A few minutes (maybe longer) later a young man pulled up, and god bless him, he tried to move the tree off the road by lifting it! Yeah…..nah……so instead of watching this painful display of defeat, I announced I would back track to the Twilight Zone and get some help. Having provided the proof of tree-suicide by showing them a photo (and having the guy announce “yeah……bit to big for my chain saw, Love” (?????) they radioed the Milford Road traffic crew who said they would be at the site immediately to help out. I was thrilled!
Although driving back to the suicide scene, I did ponder as to whether New Zealand time of ‘immediately’ was the same as my version of ‘immediately’, but I was extremely surprised to see this about a half hour later……
An old dude with a long grey pony tail and a beard like Tom Hanks in Castaway, drove up in his bulldozer, flat stick up the road and immediately started to just push the tree off the road! He cleared it in two minutes, and with a slight hand raise and nod, left the scene without so much as a hello or a goodbye!
So, I actually made it back to the Key Summit car park with enough time to make friends with another dumb, flightless parrot Kea. This one was just as dumb and totally unaware of potential threats – including the little turd of a kid who kept throwing sticks at it while his parents took selfies (grrrrr!)…..
I was distracted from wondering how I was going to bury the little turd’s body by Cardio Cathy (Long-Suffering Mentor) bustling up to the JUCY van, full of stories and photos of what she had seen in her 3 hour hike, which she had done in just under two hours because she is a freak! Having thought about our next plan, it seemed silly going back to Milford Sound (and through that fucking tunnel again!) so we decided to head to Te Anau and spend the night there. It was lucky we did, as the weather forecast was for snow along the Milford Road, so we either would have been trapped in Milford (oh no! what would we have done!……) or we would have needed snow chains on the JUCY van. I just had that feeling in my waters……
Nevertheless, we spent an enjoyable night watching some crap chick-flick DVD that LSM had chosen from the JUCY office, all cosy and comfortable!