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Cruising on Milford Sound

(Reprint from News: January 20, 2002)

January 17, 2002

 

I spent several days in Te Anau, a pleasant resort town surrounded by beautiful mountains, clear lakes, rolling farmland, and captivating fjords.  My food supplies were running low, so I stopped at the grocery store in Te Anau the second day I was there and got restocked -- carefully avoiding the mutton sausages that were my staple during my first week here in New Zealand (for my not-so-flattering description of mutton sausages, see News: January 1, 2002 ).  That evening, after a great fish and chips dinner, I strolled around town in my shorts and t-shirt and watched a beautiful sunset by the shores of Lake Manapouri.  Te Anau is kind of a party town in the summer time, and there were lots of teens and 20-somethings strolling the streets and having a good time.

 

The Doubtful Sound cruise was pretty amazing, but I'd heard even better things about Milford Sound so I decided to check it out.  Doubtful Sound is pretty hard to get to, as I described in my last entry, since you have to drive to the boat dock, take a boat across the lake to the bus, take the bus down to the sound, then take another boat through the sound.  Milford Sound is a lot more accessible:  basically, you just drive 119 kilometers from Te Anau to the sound, where you hop on a boat. 

 

The next morning, therefore, I drove down to Milford Sound and took my second cruise in two days.  Milford Sound is quite different from Doubtful Sound.  On the plus side, it's much more precipitous and, I think, more spectacular, but on the down side, its much shorter than Doubtful Sound and its a lot more crowded.  Imagine filling Yosemite Valley with seawater and then adding lots of ferns and rain, and you'll get an idea of what Milford Sound is like.  What made it even more fascinating was that it had rained earlier that morning and the waterfalls were plunging straight off the sheer granite cliffs.  Because there's very little soil here, though, the waterfalls are ephemeral and were all dry later that afternoon. 

 

The Milford cruises are pretty popular and the staging building looked like an airport terminal with all the boats, tour buses, and people coming and going, but I'd definitely recommend it.  If you'd like an experience with more solitude, though, check out Doubtful Sound.  Then again, if you're not sure (like me), do both.  You won't regret either one.

 

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Above left:  Driving to Milford Sound the next morning to catch another cruise.

Above center:  Another day, another sound.  This is Milford Sound, one of the most famous places in New Zealand.  Although the sound (and the cruise) was much shorter than Doubtful Sound, it was even more spectacular -- though it's also a lot more crowded.

Above right:  The sheer granite walls in Milford Sound plunge straight down into the water.  This place gets so much rain that, even though this is the ocean, the top few yards are freshwater.  Freshwater or saltwater fishing -- take your pick.

 

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Above left:  I stopped at the floating Underwater Observatory in Milford Sound where a spiral staircase leads down to the observatory.

Above center:  You can watch all kinds of cool aquatic life from the observatory.

Above right:  A couple of hitcher-hikers that I picked up on my way back to Te Anau.  That's Idit from Israel with the red cap and Jan from Holland on the right.  I ran into Idit again a week later at Fox Glacier, and she was still wearing her red cap.

 

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