We were awakened shortly after 7 by other campers leaving, and that was the time we wanted to get up, so we got out of bed, got dressed, and left for Milford Sound (with no breakfast and the bed unmade). I had prepared a backpack to take with us on the cruise. We had muffins, snacks, water, rain pants, binoculars and cameras – we were ready for anything. It was cloudy/drizzly with very low clouds.
We arrived fairly uneventfully at Milford Sound about 8:30. (The trip was fairly uneventful for half of us! The other half had the screaming meemies over “The Tunnel,” which was a long but thankfully straight hole through a rock ridge that had been dug by hand over a 50 year period. You could tell it was dug by hand because there were pick marks on the side walls – and on the roadway! Damnest excuse for a tunnel I’ve ever seen. There were also a couple of 1 lane sections with no shoulders, just cliff and dropoff, with the gentle injunction for the uphill driver to “Give Way.” There was no damn Way to give. And of course I had visions of the 26 buses from the previous evening. L) We just made it in time for the 8:55 cruise we wanted to take.
The weather turned out not to be much of a problem. The scenery was absolutely spectacular, although it was a little hard to take photos with the drizzle/mist. There were a number of waterfalls coming down the steep sides of the fiord—it is called Milford Sound, but it is really a fiord. The boat went the complete length of the fiord, emerging in the Tasman Sea before turning around. The walls are mostly very steep, covered in green—trees, shrubs, ferns, mosses, etc. Very pretty. As we went along, the rain mostly stopped. A couple of times the pilot ran the boat up very close to a waterfall, so those on the bow got sprayed. There wasn’t much wind.
We also saw some fur seals on the way back, a couple on rocks, and several frolicking in the water.
When we were almost back, we were dropped off at the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory, a floating observatory moored to the land where we could go 4 stories underwater to see black coral (which is actually white), fish, anemones, tubeworms, sponges, etc. in a natural environment. Very cool. They also had some good exhibits upstairs at lake level. We spent a couple of hours there, then took another boat back to Milford. The only way you get there is by boat. Once dropped there, you can come back on any subsequent boat.
After we returned to Milford and got back to our van, we both took a nap before we were ready to do anything else. The sun had come out and our van was nice and warm.
Then we took a walk along the Milford Sound foreshore. We saw a tui and a wood pigeon. Error alert: What we saw a couple of days ago was a wood pigeon, not a tui. The identification we got from a fellow hiker was wrong! But now we have seen (field guide identified) both.
On the road back from the Sound, we stopped and took another walk at the Chasm, where first we saw a kea, a big green parrot, in the parking lot. The walk itself took through the woods to a couple of bridges where we saw waterfalls that had done amazing things to the rocks around them—gouging holes and depositing tree trunks in holes in the rocks 20 ft above the current flow.
After that, we decided we’d had enough for one day, so we headed back to Te Anau to a holiday park—power and internet included.