After a day that featured extended drenching rain on Thursday, Jane and I reveled in the gorgeous weather that arrived on Friday. The storm moved on, the skies cleared, and cooler temperatures developed, as we completed the two hour drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound. We began our journey at 7:00AM, and this early departure enabled us to arrive at Milford Sound in time to snag a parking space in the closest lot to the terminal. This meant no shuttle was required, and we had fairly easy access to the minivan in case we forgot something.
We finished the short ten minute walk to the tour cruise terminal building and registered for our 10:30 tour and kayak adventure. The young lady behind the counter informed us that we were eligible to grab a 9:45AM departure, so we jumped at the option. Jane and I boarded the Lady Bowen and snagged prime spots on the lower bow of the boat, and we were pleased to learn that the wind was behind us on the outbound leg.
We passed a ridiculous number of waterfalls, and our guide explained that the heavy rain on Thursday boosted the volume of water cascading down the steep fiord walls. Jeremy added that Milford Sound is one of the wettest places on earth. As we approached one of the more voluminous falls along the left side of the fiord, Jeremy instructed one of the galley mates to bring two racks of glasses to the front. The young man dutifully responded and placed the racks on the smooth flat area on top of the wall on the bow, and then the pilot of the boat taxied beneath the waterfalls to fill the empty cups. Earlier Jeremy informed our group that the water was so pure, that one could safely drink it, and he was about to make his point.
As if this were not enough excitement, my dear wife, Jane, remained stationary, as she guarded the glasses with her life, and then the ice cold glacial melt pummeled her from above. Even the guide was astonished by her act of bravery. I remained on the front deck long enough to snap a photo and video clip, and even this brief exposure caused my fleece and shoes to get wet, before I scurried into the cabin. Jane on the other hand toughed it out and drenched two layers of clothing in the process. Fortunately she had the presence of mind to stuff her phone beneath the wet outer layers.
We continued on our way and viewed several colonies of fur seals and numerous gulls of varying sizes. When we reached the mouth of Milford Sound, we reversed our course and made our way to the Underwater Discovery Center. Here the kayakers were outfitted with life jackets and rain pants, and Jane and I climbed into our single crafts. The guide lowered the platform, until we were floating in the ocean, and like a cluster of bumper cars we managed to exit the covered shed and headed to the sound.
We paddled into the mouth of the Harrison River and listened to the guides relate Maori legends. As this transpired, we drifted over a patch of aquatic grass, and we instantly became a tasty buffet for the resident sand flies. The stories finally ended, and Jane and I bolted up the river against the swift current. I made it two-thirds of the way toward the top of the inlet before every stroke merely served to offset the velocity of the current, and I was paddling in place. We turned around and glided back with the aid of the current, and then we completed a large circle and arrived back at the launch shed.
After we returned our gear and enjoyed a brief rest, we descended to the Deep Water Emergence. Because a layer of tannin colored fresh water blankets the lower layer of ocean water, creatures that normally only live in the dark depths of the ocean occupy Milford Sound. The Deep Water Emergence experience enabled us to view a variety of life from the deep. This viewing time concluded the tour, and we boarded the small cruise ship and returned to the terminal building.
On the return drive to Te Anau Brenda, John, Jane and I stopped once to complete a short hike to The Chasm, and at a few additional overlooks to snap photos. When we returned to Te Anau, Jane and I battled the wind and walked downtown to The Ranch, where we both enjoyed lamb shank dinners. Yum.