Milford Sound

It's really hard to describe just how beautiful the Milford Sound really is.  It's a bit like if Halong Bay was smaller, sunnier, and more dramatic, but without random islands.  See - that doesn't sound like much.  Also, they didn't even name it properly - apparently it's actually a fjord, which just means that a glacier carved the valley which is filled in with ocean water, rather than a river carving the valley.  So, something we'd already learned about glacial valleys is that they are shaped like a block U, whereas river-carved valleys are more like V's.  So, you know, it's basically straight down to the water.  And the mountains (cliffs?) at Milford Sound are crazy high.  I can't even remember, and don't want to sound idiotic with my meter to feet translation estimations, so I looked it up.  The peaks are between 1300 meters (so, over 4000 feet) and 1500 meters (almost 5000 feet, so close to 1 mile!) and basically straight up, with beautiful bright blue sea water below.  We arrived on a perfectly gorgeous sunny day, as I described in my last post, so our initial cruise around was amazing.  We even saw some of the NZ fur seals lounging about in the sun.  Enjoy:

The giant boat in one of the pictures gives you some slight idea of the scale of these things.  We were staying overnight on a lovely boat, which meant that we got to then dock in a cove (also lovely) and then either kayak & swim around, or just take a smaller boat along the coast with a nature guide.  It was quite chilly, maybe around 60 in the sun, without the wind (which, while weaker in the cove was still nothing to ignore), so I decided on doing just the nature boat option.  First thing is that we saw PENGUINS, actually in the water!  A little couple who hopped out onto the shore & waddled as quickly as possible back into their den.  I got one semi-decent shot of the one, but it really doesn't do it justice - seeing penguins in the wild.  Cool! 

(The penguin is on a rock down from the V in the branches of the tree, if you blow the picture up...)Otherwise, our little nature cruise was a bit uneventful, but the kayakers were having a ball racing around & such.  Several semi-insane people then went for a swim, and even started jumping off the side of the boat!  I can't imagine how they did it, the water must have been freezing, but they had a blast.  I was in the beginnings of my cold (which I'm still not fully over, all these many weeks later), so I enjoyed my warm, dry vantage point. 

 After dinner and some alcohol to hopefully burn off the cold (fail), I called it a fairly early night.  Unfortunately, when I woke up, I was really feeling horribly, but luckily the weather was quite horrible as well.  We'd seen "sunny Milford", now we were seeing "misty Milford".  Of course, the overnight rain did mean that we got TONS of brand new waterfalls, which of course was gorgeous.  The first one I actually went out on deck for, as they let us know it was at least TWICE as high as Niagara Falls.  Now, I've never been to Niagara, but we had a gal from Toronto area on board, so I consider her an expert, and she had a really hard time believing it.  They way they tried to help us scale this place was to remember that the trees on top are the same size as the trees we'd been seeing on the bottom, all of which were something like 15 meters (or 30-feet) tall.  Not sure if that helps, but it also dwarfed the ship in front of us:
The next one we saw was also gorgeous, and the sweet Canadian Erin actually took my camera outside to shoot it because I was feeling so miserable.

Luckily, we'd already seen the gorgeous drive out of the sound, but again, with the overnight rain, we did get tons of new waterfalls on our way up to the tunnel, which was a cool contrast to the day before!

After that, it was a long day in the bus, headed back north towards Christchurch.  The next day or three in fact were all long days on the bus, punctuated by gorgeous scenery, of course, but I'm not sure when I'll be able to get to them, since I'm headed off for England tomorrow for part two of my big adventure.  Just know that dolphins, whales, lakes, and wineries are still to come!  :)