When I booked the Milford Sound tour I knew already that the west coast of the south island is the rainiest region in New Zealand. I knew, and in spite of that, I booked the tour. Yes, I am perseverant and optimistic and do not like to easily give up. So I would try.
I had been checking the forecast for several days and it seemed stable (ehem, as stable as it could be in that part of the world). Sunday would be sunny.
Coincidentally, that Sunday was 5th of April, which meant five exact months since I started the round the world trip. Being my trip-anniversary, I hoped that the planets and stars would get aligned and the destiny would smile at me sending me plenty of sunshine.
So I woke up that Sunday ready for a – hopefully – amazing day.
The bus trip to Milford Sound
I usually do not take tours, but I must say that this one was good and well organized: the driver gave us interesting information along the way, and we stopped a few times to take pictures. In addition, the journey from Queenstown to Milford Sound was so scenic that it could have been a trip by itself.
First we drove along the 84km-long lake Wakatipu while listening to Maori legends. Then we crossed some tiny villages and learnt that all cities, towns and villages in New Zealand are famous for one reason. For example, Athol is famous for trout fishing, Mossburn for deer, and another one (I forgot the name) is the most interior village in the island.
We stopped at the Eglinton Valley to admire the landscape.
We left the bus and did a short walk to visit the mirror lakes.
A rockslide had blocked the road some time before… ooops!
We saw a hanging glacier from the distance.
All that time, the sky was blue with some disperse clouds. Cool! The driver warned us that the fjord was located at the other side of the mountains, and that the weather might be different over there. But I did not want to listen, surely we could not be that unlucky!
When we reached the tunnel to cross the mountains, the traffic light was red so we had to wait for ten minutes – or rather, we got ten minutes to feel very small between those high mountains and huge rocks.
We crossed the tunnel and started descending the valley on the west side. The weather was indeed different, much more cloudy. Oh no…
We entered the Fiordland National Park, which is a World Heritage Site and the largest of the 14 National Parks in New Zealand. I was amazed to discover that about 30% of the surface of the country are protected areas!
The last stop before the fjord was a bushwalk in a forest from the jurassic period.
Finally, five hours after leaving Queenstown, we arrived to the famous Milford Sound.
The Milford Sound cruise
My heart sank when we arrived to the fjord. It was very, very cloudy, with low clouds and mist and light rain.
I knew it could happen, but somehow I had kept the hope to the last moment that I could not be that unlucky. Franz Josef glacier, Fox glacier, lake Matheson and Milford Sound, all under the clouds and rain?
I had been told that even under the rain it was worth a visit, that it had a special atmosphere and it was possible to see more waterfalls.
Cold and completely wet, I insisted on staying outside, trying to enjoy the majesty of the mountains in the mist. Other tourists were laughing, running from left to right taking group photos and selfies with their hair flying with the wind. It was indeed atmospheric, the mountains being so high that the ferries looked like a tiny dot in the water, and in between the clouds and rain it looked quite mystic.
But I did not manage to enjoy. It would not be honest to say otherwise. It was scenic and atmospheric and mystic… but it was not was I had dreamt about. I was sad and disappointed.
Was it worth? If I had published this post that day, I would have said that no, it was not worth. At that moment, I regretted paying all that money (tours are expensive) for a cruise under the rain.
Today, three months later, I only regret that I was not able to enjoy. That I did not laugh. Looking at the photos I took, now I can appreciate the beauty, wilderness and power of nature. I have spent the last month in the South of Chile where it rains a lot, and have learnt that some places must be seen under the rain, because it is their natural state. Visiting them on a sunny day would be like meeting someone on a dress up party. Beautiful, yes, but not natural.
So if you go to Milford Sound, get your rain jacket and plenty of smiles, be ready for anything, and enjoy the majesty and beauty of the fjord.
** USEFUL INFORMATION **
- The cheapest day tour I found was with Lucy Cruize. There are tours from Queenstown (with or without lunch) and from Te Anau (with lunch only).
- You can check BookMe and GrabOne for special deals.
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