FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Milford Sound (or sharing paradise with the sandflies)

Posted in Milford Sound, New Zealand by folkestonejack on December 30, 2015

The Maori legend has it that the god Tu-te-raki-whanoa carved the southern fiords with his adze, getting closer to perfection with each attempt. Finally, he created the masterpiece of Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) with its breathtaking combination of mountain peaks and waterfalls.

Te-Hine-nui-to-po, goddess of the night, was far from impressed – fearing that man would want to live forever in such a paradise. To discourage such thoughts the goddess released the sandfly to torment any that dared to linger! And torment they do…

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

It is worth braving the sandflies to see Milford Sound, which really deserves the label of “the eighth wonder of the world” that Rudyard Kipling gave it (perhaps he had this in mind when he told a journalist that if you told him that the garden of Eden was located in New Zealand he would have believed it).

An incredibly generous gift of an overnight trip on the Milford Mariner gave us ample opportunity to see the sound up close and nothing can prepare you for how spectacular it is in person. No photographs can do this place justice, nor replicate the physical effects such as the incredible rush of wind that hits you as you sail out (a natural phenomenon with the sound acting as a wind tunnel).

Our cruise took us first to Anita Bay where we switched to kayaks or tenders to see some of the easily missed spots, such as the location of the garden used to supply the first walkers and the nearby hut (restored) of the owners of this business. The sandflies were incredibly active here, pouncing on anyone without the most liberal coating of insect repellent.

The black sandflies live up to the billing of “the most mischievous animal” that James Cook gave them in May 1773 after enduring the “swelling and such intolerable itching” that is their gift. In the early days settlers here protected themselves by covering themselves in seal fat, but thankfully no such extreme measures were necessary for us. The pioneers of the tourist industry were brave indeed!

The Milford Mariner in Anita Bay

The Milford Mariner in Anita Bay

We moored up at Harrison Cover overnight and I was more than a little surprised, but delighted, to see a dolphin come up to the porthole of our cabin in the early morning darkness. As the skies brightened we left the shelter of the cove and headed back out to the Tasman Sea, giving us some great views of the sound before the day boats started to ply the waters.

As we headed back to dock we took a good look at the seals sunbathing on the rocks and close enough to the Stirling Falls to feel the spray. Another fascinating sight to be observed was the way the water in the sound appears to ‘bleed’ which is simply the fresh water from the mountains lying on top of the salt water.

Our visit to the sound was in fine weather, following a dryish spell, so relatively few waterfalls were in action but if it rains you have the bonus of hundreds of additional waterfalls. Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in the world with annual rainfall of 6 metres, so it’s better to be prepared for it!

Milford Sound exceeded every expectation and is certainly worth the long drive, which to be honest, is pretty fabulous in its own right.

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