Thursday, April 19, 2018
In the morning, we woke up in Te Anau and took a stroll along the lake. After breakfast, we hopped in the car and started our 2 hour drive to Milford Sound. About halfway there, we made a stop at the Mirror Lakes. It was pretty, but it was also a popular tour bus stop and was crowded with pushy people carrying selfie sticks. We chose to do a quick stroll along the path, attempted a few pictures, but got back in the car fairly quickly.
As we were driving, James exclaimed, “I think I saw a kakapo!” We turned the car around and sure enough we saw a bird sitting on top of a car that looked fairly close to a kakapo. We took a few pictures, then saw another one, then saw 4 more. Then we noticed the sign that said, “Don’t feed the Kea.” Sigh. Not a kakapo. John really wanted to see one after completing a research report on Endangered Birds of New Zealand, but we consoled ourselves with the fact that other people commonly confuse the two. Their beaks are a little different and the kakapo is nocturnal, unlike the Kea.
We continued our drive and arrived in Milford Sound. The close parking was gone, so we went to the overflow lot. It was raining, so we decided to take the shuttle, but unfortunately the shuttle wasn’t running, so we had a 25 minute walk to the docks. We stopped partway at the visitor center and got coffee for Jeremy and me, and snacks for the boys. It was a nice place to wait out some of the rain. We continued on to the visitor terminal to pick up our boarding passes.
Our cruise with Go Orange started at 12:30. Most of the cruise companies seemed to follow roughly the same path. The smaller ships claimed they could get closer to the wildlife. Other cruises seemed like they may be better for adults only. Go Orange had a Fish ‘n’ Chip lunch option, seemed to have reasonable windows, had a nice top deck, and claimed to be family friendly, so we chose that one. We were really happy with our choice!
On boarding, we darted to the highest indoor level and chose a table with a nice view. With the light rain and the breeze, we ended up spent most of our time inside and only took brief ventures outside. When we came to the first waterfall, we all went out to take a look. Beautiful!
Shortly after this, they announced lunch, so we all enjoyed some nice fish with mediocre fries.
With all of the rain, the waterfalls were really active. The fiords were very steep, so there could easily be 10-20 waterfalls in a very small section of the mountain.
We then took the cruise ship so close to a waterfall that if you were in the right spot, you could get a “free shower.” We opted to just feel the mist. A bit later we had a second opportunity to get another shower, but still just chose the mist.
Towards the end, we passed some fur seals. I am also pretty sure I saw some dolphins, but Jeremy was skeptical. They only came up twice, but I saw some fairly distinctive fins.
It was a wonderful day! With the rain, we weren’t sure that it would be, but the clear part of the day was at just the right time. It started raining again as we pulled into the dock, so we got quite wet walking back to the car, but it felt nice to be out in nature.
On the way back to Te Anau the boys continued their school work, but since I neglected to take a second dramamine, I ended up feeling quite sick. The kids were fine, but I was out of commission for most of the drive.
After arrival in Te Anau, we stopped at the grocery store and picked up breakfast for the next day and a roast chicken and a soup for dinner. It was quite good!