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Get fjorded!

After two days at sea, it was so exciting to see land again!

New Zealand is also known as Aotearoa in Maori (the first settlers) and is roughly translated as "land of the long white cloud". And so it is. At least on the South Island!

The view that greeted us at 7am!
We are on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand, in an area called Fjordland National Park.  It has World Heritage status and it's easy to see why. The area has simply some of the most spectacular scenery you will see in any part of the world.

In case you missed the kids' research on fjords, they are deep gorges cut out by glaciers in the last two million years and then flooded by ocean when sea levels rose after the last ice age, leaving steep sided valleys and hanging valleys where tributary streams entered. The end result is beautiful scenery!

Milford Sound (inaccurately named as 'sounds' are drowned river valleys) is one of the most famous fjords and is relatively accessible - although the entrance is easy to miss from the ocean side (Captain James Cook sailed right on past it). It is also the only one accessible by land and apparently the Milford Track is one of the most amazing walks to do and is definitely on my bucket list!! We were lucky, because on the cruise before us, the wind was so strong they were unable to get into Milford Sound. Although it was wet and cold, it was relatively still.

Entering Milford Sound - it was raining quite a bit! 

There had been significant rainfall in the last few days (in fact it has an annual rainfall of over 6813mm - that's nearly seven metres or 23 feet on 182 days of the year, making Milford Sound the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest in the world). So there are lots of temporary waterfalls cascading down the sides of the rock faces.



Despite it's isolation, the Sound is one of New Zealand's most visited tourist attractions - with nearly 1 million people visiting each year. It's easy to see why!





The Sound runs 16km inland and is up to 400m deep in places (more than adequate to get our big cruise ship in!). The cliff faces rise up to 1200m or 3900ft. There are a couple of permanent waterfalls (Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls). Don't ask me which ones are which...







At the top end of the Sound, there is apparently a Visitors centre and an underwater observatory where you can see rare black coral and also the layer of tannin stained freshwater over the top of the salty seawater. Also on the bucketlist!! About 24 passengers got off here to do an overland trip via Queenstown (major skiing/bungee/adventure town) and to meet up with us in Dunedin.

A Princess Cruises executive was standing near us and said that the views here were comparable to those in Alaska and Glacier Bay, which is not too shabby. Glacier Bay is still on my bucketlist though!

During the day, the phrase "Fjord" was bandied around so much that it became a running joke and also a new substitute for "fudge" (as in "Fjord! It's fjording cold outside!"). Hence the title.






Fjordland is home to several threatened native New Zealand birds. There are at least 106 Takahe (more on him later), a flightless, alpine bird, thought extinct earlier this century and it is considered a stronghold for the Kakapo (also flightless and the world's largest parrot), although it is now probably extinct on the mainland they have recently been returned to Anchor Island in Dusky Sound. We enjoyed reading about the Kakapo in Douglas Adams' Last Chance to See and also watching Another Chance to See with Stephen Fry. 

We spent a few hours travelling down the coast and entered Breaksea Sound and Dusky Sound. They were not as steep as Milford Sound, but as the weather cleared, we still enjoyed some spectacular views.





We exited Dusky Sound around 4pm and headed south. Through the night we will transit through the Foveaux Channel between the mainland and Stewart Island and then head north easterly to Port Chalmers, where we will actually get to set foot, on solid ground, in New Zealand!!

Comments

  1. Having just been to Norway this year (yep, name dropping ;) ) it looks SO very similar. WOW! And the rain makes it so much better. It rained when we went through Geiringerfjord in Norway and it was magical.

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  2. Wow, Norway! OK, now my bucket list is getting really long!

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  3. Lovely pictures! I'm enjoying your adventure. The waterfalls put our little local one to shame.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures with us. As one who may never travel down south it's nice to see it through your eyes. Beautiful photos, breathtaking scenery.

    And I loved the "It's fjording cold outside" references. So glad your guys had a fun and safe trip :).

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  6. I was hoping I didn't offend too many people with my sense of humour, but that's me! Stay tuned for lots more photos!

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