Southland: Fiordland-Wet, Wild

Milford Sound – We almost didn’t make it!

In February, 2020 wild weather closed off the road to remote Fiordland. The only way to Milford Sound was to board buses and convoy from Te Anou.

Milford is the only fiord in New Zealand accessible by road; however, on February 3, 2020, the single road to Milford Sound was torn up by floods and slides when a storm dumped a meter (3 ft, 3 in) of rain in less than 24 hours. Stranded trampers (hikers) were air lifted from the trails. Lodge visitors abandoned rentals cars and were evacuated by helicopters.

The area and lodge remained closed for weeks, but 3 days before our reservation, after tremendous effort in rebuilding, State Road 94 opened, with restrictions to convoy transport (no personal vehicles allowed). We boarded a bus in Te Anou in a convoy of 50 buses that snaked along the road to Milton Sound Lodge.

The trip through the glacial valley was a gift: Mirror Lake and monster trees.

Our first glimpse of Milford Sound was a tease as clouds topped the mountains.

And then the rain…

It rains over 200 days a year here and our day on the boat was no exception with a bonus of gale force winds. But it sailed…a boat for 250 passengers, held 11, plus crew, out to the Tasman Sea and back. Hundreds of waterfalls were magnificent,and true to lore, they stop running a few hours after the rain ends…a sight to behold.

Wind Driven Waterfalls

Doubtful Sound – Isolated and Beautiful

Doubtful Sound is three times longer than Milford Sound and ten times larger. It has no direct road access. To reach this fiord, you take a boat across Lake Manapouri, a bus over the Wilmot Pass and down into Deep Cove, then another boat through the fiord to the Tasman Sea.

Doubtful Sound was sunny and bright and gave us an idea of what the clouds obscured over at Milford Sound. At both we sailed to the Tasman Sea before turning back.

The Maori name for Doubtful Sound is Patea – translated it means “The Place Of Silence”.

Despite their names both Milford and Doubtful Sounds are fiords, not sounds – the difference is that a Sound is created by a river, a Fiord by a glacier. In this case, HUGE glaciers that carved through the rocks.

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Top of South: Nelson, Tasman

Where we were the day that everything changed, March 23, 2020. Lockdown Lookback: “How long can this last?” led to a 14 month NZ odyssey, staying in 57 places, hiking 1,469.58 miles.

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6 thoughts on “Southland: Fiordland-Wet, Wild

  1. Wow, Marlene this is awesome, thanks for sharing. Looks like an amazing life you are living!
    Joan Carroll

  2. Even in the rain, Milford Sound manages to be beautiful, but it’s that Mirror Lake photo that is my favourite on the page. It sounds like quite an adventure. Glad the road re-opened and you got to get there.

  3. Sounds like we went on the same exact trip!

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