Sound of Silence – Fiordland National Park, New Zealand #10

May 15, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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The roller coaster experience I had in Kaikoura for whalewatching made me a bit worry about Itchyfingers‘ next cruise in New Zealand. But we had prebooked it online so like it or not, I would still have to give it a go…hahah…

We would be taking one of these for our cruise to Milford Sound

The Milford Visitors Centre and Terminal…

As it was a noontime cruise, we could choose to pay extra for sandwich lunch and hot beverages to be served on board at the start of the ride. Itchyfingers didn’t wanna pay for the costly meal (we had our own sandwiches at the visitors’ carpark!) so we joined some other tourists (looked like poor backpackers like us…hahah) to sit at the outer deck of the boat….looked a bit miserable…hahahah….

Milford Sound is one of the most accessible fiords in the south west of NZ’s South Island, within the Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. It is approximately 16km from the head of the fiord to the open sea, which means visitors can comfortably travel the length of the fiord to open ocean and return on one of the many cruise options available.

So, what’s a fiord?

Fiord, or Fjord, is “a long narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity. A fjord is formed when a glacier cuts a U-shaped valley by abrasion of the surrounding bedrock. Glacial melting is accompanied by rebound of Earth’s crust as the ice load and eroded sediment is removed.”  Milford Sound is one of the 14 fiords in New Zealand. They were mistakenly named sound by James Cook, the British explorer. A sound is a drowned valley (flooded by the sea following a rise in sea levels or depression of the land, or a combination of both), whereas a fiord is a valley carved out by glaciers (flooded by the sea after the glacier’s retreat.)

There were many small waterfalls snaking their way down along the cliff


So many of them…

It was a peaceful and quiet scenario, looking at the landscape enjoying the cool breeze. By now my worry about getting sea sick was gone, as the water seemed to be much calmer. It helped that we were sitting outside, getting fresh air. 🙂

A fellow cruise vessel…

Vegetation thrived despite the harsh condition…

Gulls were plentiful…so were the streaks of fecal waste on the cliff face…

Terns were also seen…Not too sure the identity of this tern….could be the
White-fronted Tern…

Not too long later, the serenity was broken and replaced with exclaims of excitement from the tourists when the tour operator alerted all of the sighting of Fur Seals (Arctocephalus forsteri)

Sound of clicking of cameras on three fat Fur Seals snoozing on the rock
broke the silence!

As the boat turned, more seals were seen at the same location! So cute! I
wished they could have stopped longer for us to observe the cute fellas

So lonely

Then another group of Fur Seals were spotted! This group was slightly
more active…It may not be as close as the ones we saw at Kaikoura but
the seals here were found to be gathering in much larger groups…

How did they manage to climb on the relatively steep, smooth and slippery

It was a fine day when we started our cruise. But it started to drizzle heavily…something that was expected – Fiordland’s weather is what gives the region its unique character. Rainfall is what makes Fiordland a land of lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls and fiords. So visitors should always be prepared to enjoy some rainfall during their stay. It is recommended to bring sensible clothing for cool and wet weather to fully appreciate your stay. According to our cruise operator’s site, “the temperatures you can expect in the different seasons are as follows: summer (December-February) 19-23 Celsius, autumn (March-May) 8-18 Celsius, winter (June-August) 5-9 Celsius, spring (September-November) 10-19 Celsius.”


At one point, the operator announced that we were going to go nearer to
this waterfall. Couldn’t really catch all he said cos the broadcast system
wasn’t very clear
…But this should be one of the bigger ones that we could go
was taken from our boat. Even at this distance, we could feel
the powerful splatters of water

Many tourists weren’t bothered that their small cameras would get wet and
went to the upper deck to experience the full power of the waterfall! So fun!
Too bad I was still sick and my thin windbreaker would not protect against
heavy rain….

This was as far as Tisu Boy could go! Head on with the powerful splash!

I think that was how close our vessel went towards the waterfall…

As the rain got heavier, many retreated inside to take cover. At a point it got so wet and cold that Itchyfingers also tried to take shelter inside, only to find there were no more seats available. Most of the tourists look like foreigners, with the majority being older folks with their families or groups of friends. There was only one other asian family. We were drenched and feeling so cold, trying to look around for a seat to rest but no one offered to invite us to join their tables although some of the seats were not fully occupied but were used to put their belongings. Not very gracious and considerate. We couldn’t even find a proper place to stand…Looking at them happily laughing and sipping hot coffee and tea while ignoring others who were standing around shivering suddenly made me feel like an inferior being…felt so discriminated…Maybe we should have tried asking nicely…We weren’t even sure if we could help ourselves to the drinks to warm ourselves since we didn’t pay for the food. So we stood near the door with a few other caucasian tourists (who were also late to take shelter) for a while before going out again to take photos…

Tisu Girl happy again…hahah…

On the way back, we saw these…


No, these were the
Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)! There
were a few of them but they didn’t do as much acrobatic leaps as the
Dusky Dolphins Itchyfingers saw at Kaikoura whalewatching, so it was
tougher to predict when they were gonna emerge outta the water. It was
still raining and the boat was moving, so this was the best picture we
could manage…And suddenly the coffee or tea sippers inside all ran out
to take photos also…

The Red-billed Gull and possibly the
White-fronted Tern (Sterna striata),
the most common tern in New Zealand…It was still drizzling…

Last look at another waterfall before we ended our cruise…

We left the Visitors’ Centre/Terminal and as we drove along the road up, we were delighted to find multiple streams of waterfall from the top of the cliff…it was such a majestic sight….

The steep road up…The waterfalls were absent when we drove down to the
Visitors Centre but after the
 whole afternoon’s rain, waterfalls streamed
down like opened taps…

We were treated to a panoramic view of waterfalls on the rocky cliffs…
Here we were approaching the Homer Tunnel…Some site said that you
could see the mountain parrot, Kea, here but we didn’t see any…

The Homer Tunnel is 1,270 metres long and used to be pitch dark inside until
a tour bus carrying tourists from Singapore caught fire about 150 metres
from the eastern portal in 2002. A satellite phone and fire extinguishers
were installed in the tunnel as a result of this incident. Roof lighting was
fitted and traffic lights reintroduced in 2004 to reduce capacity constraints
and safety issues. Here we had to wait for cars from the opposite end to
pass before we could enter, giving us the chance to take in the amazing

Even if there were lights now, you still have to turn on the headlight when
you enter the tunnel

No words could describe the majestic view in front of us…Itchyfingers
were speechless

The valley in the fog…This looked so Lord of the Ring! 😀

A coach from the same tour operator as our cruise…Notice anything
unique about the coach? It was titled upwards so that people at the back
could have an unobstructed view along the way…interesting

Many of the pictures on travel brochures we saw on Milford Sound were mostly colourful, bright and cheery taken on sunny days, but on a rainy day, it presented a different look that was so peaceful and serene too. Moments of silence were always broken with lives of animals and the waterfalls…and not forgetting the sounds of camera shutters of excited tourists…Come experience a different Milford Sound, be it a sunny or rainy day, the fiord will definitely leave you speechless….

Also see related posts:
Mega Fox – Wanaka, New Zealand Trip #9
Ice Age – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand Trip #8
The Kueh Lapis – Punakaiki, New Zealand Trip #7
Changing Landscape – Arthur Pass, New Zealand Trip #6
> Seal with a Kiss – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #5
Freezing Sunset – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #4
Alfresco Dining – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #3
A Roller Coaster Ride – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #2
Mass Exodus – Christchurch, New Zealand Trip #1


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