Friday, December 14, 2012

Thursday Adventure: Kayaking Milford Sound (New Zealand)

Chatting via email with New Zealand author Helen Lowe brought back memories of the wonderful time my husband and I had visiting New Zealand back in 2006.  If you've seen the Lord of the Rings movies, you have some idea of the spectacular scenery New Zealand has to offer, but believe me, the scenery featured in those movies is only the tip of the iceberg!  New Zealand is a gorgeous country with an absolutely stunning variety of landscape, offering everything from ocean beaches with golden sand and azure water, to rainforest, to towering snow-covered peaks.

Since we'd already spent a week in the Cook Islands and a week visiting my husband's family in Sydney, we only had 10 days to spend in New Zealand, which felt like far too little time!  But we made the most of it.  We went caving in the Waitomo area of the North Island, canyoning on the Coromandel Peninsula, sea kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park, spent three days hiking the Routeburn Track in the Southern Alps, and finished off with exploring Milford Sound by kayak.  Today I'll share a few pictures from that last adventure.  Milford Sound is a fjord in the southwestern area of New Zealand's South Island, one of the many in Fjordland National Park, and was called by Rudyard Kipling the eighth Wonder of the World.  Not surprising, when it offers views like this:

Morning mist around Mitre Peak
Most tourists take a short boat tour of the sound and either head off to their next destination or perhaps hike the Milford Track (a trail that runs between the sound and Lake Te Anau, near Queenstown).  We wanted to spend a bit more time exploring the sound itself, so we signed up for an all-day kayak trip.  My husband and I are far from experienced kayakers (not much call for kayaking in Colorado, unless you do whitewater kayaking, which we haven't yet tried), but experience isn't necessary on calm water in a craft as stable as a sea kayak - you just need just a reasonable level of fitness and the willingness to get a really good arm workout.

Our guide, Tracy, telling us about the history of Milford Sound
The really nice thing about kayaking the sound is you get to admire the views without being bothered by the swarms of biting sandflies that plague the sound's shoreline.  (Come on, you knew a paradise like this would be too perfect without a serpent in the garden!)  Soon as you paddle off the beach, the sandflies disappear: bliss!  Paddling out into the sound was quite a good workout, though, as there was a nice stiff breeze blowing against us.  But that made it all the more fun when we returned - our guide showed us how to use swathes of fabric as a "kayak sail," letting us zoom back to shore at high speed without the need to paddle.  (Sorry, no pics of that - was too busy hanging on to the sail ropes and making sure our kayak didn't flip!)

Paddling the sound

Looking back at the head of the sound
The whole area is just so spectacular.  Once we left the sound and boarded a bus to take us and our backpacking gear back to Queenstown, I spent the whole trip goggling out the windows, sighing over views like this:

Gorgeous mountain views on the bus ride back to Queenstown
We definitely intend to go back and spend more time in both Fjordland and the Southern Alps!


  1. What you did in those ten days would make me need another ten days of sleep. :-)

    But I can see why you got out to see the most you could. Never knew of that area, and it's gorgeous.

    My friend in Australia said her folks are off this month to NZ, "or, as they put it, Middle Earth."

    1. My attitude before having a kid was "Sleep on vacation is for *wusses*." Haha, these days when I fantasize of a dream vacation, I can't think of anything better (and also more impossible!) than the chance to get 12 straight hours of uninterrupted sleep...oh well! Maybe in fifteen years when the kiddo goes off to college. :P

      And yes, half the reason I'm dying to see the Hobbit movie is just to drool over NZ scenery once again! :)