On reaching Milford Sound, we headed straight for our cruise boat, named “The Pride of Milford”. It was run by the Southern Discoveries company. We had to line up at the wharf. After a few minutes, the boat personnel started the boarding. Since it was a weekday and not peak season, our boat was relatively less crowded. On entering the boat, we were greeted in the typical and friendly kiwi style. We headed straight for the stairs to the deck. On the way, we noticed lots of food for people who had booked the buffet option. For a moment, the main level of the boat almost felt like a restaurant, with dining tables nicely set up all along. Though the food smelled good, we were not tempted to pay NZ$50 pp for it. We had already brought some snacks with us, which was going to be our lunch.
(taken from the wharf at Milford Sound)
(our cruise boat)
Climbing up for a couple of levels, we were at the outdoor open deck. We ended up spending the next 1.5 hours here. As we began taking pictures, the boat started pulling out of the wharf, and our cruise began. Throughout the cruise, we had a very knowledgeable captain feeding us all kinds of information about Milford Sound. It was still a little cloudy, but weather wise we were very lucky. We had the best possible scenario, which was rain while driving to Milford Sound and clearing weather while we were at Milford Sound. This pattern ensured that the waterfalls were flowing, and it was clear enough for us to enjoy them.
(at the starting point of the cruise)
Our cruise route was basically going north-west along Mitre Peak and the rock cliffs towards the Tasman Sea. We would then turn back once we reached the mouth of the fjord. The water was clean and almost dark green in colour. It was a unique place, peaceful and very scenic. There were steep rock faces on both sides, with lush green vegetation on some of the rock faces. There were countless small waterfalls everywhere. It was a little windy, but not very cold. The clouds were hanging really low, and it just added to the beauty of the landscape. We were able to take a ton of pictures throughout the journey.
(green colour of water)
(rock faces on both sides)
(rock cliffs with a waterfall in the distance)
(sailing along during the cruise)
After sometime, we came across a piece of rock on which we saw fur seals. They were lazing around, and it was great to see them in their natural environment rather than in some aquarium.
(fur seals on a rock)
(fur seals relaxing on the rocks)
Once we reached the mouth of the fjord and the Tasman Sea, we headed back. According to our boat captain, if we continued going further north-west from the point that we had reached, then we would eventually reach Sydney! As we were turning back, the clouds cleared up, and we could see the blue sky. The sunlight was also piercing through the clouds. The clear weather meant even better pictures.
(approaching the Tasman Sea)
(at the mouth of the fjord)
(some incredible views)
(weather slowly clearing up)
On the way back, the captain steered the boat towards one of the waterfalls. In fact, he took the boat so close to one of the falls, that the water actually fell on the front deck of the boat. It was for people who wanted to take a “shower” in the falls. Though the water must have been really cold, it did not seem to matter to the excited people, who were screaming with joy as they were getting wet.
(clear views of the fjord)
(snow capped Mt. Pembroke in the center)
(going closer to a waterfall)
(wind causing the waterfall to take an interesting shape)
(boat taken into a waterfall for a shower)
(the force of the water was strong)
As we were close to the wharf on our return, we saw the beautiful snow covered Mt. Pembroke with clouds above it. We also saw hills along the Mitre Peak side, and they were being covered on the top very spectacularly by low hanging clouds. It was an amazing end to our cruise. After disembarking the boat, we headed straight for the bus – as per the instructions of our bus driver. It was about 3 pm and time to drive back. Our driver wanted to leave for Queenstown right away in order to beat the rush of other tour buses/cars at Homer Tunnel.
(nice view of the fjord)
(snow on Mt. Pembroke)
(looking towards Mitre Peak)
(typical green vegetation of Southland)
(another spectacular view of Milford Sound)
(almost near the wharf)
(the clouds enhance the view)
Along the way back, we drove through lush green plains of Southland. It was still cloudy. As we reached Lake Wakatipu in Otago, we started noticing everyone in the bus going crazy with their cameras. They were all trying to take a picture of a spectacular sight. A few rays of sunlight were piercing through clouds, and it looked as if someone from above was flashing a bright light from a flashlight. Because the clouds around the light were so dark, the shape and path of the light piercing through was even more prominent. If there was any shortage of stunning and spectacular scenery during the trip to Milford Sound, then this sight must have surely filled it.
(on the bus driving back to Queenstown)
(sunlight visible in patches)
(the bus-driver view of Southland roads)
(stunning natural scenery)
It was an incredible but tiring day. We had been treated to some stunning natural beauty. But the 10 hour bus ride, and the almost 13 hour day had made us feel very tired indeed. Some of the roads to Milford Sound are quite winding, and it made us feel a little bit uneasy during the journey. But we did not get sick or anything. It was almost 7 pm when we were back at Queenstown, and we headed straight for the Spice Room, located across the street from the Athol St drop-off spot. We were very hungry due to our long day. We even managed to top off the dinner with a chocolate volcano dessert at the famous Patagonia store. We did not plan much for the next day, as we wanted it to be easy going. It would help us recover from the marathon trip to Milford Sound.
(chocolate dessert at Patagonia)