An early start and the rain had cleared and we were treated to blue skies, still air and some nice warming sun.
The usual safety briefing, and it was time to get kitted up in some very attractive thermal base layers, waterproof jackets, neoprene ‘skirts’ and a life jacket. Looking like a right wally, but not caring at all, we had a go at getting in and out of the kayak whilst it was on land and proved we could fit the skirts to the kayak (basically stops water going in your kayak) and that was it – we were ready to go.
The kayaks we were given are 2-person, so me in the back and Laura in the front, basically dumping all the weight at the back, and there were two other couples on the tour. So the three 2-person kayaks were lifted onto the boat followed by the guides 1-person kayak and we all boarded a really small boat – it looked totally top heavy, but as it was reversed down the ramp into the water it sat comfortably on the water and started to speed towards Stirling Falls, our drop-off point and the start of a 12-15km paddle back.
I couldn’t believe our luck, the Sound was calm and still and reflecting the amazing mountains that surrounded us high on both sides. Near vertical mountains plunging straight into the water….it’s truly a magnificent sight. As we passed Stirling Falls, we were ushered to one side, whilst the crew lowered the kayaks into the water and got us all in safely – with no-one getting wet, which was impressive. Lau and I decided to have a practise paddle as the other kayaks were being boarded and straight away saw a seal playing in the water.
After another safety briefing, we all followed the guide towards the waterfall. Stirling Falls is 151m high and creates a wind as you get closer, along with a lot of spray and the aim was to paddle as close to it as you felt comfortable, which was surprisingly difficult given the current, wind and spray that it created but it was great fun trying and at that point a big tour boat went past, creating some sizeable waves in it’s wake which on a little sea kayak was great fun (providing you weren’t broadsided!).
It was a leisurely paddle, no points for speed here, as you are constantly staring up at the surrounding mountains and listening to the guide explaining everything about the area. He was fantastic and again, so passionate about his country, it’s lovely to hear. One of the nuggets of information that stuck, was that Milford Sound is technically named incorrectly. It’s actually a Fjord and not a Sound, as its a glaciated valley, or carved out by a glacier.
At the point this was sinking in, everyone’s attention was diverted to a pod of dolphins swimming straight for us and without stopping they sped past and in our case directly under the kayak, so close, it was incredible and once they had cleared us they proceeded to leap and somersault out of the water on they way towards the sea. It was a magical moment.
By the time we hit land, we were both pretty knackered, and had found muscles I didn’t know existed.
There was no hanging around though, we hit the road again, bound for Te Anau and a much needed rest day, back along the stunning Milford Road, which today was so different due to their being no rain. Whereas yesterday the mountains had been strewn with waterfalls due to the heavy rain, today they were gone and the sky was blue. This environment changes so rapidly, and the vistas are so different depending on the weather, more so than anywhere I’ve been before.
I’m still trying to convince Laura to move here with me!