W1702 – Sounds magic

In my last post, W1702 – Wellington walks, I described a lovely sunny day spent in the last port of call on this epic cruise on the North Island of New Zealand, in Wellington. That evening we had set sail for the South Island, but here there were to be no ports of call, but something different and rather special instead, a day spent sailing through three of it’s beautiful sounds, or more correctly fjords.

On the advice of our local pilot, the captain decided to sail the three sounds in reverse (i.e. south to north) order – between around 8:30 and 11:00am Dusky Sound, between around 12:30 and 13:30 Doubtful Sound, and between around 17:00 and 19:00 what would prove to be the highlight, Milford Sound.

On going up on deck soon after 8am, the first thing that struck my girlfriend Carol and myself was just how cold it was, compared to the weather we had been used to sailing much nearer the Equator. I immediately went back to my cabin to fetch my two thick chunky jumpers – Carol was very grateful that I had brought both on the cruise meaning she could thaw out in one of them! We selected a table and chairs tucked right in the corner of the glass partitions, as much out of the cold wind as possible, and settled down to watch the show.

It was not long before we started to enter our first fjord, Dusky Sound. Overhead the skies were grey and laden, which added to the drama of the scene before us:

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Very soon we saw the most wildlife we would see that day, a group of seals hauled out on a rock, and then shortly afterwards a pod of dolphins swam past, and I was very lucky to snatch this snap of one of them leaping out of the water on it’s back:

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We were struck by just how densely wooded the sides of the fjords were, the trees extending right down to the water’s edge. Here and there ribbons of water cascaded down the steep sides, and we both commented how thankful we were that this whole area is so pristine, and protected as one big national park:

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Deep in the fjord the sky was very grey and forbidding, but as we sailed out the skies lifted and the sun came out:

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When sailing between the fjords we seemed to travelling at just the same slow pace we were in the fjords themselves, something I would go on to question later.

After an early lunch we were back out on deck for the second fjord, Doubtful Sound. By now the skies had pretty much cleared, making the sea look so much more blue as we sailed through. It was a familiar mix to view – steep wooded sides interspersed with ribbon waterfalls cascading down to the sea:

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We then had a much longer sail up the coast to reach the third and final fjord, Milford Sound. On the way we were accompanied by an albatross soaring effortlessly on the wind with it’s long wingspan:

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It was around 5pm before we reached the third and what would prove to be by far the most beautiful and spectacular fjord. Nothing in the information we had been given warned us that the third one was extra special, and expecting the same, Carol had returned to her cabin to get ready for dinner that evening, which is at 6:15pm. This is also where I think the captain was at fault for not sailing faster between the fjords, for now it was clear that if we went to dinner in our usual restaurant we would miss a good part of the time in this fjord. Regular readers will know my views on cruise planning or lack thereof from many previous posts!

As we approached the coast it was not immediately apparent where the entrance to the fjord was, but then two boats sailing out gave the clue as to the way in:

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Entering the fjord itself it soon became very clear that this one was so much more beautiful then the other two we had seen earlier, and this was only helped by the lovely bright sunny late afternoon light:

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Several waterfalls were cascading down, and the water caught and lifted by the wind formed bands of rainbow colours in the sunlight:

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As we sailed up the fjord it soon became obvious that one of the waterfalls was much larger and more dramatic than the others, and I dashed down to my cabin to phone Carol and advise her to get back on deck as soon as she could. Fortunately she was soon back on deck with me to see our ship nose our way very, very close to the waterfall which towered above us. This was the Stirling Falls, which with a height of 151m is around three times the height of the Niagara Falls! In the last of these photos you can just see two tiny kayaks at the bottom of the picture, which should help give the scale as to just how epic this waterfall was:

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Carol stayed with me as we sailed on up the fjord as far as we could:

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The ship then turned around for the voyage back down the fjord and back out to sea. While to have stayed on deck and watched it all again but together this time would have been great, the call of a fine dinner sat close to big picture windows proved a greater call and we retired below only a few minutes late for our dinner. It was such a shame that the day’s timings had not been adjusted slightly so that this difficult choice was not necessary.

We had both enjoyed a great finale to our time in New Zealand on our epic Around the World cruise. Next we had a couple of days at sea crossing the Tasman Sea on our way to Eden in Australia. However things for the coming days would not go as planned, as will be revealed in my next few posts.

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