Fiordland National Park – The Birthplace of Adventure

Fiordland National Park on the horizon, we were well into adventure mode. Nuni the narwhal on lookout on the dash, Amy on research riding shotgun, our trusty steed Casper doing his best impersonation of a race car, and me doing what I do best – not crashing. Yes, adventure was in the air. With each and every Blink 182 song, Fiordland drew nearer and the landscape was changing. The foliage grew denser, greener, and the air began to freshen. The road was winding more drastically and more often now and our hurried pace slowed as we inevitably caught up to the Chinese tourists driving campers they clearly have little experience with. To be fair, most have probably never driven a vehicle that big before. Combine that with the distractions of picturesque New Zealand scenery and windy roads, and you can understand the absurd amount of accidents that occur here. I digress. Our first stop was nearing.

Mirror lake

We had managed to book a Milford Sound cruise seconds before dropping out of mobile reception while en route. However that wasn’t until Monday, and being well before noon on Sunday, we had lots of time on our hands. In our usual fashion, we waited until a few hours before arriving to do our research. Thanks to Amy’s adept Wikicamps skills though, we found what promised to be a nice hike (after all it got a good rating and that’s enough for us!).

Gertrude’s Saddle track is 7km of difficult terrain, starting in a rocky glacial valley, and ascending upwards to the peak high above. We were both feeling spry and rested, which would later prove very helpful. We conquered the valley easily enough and as we came to the end of the track and looked up, we realized the easy times were behind us. So up we went. A short but steep climb later we reached a nice waterfall and river, which made for a lovely stopping spot and picture opportunity. We continued on and after sometime the track came level again and we were standing before a large, black lake, shrouded in fog. With the end in sight we pushed on. We reached the top after only 1 hour 45 minutes, considerably less time than DOC had said it would take. We had some lunch and headed down the way we came, eventually making our way back to the car. It was time to make camp. Note: I have intentionally left out much detail from this adventure as another blog post will be coming soon to fill you in on all the fun bits.

Gertrude Saddle Valley

Gunns Camp feels like you’re stepping into the past. It has a real gold mining settlement air about it. We stepped from the car and every uncovered bit was instantly greeted by the mass of resident sandflies. Swearing and displeased, we paid our camping fees to the proprietress who assured us you get used to the unyielding flying little bastards and they would eventually go to sleep. We chose a spot near the river, set up camp, and headed to the kitchen area. A spot of writing, and photo editing was done, and a healthy pour of well deserved whiskey was had by all. Sleepy and content we called it a night early.

In the morning we made an early start for Milford Sound to tick one of the items off from our NZ bucket list, a cruise around the sounds. We arrived well before our departure time and were the first in line at the boat. Juicy seems to run this country. Their campervans are everywhere, and this bright green boat sat before us waiting to be filled with the ever growing line of ticket holders. We had picked what we thought would be the best for photos and promptly raced to it when he gate opened.

Milford Sound

The skies cleared as we departed and the unwieldily green beast motored around the sound, which was nothing short of spectacular. Waterfalls gushed down from the green fiords in every direction and our very entertaining captain informed us after heavy rain they could expect more than 10,000 such water features. That’s a staggering number. A blog is coming soon with heaps of neat info about our experience, so I won’t go too in depth here, but keep an eye out for that. As the boat docked and the passengers disembarked, it was over all too soon. We gave our “business” card to the French couple we met aboard and were off once again.

A nice Brit had tipped us off at camp the night before about a blue hole. We made for a place called The Chasm. A popular tourist spot, we miraculously found a place to put Casper right away. The Chasm is a short walk from the car park and level all the way. We paid our dues and made a quick visit to the formation. From a bridge above we watched as the river plunged violently into a chasm. Very interesting, but we had something better on our minds, so one minute later we were off in search of the blue hole.

A fairly obvious path, or maybe it just seemed that way because we knew where to look, we parted from the main trail and headed down through the lush vegetation. Two minutes later a pristine glacial pool was in front of us and we had it all to ourselves. Now, your first thought when you see what amounts to a glacier in liquid form probably shouldn’t be to strip your clothes off and jump in. However, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I dont know if I underestimated how cold 2-5 degree water is, or just wanted a photo to post to Instagram, but down to my undies I went and into the water I went, as Amy recorded it all. Holy shit it was cold. Take your breath away cold. I made for the shore as quickly as possible and sat in the sun trying to warm myself up. As soon as I was warmed up Amy had a bright idea. “A picture of you floating in the middle of the pool would make a really good Instagram post”. So it was. I swam out in the middle of the near freezing pool and floated there for what seemed like an eternity. As soon as Amy got the shot, I made for shore again to dry off and warm up. It was worth it. I felt invigorated. We made for the parking lot, arriving to much excitement from Nuni and Casper (the way they do).

Blue Hole at the Chasm

A short lived, but incredible adventure was behind us now as we waved goodbye to Milford Sound and left Fiordland National Park behind us. Our sights now set on Queenstown and Wanaka, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad we didn’t have more time to explore this wonderful part of the country. Life goes on though. Nuni once again on lookout, Amy navigating, Casper racing along, and me not driving us off a cliff, the adventure was just beginning.

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