The New Year in Milford was an opportunity for many new things. It was also a sudden shift from ‘beginning of the season’ to ‘ahh the season is ending’ inducing a mad panic to be out embracing everything this area has to offer. That being said, January brought 26 days of rain, a colossal 1.3 metres, so we weren’t sure when summer was going to start.
With the kiwi lifestyle comes an abundance of boats and outdoor hobbies. Brad, my bestie, was able to introduce us to waterskiing, or face planting the water at speed. Despite the cold water it was fantastic fun to be yanked from the water and follow a speeding boat. With several of us new to it and coached by those who knew, it was exciting to see the improvements each night. With the backdrop of Mitre Peak behind, the thrill of a small boat was such a different way to experience the fjord.
As January was characterised with sports, we tackled Homer Saddle, twice. The mesmerising view was worth a second haul as we scrambled up to the saddle above the tunnel, able to see the spaghetti road from each side, a steep drop off. Despite being barely a week apart, the first time the mountains were dusted with snow as Allison, Adam, Jaemi and I earned our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the way up. The second time Gavin, Frazer, Marine, Ross, Nathan and I sweated out our beers as we clamoured ever up for the impressive view.
Another incredible view could be gained from Gertrude Saddle. From the valley, the other tall Lauren and I walked through tussock before climbing alongside cascading waterfalls of unseasonal melting snow until we reached a lake. The water was crystal clear, the bottom visible in the depths. In the heat the cold water was tempting, but we resisted opting to climb higher up the steep rocks. As we reached the plateau the view was incredible paying over the valley and Milford sound feeding into the ocean. The boats were small specs dwarfed by the mountains. We climbed higher and higher addicted to the expansive view, behind us new lakes coming into view. As we climbed down we went off track to one of the hidden lakes, a perfect spot for a refreshingly cold swim. Another amazing tick for the Milford Bucket list.
Other missions included a jaunt up the Milford track with a very quick dip under the icy giants gate falls. The crystal clear water encouraged us in while the spasming muscles made sure we didn’t stay long. Another Frazer and Lauren mission saw us catching the boat out to the mouth of the fiord to traverse the coast. We jumped off the front of the boat into water which was way above our heads, despite being told it was 16inches. We then fought the starved sandflies as we made our way along Anita bay collecting beautiful rocks along the way. A few bays round we stumbled upon a stone hut steeped in history from first exploration of the area, restored to maintain its beautiful condition. The coastline got rockier encouraging us to swap from rock hopping to climbing, grappling with the smooth walls for grip. When it eventually called for us to swim, I had to devour two peanut butter sandwiches and follow Frazer as he made for the shore, wetting our second outfits of the day. Now at Foxes Cove we attempted to march through the dense bush, over the saddle to St Anne’s lighthouse. The main concern with my sense of direction was loosing our way through the thick vines and undergrowth, but we made a decent stab at it before it was time to return for our cruise back again. This time we put on wetsuits and swam out to meet the boat, confused customers congratulating us as Gavin and Graeme hauled us on to the boat to dry out.
Rod and I experienced 5 star luxury upon the Fiordland Jewel overnight cruise one sunny night in the fjord. We work closely with their company and were able to go on a spy mission onboard adopting our familiar persona of acting like an old married couple. The catamaran takes 20 but was relatively empty, so we each had a double ensuite room, the height of luxury being that we had automatic blinds on the windows. The fiord looked magical as we powered out to Sterling Falls, the drone flying above us recording our path. We docked for the night in Harrison Cove, the only safe anchorage in Milford, and got aboard the tender for a close up look.
Dinner was fresh Fiordland food and the afternoon entertainment appeared to be us as they set us the challenge of tying us together and watching us struggle to fathom the solution. Rod had the other guests convinced we were married and it was ‘great to have a night away from the kids.’
We spent much of our mornings getting up close and personal with the visiting cruise ships, of which we expected 90 over the season, many with passengers to be transferred. However there was a few special encounters where the boats did an entire turnaround inside the fiord and we had to assemble a team to do several trips offloading passengers and luggage all morning, reloading a whole new group in the afternoon. Our days in the life of baggage handlers were surprisingly fun, rubbing shoulders with fancy clientele and staff who spend months below deck out to sea.
A big event of the Milford social calendar was the wild food fest, a chance to exhibit anything caught, shot or brewed locally. With ticket in hand you could gorge on venison, cod, mussels or possum, or just try your hand at local beers and even more local home brews. The music was loud and local and the dancing made the mark of a good night.
A regular event was the Milford ‘not at the pub’ quiz which took place on a boat in the harbour. Quiz master Chris kept us scratching our heads over several catagories, a favourite being for the dumb. Openly easily bribed the event always had an air of descending into debauchery but was sure to provide some laughs. Our regular team was exclusively blonde and named ‘the four blondes who thought this was speed dating’ and a competitor attitude was compulsory despite wavering successes.