June 22 - Milford Sound
New Zealand - There and Back Again
We woke around 7:15 AM and laid in bed until about 7:40. Last night was the warmest night so far. I remember looking on the thermometer outside the lounge building that it was 13 Celsius, which is in the mid-50s. We went inside and had our breakfast. We ate cereal, a banana, and had hot chocolate.
We were only paying per day at the Milford Sound Lodge because we didn’t know how long we would stay there so before we started the day we paid for another night. We each paid for ourselves since we had each paid once the previous two nights,.
After breakfast we planned to do the Lake Marian Hike. It is down the same gravel road as the Humboldt Falls trail we did the day before, but only 1 kilometer off the main road. The past two days the weather was perfect, but today it was really cloudy and looked like it would rain. It may have been better to do the lake hike the day before when the weather was great because you don’t need such nice weather to see a waterfall and a chasm. In fact, those two things would probably be better after rainfall anyway.
We considered going down to Milford Sound before we planned to head off to the Lake Marian hike, but decided that the weather wasn’t very good and it wouldn’t be worth it. We started our drive around 9:30 AM.
We didn’t stop along the way at all, but I did film out the window occasionally. We made it to the beginning of the trail around 10:15. One other car was parked at the pull off. We think it was a guy we had seen the day before near the bridge we hiked to after the Humboldt Falls Trail.
We packed our bags with a few snacks, I took an apple and a granola bar, and then were ready to begin the hike of the day. The trail starts with a long swinging bridge that crosses the river below. We did a couple of gopro videos from various angles. Just after the bridge the trail leads into a forest with a lot of mossy trees.
The first portion of the trail is marked very well. The day before we had seen a group of workers parked in the car park laying down gravel. They must have been using some on the trail because it looked like fresh gravel had just been put out.
The first part of the hike leads to a series of waterfalls, but we planned to continue on to Lake Marian, which was 1 ½ hours further. We read that the trail was poorly marked the further you went. We were going to see for ourselves what that meant.
It was basically flat for the first 20 minutes of the hike with only slight climbs uphill. Which was nice since it made for easy walking. We filmed a whole lot of shots in this area, probably too many considering how long the overall hike was supposed to be. It was very scenic though. One portion was paved with boardwalks as it curved around a rock wall.
A few minutes past that there is another boardwalk section as you approach the waterfalls. I wouldn’t really describe it as a waterfall, but more of rushing water that dropped off a few feet as it passed through some large boulders. One part was a little bit of a drop off, maybe 4 yards.
As we approached the guy that had been at the parking lot with us was taking pictures. We started before him, but he ended up passing us, and we had caught back up to him. We didn’t see him again until we started the other part of the trail that goes all the way to the lake.
The trail itself was raised up from the water and seemed to be hanging to the rock wall edge to the left of us. It was a pretty cool little trail for this part. We did a whole lot of gopro shots, but most of them were just of myself. Andy was taking forever with pictures of the waterfalls. He was doing long exposure shots to make the water appear blurry.
It started to sprinkle at this point of the trail while I was waiting for him. He caught up to me around the corner on another part of the boardwalk and told me what he had been doing. He showed me his pictures and explained how to do it. He had a tripod that could attach to the railing, but I had to just rest mine on the railing. In order to make the pictures come out correctly you need to use a timer on the camera, otherwise you will shake it slightly and make the picture come out blurry.
We must have spent 40 minutes in this one area alone. The pictures we took came out well, and it was a neat place. At this point we were the only ones in the area. It was raining harder and most people don’t do the longer hikes, especially ones that claim to be poorly marked.
We began the portion of the hike to Lake Marian around 11:45. We managed to make a 20 minute hike last over an hour. We didn’t really have anything else planned for the day so it wasn’t a big deal to go fast or slow. It was also very cloudy and raining off and on so maybe a little later it would be clear at the lake.
The sign post to begin the Lake Marian hike warns that it isn’t marked very well and we had previously read that it can be slippery when wet. The beginning of it is a little bit steep, but covered by lots of trees. If it was raining we couldn’t tell because we never got wet. Most of the trees are covered in bright green moss. It makes for really neat pictures, but we didn’t do a whole lot. Instead we did a ton of gopro videos of the trail.
The trail itself was very rocky. Unlike the first part of the hike these were slightly larger rocks though. Many of them spaced out, but sometimes one after another. Most of the trail included slightly uphill climbs, but due to the fact that it was rarely flat it made it a more difficult hike. It was also very slippery in some parts.
The uphill portions tended to have a lot of rocks you would have to step onto and navigate slower than usual so you didn’t twist your ankle or fall down from stepping on a wobbly rock. We filmed a lot at the beginning, but not so much the further we went. I was pretty tired and starving and just wanted to get to the lake to have my snack and get some pictures. I figured we could do any missed filming opportunities on the way back down.
I try to only film portions of the trail that look cool or the scenery changes to give the general idea of how the hike looks. Due to the fact that the scenery wasn’t changing that much I didn’t feel the need to stop too often, although I did make a few mental notes of places I would like to stop on the way back.
There is one portion that goes out of the forest and into the open. This area is a rock slide zone. Before you go in a sign warns you for the next 200 meters to not stop. It is basically medium and large sized boulders that obviously have fallen down the mountain. Many of these rockslides are intentionally started by dynamite so that any loose rocks don’t fall while hikers are on the trail.
This portion is also where the signs marking the trail become trickier. At first there were a few stakes with orange tops marking the way. After about 80 yards on the rocks we returned to the forest. I was thinking that was a fast 200 meters, and was hoping that was the whole rock slide area because that would mean we were closer to our destination.
To enter back into the forest we had to look around for orange triangles on the trees. It took a minute, but we were able to find it. After a few more minutes we were in the rest of the rock slide zone. In order to get to this portion we had to basically scale the side of a cliff wall. It was only about 15 yards above the rocks below, but in order to get down we had to hang on to exposed tree roots. It was pretty cool, but nothing like what we were about to experience.
The next portion of the trail was across some rocks, and again we had to look for a minute to see where the trail was going. We saw the orange marker and then walked towards it. In front of us was another cliff wall, only steeper and higher than the previous one.
This one was about 30 yards above the rocks. Almost the whole way up we had to grapple onto tree roots for balance and support. At the top there were three trees. The first tree was skinny and on the left. It was basically impossible to pass through it since the other side was too steep and against a hill. The middle two trees had a small gap between them that led to the trail. Basically at this point in order to pass through we were standing on a tree route holding on to the trees we were attempting to squeeze between. One false move and you would fall backwards, 30 yards to the ground below with nothing to cushion your fall.
Andy went through first and I was a few yards behind. I had taken a step incorrectly so my feet got tangled up. I ended up just having to hold both tree trunks with each hand and lift myself up and then step down. We made it through one of the more difficult parts of the hike. Getting down wasn’t going to be fun. Especially if it rained more and became slippery.
We walked for another hour with very little filming stops. The closer we got to the end the more narrow the trail became. It was also becoming steeper, muddier, and rockier. There was one part in particular that was a narrow waterway. It was about a foot wide on either side and about 6 feet tall. We weren’t sure if it was the trail, but we walked down it anyway. Bushes were hanging over on either side so we were getting wet and muddy as we passed through. It was neat, but on the way back in this part we saw that the trail had actually gone a little to our right, on a nice clean path.
There was another section near the end that was similar, but this time the passage way was shorter, but still involved mud and wet plants. It wasn’t that big of a deal though because our pants could protect our legs and they dried fast. Besides, the real wetness hadn’t even begun.
As we went further the trees started to clear and the trail became rocky again. We could see the lake ahead. The last part of the trail was downhill and mostly muddy with a few rocks along the way. When we got to the lake it was very cloudy. We could see mountains around the lake, but only the base of them. Occasionally the clouds with clear up slightly and we could see portions of the tops of some of the mountains.
The lake looked really neat in pictures and similar to mountain lake I had been to in other parts of the world. This one was a darker color though, not the bluish green color you see sometimes. On this day the lake wasn’t very pretty.
Surrounding the lake are a lot of huge boulders thrown around, probably caused by a glacier that used to be in this area during the last ice age. Andy took a picture while I held the umbrella above him for protection. It had started to rain a little bit. We were wondering if it had been raining all day and the trees protected us, or if it just started raining.
I was going to get a picture too, but after 5 minutes of him getting the right shot the clouds have covered the mountains again. I did get some pictures of the lake and rocky area around. At this point I began looking for a place to sit down on the rocks to have my snacks, I was starving and dying of thirst. I didn’t want to stop along the way to eat because there were not places to stop really, and I wanted to just get to where I was going.
As we were looking around it was starting to rain a lot harder. I saw a huge rock that was surrounded by trees about 100 yards away and thought it would be a good place to sit and be covered. Andy was ahead of me a little bit and said the spot was no good. The rock was actually against a hill and we would have to climb on top of the rock just to get into the trees, and then there was nowhere to sit.
We continued to walk around the lake in the same direction, being careful on the rocks. This part of the trail was barely marked by anything more than some grass that had been flattened by either animals or the few people that do the hike. Parts of the trail led straight into the rocks, so we had no choice but to cross them.
We saw a few more large boulders that looked like they could be shelter, but nothing great. One was a really big rock that leaned slightly, but there wasn’t much room for sitting and we would only be protected slightly. A couple of others looked similar.
By now we had walked 300 yards or so looking for a spot to sit. It was raining a lot harder too. Andy had an umbrella, I had nothing. We had passed two different sets of poop. They didn’t look like a dog, a person, or a rabbit, so we didn’t know what they were. I guess it could have been sheep, but it didn’t look right for that either. There is some type of mountain goat thing that lives in New Zealand, but we haven’t seen any.
About 30 yards ahead of us I saw two large rocks resting next to each other, underneath was a space that looked pretty dry. It was only about 3 ½ feet tall, but looked like enough room to sit. As we approached we saw a spot where someone had created a fire. We were thinking it was a caveman and we were in his home.
Andy went in first and just squatted and said it was uncomfortable. He got out and I squatted while leaning forward and said it was perfect. He ended up going behind me and resting his umbrella at the top of the two rocks where it was able to block the rain. He crawled to the point where the rocks met each other and sat on a rock. His spot was pretty well covered. In front of him wasn’t covered before he put his umbrella up so it had gotten wet.
Next to where he was sitting there was a small rock, about 4 inches tall and about a foot long. It was perfect. I had to wiggle the rock around a little bit to get it out of the mud and move to a spot where I could sit on it. It probably weighed about 30 lbs, but leaning over and having just walked with no energy made it tough at first to get. We put our bags under the big rock we had originally tried to squat under. I sat down and had my snack. The first thing I did was drink a little water. I then had a granola bar and my apple. The apple was really good even though I had had it in my bag for the past 4 days. I kept it there as a snack for a hike, but never wanted to eat it. I don’t usually like apples that much. This one was good though because it was juicy and provided me with some water.
We sat there for about 20 minutes waiting for the rain to stop. While we waited I set up my gorpro for a few shots of us eating our snacks. Andy said he thought the umbrella was only covering me and not him at all, but he had a more comfortable seating spot it looked like, but mine was fine too.
We decided we had sat around long enough. I decided I didn’t want to wait for the clouds to clear to get a picture of the lake with the mountains since it was raining harder. We beginning hiking back around 12:47 PM. I was getting soaked as I tried to cross the rock mine back to the trail. I slipped a few times, but nothing major.
We got back to the muddy trail and walked pretty fast to get out of the rain, hoping and thinking that the trees would protect us the way they protected the hobbits in Lord of the Rings. Maybe they would carry us too. My snack was good, but I was still wanting some real food. I also wanted to get out of my wet clothes and warm up. The worst part was my gloves were soaked so it was making my hands cold. My feet were also soaked as well. I was thinking that the one thing you learn from the movie Forrest Gump was to never let your feet get wet in the army. Anytime it rains I think of that if I’m walking around in it at all.
The majority of the trail was uphill on the way, so it would be downhill on the way back. I had thought of a few spots to stop to film so I was looking for those. We tried to do a few different shots then we had before. Since the trail was muddy we put the gopro down next to a puddle so it would show only our feet as we stepped directly into it. We tried that on a footbridge and in a puddle. I didn’t want to do it too often due to the fact that I didn’t want to be getting my feet wet when they didn’t have to be.
We probably stopped about ten times to do videos. All of them should be good, but the best ones were when we climbed up and down the two steep cliffs by holding onto the trees. I didn’t feel like hiking either of those portions again after the first time in fear of falling, but we ended up climbing them both about 4 or 5 times each in order to get various shots. Some of them I filmed Andy going down, some he filmed me going down, and some he wore his gopro going up and down. We also did shots of ourselves going up.
In order to get back faster we ran a few times. It was wet and there were rocks so we didn’t run as often as we normally would. At one point I stepped funny and felt my foot bend inward completely to where I was standing on the outside of my foot. Basically the same thing that happens if you jump and land funny. It stung kind of bad at first, but I just kept running. The cold weather plus the constant moving helped. Within about 2 minutes the pain was gone. It never bothered me again on the trail. I have pretty strong ankles anyway and they don’t get hurt even when I twist it like that. That is probably due to soccer and yoga.
The great thing about uphill hikes is that the way down is much easier. We got back to the car just after 2:30 PM. It was pouring down rain, and for a lot of the hike the trees did protect us, but the rock slide areas were exposed and a few other portions were as well which made us get drenched.
The hike itself was really cool. The lake wasn’t much on this particular day, but I’m sure with nicer weather it would be worth it for sure. We got back to the car and had to take off our jackets in order to get in and not get everything wet. My camera bag stayed dry from my rain cover, but the straps were wet. I quickly opened my door and through my backpack cover on the ground where my feet go in the front seat.
I put my bag on top of it. I took off my jacket and draped it over my seat, with my hood resting on the top. We had some things in the back so we had to move those so they wouldn’t get wet. I wanted to change socks so I grabbed out a different pair and took off the ones I had on. The socks that got wet were my warmest pair, so now I wasn’t going to have those to sleep in until I can wash them in a week or so.
We also wanted to have lunch so we had to get out the things we waned to eat. I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we sat in the car and ate a picnic while it poured outside. We had chips and a cookie for dessert. I finished off the rest of my water bottle.
We were ready to get back to the lodge and take showers and warm up. All of my clothes were wet that were exposed - my shoes, hat, gloves, rain jacket, and socks. We got back to the lodge around 4 PM. We couldn’t drive too fast because of the road being so steep and having sharp turns, plus with the low visibility and rain making things slick.
At the lodge we loaded up the things we wanted at went to the showers. It was the first shower I had in 3 days. I wanted to take one the night before or even in the morning, but good thing I didn’t since I just got wet and muddy anyway. My towel doesn’t dry fast enough to allow for two showers in the same day. It would be too cold and wet to bother.
The shower was really big and felt great. It always feels good to be clean and warm after freezing your butt off. After my shower I changed my shoes and put on my toe shoes so my other ones wouldn’t get anymore wet and they could dry out. I had left them on the porch full of newspaper to dry out.
We went back to the lounge and charged our batteries and wrote in our journals. Because of the bad weather there were a lot of people in the lounge. Most of the previous people that were there had left.
There was a lady sewing something by herself. There was also a group of 6 or 7 kids and a lady playing random team building games. I thought they must have been criminals on parole or doing community service of some kind to learn how to behave with other people. It made sense to me. Some of the games seemed ok, but a little corny.
Each kid had to get up and explain their game, sometimes they had a partner, and then the other kids had to do them. Afterwards the person that had chosen the activity had to say what they thought of the way the kids worked together and why they did the game. They all basically said the same thing. Stuff like, “I thought you all worked well together in a difficult situation and you communicated.” It was pretty stupid actually. After like the 8th game I could tell some of them were tired of it. I was tired of listening to it.
Some of the games included holding hands in a circle with them twisted up, then trying to unwind themselves without talking. There were a few games where they had to be blindfolded and then give someone directions on how to get to another part of the room.
The kids were obviously high school, I think one of them said they were a sophomore. Most of them sounded British, but I’m pretty sure one was American. After the games the lady in charge was talking to them about what they were going to be doing the next day.
She picked out two of them and said they would be dropping the anchor or tying and untying something each day, so I assumed she meant the anchor. Based on the things she said I figured out it was another scuba diving class. They must do those a lot at this lodge. They had to be up at 8 AM for the days activities. They also had to make a sack lunch since they would be out there all day on the boat. If they forgot anything they could have asked me, since I was listening. They finished playing their games around 6:45 or so.
During this time the sewing ladies husband had come in. He was talking to one of the workers at the reception desk and asking about weather. They said it was going to be bad weather the next day, and snow as low as 400 meters. Based on the temperatures it didn’t seem likely it would snow. He seemed upset about something as if it was the workers fault the weather was no good. They decided they would leave the next morning before the bad weather came in. There daughter was also staying there and she had come in. She had just been taking a nap.
Based on how she was talking it sounded like she had been traveling around the world and her parents had joined her for part of New Zealand. She had been to Egypt with her friend Heather, who was also in New Zealand. They had a mutual friend that lived somewhere that she was going to spend time with. It sounded like she was going to ditch her parents based on what I picked up. They were also looking at the computer and talking a lot about Lord of the Rings and where things were filmed as if they were going to go try to see them. Nerds.
I was tired of writing in my journals and listening to dumb people so we decided it was time to have dinner. We had eaten our good food, so tonight we were going to be having ramen noodles with a salad. The ramen was chicken noodle flavor. The peas were kind of gross but the rest tasted fine. Dehydrated vegetables aren’t very good. The salad with carrots and cheese on the side was good too. We each had a cookie and some chocolate for dessert.
The nerdy family had spaghetti, and not the cheap kind we keep eating. They had real looking sauce, with huge meatballs. They also had a spinach salad. These other people we keep seeing have better meals than I normally eat and they are on vacation. They must have had enough food for 4 or 5 people easily.
While eat ate our ramen noodles in a cup they had a feast. The night before two French girls had ramen noodles while we ate our tuna and ham sandwiches and I felt like we were eating good. Now I know how the French girls must have felt.
After dinner we went back into the lounge since it was raining outside still. At this point it had been raining from 10 AM until 7:30 PM with no sign of letting up. In fact, it had gotten much worse. The rain was coming down really hard, but even worse was the wind. This was the strongest wind I have ever seen. I would think it was a tornado if I was at home.
It was dark so I wasn’t looking outside very much at it, but we could definitely hear it. Our campsite was covered by trees, so I didn’t think anything of it. That is until about 9 PM when the lady working at reception came over looking for Andy. They knew we were staying in a tent and asked if we had gone out to look at it. I assumed she was going to say it was destroyed, blew away, or was flooded.
She said she didn’t know, but a few workers in the area said the weather was getting bad. Not wanting to go outside I sent Andy to check it out. He ran about 70 yards through the rain and into the trees to see how it looked. A few minutes later he came running back. He said it was really windy, but nothing was wet. That’s all I cared about at that point.
The lady said she was leaving, but would be back at 10 PM to check on us. She said if it was too bad she would check us into a room. If she meant she would give us a room upgrade for free, I would do it. To pay more, I didn’t think so.
We watched and listened to the weather while we continued writing in our journals, charging batteries, and uploading pictures. Andy transferred three of his cards and I transferred a few of mine. We wanted to have them clear for the next day since we were going kayaking.
An hour passed and they lady came back with her boyfriend. He was cleaning off the tables in the lounge and talking to us about the things we had done in Milford Sound and what we planned to do. We told him we planned to go kayaking the next day. He was really excited to hear that. It turned out that he was going to be our guide. His name was Blake. This is when I figured out he was the other ladies boyfriend since he mentioned something about his partner working here.
We talked for about 15 minutes, he told us he didn’t know what the weather would do in the morning, but if it was good we would go. He tried to make it sound like the weather was going to get better and we would have a great trip. He said we needed to pack some snacks or a lunch and he would give us drinks.
Andy checked the tent one more time and it seemed ok. It was extremely windy, but there was still no water getting in. We were slightly raised up on a green mat that marked the site, plus a plastic ground cloth, another ground cloth that came with lot. The campsite was at the base of a hill, so if it rained a lot water could flood the area. They told us that the campsites do flood in heavy rains. At this point it wasn’t the rain so much, but the wind that was an issue.
It must have been 90 MPH wind gusts. Inside the lounge it sounded pretty bad, outside it was ten times worse. The lady told us at 10:30 PM that we could have a key to one of the rooms if we needed to leave the tent in the middle of the night. She said she would only charge us $10 more per person for the upgrade, but we had to promise to tell her if we used the room in order to get the money we owed. We promised, but I was going to do everything I could to not have to pay that extra $10. The tent would have to start floating for me to change my mind. She also said in the morning we could use their dry room in order to dry our tent out.
As Andy finished writing I plugged in my last camera battery to charge for the night. I would get it in the morning. I sat in a pile of bean bag chairs while I waited because the couch was hurting my back. I thought that I should have been using them all along and that I could sleep right there all night.
We stayed inside until 10:55 PM, just before the lounge closed. Although there was nobody there to officially close it. We could have slept on the couch if we wanted to I’m sure. I had to get a few things from the car, which meant running 20 yards through the wind and rain. I needed to get my water bottle, my pillow, and my scarf to stay warm. I grabbed my dry bag as well to put hold my jackets so they didn’t get wet in the night and to have a way to transport my things in the morning if needed. I unzipped the bottom of my pants and separated them from my shorts so they wouldn’t get wet.
I ran as fast as I could to avoid getting too wet. It was ridiculous how windy it was. I got my things and then sprinted back inside. I filled my water bottle with hot water and took off for the tent. It wasn’t very cold, but there were puddles everywhere. I was wearing my head lamp so I could see where I was going. Andy held the umbrella over my head while I opened my side of the tent. I through my things in and jumped in after them.
He acted like he got soaked at that point while I was getting in. My side of the tent doesn’t unzip as easily so it took a minute to figure it out. The tent was perfectly dry on the inside. I was amazed.
I put my hot water bottle inside the bottom of my sleeping bag. I was trying to get situated when I felt something burning my feet. I pulled out of my sleeping bag really fast and there was water at the bottom. My bottle wasn’t closed all the way. I used the bottom of my pants that I had unzipped and my hat to dry it out. I was able to get it fixed.
I could hear the strong wind gusts, it sounded like rushing water. It was just after 11 PM, and I was hoping to make it to 7 AM.