Marriage Saved by Rudders

December 18 – Narrated by Alaina
Where do I even begin? You know when you have an absolutely perfect day and you never want it to end? That may be why we sit here in the camper totally exhausted but energized to document the day’s events while the memories are still fresh (although most pics are on other cameras so you’ll have to wait to see the great shots – sorry!)!

It was the earliest morning of our vacation but we had the luxury of waking up, being surrounded by mountains and knowing we were going to be kayaking through Milford Sound! Trying to stay on schedule, we hopped in the camper and were off. There were so many stops I wanted to make to get pictures, but I refrained and we began our trek driving the Milford Road. Built back in the 1930’s, the road is windy, steep and has the most ridiculous views. The best part is the tunnel: it feels like you are entering a mine. The walls are rugged, there is a lone light every 30 feet and there is water dripping from the ceiling! This is NOT for the faint of heart, but we loved every second… Knowing we were under a huge mountain where NZ receives on average 2000 earthquakes per year? Why wouldn’t we drive through a dark and leaky tunnel.

 The other side was just one big panoramic photo as we began our descent into the valley. We arrived to the deep water basin 40 minutes early which was perfect as it gave me enough time to make PB&J’s to pack for the day’s activity. It was during this culinary moment where we were finally introduced to the Kea. It is a notorious NZ parrot that is known to wreak havoc on cars, people, and anything in their wake. We immediately saw their deviousness as a Kea popped up onto a car’s roof and started pulling up the rubber tubing along the top of the car. It disappeared for a few minutes until another observer was momentarily trapped in his car as the Kea stalked back & forth on his roof trying to guess which door he’d exit from. Once out of the car he discovered that the Keas had destroyed two bike seats on a Winnebago that was parked next to him and had their bikes on a bike rack on the back. We learned very quickly: don’t mess with the Kea.

The moment had finally come… We met our sea kayaking guide Ricky and began the process of putting on special thermals, being fitted for kayak skirts, life jackets and learning how to not tip into the frigid glacial water. I will admit, my adrenaline was pumping the entire time. It’s one thing to kayak in a river where the temperature is reasonable, but this water is so cold and so deep (350 meters) that it’s beyond intimidating!

 Our group of eight consisted of 4 Americans (us and another couple who are actually living in NZ for the year – they aptly called us “America” for the whole trip), two Irish lads and a women from Poland that now lives in Toronto (she was terrified of this excursion but got to share a kayak with Ricky).

They loaded the kayaks onto a boat and we were driven out past Sterling Falls where the kayaks were unloaded and we had the pleasure of getting in them off a boat and in the middle of the fiord. Let’s flash back to 3 1/2 years ago when MIke and I attempted a double kayak in the Bahamas… It didn’t go well. We went in circles, got separated from the group, and it may have caused an argument or two. We were initially nervous about kayaking again together, but then we found out the kayaks had rudders. Key element to saving our marriage.

With the kayaks we were able to get up close and personal with the ridiculously high mountains, see the seals sleeping on the rocks, get our first “glacial facial” kayaking under Sterling Falls, and get the perspective of how large the fiord and mountains are. We kayaked nearly 14km, through white caps, swells, boat wakes and a pretty good wind. It rocked. What amazed us is that there are planes flying throughout but they looked like they were remote control planes, pictures won’t do the mountains size justice… You have to see it in person. Even then the perspective was impossible to grasp. Waterfalls that looked kinda high were actually the equivalent of 50 story buildings – the sheer magnitude of the mountains and all they surround was just impossible to grasp.

 Utterly spent after kayaking, we visited the observation deck to get photos with our bigger camera (no way was I taking that on the kayak!) and just enjoy the view without paddling for dear life 😉

 The trip out of the Sound was filled with numerous stops, but the one I must tell you about is the Chasm. It’s about 10km from the Sound and when we informed Ricky that we had planned on stopping, he told us about a secret path that takes you to a beautiful natural pool. Mike and I were able to locate this path… I will let him tell you what happened.

RICKY FOR PRESIDENT!!!! This one piece of local advice led us to far & away my favorite “unexpected” moment of the trip (kayaking Milford was crazy awesome, but it was supposed to be crazy awesome – this was an out of the blue total surprise). When we located the “secret locals path” we veered off of the main path that the rest of tourists followed so we immediately felt pretty cool. As we navigated down rocks & around funky tropical trees we caught our first glimpse of what waited for us below and the color of the water is what immediately gets you revved up. It’s this gorgeous combination of clear, bright gray (but a clean gray, not a mucky one), and the kind of blue/teal that you only ever see at mini golf courses. Once we made our way down to the pool I couldn’t (still can’t) get over what I was looking at. The pool is that beautiful color surrounded by huge rocks that it has smoothed and carved with the force of the waterfall & riverflow powering behind it and while you can hear the rushing water behind you, this pool is completely serene. It was exactly how I picture the unattainable “paradise” to look – and we got to see it with our own eyes. And taste its water, straight from the glacier to our mouths. It was absolutely magical. We could scale some of the rocks a bit & see an enchanted looking cave but we would have had to swim to get there & I’m fairly certain the glacial water would have given us hypothermia halfway through the 8 second swim. Alas.


We continued exploring the area and as Mike so eloquently stated “it’s like the Bronx Zoo but real”. Joining the tourist pack we made our way up to a bridge… I had no idea we were going to see such a cool waterfall… Apparently when there are heavy rains or the snow melts, pieces of rock get caught in the raging currents and in this area the whirlpools so strong, round holes are formed in the rocks… Mike was a trooper and made it across the gappy bridge but that may have done him in for the next excursion…  I wanted to do a three hour hike on the Routeburn track but about a kilometer in and featuring a pretty sharp drop on the side, Mike hit his breaking point. We have done so much in the six days we have been here so maybe it was just time to take a night off. Soooo we finally got some laundry done, made dinner in the communal kitchen (fish is NEVER ok folks-be considerate!) and found out after being off the grid that Mike won the Rockstar award at work and it was announced at the company’s town hall meeting. I am one proud wifey. Now off to Queenstown to celebrate!

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