I had high hopes to post photos from our time in Doubtful & Milford Sounds this week. But we are deep in the bush and off the grid, so posting photos over an overloaded satellite internet uplink is impossible until this weekend. So for now, I will post my journal entry from today.
Today we woke up in Milford to rain so heavy it was actually coming down in sheets. It rained all night but we slept well, tucked in all cozy in our Spaceship.
The tunnel was closed due to the gale force winds and rain (& snow at higher elevations). There was also rockfall onto the road on this side of the tunnel. So nobody was getting out and nobody was coming in (including the hoard of buses that brings people for the tours). Our tour was cancelled and the only tours they ran today were the 9 am scenic cruises. So we swapped our tour to that one, got a slight refund because it was cheaper, and headed out in the sheets of rain for the boat terminal.
The terminal was deserted compared to what it looked like when we visited it yesterday afternoon. We boarded our boat, the Sinbad, and set off with about 20 other people.
The Maori name for Milford Sound, Ata Whenua, translates to The Shadowlands. And the fiord certainly lived up to that name today. Moody, with peaks appearing and then disappearing in the distance, misty with fog and rain. She was spectacular, with hundreds of temporary waterfalls cascading down into the sea. As we came back into the harbour, we were greeted by 3 bottlenose dolphins, which haven’t been seen here in quite a while. The resident pod in Fiordlands is the one we saw in Doubtful Sound earlier this week.
After the tour we headed back over to the lodge to get warm and dry off. We are stranded, along with everyone else who stayed here last night. The road is closed until at least 2 pm, when there will be another announcement. If the road is cleared and they open the tunnel for a few hours, there will be a convoy of vehicles leaving here in one large group. They’ll race them up the road and through the tunnel and then past the avalanche area on the other side and back through the valleys.
It has continued to rain all day, sometimes in heavy sheets and sometimes just a slight drizzle. We are holed up in the lounge of the lodge where it is warm and dry. Everyone else is here too, camped out like our flights have all been cancelled. A huge group of people in limbo, waiting to see what their fate for this evening will be. Loads of people have used the phone at the front desk to call and cancel reservations at places they had planned to be tonight. Mother Nature is in charge now.
We are fine as we had plans to stay here through Friday morning. And we planned accordingly, coming with full provisions to get us through the weekend if necessary. We are lucky because, even though we are stranded, we really aren’t. Others are not so lucky. They pace back and forth through the lounge and buy overpriced foodstuffs from the small store here. Everyone worries that they won’t have a place to sleep tonight, but that’s not a real concern as, with the road closed, nobody can arrive to take your room.
If you have ever been to Milford, then you know there really is not much here. The bulk of tourists arrive by bus. They get off the bus at the boat terminal and immediately board a boat. Upon returning from their cruise, they hop right back onto that bus and leave. For some of them, their day trip can take up to 13 hours round trip. So there are no real services here in Milford. There are 2 hotels, 1 cafe/pub, the boat terminal, and a small airport where scenic flights take off.
So here we all sit, guarding our secured spots in the lounge. Kyle and I have a choice piece of carpet. We’re leaning up against the back of a couch and have spent the afternoon reading and snacking. People are playing games, reading, catching up on correspondence on the overpriced and overloaded internet, playing piano (we’ve been treated to quite the piano concerts today – by people who can actually play well).
At 2 pm, we are all supposed to gather in the lounge for an important announcement. As it is totally pouring and there has been the roar of thunder (or more rock/treefall), my guess is that all these people will be stranded here tonight. We’ll all jockey for space in the small kitchen in order to cook our dinner.
This is one of those days where I am so grateful that we have the privilege to travel for a long period of time. We don’t have to worry that we’ve lost 5-10% of our vacation time by being stranded here. For us, it’s a fun adventure and we’re enjoying being packed into this place with all these strangers. And it was totally worth it to be out on the sound today with so few people and boats. Magical. Now, if we can just stay dry and hopefully get out by Friday. 🙂
Postscript: At 2 pm, they made the announcement that the road is closed for the night and there will be no convoy today. The next announcement won’t be until 7:30 tomorrow morning. It has continued to rain and blow all afternoon. The cafe/pub down the road is offering specials for all of us who are stranded, but we’re going to cook up some beef stew from scratch for dinner instead of eating out.
We’ve managed to procure a table in the dining room and will be camped out here until we go to bed tonight. The fun continues! We really are having a great time. Lack of worry that we’re off schedule (since we don’t really even have a schedule) means this is fun for us, not a hassle. 🙂