Soggy days in the South Island

I am now sat in Christchurch airport departures waiting to board our flight to the North Island for yet more adventures, and hopefully, a bit of sunshine! I know that I won’t melt in the rain, but the extent of the weather in the south has put a little dampener on some of our plans for sure! We have been freezing cold and soaking wet on a number of occasions and sadly some of the activities we so wanted to do in New Zealand such as glacier hikes, plane rides, walking tracks and bungees were impossible! However, with that said, we have still had an absolutely incredible time and it just means it’s another destination to potentially add to our “we need to come back here” list! 

Something we did manage to do in the rain, was a nature cruise around Milford Sound. This is a place that is not only an iconic tourist attraction of New Zealand, but somewhere I couldn’t wait to set foot in for it helped me get through my degree. An odd comment perhaps, but really, this beauty was my desktop picture for my final year and a half of university because I was convinced that when I graduated I was jetting off to New Zealand. They had a shortage of radiographers and were screaming for them at the time, and I needed something to give me a reason to keep writing an awful dissertation! As it happens, for various reasons things didn’t work out that way, but the beautiful landscapes of the South Island were still something I knew I wanted to see in my lifetime. 

Maybe because I had built the place up so much in my head, I was beyond disappointed when we arrived to yet more downpours and winds. This however turned out to be our biggest stroke of luck. I’m sure that as many of the photos show, the Fiordlands look stunning in the sunshine, however they were something else entirely in the rain. The hours drive in to Milford lead us down winding roads past raging rivers and viscous waterfalls. Most impressive of all, was that every wall had turned into one of these waterfalls. Over 3000 temporary waterfalls come alive during a storm in the sound, and we were lucky enough to see them at their finest. James did the treacherous driving, but it gave me an opportunity to just thoroughly appreciate our surroundings. 

The boat trip the next day is what really opened my eyes to how lucky we were with the weather. Apparently, because the area is surrounded by rainforest, they typically have around 250-300 days of rain a year – however not often do they have severe storms. If I was going to be getting wet, I would rather know that it was with the reward of the spectacular views than just a miserable murky day. 

We took the early morning boat, before the tourists from Queenstown and Te Anu had arrived by the coach load. The smaller nature boat we were on was able to get really close to the trees and wildlife as well as in the waterfalls. I was somehow talked into filling some glasses at our first waterfall experience. Needless to say, I got a little wet. Within moments I had forgotten though, and better than that I was now completely unbothered by the wind and rain because I was already soaked through! James kept me supplied with complimentary tea and it wasn’t until we got off to look at the discovery centre that I began to realise how wet and cold I was, and that I could quite do with getting back to the van and peeling my clothes off. This said, the trip was such fun and our tour guide was an absolute delight full of interesting knowledge as well as awful jokes. If you are ever fortunate enough to set sail on Milford Sound, I would definitely recommend the nature cruise with Southern Discoveries. You won’t be disappointed – and whilst you don’t have to get involved and get wet, you really should. Even the stinging cold of the glacier waterfall we went into was soon outweighed by the laughter. And the complimentary tea certainly helped too. 

The rest of our journey through the South Island, was just as wet and cold, but thankfully also just as beautiful. We visited the township of Mount Cook, where again we unfortunately couldn’t hike into the glacier, nor even walk around the mountain, but we did get to witness the snow! We saw the gorgeous glacial Lake Pukaki which despite the fog and complete lack of sunshine, was a glistening turquoise blue. The beauty was unbelievable, I can only imagine what it looks like in the sun and with a backdrop of Mount Cook. 

After a particularly bad day and night of constant rain, we were surprised to wake up to glorious sunshine so quickly took the opportunity to go on a hike. As the country of tramping, we had hoped to do a fair few walks, but this was our first real chance! We drove to nearby Mt Sommers, the home of an old coal mine and wool shed. We spent the day exploring the fields, a creepy cottage and the river, and then climbed the (supposedly easy but actually incredibly steep) hill up to the mine where we sat and appreciated the stunning 360 views. We definitely made the most of our last full day in the South Island and in our trusty old van Rusty. 

As we handed back the keys, it was easy to feel a little green with envy at those just picking up their vans to start their road trips. However, onto new things again for us as we board a plane to fly to Auckland! I hear that not only is the weather good, but there’s some English folk I might know waiting up there too 🙂 


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